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Aw- Die Furcht des HERRn- via LAD ROSARY

“I still remember the first time I was in awe of God. It came after years of attending churches and calling myself ‘Christian.’ It was a major turning point in my life. It is an awe of God that inspires my major life decisions as well as my daily actions. Thank you, Paul, for getting beyond symptoms and getting at the heart of the matter. This book is brilliant, and I wish every believer would read it carefully. We live in a crazy time. We need books like this to help lay healthy foundations for our lives, so that we don’t spend our days overreacting to unpredictable events.”
Francis Chan, New York Times best-selling author, Crazy Love and Forgotten God

“Paul Tripp has a way of helping us to get beyond the surface. It is clear that Paul has thought through this subject deeply. Read this book and find yourself challenged and encouraged to stand in awe of the reality of God and to take him seriously because of it!”
Eric M. Mason, Lead Pastor, Epiphany Fellowship, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; President, Thriving; author, Manhood Restored

“Paul Tripp’s books always challenge me and draw me closer to Christ. This book is no exception. As followers of Jesus, we can sometimes get too comfortable with God. It’s easy to forget that part of knowing and loving God is revering him. If you will read this book with a hungry and humble heart, God will use it to deepen your passion for Christ as you rediscover just who God is and why we’re invited to revel in his awesome glory.”
Craig Groeschel, Senior Pastor, LifeChurch.tv; author, WEIRD: Because Normal Isn’t Working

“Simply put, I read everything that Paul Tripp writes. I can’t afford to miss one word.”
Ann Voskamp, author, New York Times best seller One Thousand Gifts

“Deep in the soul of every human being is a longing for transcendence, created by God himself. Yet all too often, our pursuits and passions fixate on things that will never satisfy. What we need most desperately is to fall to our knees in renewed awe of our Creator. In Awe, my good friend Paul Tripp motivates us to find that posture and delight in staying there.”
James MacDonald, Pastor, Harvest Bible Chapel, Rolling Meadows, Illinois; author, Vertical Church

“When you find yourself in awe of something, you never forget it. It changes you. I just finished reading this book, and I’m writing this at 2:45 a.m. in tears. Convicted—not of my sin but of my righteousness in Christ! In awe of who Jesus is and who I am in him! Tripp has tapped into something that I hope is like a defibrillator to the flatlined believer. We were made to live in awe; may we never forget this!”
Bart Millard, Lead Singer, MercyMe

Other Crossway Books by Paul David Tripp:

Dangerous Calling: Confronting the Unique Challenges of Pastoral Ministry (2012)
New Morning Mercies: A Daily Gospel Devotional (2014)
Sex and Money: Pleasures That Leave You Empty and Grace That Satisfies (2013)
A Shelter in the Time of Storm: Meditations on God and Trouble (2009)
What Did You Expect? Redeeming the Realities of Marriage (2010)
Whiter Than Snow: Meditations on Sin and Mercy (2008)

AWE

WHY IT MATTERS FOR
EVERYTHING
WE THINK, SAY, & DO

PAUL DAVID TRIPP

Awe: Why It Matters for Everything We Think, Say, and Do
Copyright © 2015 by Paul David Tripp
Published by Crossway
1300 Crescent Street
Wheaton, Illinois 60187
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording, or otherwise, without the prior permission of the publisher, except as provided for by USA copyright law.
Cover design: Tim Green, Faceout Studio
First printing 2015
Printed in the United States of America
Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
All emphases in Scripture quotations have been added by the author.
Trade paperback ISBN: 978-1-4335-4707-2
ePub ISBN: 978-1-4335-4710-2
PDF ISBN: 978-1-4335-4708-9
Mobipocket ISBN: 978-1-4335-4709-6

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Tripp, Paul David, 1950-
Awe : why it matters for everything we think, say, and do / Paul David Tripp.
    1 online resource.
Includes bibliographical references and index.
Description based on print version record and CIP data provided by publisher; resource not viewed.
ISBN 978-1-4335-4708-9 (pdf) – ISBN 978-1-4335-4709-6 (mobi) – ISBN 978-1-4335-4710-2 (epub) – ISBN 978-1-4335-4707-2 (hc)
1. God (Christianity)—Worship and love.  2. Awe. I. Title.
BV4817
248.4—dc23          2015010748

Crossway is a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

To DC, Matthew, and Matt,
young friends in life and ministry.
Our gospel conversation has made me love Jesus more.

CONTENTS

Preface
 1 Humanity
 2 War
 3 Ministry
 4 Replacement
 5 Amnesia
 6 Transgression
 7 Complaint
 8 Materialism
 9 Growth
10 Worldview
11 Church
12 Parenting
13 Work
Epilogue
Notes
General Index
Scripture Index

PREFACE

I should start with an admission. I wrote this book for me. I am an Epicurean of sorts. I love the visual arts, I love great music, and I love food of all kinds. A beautiful, well-executed painting leaves me in awe. A band’s well-constructed album leaves me amazed and wanting more. The memory of a tasting menu at a great restaurant leaves me wanting to recreate dishes and revisit the establishment. None of these things are wrong in themselves. God intended us to be in awe of his creation, but that awe cannot and should not be an end in itself.
I wrote this book for me because, at this point in my life, I am more aware than ever that I have a fickle and wandering heart. I wish I could say that every moment I enjoy some created thing initiates in me a deeper worship of the Creator, but it doesn’t. Empirical evidence in my life betrays that I give my heart to the worship of the thing that has been made rather than the One who made it—spending when I don’t really have a need, envying what someone else has, or eating when I’m not really that hungry.
I wrote this book for me because I am aware that I need to spend more time gazing upon the beauty of the Lord. I need to put my heart in a place where it can once again be in awe of the grandeur of God that reaches far beyond the bounds of the most expressive words in the human vocabulary. I need awe of him to recapture, refocus, and redirect my heart again and again. And I need to remember that the war for the awe of my heart still wages inside me.
I wrote this book for me because I need to examine what kind of awe shapes my thoughts, desires, words, choices, and actions in the situations and relationships that make up my everyday life. Three years ago I lost forty pounds. That I needed to at all embarrassed me. Writing this book reminded me that my weight gain was a spiritual issue, a matter of my heart before God. Like all other forms of subtle idolatry, it didn’t happen overnight. If you gain half a pound per month, you will not notice it. But that’s six pounds per year, and in five years you will have put on thirty pounds. Sadly, I had to confess the sin of gluttony, put food in its proper place, and cry out for the grace to worship the Giver, not his gifts.
I wrote this book for me because I came to see that I was wired for awe, that awe of something sits at the bottom of everything I say and do. But I wasn’t just wired for awe. I was wired for awe of God. No other awe satisfies the soul. No other awe can give my heart the peace, rest, and security that it seeks. I came to see that I needed to trace awe of God down to the most mundane of human decisions and activities.
I wrote this book for me, but because I did, it’s a book for you as well. I know that you are like me. The war that rages in my heart rages in yours as well. Things in the creation not only capture me, they capture you too. Like me, you need to spend more time gazing upon the awesome beauty of your Lord so that your heart will remember and, in remembering, be rescued.
I wrote this book for me, but I now give it to you. May it deepen your awe of your Redeemer, and may your heart be rescued, satisfied, and glad.
Paul David Tripp
October 1, 2014

1

HUMANITY

Don’t let me lose my wonder.
KEITH AND KRISTYN GETTY1

He was five years old, and he was enthralled by the snow. He stood on the couch watching what he thought must be the biggest blizzard ever. As he pressed his nose against the window, he thought of making the biggest snowball ever—bigger than him, bigger than his dad’s car, bigger than the garage, so big that he would look like an ant next to it. The thought made him smile. Before long he was begging his mommy to let him go outside.
She was on a quest. Not just any quest. It felt like this was the most important quest of her life. Sam had actually asked her to go to the prom, and now she was on a search for a dress. But not any dress. This had to be the ultimate, most beautiful prom dress ever. As she went from store to store, she imagined the dress and the moment when Sam would pick her up and see her in that gown. He would be stunned and immediately want to spend the rest of his life with her.
He sat with the number card in his hand, listening to the all-too-rapid cadence of the auctioneer’s voice at the world’s most prestigious antique auto auction. He had made lots of money in his life, but he had convinced himself that he couldn’t live without one more thing. It was the most beautiful automobile ever manufactured, and it would be auctioned next. As the bidding began, his chest tightened, his ears buzzed, and his hands got clammy. At the end of the day, he might be the proud owner of a gorgeous powder-blue 1965 Jaguar XKE.
When she got the call, she couldn’t believe it. She rushed to the scene as fast as she could, but it was too late. The mansion of her dreams—the one she and her husband had spent twenty years of their life building and remodeling—had burned to the ground. Only ashes and smoke remained. As she got out of her car, she couldn’t breathe. Things turned blurry, and the next thing she knew, she was surrounded by EMTs.
She must have dialed that radio station’s number a thousand times with the hope that she would get free tickets to see the best band ever. She had all their recordings. She was a member of their fan club. She had saved up to buy a signed poster, but she had never heard them live. This was her chance. Her heart raced as a voice on the other end greeted her. It was finally going to happen. She couldn’t believe it!
He was blown away. When he first entered seminary, he had no idea that this would happen. He had studied hard and done well, but this was unbelievable. It was his first Sunday. He had joined the staff of one of the biggest and most influential churches in the world. It had been his dream, and now it was coming true. He felt special, alive, and blessed.
On the one hand, it seemed stupid to pay seventy dollars for a steak. But this wasn’t just any steak. No, this was a Wagyu cowboy rib eye, dry-aged over forty-five days. He just knew he would never again taste a piece of meat this quality. He didn’t care what it cost. If it was the one and only time, nothing could keep him from this red-meat thrill. It was almost a spiritual experience.
He stood in line holding his mom’s hand. It was going to happen. After what seemed to him like years of begging and bargaining, she had finally agreed to take him. They were in line to see the movie of his dreams, but not just on any theater screen. They were going to see the surround-sound, 3-D version on an IMAX screen. He felt he had died and gone to heaven. He held his 3-D glasses tight and couldn’t wait for the wonder to begin.
It was one painting, but it may have been the most wonderful work of art a human hand had ever created. It had been touring the major galleries of the world, and she was thrilled that she would finally lay her eyes on it. She had seen it in art books and as posters but never the real thing in all its majesty. She would let nothing stop her from taking this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
He was bitter. He knew it was wrong, but it plagued him every day like an unwanted guest. He tried to distract himself. He tried to find joy in the people, places, and activities around him, but nothing really worked. He had been raised in a great family, and that was all he ever wanted. He had dreamed of the beautiful wife, the three sweet children, and the two-acre plot in the suburbs. He didn’t want to be angry, but he was—angry at God. He hadn’t asked for much. But now he was forty-five and beginning to gray. Who would want him now? He hated coming home at night. He hated being lonely. He hated his life.
The pain of the knee surgery was minor compared to the pain of what that surgery meant. Since middle school, every coach told had him the same thing: he had it—that unusual X factor that makes great athletes great. He was the star of every team he had ever played on. His ambition of becoming an NFL star with adoring fans had always seemed easily within reach. He dreamed of the day he would sign that multimillion-dollar contract. But now it was all over. That college football powerhouse would withdraw its scholarship, because, if he played again, he would never be great. It was over. His injury had killed his dream.
As the crane hoisted the sign in place, he felt as if life had been worth living. It was a rather small real-estate firm, but he had built it. He owned it. It was his. As he stood in front of his storefront, he felt like he had conquered the world. He felt he could do anything. He felt the buzz of success. And it felt so good.
He had seen them at the mall, 2013 Nike Air Jordan 1 Retros. White, red, and black—they were so cool. They were also almost two hundred dollars. How would he ever convince his parents to buy them for him? It just seemed impossible. He couldn’t get the Air Jordans out of his mind. He had to find a way. He simply needed those sneakers.
He baited his hook one last time. It was getting dark, but he had to give it another try. It was out there. He had seen it before—the biggest bass in the lake. It would be the catch of his life. The fish he had already caught were just a tease. He threw his hook into the fading light one more time, and as he held onto his gear, he hoped.
What do all the people in these vignettes have in common? Awe. They get up every morning, and without ever being aware of it, they search constantly for awe. They have dissatisfaction in their souls, an emptiness they long to fill, and they are attracted to awesome things. That’s why they go to great museums, stadium concerts, expensive restaurants, and play-off games. The little boy dreaming of Air Jordans is just as much an awe seeker as the successful business magnate. The teenage girl going to prom is as much on a quest for awe as the woman planning the house of her dreams. The athlete who reaches for stardom seeks the same treasure as the man who yearns for the perfect wife and family.
It’s not about spiritual awareness, interest, or knowledge. It’s not first about church, theology, or biblical literacy. It’s not even about wanting your little life to mean something. It’s something that not only believers do. It’s something that every person who has ever taken a breath does. It’s not bound by family, culture, history, geography, language, or ethnicity. It’s not a matter of age or gender. It’s not about any of these things. What all these people share in common is that they are human beings, and because they are human beings, they are hardwired for awe. And so are you.

Awe: The Helicopter View
Let’s start with the big picture—the helicopter view, if you will—of this thing called awe that stirs deep in the heart of each one of us.

  1. Awe is everyone’s lifelong pursuit. She sits in her little swing with feet kicking and a big smile on her face. She doesn’t know what Mommy has just given her, but it was cold and sweet, and she wants as much of it as she can get in her mouth as soon as she can get it. She is enraptured. She is in awe. For the very first time, her tongue has savored ice cream. Her little brain cannot imagine that anything in the entire world is more delightful and fulfilling than this. She is ready to live her life in pursuit of that cold, sweet wonder that the big people call ice cream.
    He has watched the video again and again. He can’t stop watching it. It’s like an addiction. The music that this one performer produces all by himself is a thing of amazement. There is something about the beauty, the wonder of it all, that brings him back to the video again and again. He’s seventy years old, and he has not lost one bit of his capacity for wonder.
    The little girl and the old man are alike. They are on the same journey. He’s just been on the road longer than she has. He has sought, pursued, invested in, savored, celebrated, and been disappointed by many, many things in his pursuit of awe. She is having her mind blown for maybe the very first time, but she will soon become an awe junkie like him. She too will spend her life in pursuit of a dream. She too will want to be amazed. The old man and the baby girl are wired the same way. Maybe neither one of them is aware of what a driving force the desire for awe is. And perhaps he will die and she will continue to live not knowing why God planted this desire in their hearts.
  2. God created an awesome world. God intentionally loaded the world with amazing things to leave you astounded. The carefully air-conditioned termite mound in Africa, the tart crunchiness of an apple, the explosion of thunder, the beauty of an orchid, the interdependent systems of the human body, the inexhaustible pounding of the ocean waves, and thousands of other created sights, sounds, touches, and tastes—God designed all to be awesome. And he intended you to be daily amazed.
  3. God created you with an awe capacity. We not only live in an awe-inspiring world, we’ve also been created with powerful awe gates so that we can take in the awe that our hearts desire. Our brains and our ears can tell the difference between beautiful music and noise. We can hear the whispered chirp of the little finch and the irritating squawk of the crow. We can see the amazing segmented sections of the well-armored beetle’s body. We can see the details of color, texture, and shape. We can see moving objects without blur, and we can see very near and very far. We also feel and touch things. We feel soft, wet, hard, hot, sharp, cold, smooth, silky, and bumpy. We can taste. Our tongues know salty, sweet, sour, peppery, hot, cold, briny, rough, and creamy. We not only desire awe in our lives, we have been wonderfully created by God with the capacity to interact with and savor awesome things.
  4. Where you look for awe will shape the direction of your life. It just makes sense that your source of awe will control you, your decisions, and the course your story takes. If you live in awe of material things, for example, you will spend lots of money acquiring a pile of material stuff; to afford your ever-increasing pile, you will have to work a lot. You will also tend to attach your identity and inner sense of peace to material possessions, spending way too much time collecting and maintaining them. If material things are your awe source, you will neglect other things of value and won’t ever be fully satisfied, because these material things just don’t have the capacity to satisfy your awe-longing heart. Yes, your house will be big, your car will be luxurious, and you will be surrounded with beautiful things, but your contentment in areas that really count will be small.
  5. Awe stimulates the greatest joys and deepest sorrows in us all. Here’s a simple way to do a personal awe check. Where do you experience your biggest moments of happiness and your darkest moments of sadness? What angers you or crushes you with disappointment? What motivates you to continue or makes you feel like quitting? What do you tend to envy in the lives of others, or where does jealousy make you bitter? What makes you think your life is worth living or causes you to feel like your life is a waste? When you say, “If only I had _,” how do you fill in the blank? What are you willing to make sacrifices for, and what in your life just doesn’t seem worth the effort? Look at your highest joys and deepest sorrows, and you will find where you reach for awe.
    Take anger, for example. Think of how little of your anger in the last couple months had anything at all to do with the kingdom of God. You’re not generally angry because things are in the way of God and his kingdom purposes. You’re angry because something or someone has gotten in the way of something you crave, something you think will inspire contentment, satisfaction, or happiness in you. Your heart is desperate to be inspired, and you get mad when your pursuits are blocked. Where you look for awe will fundamentally control the thoughts and emotions of your heart in ways you normally don’t even realize.
  6. Misplaced awe keeps us perennially dissatisfied. Perhaps in ways that you have never come close to considering, your dissatisfaction is an awe problem. Perhaps it’s not just that the people around you are less than perfect or your boss is hard to deal with or your children tend to give you a hard time. Maybe it’s not just that you don’t have the circle of friends that you’ve always wanted or that you’ve never scored that house of your dreams. Maybe it’s not just that your health has declined and that old age has come too soon. Perhaps it’s not just that you tend to find your mundane, everyday existence uneventful and boring. Maybe it’s not just that you’ve never found a church where you can settle in and worship and serve. Maybe it’s not just that you’ve found your education to be inadequate and that you’ve felt stuck in a career you dislike. Perhaps it’s more than the fact that your neighbors are annoying and your extended family is given to too much drama. Perhaps all this dissatisfaction arises from a deeper heart dissatisfaction driven by where you have looked for awe.
  7. Every created awe is meant to point you to the Creator. This will be a major theme of the book you have begun to read. Creation is awesome. God designed it to be awesome. And God designed you to take in creation’s awesome display. You are meant to be inspired and to celebrate the awesome things that come from the Creator’s hand. But as you participate and rejoice in the awesome display of creation, you must understand that these awesome things were not intended to be ultimate. They were not made to be the stopping place and feeding station for your heart. No awesome thing in creation was meant to give you what only the Creator is able to give. Every awesome thing in creation is designed to point you to the One who alone is worthy of capturing and controlling the awe of your searching and hungry heart.
    As it is true of a street sign, so it is true of every jaw-dropping, knee-weakening, silence-producing, wonder-inspiring thing in the universe. The sign is not the thing you are looking for. No, the sign points you to what you are looking for. So you can’t stop at the sign, for it will never deliver what the thing it is pointing to will deliver. Created awe has a purpose; it is meant to point you to the place where the awe of your heart should rest. If awesome things in creation become your god, the God who created those things will not own your awe. Horizontal awe is meant to do one thing: stimulate vertical awe.
  8. Awesome stuff never satisfies. Nothing in the entire physical, created world can give rest, peace, identity, meaning, purpose, or lasting contentment to your awe-craving heart. Looking to stuff to satisfy this internal desire is an act of personal spiritual futility. It just won’t work. You would have as much success as you would if you were trying to bail water out of a boat with a strainer. The things of this world just weren’t designed to do what you’re asking them to do. Still, we all try every day, and when we do, we have a problem much bigger and deeper than a stuff problem. We have an awe problem.

Having It All, but Missing Awe
He was possibly the most discontented man I had ever met. In many ways he had everything that you and I could ever dream of. His successful career had gained him money, renown, and power. He had all the accoutrements of success—you know, the big house on the well-manicured property, cars in the garage, and a boat at the shore. He had a lovely wife and four grown children. He took vacations just about wherever he wanted to go. He ate at the best restaurants and joined all the right clubs. He started his own foundation to help the needy, and he attended a solid church. But the one thing he hadn’t achieved was personal happiness. With all the stuff of life at his feet, he was shockingly dissatisfied and scarily driven. His wife would joke that he wanted more and that he would probably die trying to find it.
When we met, he was an unhappy man. No, that is inaccurate. He was a bitter and cynical man. He was his own archaeologist, digging back through the mound of his existence, trying to make sense of it all. He carefully examined the pottery shards of his choices and decisions. In his mind, he held up all the artifacts he had collected over the years and wondered about their true value. He leafed through pages and pages of his story—his marriage, his career, his relationship with God, his friendships, his children, and a host of other side stories. He found himself asking the one question that he thought he would never ask. He had always thought it was a question for otherworldly dreamers or losers. But the question haunted him. It greeted him in the morning and put him to bed at the end of the day. It rode with him in his car and distracted him when he went golfing. It caused him to drink more than he should and to be irritable and impatient.
He came to the point where he hated all the things he had so carefully and obsessively collected, and he really hated the fact that most people around him envied him. “If they only knew, if they only knew,” was his repeated refrain. He had long since quit going to God with his angst. He felt that if God were listening, he would have helped him long ago. All that remained was to keep himself as busy as possible from early morning until late at night. Even though he was retired, he purchased a couple of small businesses—not because he needed the money but because he craved the distraction.
One of the first things he said to me was, “How could it be that I have it all and yet feel so empty?” It was a genius question, but he didn’t know it. It was deeply theological, but he didn’t see it. His depression kept him from understanding his own insight. It had all slipped through his fingers like bone-dry sand. He had it all, but he had come up empty. He desperately wanted me to fix it, to do something that would make it all seem worthwhile, but I couldn’t.
As he talked impatiently with me, bitterness colored every word. He was crying for help, but he didn’t know that the only help I had to offer, he probably wouldn’t want. As he talked, in the background, these words kept crashing through my brain, “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his own soul?” (Mark 8:36). He didn’t have a contentment problem. He had an awe problem.

2

WAR

On the glorious splendor of your majesty, and on your wondrous works, I will meditate.
PSALM 145:5

When you see or hear the word war, what comes to mind? Perhaps you think of the great world wars that changed the course of human history. Or maybe you think of the seemingly endless conflicts that plague the Middle East. Or maybe you live in the inner city and think of the gang and drug wars that turn once-safe communities into battle zones. Perhaps you think of the domestic wars that trouble marriages and families and often lead to divorce or the political wars that rob the government of its ability to secure the welfare of its citizens. All these wars are real and important, but none of them rises to the level of significance of another war that has determined the course of human history and the lives of every individual who has ever lived. What is that war? It’s the war of awe, the war that is fought on the turf of every human being’s heart.
Between the “already” of the sin of Adam and Eve and the “not yet” of the final redemption, a war wages over who or what will rule and control the awe capacity that God has established within the heart of every human being. As we have already seen, since every person is created with a capacity for awe, everyone is searching for a way to exercise that capacity. This awe capacity was meant to drive us to God in wonder and worship, but since sin separates us from him, our capacity for awe gets kidnapped by things other than God. So in grace, God does battle for the awe of our hearts. You could argue that one of the fundamental purposes of the great redemptive story and the person and work of Jesus is to recapture our hearts for the awe of God and God alone.
This brings us to the subject of this chapter. Because the Bible is essentially the telling of the grand redemptive story, accompanied by God’s necessary explanatory notes, it also tells the story of this war of awe. Scripture brilliantly depicts for us the nature and results of what I will call in this chapter awe wrongedness (AWN). The biblical retelling of AWN is written for our instruction and our rescue, helping us recognize the deep danger of sin in our hearts and hunger for the rescue that only Jesus can provide. I want to trace this AWN theme throughout Scripture so you can be wise to the war that rages in your heart too.
I wish I could say that this war doesn’t rage in my heart, but I can’t. Sadly, AWN themes are still active in my life as well. Sometimes that means physical things rule my heart more than they should. Sometimes that means I am full of myself and act more out of pride than confidence in God. Sometimes that means I care more about the appreciations and respect of others than I do about bringing glory to God. I don’t have to reflect long on my daily living to see how much the war described in this chapter and so graphically depicted in Scripture is still being fought on the battleground of my heart.

Awe Gone Wrong
It has to be without debate the saddest story ever told. Not a day in your life or mine passes without us dealing with the results of this story. This single event has made everything since harder, more dangerous, and more painful than God designed it to be. Its results bring trouble into your private life. It wreaks havoc on your marriage and relationships. It makes parenting arduous. It lies at the bottom of human conflict and global war. It makes the delight of food, money, and sex dangerous. This story captures the moment when the war of awe began.
Clearly, we can find no more powerful, graphic, and helpful portrayal of AWN than in the very moment it began in the garden of Eden as captured in Genesis 3:

Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made.
He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths. (Gen. 3:1–7)

This is a shocking story. It is tragically true, but I’m afraid that we are so completely familiar with it that it doesn’t shock us anymore. Adam and Eve had it all. Every need was supplied. There was no sin, sickness, or suffering of any kind. Everything in creation did what it was supposed to do. God was in his rightful place and willingly descended to earth to enjoy the perfect communion he had with the people he had made. Yes, there’s no doubt about it: it was paradise.
But that paradise was soon to be shattered like fine china dropped on concrete. Adam and Eve were discontented with everything; they wanted more. And at the bottom of their insane quest for more was AWN. The Serpent held out to them the one thing they didn’t have, shouldn’t have, and could never have—God’s position. He told them that all they had to do was step over God’s clear boundaries, and they would become like God. This dangerous fantasy now lurks in the heart of every sinner. We want godlike recognition, godlike control, godlike power, and godlike centrality. This was the initial moment when awe of self overrode awe of God and set the agenda for every person’s thoughts, desires, choices, and behavior. For billions of people ever since, awe of self has literally driven every selfish, antisocial, and immoral thing we do.
In surprising and tragic AWN, Adam and Eve ate the prohibited fruit, and the glorious shalom that enveloped all creation was smashed into history-altering pieces. No brain is big enough to calculate the damage that moment did. But one thing we can know for sure: at that moment, AWN was unleashed on earth and with it a war for the heart of every human being. The Bible could not comprehensively recount the true devastation of sin nor fully chronicle this war so central to the Bible’s main theme—the redemptive work of the Lord Jesus Christ. So, in the midst of its central story, the Bible graphically tells and retells the story of AWN. It is the stain splashed on every page of God’s Word.
In the unveiling of the AWN drama in Scripture, it doesn’t take long for it to explode into the unthinkable—fratricide (see Gen. 4:1–16). Cain brought a sacrifice, but it was not a sacrifice of true, selfless worship of God, or else what happened next would never have occured. This story confronts us with the cruelest of ironies: one of the places where we most powerfully see AWN is in supposed acts of worship. If Cain’s heart was really motivated by awe of God, then when his sacrifice was rejected, he would have grieved over it, confessed to the inadequacy of his offering, and joyfully presented a more acceptable sacrifice to God. But instead, he violently envied his brother and, in an act of jealous rage, ended his brother’s life. This too is a shocking and unsettling story. It’s the kind of story in the local paper that would make you sick to your stomach: brother kills brother. Cain didn’t have a sibling problem, a sacrifice problem, or a religious ceremony problem. No, Cain had an awe problem, and the blood of Abel cries out as a result of his AWN.
We find a principle here, one displayed in a myriad of biblical stories: in the heart of a sinner, awe of God is very quickly replaced by awe of self. This is the great war of wars.
God’s summary of this war inside humanity in Genesis 6:5–6 should send chills down your spine: “The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the LORD regretted that he made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart.” It should scare you to death when you read that God is sorry or grieved for something that he created. You know immediately that this is very, very serious, to say the least. God’s indictment of humanity is comprehensive and inescapably dark. Everything people think and want is wrong. Every motivation is evil. Every viewpoint and craving is tainted with iniquity. What’s the bottom line here? What humans desire violates God’s desires for them. The boundaries that man sets for himself go past the boundaries that God has ordained. Everything you think, desire, and say offends God because you don’t care about God anymore. You don’t care what pleases him. You don’t care about his ownership and rulership of your life. You don’t care about his holy will and his eternal glory. No, all you care about is you and what you want. Your problem is not environmental. It’s not relational. No, your problem is deeply spiritual. In your God-forgetfulness, you’ve put yourself in the center. And the evil that has swallowed your life is but a symptom of the AWN that has swallowed your heart.
You see AWN in a completely different context in the calling of Moses. We find him in Exodus 3 as a man in exile, having fled for his life. God comes to draft him to lead the children of Israel out of Egypt, but Moses is afraid, paralytically afraid. He cannot think of taking one step toward what God is calling him to do. God meets Moses in his fear and in Exodus 4 displays to him his awesome glory. We would expect that Moses would be blown away with awe and ready to represent this awesome One before Pharaoh, but that’s not what happens. At the end of God’s glorious display of power, Moses begs God to send someone else. It’s as if the fear of personal inadequacy and political danger has completely blinded his eyes to the awesome glory of the One sending him. Moses is not in awe of God. No, the awe capacity of his heart has been captured by fear of the Egyptians, and all he can think of is being released from the task to which God has appointed him.
Later in Moses’s life, he grew in his awe of God, but the people he was leading through the wilderness were not getting it. At Mount Sinai, in a moment of miraculous divine love, God gave Moses his laws for the people he held dear. But at the very same time, the children of Israel at the base of the mountain were melting gold to create a visible idol to worship. The juxtaposition between these two things is almost too much to take in. As God was on the mountain proving himself to be God, Israel was at the base of the mountain working to replace him. Again, we must note carefully the words they used. The people said of the golden calf that they made, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!” (Ex. 32:4).
Is not this one of the constant, destructive, and delusional functions of AWN? AWN is all about attributing to something in physical creation—yes, even the work of your hands—what only God could do. It’s failing to give praise where praise is actually due and giving praise to something that could not have produced the thing that has caused you to give praise. You will live in awe of what you credit with the blessing in your life. You will worship whatever it is that you think has produced what you celebrate. The molding and worship of the golden calf stand as powerful physical examples of awe gone horribly wrong.
Perhaps one of the clearest portrayals of AWN is what we see in the Valley of Elah in 1 Samuel 17. For forty days the army of the Most High God in fear had refused to face the giant warrior Goliath in battle. For forty days they had listened to his vile taunt, “I defy the ranks of Israel this day. Give me a man, that we may fight together” (v. 10). Their reticence to go down into that valley and face this enemy resulted not from military posturing or tactical maneuvering. No, it resulted directly from awe amnesia. Because they failed to carry into that valley a life-shaping, courage-imparting awe of God, they based their assessment of the situation on a false spiritual equation. For forty days they compared their size and ability to the size and ability of Goliath and therefore concluded that he would defeat them.
David showed up to deliver a lunch to his brothers and was confused as to why the army of Israel had failed to rise to Goliath’s challenge. And then he shockingly said that he would fight Goliath. Was he that arrogant? Was he delusional? Did he not understand the impossible odds? No. Listen to what David said: “The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine” (v. 37). Because David was not suffering from AWN, he made the right spiritual assessment and was therefore unafraid. It was not puny little David against this awesome giant. No, it was this puny little giant against the God who is the sum and definition of all that is awesome. Now, who do you think would win? With the boldness and confidence that only the awe of God can produce, David walked into what had been for forty days a valley of fear and defeated Goliath, leading the army of Israel to rout the Philistines.
AWN causes you to feel unable, alone, unprepared, and afraid, while awe of God produces, courage, hope, and forthright action. This really is the war of wars. Too many of us, no matter what our theological persuasion, live in a functional state of AWN, and so we are timid, anxious, defeated, and struggling to hold onto the shreds of hope that we have left. Our problem is not the size or difficulty of the things we face. No, our problem is AWN and the havoc it wreaks on our daily living. AWN will cause you to fear things that you need to defeat. AWN will cause you to deny reality because you are afraid to face what is true. AWN will cause you to fret over people and situations. AWN will cause you to attempt to control what you cannot control because you think it is out of control. AWN will never lead you anywhere good.
After Genesis 3, there’s no more powerful portrayal of AWN in the Bible than the story of Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel. The central theme of Daniel is the awesome and unstoppable sovereignty of God over the life of every human being and over the movement of history. You conclude your reading of Daniel assured that God really does have “the whole world in his hands.” It is particularly interesting, then, that the book of Daniel also puts before us one of the Bible’s most dramatic examples of AWN. The contrast between Daniel’s overall theme and the story of Nebuchadnezzar should not be missed (see Daniel 3–4.)
Nebuchadnezzar had reached a height of unparalleled greatness and power. He was godlike in his own eyes and in the way that he wielded his power. So in an act of stark self-sovereignty, he created a huge golden image and commanded everyone under his power to bow down and worship his idol. It was an act of pure glory thievery. This was not about worship per se; it was AWN, that is, a leader stealing from God the awe due to him and him alone. Nebuchadnezzar reveals his AWN when he asks this rhetorical question in Daniel 4:30: “Is not this great Babylon, which I have built by my mighty power as a royal residence and for the glory of my majesty?”
Here is a king confronting the awesome glory of God with a declaration of his own glory in the form of a perverse command for all his subjects to worship an idol. This episode really captures the core of AWN. The war that rages in all our hearts is a war between the awe of God and the awe of self. The war really does somehow turn all of us into glory thieves. Perhaps we commit vertical larceny much more than we realize. Perhaps we quest for personal glory more than we think. Perhaps we take credit for what only God can do more often than we think we do. Perhaps, in subtle idolatry, we give credit to places and things when it really belongs to God. Perhaps we’re not too far from Nebuchadnezzar’s sin.
So in a real demonstration of his incalculable power and grace, God showed Nebuchadnezzar who was actually sovereign over all things, even over him. God brought Nebuchadnezzar low, so low that he ate grass like a bovine, reduced to animal instincts and behavior. God’s goal was to deliver Nebuchadnezzar from his AWN. Listen to Nebuchadnezzar’s response after the One who is sovereign had restored him:

for his dominion is an everlasting dominion,
  and his kingdom endures from generation to generation;
all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing,
  and he does according to his will among the host of heaven
  and among the inhabitants of the earth;
and none can stay his hand
  or say to him, “What have you done?” (Dan. 4:34b–35)

Nebuchadnezzar’s declaration of the awesome rulership of God over a kingdom that will never end represents a confession that all of us should make daily. It would be worth printing out this confession and sticking it to the mirror that you gaze at every morning. This declaration not only reminds you of who God is but points you once again to who you are and, in so doing, protects you from the glory-stealing AWN that constantly threatens you and me this side of eternity.
The grand redemptive story, which stands as the central theme of the Bible, is dotted with portrayal after portrayal of AWN. You see it in King Saul’s disobedience to God’s commands to utterly destroy the Amalekite nation and everything in it (1 Samuel 15). Saul acted like he was in charge and had the right to set his own rules, and because he did, he took plunder for himself rather than destroying it all as God had commanded. To make matters worse, rather than admit his AWN-induced disobedience, he blamed the people of Israel. The prophet Samuel uncovered Saul’s actual motives: “For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and presumption is as iniquity and idolatry” (v. 23). You see, Saul’s problem was not that he disagreed with God’s strategy for dealing with the Amalekites. No, Saul had a heart problem. His heart was captured more by the awe of physical things than by God. AWN caused him to crave what God had forbidden and to rebel against God’s clear commands. So God, in a clear display of who was in charge and who had the authority to set the rules, turned his back on Saul and his reign. AWN is not just shockingly blind and morally wrong, it is also inescapably self-destructive.
Or what of the sad theme of the book of Judges, where the people of God, who were commissioned to worship and obey the Lord and stay willingly inside his moral boundaries, again and again did what was right in their own eyes and again and again faced the consequences of doing so? Judges recounts the sad AWN cycle of disobedience, God’s discipline, his gracious rescue, and more disobedience to follow.
Then there are the wayward, arrogant, and self-celebrating leaders of Israel depicted by the prophet Amos. In clear AWN, they were moved more by their own power and affluence than by the power and glory of the God they had been called to worship and serve. And because they had forgotten God, they cared little for the people whose welfare had been placed in their hands. Read Amos’s description:

Woe to those who lie on beds of ivory
  and stretch themselves out on their couches,
and eat lambs from the flock
  and calves from the midst of the stall,
who sing idle songs to the sound of the harp
  and like David invent for themselves instruments of music,
who drink wine in bowls
  and anoint themselves with the finest oils,
  but are not grieved over the ruin of Joseph! (Amos 6:4–6)

How much of leadership today, whether in the political or ecclesiastical arenas, is shaped by leaders who suffer from AWN and are consequently more concerned about their own power and position than they are about the people they are called to lead? Maybe it’s a pastor who lives outside of or above the body of Christ, as if he is essentially different from the people he leads and not one with them in both need and ministry. Or maybe it’s the politician who uses his elected position more to consolidate personal power than to secure the good of those who elected him. We really do live in a leadership culture that is often not far from the AWN of the leaders in Amos’s day.
Or how about the horrible New Testament story of King Herod’s jealous infanticide at the time of Christ’s birth? Did a more tragic and unthinkable event occur in biblical history that side of the crucifixion? Here’s the brief but shocking account. “Then Herod . . . became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old and under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men” (Matt. 2:16).
The brevity of this account should not distract us from its utter and unthinkable horror. Imagine the wails of unbridled grief from distraught mothers that echoed down every street in Bethlehem and its surrounds. Could there be any worse act of AWN than this? Why did Herod do such a thing? He did it because he would not allow another king to challenge his sovereign reign. He did it because nothing held more sway over his heart than his own power and glory. He did it because he despised loss of power more than the slaughter of countless infant boys.
You could argue that every horrible act of man’s inhumanity is rooted in AWN. Every moment of murder has its source in AWN. Every act of physical or sexual abuse arises from AWN. Every moment of family violence has its roots in AWN. Every act of terrorism or needless political violence is unleashed AWN. It’s AWN that makes us willing to destroy the reputation of another person. AWN causes us to respond to one another in bitterness, envy, and vengeance. AWN lies at the heart of racism and makes human culture a battleground rather than a community. When AWN rules our hearts, we harm one another.
Consider even the disciples, who were more captivated by their quest for position in the kingdom than they were grieved by the suffering and loss of their Master. After Jesus revealed his coming death and resurrection more clearly than he ever had, the very next conversation was not a discussion about the seeming impossibility of the death of the Messiah but an argument over who was or would be greatest in the kingdom (see Mark 9:30–37). The disciples had little time to contemplate the humiliation of Jesus because they were too consumed with their own greatness. Once again, these guys were not just theologically confused. No, they were trapped in the cul-de-sac of their own grandeur. They were followers of the Messiah, but they placed themselves at the center of the story. Here the agenda of the cross collided with the agenda of AWN, demonstrating how the cross was absolutely necessary.
Perhaps we can find no more powerful summary of AWN and its results than in Romans 1:

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.
Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.
For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.
And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them. (vv. 18–32)

This passage argues that we can in no way overstate the power and significance of AWN. It really is the battle of battles. It really is the root and source of every evil thing that we think, desire, choose, say, and do. It is the reason for all our personal, relational, and societal dysfunction. In awe wrongedness we put ourselves or the creation in the place where God alone is to be, and when we do, an endless catalog of bad things happen.
AWN is why Jesus had to come. It is the core spiritual disease from which none of us can escape. It is the war of wars that none of us has the power to win. Why? Because that war rages and that disease lives in our hearts. Our only hope is for a rescuer to come and free us from ourselves. Thankfully, God, in awesome grace, commanded the forces of nature and ruled the events of human history so that at a certain time his Son, the Savior, the Messiah, the Lamb, the King, would come and live the way we should have lived and die the death we should have died. In doing so, God made it possible for us not only to be rescued from our AWN and accepted into his presence but also to become people who live in moment-by-moment awe of him.
Here’s the good news: God’s forgiving, rescuing grace is infinitely more powerful than the AWN that kidnaps the heart of every sinner. And that really is the best of news!

3

MINISTRY

He . . . who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead; his eyes are closed.
ALBERT EINSTEIN2

I was in ministry, but I didn’t really understand it. I didn’t understand ministry because I didn’t understand the people I was called to serve. I didn’t understand the people I was called to serve because I didn’t understand life in this terribly fallen world. Sure, I said and did helpful things. I endeavored to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ to my people. I worked to counsel people with the wisdom that can only be found in God’s Word, but my ministry was seriously lacking the big picture. I was doing all kinds of gospel stuff, but my ministry wasn’t tied together by one central, unalterable, nonnegotiable mission. I was busy, but I didn’t fully understand why.
I have met all kinds of ministry people all over the world who are just like I was. The problem is not that they’re ungodly. The problem isn’t that they lack pure motives. The problem isn’t that they fail to do and say good things. The problem is that they lack the grand perspective, and because they do, they often lose sight of why they are doing everything they’re doing.
Here’s the danger: it is always easier for bad agendas to slither their way into our hearts and into our ministries when we are unclear about the big, grand agenda that we are serving. You probably don’t need me to tell you that people do ministry for all kinds of reasons other than the one grand agenda that should focus and direct every ministry activity. That was me. I didn’t have the big picture, and because I didn’t have the big picture, I was susceptible to being seduced by other ministry motivations. The problem was that I didn’t know it.
I can’t tell you how many times in my early days of ministry I questioned if God had really called me into pastoral ministry. It’s embarrassing to admit how many times I decided to quit. I thought my problem was that I had been called to a difficult place. I reasoned that I had been sent to work with unusually resistant people. I envied the ministry of other people who seemed to have it better than me. I dreamed of a series of other jobs. I did a lot of moaning and complaining. I felt weak and unprepared. I knew something was wrong. I knew something was missing, but I simply had no clue what it was.
Then one day, in the mystery of God’s loving and wise sovereignty, I bumped into Psalm 145, and it changed my life. No, it’s not an exaggeration. It really did change me and everything about my ministry. And I have been living off those changes ever since. While I wish I could say that the battle is over for me, it’s not; I’ve just become a more knowledgeable and committed soldier. Yet Psalm 145 gave me what I was so desperately missing: the big picture.

Ministry’s Grand Agenda
I will extol you, my God and King,
and bless your name forever and ever.
Every day I will bless you
and praise your name forever and ever.
Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised,
and his greatness is unsearchable.

One generation shall commend your works to another,
  and shall declare your mighty acts.
On the glorious splendor of your majesty,
  and on your wondrous works, I will meditate.
They shall speak of the might of your awesome deeds,
  and I will declare your greatness.
They shall pour forth the fame of your abundant goodness
  and shall sing aloud of your righteousness.

The LORD is gracious and merciful,
  slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
The LORD is good to all,
  and his mercy is over all that he has made.

All your works shall give thanks to you, O LORD,
  and all your saints shall bless you!
They shall speak of the glory of your kingdom
  and tell of your power,
to make known to the children of man your mighty deeds,
  and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.
Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
  and your dominion endures throughout all generations.

[The LORD is faithful in all his words
  and kind in all his works.]
The LORD upholds all who are falling
  and raises up all who are bowed down.
The eyes of all look to you,
  and you give them their food in due season.
You open your hand;
  you satisfy the desire of every living thing.
The LORD is righteous in all his ways
  and kind in all his works.
The LORD is near to all who call on him,
  to all who call on him in truth.
He fulfills the desire of those who fear him;
  he also hears their cry and saves them.
The LORD preserves all who love him,
  but all the wicked he will destroy.

My mouth will speak the praise of the LORD,
  and let all flesh bless his holy name forever and ever.

It’s all there. What I desperately needed and didn’t see. It opens doors of thought, insight, and understanding. But it did more than that for me. It began to rescue me from me. Let me explain. I had read Psalm 145 many, many times. But this time, one single phrase that I had never noticed before hit me hard. I think it is the linchpin of the psalm. It’s the door that leads you to what this psalm is about, what ministry is about, what life is about. I began to think that this psalm was getting my ministry where it needed to be; what was really happening was that God was getting to me. I am so thankful for that one little phrase. God used it as a tool to rescue the life of this man who had lost his ministry way.
“One generation shall commend your works to another” (v. 4). That was exactly what I needed. It immediately hit me that every moment of ministry must contribute to this goal. Whether it’s the worship service, the children’s lesson, the small group, or the sermon itself, each must share the central goal of holding the awesome glory of the works of the Lord before his people once again. God intends every moment of ministry to inspire awe of himself in his people. This must happen again and again and again. Why? Because we so easily become awe amnesiacs. We live between the “already”—Christ’s completed and inaugurated work—and the “not yet”—the coming culmination of God’s work of redemption. And since life in this period is one big war over awe, the present generation of ministry people must give the next generation their awe of God.
You don’t have to look very far to see awe problems everywhere around you. Adultery is an awe problem. To the degree that you forget God’s glory as the Creator of your body and his place as owner of every aspect of your physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual personhood, to that degree it is easier to use the members of your body to get whatever pleasure your heart craves. Debt is an awe problem. When your mind is blown away by the thought that God provides everything you have, that every good gift really does come from him, you are predisposed to be a good steward of the things he has provided. Obsession with the collection of possessions is the result of an awe amnesia that makes you ask of things what you will only ever get from the God of glory, who alone can satisfy your searching heart. Living for power and control is an awe problem. When you live with the rest and peace that come from keeping the power, authority, and sovereignty of God before your eyes, you don’t need to work yourself into control over the people and situations in your life. Gluttony and obesity are awe problems. When you forget the glory of the satisfying grace of the Redeemer, you are susceptible to letting things like food and drink become your temporary replacement messiahs. Fear of man is an awe problem. When I forget that God’s glory defines not only him but who I have become as his child, I look to people to give me meaning, purpose, and identity. The awe war is everywhere.
So I know that in ministry I will be preaching, teaching, and encouraging people who are awe forgetful, awe discouraged, awe empty, awe deceived, awe seduced, awe kidnapped, and awe weary. My job is to give them eyes to see the awesome glory of God—his glorious grace, wisdom, power, faithfulness, sovereignty, patience, kindness, mercy, and love. Further, it is my job to connect this glory to the everyday experience of the hearer in a way that engages the heart and transforms the life. Whatever the ministry moment or biblical passage being discussed, I am called to intentionally inspire awe.
Something is wrong with worship that fails to inspire awe. Something is defective in exegesis that does not inspire awe. Theological instruction that does not arouse awe is broken. Biblical literacy that fails to stimulate awe is missing something. When personal discipleship doesn’t produce vertical awe, something is amiss. This is the grand agenda of every form of ministry, and once I got it, it set my ministry on a whole new trajectory—one on which it remains today.
We minister to people who are hardwired for awe, who have lost their awe, and who need awe given back to them again, so that they will not only live in awe of God but will pass that awe down to the generation that follows. Think about it. This is the job of parents, for example. You are called by God to inspire worshipful awe in your children. It is very hard for your children to get excited about God’s rescuing grace and the life-directing commands of his Word if they have no awe whatsoever of the One who authored them both. You have been called to something that is profoundly deeper than being a lawgiver, a law enforcer, and a punishment deliverer. You are to exercise your authority in such a way that it gives your children eyes to see the awesome presence, power, authority, and grace of God. When our children are blown away by the glory of God, they will be predisposed to reach out for his grace and submit to his will.
The Lord’s Prayer is a model for us here. The prayer that Jesus taught us to pray is an “awe prayer” before it is a “need prayer.” From “Our Father” to “your will be done,” the opening of this prayer presents a way of thinking, living, and approaching God inspired by awe of him. Only awe of him can define in you and me a true sense of what we actually need. So many of our prayers are self-centered grocery lists of personal cravings that have no bigger agenda than to make our lives a little more comfortable. They tend to treat God more as our personal shopper than a holy and wise Father-King. Such prayers forget God’s glory and long for a greater experience of the glories of the created world. They lack fear, reverence, wonder, and worship. They’re more like pulling up the divine shopping site than bowing our knees in adoration and worship. They are motivated more by awe of ourselves and our pleasures than by a heart-rattling, satisfaction-producing awe of the Redeemer to whom we are praying.
Obviously, Christ’s model prayer follows the right order. And it stands not only as a model for our personal prayer but for our ministries as well. It’s only when my heart is captured by the awe of God that I will view my identity rightly. And it’s only when I view my identity rightly that I will have a proper sense of need and a willingness to abandon my plan for the greater and more glorious plan of God. So in ministry we work to give sight to blind eyes, to reveal the glory that so many are missing, and to inspire awe in hearts whose capacity for awe is flaccid or has been kidnapped by some horizontal awe replacement.

Ministry’s Personal Protection
I’ve written about this before, but it is important to emphasize it here. Only a functional, heart-directed, ministry-shaping awe of God has the power to protect me from myself in ministry. It is humbling to admit, but I have had to face the fact that the greatest danger to my ministry is me! The risk is that familiarity would cause me to lose my awe. Familiarity with God’s glory is a wonderful gift of grace. To be called by God to stand up close to, think about, and communicate the elements of that glory to others is a privilege beyond expression. But it is also a very dangerous thing because I very quickly replace any vacuum of awe of God in my heart with awe of myself.
I have seen it in my life and in the lives of many other people in ministry. When we replace awe of God with awe of self, we then permit ourselves to do things in ministry that no ministry person should do—to be controlling, authoritarian, self-righteous, theologically unteachable, defensive, isolated, and critical. We give way to thoughts, desires, and behaviors that are unbecoming of the gospel. We begin to think of ourselves as essentially different from the people we are called to serve. We allow ourselves to stand above the things that we teach. We begin in subtle ways to view ourselves as grace graduates. We explain away our sin and argue for our righteousness. We teach grace but are ungracious in meetings, with staff, and with our families. We approach ministry duties as a burden and not a joy. We allow ourselves to develop attitudes of bitterness and resentment against those we perceive to be our detractors. We preach and teach love, but we aren’t examples of love.
Why does all this happen? The answer is simple, but it will sting you. It happens because we are full of ourselves. We have replaced awe of God with awe of self, and the harvest is not pretty. But awe of God protects you from these traps. Here’s how:

  1. Your ministry is supposed to be shaped by the fear of God. Ministry is always shaped by some kind of fear. If it is not shaped, motivated, and directed by fear of God, it will be shaped by fear of man, fear of circumstances, fear of the future, fear that you’re not really called, fear of the tensions between family and ministry, or fear of financial woes. Only when the fear of God has captured my heart am I free of being dominated and paralyzed by the myriad of other ministry temptations.
  2. In ministry you are supposed to feel small, weak, and unable. I did very well in seminary, so I graduated with a bring-on-the-world-I’m-more-than-ready attitude. I was arrogant and self-assured. I had the mentality more of a messiah than a servant. Was I ever headed for a rude awakening! None of the people I was called to serve saw me as the messiah that I thought I was. I made just about every mistake a young pastor could make precisely because I was so scarily self-assured.
    You see, awe of God will make you feel small, and that is good because that is what you and I are. Awe of God will make you feel unworthy for the task. It will confront you with a healthy inability. Not only does that sense produce a trust in God’s wisdom, power, and grace, it also makes you humble, approachable, patient, kind, passionate, and willing. When you are blown away by the glory of the Savior and his cross, you will be driven to that cross for the character and strength you need to represent the Savior well in the lives of those around you. You won’t be so quick to pontificate. You will be quick to admit your need. You will be obsessed not by how much people respect you, but by how much they worship their Redeemer. Fear is only ever defeated by fear. Only awe of God can ever rob horizontal awe of its power. Awe of God puts you in your place in ministry, and it will keep you there. Once you know who God is and rightly assess who you are, you will be able to minister with humility, hope, and courage.
  3. Ministry is meant to be something bigger than completing a list of tasks. It is so easy for ministry to be reduced to a series of repetitive duties. It is so easy to lose sight of the big picture. It is easier than we think to lose sight of the awesome God we serve in the middle of days, weeks, and months of ministry busyness. It is tempting to reduce ministry to strategic planning, budget initiative, leadership development, property management, and the revolving catalog of essential meetings. And we can quickly forget why we are doing all the things we are doing.
    You have been called to the high position of making the invisible glory of God visible to people who quickly lose sight of God’s glory and begin to look for glories elsewhere. You could not wish to be part of something more important than this. A vision of God’s glory must fuel and protect all our strategic planning. Worship, not success or an obsession with growth, must drive all our decisions about finances and property. Developing leaders is not just downloading theological knowledge and ministry skill, but calling people to lead with hearts captured by the awe of God. A person in ministry who wakes up every morning to the burdens of a job description and not to the joy of God’s awesome glory is a ministry person in trouble.
  4. The spiritual warfare of ministry is all about awe. The big ongoing battle in ministry is not a battle of time, finances, leadership, or strategy. The big battle is a battle of awe. The fear of man that grips so many ministry people and produces in them timidity and compromise is an awe problem. Sleep interrupted by anxiety about the finances of the church is an awe problem. Being too ruled and controlled by your own plan for the church is an awe problem. Being too conscious of how people see and respond to you is an awe problem. Settling for ministry mediocrity is an awe problem. Being too dominant and controlling in your ministry is an awe problem. Being self-righteous and defensive is an awe problem. Living in isolation, afraid of being known, is an awe problem. Arrogant theological “always-rightism” is an awe problem. Only awe of God can produce that balance between humility and boldness that marks all successful ministries.
  5. Awe of God is the only lens through which we can see ministry successes and hardships accurately. Only when I look at the unavoidable hardships of daily ministry through the lens of the glory of God’s sovereignty, grace, wisdom, power, faithfulness, mercy, and love will I ever see my ministry accurately. If I am comparing the size of my ministry difficulties to the limited resources of my wisdom, righteousness, and strength, I am making that comparison because I am a functional awe amnesiac. Here’s the reality in which all ministry takes place: the God of inconceivable glory who has sent me never sends me to do his work without going with me. I am never alone in any ministry moment, never left to myself on the field of spiritual battle.
  6. Your ministry lifestyle always reveals what has captured your awe. It really is true that a person’s ministry is never shaped just by knowledge, experience, and skill but by the true condition of one’s heart. In this way, all ministry ends up exposing the heart. Perhaps I am experiencing tension between my family and ministry because my heart has been captured by the awe of ministry success and, since it has, I have become a ministry workaholic. This heart condition means that, when I must choose between ministry and family, ministry will always win. Or maybe my heart has been captured by the awe of power, and the result is that I am domineering and controlling. Or it could be that my heart is captured by the respect of others, and because it is, I am tempted to compromise in places where God calls me to stand strong. Awe of something will always shape your ministry. Your ministry will only ever be protected when it is kept safe and pure by a heart-controlling awe of God and his holy glory.
  7. Finally, here’s the battle, the big bad danger that lurks in the shadows of the life of every ministry person: familiarity. Familiarity tends to blind our eyes and dull our senses. What once produced awe in us now barely gets our attention. This is the great danger in gospel ministry. So you must commit yourself to being humbly vigilant. You must start every day focusing the eyes of your heart on the stunning glory of God and his amazing, life-transforming grace. You must resist allowing familiarity to replace divine glory with the ministry mundane.
    Yes, we all face a day-to-day battle for awe in ministry. But we are not alone. The God of awesome grace whom we serve is a God not only of past and future grace but of present grace as well. His present grace does for you what you cannot do for yourself; it rescues you from you. His grace protects you from the dullness and fickleness of your affections. His grace opens blind eyes and recaptures straying hearts. True hope for all our ministries is found in the unrelenting zeal of his right-here, right-now grace.

4

REPLACEMENT

The world will never starve for want of wonders; but only for want of wonder.

G. K. CHESTERTON3

It simply doesn’t exist. It’s humanly impossible. It would defy the way we were made. What am I talking about? Awelessness. It’s impossible for a human being to live an aweless existence.
I am a new grandfather. As I held my five-month-old granddaughter the other day, I began to think about awe and her little life. I was holding a little awe-wired, awe-inspired person. Right now, the only thing that completely captures her awe is her toes. She curls up her legs, gets her toes in her hands, and then, you guessed it, pulls her toes into her mouth—the destination of everything that gets her attention. But it won’t be long before we’ll see her capacity for wonder begin to shape her thoughts, desires, choices, decisions, words, and actions.
She’ll develop an awe vocabulary:

“That just amazes me.”
“I can’t believe he did that.”
“If only I had _, then I would be _.”
“I dream about that all the time.”
“It wouldn’t take much to make me happy; just give me _.”
“When I grow up, I want _
.”
“I wonder what it would be like to have __?”
“I can’t believe she got what I’ve always wanted.”
“It’s so cool, I can’t stop thinking about it.”
“I just want to experience it once.”

All people share this vocabulary because we, like my granddaughter, are hardwired for awe. Yet this vocabulary also betrays a deeply spiritual, life-shaping, and often unnoticed principle that operates in all our lives. It is the principle of replacement. Every sinner quickly replaces awe of the Creator with awe of something in the creation. As the apostle Paul is discussing the sinfulness of sin and our need for rescuing grace in Romans 1, he notes that “they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen” (Rom. 1:25).
Now notice the spiritual dynamics here. The dynamics of replacement require that we buy into a devastating lie. It is the lie of lies, the lie that was first told in the garden of Eden. It is the lie that destroys countless lives, crushing them with unrealistic expectations, disappointment, anger, and hopelessness. It is the lie that leads to death. What is this powerful, dark deceit? It is the belief that life can be found somewhere outside the Creator. It is the hope that true spiritual peace, rest, contentment, satisfaction, and joy can be found somewhere in the creation. In believing that lie, Adam and Eve willfully rebelled against the position and commands of God. The Scriptures are filled with the sad stories of disobedience, violence, idolatry, greed, envy, deceit, thievery, and murder that result from believing this lie.
If human beings were created to live in heart-gripping, life-shaping awe of God—and they were—then replacing awe of God with awe of something else will never go anywhere good. But it gets even darker and more personal, because in such replacement, we do not just generally put creation in the place of the Creator. It’s more catastrophic than that. At the most foundational of heart levels, we somehow always replace awe of God in our hearts with awe of self.
Think of Adam and Eve in that moment of temptation in the garden. What was the hook? Well, it wasn’t the odor and visual allure of the succulent forbidden fruit. Here’s the hook as recorded in Genesis 3: “‘For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’ So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate” (vv. 5–6). Yes, the fruit was food, and yes, it was pleasing to the eye, but what the Serpent sold—and Eve desired—was fundamentally different than a forbidden food buzz. What the Serpent offered to Eve, God’s creature, was the hope that she could be in the Creator’s place. She could be like him. She could have wisdom that did not depend on him. She could be at the center. She could know and experience the glory that belongs to God alone. Adam and Eve weren’t just after God’s forbidden fruit; they were after God’s position.
This is what sin does to us all. At a deep and often unnoticed level, sin replaces worship of God with worship of self. It replaces submission with self-rule. It replaces gratitude with demands for more. It replaces faith with self-reliance. It replaces vertical joy with horizontal envy. It replaces a rest in God’s sovereignty with a quest for personal control. We live for our glory. We set up our rules. We ask others to serve our agenda.
We curse whatever gets in our way. We hate having to wait. We get upset when we have to go without. We strike back when we think we have been wronged. We do all we can to satisfy our cravings. We think too much about our own pleasure. We envy those who have what we think we deserve. We pout when we think we have been overlooked. We hate suffering of any kind. We manipulate others for our own good. We attempt to work ourselves into positions of power and control. We are obsessed about what is best for us. We demand more than we serve, and we take more than we give. We long to be first and hate being last. We are all too concerned with being right, being noticed, and being affirmed. We find it easier to judge those who have offended us than to forgive them. We require life to be predictable, satisfying, and easy. We do all these things because we are full of ourselves, in awe more of ourselves than of God.
This is what Paul is talking about when he writes that Christ “died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves” (2 Cor. 5:15). Here we see the great replacement again. It is what sin does to us all; no longer living for God, we live for ourselves. The myriad of dysfunctions of the human community can be traced to this one thing: awe. When we replace vertical awe of God with awe of self, bad things happen in the horizontal community.

Replacement Angst
You see it played out in a thousand ways every day. If you listen, you will discover that the universal language of sinners in this broken world is complaint. When you’re at the center, when you feel entitled, when your desires dominate your heart, and when it really is all about you, you will have much to complain about. It is amazing how much more natural complaint is for us than thanks or how much more we tend to grumble than we tend to praise. We talk much more about what we want than about what we have been given. Notice how much we compare what we have to what others have and how little of the time we are satisfied. Listen to people very long, and you’ll hear the drone of complaint far more frequently than you’ll hear the melody of thankfulness. You see, we don’t first have a grumbling problem. No, we have an awe problem that results in a life of personal dissatisfaction and complaint. When awe of self replaces awe of God, praise will be rare and grumbling plentiful.
Awe lies at the bottom of a whole range of human struggles. Jim was disappointed. He had set his sights on that promotion for years. He had done all the right things. He had gotten to know all the right people. He had played the game well, but the promotion had gone to someone else. In his disappointment, all he could think of doing was quitting. He wasn’t going to allow them to treat him this way. Now he had been out of work for eighteen months, and he didn’t know what to do.
Janice was so hurt. She had been a loyal friend. She had had Sue’s back again and again. She thought they had a bond like sisters. As an only child, she was so glad to finally have a “sibling” relationship in her life. The thought that they would be best friends forever made her smile—until Sue told her that she was moving. For six months she had known and never told Janice. When Janice found out, the room went dark. She felt she couldn’t breathe, and she refused to open herself up to anyone else. After ten years, she still wondered what happened to Sue.
George was so angry, he wanted to punch a hole in the wall. No one was going to get away with disrespecting him like that, especially his own son. He couldn’t wait for him to get home, and when he did, George would make him pay for every bit of that disrespect. “My house, my rules, and my reputation,” George repeated to himself over and over again as he waited for his son to arrive.
“I could die today and no one would notice,” Caleb complained. Depressed and alone, all he wanted to do was die. “Why does nothing good happen to me? Where are all the friends I once had? What’s the point? I’m forty-two with a junk job and elderly parents—nice life! I wake up in the morning and can’t find a reason for living. I wish I could just turn off the breathing button.”
He didn’t feel like it was much to ask: “Just let my life be easy and a little predictable for once. If I had that, I’d be satisfied.” Hector was so frustrated. It seemed to him that he had a target on his back. For every one step he moved forward, he was knocked three steps back. “I can’t deal with it anymore. I just want life to work,” he yelled as his frustration boiled over.
She used to love going out with Jen, but it had become increasingly difficult. They had gotten married at the same time. In fact, they had talked about having a double wedding. Whenever they were together, Jen talked about how wonderful her marriage was. But Emily’s marriage hadn’t produced the happiness she desired. Emily couldn’t stop the envy she felt. Why had Jen gotten to live her dream? Emily started finding excuses for not meeting with Jen. It all seemed unfair to her.
Dan just wanted to be accepted. He longed to be part of the group of cool athletes in high school who seemed to be the center of attention wherever they went. He was all too conscious of how they responded to him, though he didn’t realize that they knew it. They had the power to make or break his day. And his fear of never being accepted made him nervous and ill-at-ease whenever he was around them, causing him to do dumb and embarrassing things. The more he focused on their acceptance, the farther away it seemed.
John was the quintessential loner. He trusted no one. He was vulnerable with no one. He gave no one the chance to take advantage of him. He had been burned too many times, and it wasn’t going to happen to him again. He lived with his guard up at all times. He mastered the nonanswer. He lived behind impenetrable emotional walls. He joined nothing and hung out with no one, and that was just the way he liked it. He didn’t need anyone in his life but himself.
Liz was the definition of hopeless. She had looked everywhere for life but to no avail. She committed herself to countless activities and groups, yet they all gave her way more grief than blessing. Liz lacked motivation to do anything anymore and had to force herself out of bed each morning to go to work. She had long since given up on her church. More than once she told herself, “If life is out there, I missed it, and I am too tired to look anymore.”
Eaten with anger, he determined to settle the score. Rick was filled with vengeance. He reasoned that nothing was more important than justice. He was determined to make wrongs right, no matter how big or small. When it came to justice, he argued, you can depend on no one else; somehow you have to make it happen yourself. And he would.

The Awe Problem in Action
At first read, the stories of these people all appear very different, but while they all differ in some ways, each of their struggles results from the same basic problem. Their core struggle is not with the people, situations, or locations of their lives. No, the disappointments with people, situations, and locations draw such emotions out of them because they all suffer from a deeper problem: an awe problem. Let me capture their struggle with some principles.

  1. Your emotional life is always a window into what has captured your awe. It is quite clear that your emotions always reveal the true thoughts, motives, desires, longings, hopes, and dreams of your heart. Since this is the case, it also follows that your emotional highs and lows, joys and sorrows will be connected to and flow out of what has captured your awe. If I live in a life-shaping awe of affluence, I will celebrate when financial success comes and sulk in the face of monetary loss. Only when a greater awe than the awe of physical created things has captured my heart will I be liberated from the emotional rollercoaster and live with lasting peace and rest in my heart. You see this clearly in the stories above.
  2. Awe amnesia always leads to awe replacement. The brief vignettes above also demonstrate the principle of replacement that is the subject of this chapter. Each person has in some way, at street level, replaced awe of God with awe of something else. They have hooked the delight and satisfaction of their heart to something other than God. The problem is that they don’t know it, because this seldom happens at the formal theological, confessional level. They may have a theology of awe that puts God at the center, but between Sundays they live as if God doesn’t exist, hoping to be wonder-struck by an experience of some created thing. They are hurt, angry, jealous, and frustrated, not just because life hasn’t worked as they wished but because awe replacement has made that disappointment a more profoundly discouraging reality for them.
  3. We replace vertical awe with horizontal addiction. I am deeply persuaded that, much more often than we think, true worship is replaced by obsession. When my heart is enamored with the stunning glory and utter unchangeability of God, when I am living in conscious awe of him, I have no need to look vigilantly for life day after day. Vertical awe puts my heart at ease. It gives my soul rest. It produces contentment and satisfaction.
    Horizontal awe is obsessive and addictive because the things to which I am looking have no ability at all to give me what God can give. At best, the buzz of these things is short-lived, and because it is short-lived, I have to go back again and again. Because I have to go back again and again, I am looking for it all the time. And because it doesn’t ever really satisfy me, I need more and more of whatever it is to give me the buzz that I am seeking. Because the physical, created world will never save me, it can never provide lasting rest of heart. As we saw, none of the people in the stories above possess hearts at rest.
  4. We quickly replace awe of God with awe of self. Vertical awe amnesia always ends up putting me at the center. It really does make life all about me. Awe of God means I live knowing that there is a greater story than my little personal story. Awe of God means that there is a grander kingdom than my little kingdom of one. Awe of God means that God has a plan far bigger and better than any plans I have for myself. Awe of God humbles me. It puts me in my place. It reminds me that I am small, that since I am a creature of One who is far greater, it cannot be all about me.
    Forgetting the awesome and glorious One who made it all and holds it all together by the sheer power of his magnificent will, will always insert me into the center. This means that no story will be more important to me than my story. I will ask no bigger question than the question of how I am doing. I will have no bigger concern than my satisfaction and comfort. I will ask life to serve me, to submit to my interests, and to deliver whatever I demand. This viewpoint will guarantee me a life of huge disappointment. And not only that, it is also an insane way to live. I am not the center of all things. The world will not do my sovereign bidding. God will not offer his awesome throne to me. Awe of self, worship of self, underlies every form of self-destructive living.
  5. Only grace can give us back our awe of God again. The dynamic of awe replacement, that the awe of God is very rapidly replaced by awe of self, can only drive us to one place: the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ. You see, our problem is not that we live in a world of awe-inspiring things. No, our problem is more foundationally internal and personal. Sin causes us to want for ourselves what God alone has. Sin causes us to quest for the position that belongs to him alone. Sin causes us to become all too committed to our own plans, to work all too hard to establish our own sovereignty. Sin makes us want to write our own rules and follow our own way. Sin makes us focus obsessively on how we feel, how we feel about how we feel, and how we feel about what we’ll need to do to alter the way we feel. Sin makes us all God amnesiacs, and because we are, we become desperate, self-focused, unhappy, demanding, and disappointed addicts of the created world.
    It’s not just that we lost our spiritual minds in the fall. No, we lost a big chunk of our humanity too. No human being was meant to live this way. It is irrational and self-destructive. In fact, the Bible calls the person who lives this way a fool (see Psalm 14). The problem is that all sinners replace God with something else. It is as natural and intuitive to us as breathing. Putting ourselves in the center of our awe is the DNA of sin.
    This human pattern of replacing awe of God with awe of self reminds us of how awe wrongedness has deeply twisted our hearts and our world. AWN lies at the core of all the horrible choices, family dysfunction, violence, vengeance, idolatry, jealousy, greed, immorality, foolishness, materialism, power hunger, discontentment, and self-centeredness in our world. AWN really is the hereditary and communicable plague that eats away at the heart of everyone who has ever taken a breath. No one has escaped, and no one has discovered a way to inoculate themselves. Our self-aggrandizing craziness results from this fundamental awe exchange. When we put ourselves in the center of the story, not only do we become rebels against God, we become a danger to ourselves and others. And since we are our greatest problem, we are left powerless to help ourselves.
    To push further, if this universal awe replacement is our problem, then it is the height of theological absurdity to think that the law can deliver us. What set of rules can decimate our bondage to ourselves or our tendency to put the creation where only the Creator should be? What set of laws can return our wonder, amazement, worship, and awe? The law can reveal how much you have put yourself in the center of the story, but it has no power to put God back in his rightful place in your heart. We are confronted with the utter foolishness of repeatedly asking the law to do what only grace can accomplish.
    No human solution can fix our replacement instincts and our replacement lifestyle. No set of rules will free us. No social or political insights will liberate us. We have met the enemy, and it is us, and because it is, we have no power to defeat it. We will forget God. We will replace him with something else. We will place ourselves at the center. And thus, we will live driven and dissatisfied lives, self-centered and immoral in the deepest sense of both terms. And we will live as a danger to ourselves and others, because only when God is in his rightful place will we set ourselves and others in the appropriate place in our hearts.
    This is why Jesus had to come. The law was not enough. The revealed theology of the Scriptures was not enough. Kings, judges, and prophets were not enough. We needed a means by which God could forgive us for our awe thievery and a means by which God could free us from our self-slavery. And this means had to be exercised without compromising God’s holy position and justice. That means was the Lord Jesus Christ. He came and lived perfectly so he could go to the cross as the spotless Lamb. He died willingly, satisfying God’s just requirement. He rose again, defeating the power of sin and death over us. And part of why Christ did all this was to give us back our awe, so that we would live for him once again and celebrate his awesome glory, not just now but forever and ever.
    So we have only one place of hope, one solid rock on which to stand, and that rock is Christ Jesus. Only when we admit that we have awe-fickle hearts will we begin to reach out for and cling to the forgiving, transforming, rescuing, and delivering grace of Jesus. To the degree that we deny the awe wandering of our hearts, to that degree we devalue the grace that is our only hope in life and death.
    When you humbly accept the very bad news of our awe replacement, you will then seek and celebrate the very good news of God’s grace. Because of Christ’s work, that grace is yours for the taking.

5

AMNESIA

There is not one little blade of grass, there is no color in this world that is not intended to make men rejoice.

JOHN CALVIN4

It is the worst kind of blindness. It’s the physical ability to see without the spiritual ability to really see what you’ve seen. It’s the capacity to look at wonders, things specifically designed to move you and produce in you breathless amazement, and not be moved by them anymore. It’s the sad state of yawning in the face of glory.
I remember taking my youngest son to one of the national art galleries in Washington, DC. As we made our approach, I was so excited about what we were going to see. He was decidedly unexcited. But I just knew that, once we were inside, he would have his mind blown and would thank me for what I had done for him that day. As it turned out, his mind wasn’t blown; it wasn’t even activated. I saw things of such stunning beauty that brought me to the edge of tears. He yawned, moaned, and complained his way through gallery after gallery. With every new gallery, I was enthralled, but each time we walked into a new art space, he begged me to leave. He was surrounded by glory but saw none of it. He stood in the middle of wonders but was bored out of his mind. His eyes worked well, but his heart was stone blind. He saw everything, but he saw nothing.
Sadly, many of us live this way every day even though God has designed the world in which we live to be a gloryscope. What does this term mean? Just as a telescope points you to the stars and magnifies them for you to see their illuminating glory, so the earth focuses our eyes on God and magnifies his glory, so it can produce wonder in us. Every beautiful and amazing sight, sound, color, texture, taste, and touch of the created world has gloryscopic intention built into it. Every powerful and mighty thing, animate and inanimate, is gloryscopic by design. No created beauty is an end in itself. No physical wonder exists in isolation. Nothing that is, just is. Everything exists for a grand, vertical purpose.
The glories of the physical world don’t reflect God’s glory by happenchance. No, God specifically and carefully designed the physical world to reflect him, that is, to be the gloryscope that our poorly seeing eyes so desperately need. As the technician grinds the lens of the telescope for the best clarity and magnification possible, so God fashioned his world in such a way that it would bring his glory into view. God created every fish, stone, flower, bird, cloud, tree, monkey, and leaf to be gloryscopic because our loving Creator knows how fundamentally blind we can be.
Pay attention to what these passages say about the way God designed the created world to function:

The heavens declare the glory of God,
  and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
Day to day pours out speech.
  and night to night reveals knowledge.
There is no speech, nor are there words,
  whose voice is not heard.
Their voice goes out though all the earth,
  and their words to the end of the world. (Ps. 19:1–4)

Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory! (Isa. 6:3)

For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. (Rom. 1:19, 20)

We can also be so incredibly forgetful. We learn things that soon become distant memories, having little effect on the way that we think about ourselves and live our lives. People do wonderful things for us, but we forget their kindness so quickly that we even fail to e-mail them a simple “thank you.” We learn things about our family heritage, things that explain who we are and why we do what we do, but we soon fail to recall this history and ask the same questions of ourselves that had previously been answered. We forget old friends. Events of the past fade from memory. The concerns of the present so dominate our minds that we have little mental energy left to remember what came before. In fact, many of us have totally forgotten an incredible identity-giving story that defines not only us but everything about life. So we live wandering, disjointed lives, or we work to be the authors of our story, trying to make our personal narrative turn in the direction we would like it to turn. And in so doing, we attempt what we cannot do and want what we will never get.
Because of our forgetfulness, God has created the physical world to be mnemonic, to help us daily remember that we are not alone, that we are not at the center, that life is not primarily about us, and that there is a grander story than the little stories of our individual lives. Physical things are meant to remind us of the grandeur and glory of the One who created all those things, set them in motion, and keeps them together by the awesome power of his will. These constant little physical reminders don’t just happen either. God has carefully planted them in creation to protect us from our amnesia.
The earthly father is a God-given mnemonic device to remind us of the glory of the heavenly Father. The shepherd is a mnemonic device to remind us of God’s care for his own. The snow is meant to remind us of the Lord’s purity and holiness. The storm is a mnemonic device to remind us of God’s power and wrath. The daily rising sun is a mnemonic device to remind us of God’s faithfulness. We’re literally surrounded by gracious reminders of the presence, power, authority, and character of God because he designed created things to function mnemonically. He knows how quickly and easily we forget and how vital it is for us to remember, so he embedded reminders everywhere we look in his creation.
But even with all that, we still tend to be blind and forgetful. When blindness combines with amnesia, nothing good results, yet that’s just what sin does to us. It blinds our eyes and dulls our hearts. We all carry the corrupted capacity to look at the world around us and miss God. We enjoy the glories of creation, yet as we do, we fail to remember the Creator. God meant the earth to ignite and stimulate awe in us. As we encounter the physical world every day, we should be blown away by the glory of God to which it points. But we’re not.
In fact, many of us are positively bored and uninspired. We have every reason to be stunned by God’s glory, to live in life-shaping awe of him. But at street level, we tend to live as blind amnesiacs, and most of us don’t even know it. We think that we see quite well, and we think that we remember what is important, but we don’t. In our blindness and amnesia, we lose our vertical awe, and so our capacity for awe gets kidnapped by other things. I want to examine with you the symptoms of our amnesiac living and then consider what kind of help we need and where we can find it.

Our Blind Amnesia
So what are the symptoms of our blind amnesia? Here is a suggested, though not exhaustive, list:

  1. Self-centeredness. This is something I have written about a lot. You see it in the crankiness of the baby, the rebellion of the little boy, the entitlement of the teenager, the demands of the young bride, and the grumbling of the old man. If you’re not living in awe of God, you are left with no higher agenda than to live for yourself. It really does get reduced to your wants, your needs, and your feelings. You really do become obsessed with your own happiness. You really will see other people as standing in your way. Dysfunction will color every aspect of your life because you are in a place where you were never created to be: the center of it all. When do you tend to get angry because life hasn’t worked according to your plan?
  2. Entitlement. If life has ceased to be about God and therefore has become all about you, then you will tend to live a lifestyle driven by the language of “I deserve ” or “I have a right to .” To live in awe of God means that you are motivated by his will and his honor. When that awe is missing, you will live in pursuit of what you think you need, deserve, or have a right to. And here’s how this operates. Once you think you’re entitled to it, you will think it’s your right to demand it, and you will judge the love of God and the people in your life by their willingness to deliver it. So, much of our anger with one another and our disappointment with God results from an aweless mentality that produces an entitled way of living. Where do you tend to give in to an “I deserve __” way of living?
  3. Discontent. If awe amnesia has put you in the center of your world, convincing you that you are entitled to things that you’re not really entitled to, you will always struggle with discontentment. The people in your life aren’t in your life for the sole purpose of making you content and happy. The world around you wasn’t designed to do your bidding. Life simply won’t operate according to your personal plan. Things don’t stop and start based on your whims and wishes. True and lasting contentment always results from living for something bigger than yourself. Sturdy contentment that can weather the storms of difficulty and want is always rooted in worship. When the most motivating pleasure in my life is the pleasure of God, I will be content even in circumstances that would tend to make us all grumble and complain. We tend to be way too discontent way too much of the time, not because we have a need problem but because we have an awe problem. Be honest right here, right now: do you live a content lifestyle?
  4. Relational dysfunction. We all experience nastiness, criticism, hurt, anger, disappointment, vengeance, and bitterness in some way in the relationships in our lives, and so much of it is connected to and produced by our awe amnesia. Because we do not functionally connect our lives, meaning, hopes, joy, identity, and satisfaction to the awesome glory of God, we look to other people to do for us what they have no ability to do. We want our children to give us identity, and we ask our spouses to be our personal saviors. We want our friends to make us feel good about ourselves and our bosses to give us a reason to get up in the morning. Because awe of God isn’t filling our hearts, we put people where God should be, and because we put people in a position they were never designed to fill, they always disappoint us. So we expect and demand and get hurt and disillusioned. We get angry and strike back and find ourselves in a seemingly endless cycle of unrealistic expectation and relational disappointment. Only when God takes his rightful place in our hearts will the people near us stand in the appropriate place in our lives. In what ways do you ask things of people that they will never be able to deliver?
  5. Control. One of the most awesome and glorious things that the Bible says about God is that he rules over all things. Acts 17:24–28 even says that he determines the exact location where each of us will live and the exact span of our lives. Hold on to your hat. God does this for every person living, every person who has ever lived, and every person who will live! To say that God is sovereign means that no situation, location, and relationship that you and I will ever find ourselves in is outside of his wise and careful rule. He was ruling before the origin of this world, and he will rule after this world as we know it is gone. You and I are meant to be mystified, blown away, and left in silent, worshipful amazement in the face of his unshakable eternal sovereignty over everything that exists.
    But functional vertical amnesia will rob you of your rest in God’s control and cause you to want to take control. You will tend to want too much power and to be too trusting of your own wisdom. You won’t rest in the fact that God’s will will be done; you will try to exert your own will over people, places, and things. You will try to control what you have little power to control, will experience frustration over your lack of control, and will be intimidated by people who try to control you. You see, you struggle with control not primarily because you have a control problem but because you have an awe problem. Where do you fear your lack of control or try to take control of things that you can’t actually control?
  6. Fear. As mentioned earlier, the only thing that has the power to defeat fear is fear. Only when the grander fear of God rules your heart will you be free of all the little fears in life that chip away at your heart. When you live in a reverential awe of the magnitude of God’s power and authority and are stunned by the fact that he exercises his power for his glory and your good, then you can be free from all the anxieties that make you timid and rob you of joy.
    I think that we are motivated by fear, worry, dread, and anxiety much more than we realize. The decisions we make and the actions we take are motivated more often by avoiding what we fear than by the courage of faith. Courage results not from trusting yourself, other people, or your circumstances. All these things will fail you. Courage results from being in awe of the majesty of God, that worshipful fear that grips your heart when you are confronted with his holy grandeur. Because you are in awe of who God is and because you know that this awesome One is in you, with you, and for you, you do not live in fear of people, locations, and situations. Where do you see fear setting the agenda for the way that you respond to the people and situations in your life?
  7. Anger. When I began to counsel on a regular basis, the one thing that surprised me was how many of the people I counseled were angry with God. They didn’t know that they were angry with God, and it was not the thing that caused them to seek help, but when they began to talk about God, they described a “God” I didn’t know. They described a “God” who was different from the God of the Bible. The “God” they described was distant, uncaring, capricious, unfaithful, judgmental, and angry. Their “God” lacked love, mercy and, grace.
    At first, I thought my counselees had a theological problem. I thought they had been poorly taught. But as I listened more carefully, I realized that their anger problem was not first a formal theology problem; it was an awe problem. These were people who had lost their awe and so had inserted themselves in the middle of their own little world, and they were mad that God hadn’t come through for them. They were mad that life had been hard in places. They were mad that the people around them were less than perfect. They were mad that their bodies didn’t always work and that the world around them didn’t function very well. Their view of God’s goodness was directly attached to their own experience of happiness. They didn’t see God as a Lord of awesome glory; in their functional theology, they had reduced him to a divine concierge. His job was to make sure that all their days were good days. He was the divine waiter, delivering the good life to them on his divine platter.
    Here’s the reality: most people who are angry with God are angry with him for being God. They’re not angry because he has failed to deliver what he promised. They’re angry because he has failed to deliver what they have craved, expected, or demanded. When awe of self replaces awe of God, God ceases to be your Lord and is reduced to being your indentured servant. What in your life would cause you to struggle with anger toward God?
  8. Envy. Think with me for a moment. What is the cause of envy? Envy is not a need problem, it’s not an inequality problem, and it’s surely not a partiality-of-God problem. Envy is an awe problem. When I am in awe of God’s greatness, when I am stunned by his holy justice and mercy, and when I am blown away by the thought that all the Lord’s ways are right and true, I am able to live a grateful and content life. But when my capacity for awe has shrunk to the size of my desires or to the size of the glories of the created world, I will become a scorekeeper. I will always be comparing what I am, have, and have experienced to my neighbor. I will struggle with the blessing that others enjoy. I will struggle to be satisfied, and I will forever be plagued by the question of why others enjoy what I have never had. Where is envy a regular struggle of heart for you?
  9. Drivenness. Awe and rest are foundationally connected. I am to live with the grand thought that God rules over all things for the sake of his children, that he has made a covenantal promise to meet every one of our needs, and that he is the ultimate definition of everything that is good, right, wise, and true. When I do, I won’t load the world on my shoulders. God has called me to work, but he has promised to provide. God has called me to parent my children wisely, but only he can build character in their hearts and even cause them to believe. God has called me to be a good steward of what he has provided, but he controls all the outside forces that I must interact with as I do this. Perhaps drivenness arises more from self-glory than we tend to think. When the grandeur of God is not in our eyes and filling our hearts, we will live as if it is all up to us, always working more and trying harder. Awe permits you to enjoy Sabbaths of rest. Is your schedule too full, or are you working too much and too hard?
  10. Exhaustion. Living with atrophied awe is an exhausting way to live. All the things that we have considered in this list of awe amnesia symptoms will leave you weary and wanting to get off the never-ending treadmill. I have met and continue to meet so many exhausted Christians, and as I have listened to their stories, I have concluded that they don’t first have a demanding schedule or busyness problem; what they have is an awe problem. Let me say it this way: they have a glory and grace problem. If you lose sight of God’s incalculable glory, you will live like a king instead of trusting the King, and you will load kingly burdens on your shoulders. If you lose sight of God’s amazing grace, you will try to produce by human effort what will only ever come by means of divine grace. You will work harder because you will always feel you need to work harder or do better, and you will exhaust yourself in the process. Be honest: does your way of thinking about and living life exhaust you?
  11. Doubt. Ironically, awe amnesia is the principal producer of doubt of God. Here’s how it works. The more you lose sight of the centrality of God’s awesome presence and grandeur, the more you will focus on yourself. The more you focus on yourself, the more you will focus on your wants, needs, dreams, desires, hopes, goals, expectations, and feelings. The more you focus on these things, the more you will define the love of God by his willingness to deliver them. And as God continues to deliver what he’s promised but does not give you what you want, you will begin to doubt his goodness and his love. This cycle devastates people’s spiritual lives because when you doubt God’s love, you cease trusting him and thus quit going to him for help. Where is there evidence of doubting God in your life?
  12. Spiritual coldness. I had a counselee say it to me clearly, “I can’t go to church and sing ‘Great Is Thy Faithfulness’ anymore because, frankly, Paul, I just don’t believe it anymore.” She had quit going to her small group. She had quit coming to services on Sunday morning. She had stopped reading her Bible. She was spiritually cold and bitter. Meanwhile, God was still doing, in glorious grace, everything he had promised to do in her and for her. He had not forsaken his wise and holy plan in order to become a servant of what she was convinced she needed. It seems blatantly obvious to say, but there is a direct connection between awe and worship. As I have already stated, we quickly fill the vacuum where awe of God was with awe of self, and when we do, heartfelt worship dies. Do you find joy in the daily worship of God? If not, why not?

Awe Amnesia = Spiritual Anorexia
So here’s the bottom line. When you are blind to the stunning, expansive glory of God, when you fail to remember his infinite greatness, you will live with an atrophied heart. Rather than your view of life continuing to expand to the size of God’s incomprehensible grandeur, your perspective on life will shrink to the size of personal hopes and dreams or to the size of what the surrounding physical world has to offer. You will eat little of the true and satisfying food of God’s glory, and you will try to feed yourself on the nonnutritive morsels of the temporary glories of creation. Because you won’t be getting proper spiritual nutrition, you will be constantly hungry, your spiritual muscles will shrink, and you will be unable to live as God intended.
I would like to give you a set of directions to fix all this, but I just don’t think it’s that simple. We must begin by confessing that we have cold, fickle, and often selfish hearts. We must begin by admitting that, although God made the physical world around us gloryscopic and mnemonic, we often see and remember little of what the world points us to. We get so obsessed with our own desires, plans, schedules, and accomplishments that we have little time for meditative reflection on the awesome glory that is ours to see and remember. We have lost our wonder and, in so doing, have shrunk our souls to the size of momentary, earthbound hopes and dreams. Because we have, we get disappointed, mad, and envious too quickly.
Perhaps we don’t need to institute another reformation program for ourselves. Or give ourselves to a new set of commitments that are more about penance than repentance. Perhaps what we need to do is fall down on our knees before the Great Physician in humility, brokenness, and grief and confess the awe amnesia that eats away at our hearts like a spiritual cancer. Today, plead for eyes to see and a heart that remembers. Today, mourn how easy it is for you to forget God. Confess your spiritual anorexia, and cry out for a changed heart. When you and I begin to confess that we are the problem, we can run nowhere but to God’s arms of grace.
As I have written many times, you can run from a situation, you can run from a relationship, and you can run from a location, but you cannot run from you. When you confess that your problem is internal, not external, you only have one rock to stand on, and that rock is Jesus Christ. You don’t have to live in some form of spiritual shame. Jesus didn’t come, live, die, and rise again to shame you. No, he did all these things to redeem you. Your admission of awe amnesia is a confession of your continuing need of your loving Redeemer. Awe amnesiac that you may be, run to him and see what he will do through his incomparable, efficacious grace.

6

TRANSGRESSION

If every moment is sacred and if you are amazed and in awe most of the time when you find yourself breathing and not crazy, then you are in a state of constant thankfulness, worship and humility.

BERNICE JOHNSON REAGON5

He was just nine months old, but he knew good and well what he was doing. He had begun to walk, opening the doors to a whole new world of danger. I had toddled him over to the electric wall socket and lectured him on its risk. I told him never to touch it and never to put anything into it. I had no idea if we were communicating or not.
The next day, I heard the pitter-patter of his feet coming down the hallway as I read the paper. He peeked around the corner to see if I was looking, made a beeline for the electric outlet, and, just before he reached out to touch it, glanced back at me again. That look back was a hermeneutical moment. It told me that this little boy knew not only that he was doing something he shouldn’t do but that it was against me. He was acting in violation of what his loving father had warned him about. In that moment, he was willing to break relationship with me in order to experience something that, out of love for him, I had forbidden. This little moment revealed not just a moral struggle but something deeply personal as well.
Remembering that moment with my toddler son reminded me of another moment, dramatically different on the surface but very similar at the core. It was an awesome, mind-blowing, heart-quaking, fear-inducing transitional moment. There had never been a situation like this before. It was designed for one very special group of people, so that they would never be the same again. When you read the account of this moment, you sense that the words cannot even capture its thunderous majesty. God chose one man to stand closer to him than any man had since the disaster in the garden of Eden. And this man was to receive from the hand of God what God had never given before. Surrounded by God’s glory, he received God’s law, written on tablets of stone.
Although the Mosaic law set conditions for the people to continue enjoying God’s blessing, it wasn’t primarily given as an achievement test, a list of things that this special group of people had to do to gain acceptance and relationship with God. No, God had already chosen them. He had already placed his love on them. He had already redeemed them from captivity. He had already promised them a land and a future. The law he had given was not a test to gain his love; rather, it was a concrete expression of his love. God was gracing the people whom he had taken as his own with his law. That they were chosen to receive it depicted the special nature of their relationship with him—a relationship that other nations did not enjoy.
So this meant that when they disobeyed, they did something profoundly more significant than break abstract moral regulations. Disobedience was personal. Breaking law was breaking relationship. Turning their backs on God’s moral code was turning their backs on God. Rebellion was more than transgressing legal boundaries; it was disloyalty to God.
The same is true for us. We have by grace become a people for God’s own possession. God has welcomed us into eternal communion with him, which we could never have achieved by our own righteousness. On our very best moral day, we fall dramatically below God’s holy standard. We are his only because of lavish mercy and incalculable love. To disobey, then, is spiritual adultery, giving the affection that belongs to God to something or someone else. Transgressing God’s boundaries or breaking his law is first about breaking relationship with him.
“What does the law have to do with a book on the awe of God?” you may be asking at this point. Well, I am more and more persuaded as I read Scripture that transgression is not first a law problem; rather, an awe problem produces a law problem. When awe of anything but God kidnaps and controls your heart, you simply will not stay inside God’s boundaries. But when a deep, reverential fear of God has captivated your heart, you will willingly and joyfully live inside the fences he has set for you. When the glory of some created thing rules your heart, you will live not for the glory of your Redeemer but for that thing. When love for a certain thing is a more dominant motivator than love for God, you will turn your back on God, and as you do, you will step over his boundaries.
The seedbed for a life of obedience is awe. When awe of something other than God replaces awe of God, disobedience will replace obedience. A life of submission to God’s will, plan, commands, and purposes flows out of the worship of the One who has given those commands. Obedience is not the impersonal following of a set of arbitrary and abstract laws. Obedience is being in such awe of God that you are blown away by his wisdom, power, love, and grace, which makes you willing to do whatever he says is right and best. Obedience is deeply more than begrudging duty. It is a response of joyful willingness ignited by, stimulated by, and continued by a heart that has been captured by God’s glory, goodness, and grace.
Thus, you cannot threaten, manipulate, or guilt a person into obedience. Only grace can produce this joyful submission in me. Only grace can open my blind eyes to the awesome glory of God. Only grace can free my heart from all the replacement awes that have kidnapped me. Only grace can give me back my awe of God. Only grace can transform me from a worshiper of self to a worshiper of God. Only grace can motivate me to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord until I have exited my little government of one and given myself to the work of something vastly bigger than me. The law cannot motivate me to keep the law.
So, in our disobedience, we don’t first have a law problem; we have an awe problem. Awe of God will produce willing submission to his will, and a lack of awe of God will lead me to step over his boundaries. I want to examine this theme by unpacking three familiar portions of Scripture.

The Awe Exchange in the Garden
Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made.
He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.
And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. But the LORD God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” Then the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” (Gen. 3:1–13)

Although we examined this passage earlier, I want to remind us again of just how shocking it was for Adam and Eve to disobey God and why they did. You have to examine the words carefully here to get the full import of the nature of Adam and Eve’s disobedience. Let me set the stage by helping you consider the miraculous, awe-inspiring scene that they enjoyed daily in the garden. The passage tells us that after Adam and Eve had disobeyed God and were hiding from him, they heard the sound of him “walking in the garden in the cool of the day” (v. 8). What? Let your imagination take in the amazing reality that these words portray. In condescending mercy, God, who from all eternity had existed as a spirit, took on some kind of seeable and hearable physical form so as to have regular, loving community with the people that he had made. God didn’t require Adam and Eve to reach up to him; he came down to them, incarnating himself in some way to make himself physically relatable to them.
This is the Lord of lords, the eternal sovereign One, the Creator of all that exists, inviting human beings into fellowship with him and doing miraculous things to make their fellowship possible. How could anything more awe-inspiring occur in Adam and Eve’s lives? How could they experience anything more glorious than this? How could they not be blown away by their day-to-day fellowship with God? How could this not leave them in wonder and amazement? The moment you begin to understand the miraculously close communion that Adam and Eve enjoyed by God’s grace, you begin to understand that their disobedience was more than a technical breaking of abstract regulations; their disobedience was fundamentally personal.
Now what is the Serpent trying to sell to Eve? He is trying to convince her of the constructive power of disobedience. This is what temptation always does. It tells you that if you step over God’s boundaries, good stuff will be built into your life. The Serpent is arguing for the constructive power of what is actually destructive because he is working to create an awe shift in Eve. He is trying to get her imagination to run wild, to consider what it would be like not to have to live in a subservient relationship to God anymore. He’s doing this so that her heart would be motivated more by the glory of the vision that he is holding out to her than by her awe of the glory of God and her special position as the object of his love. When awe of what could be replaces awe of God, Eve steps over God’s fences and eats what is forbidden. Eve doesn’t first have a law problem; she has an awe problem that produces a law problem.
But there is something else to observe that reinforces what we have already said. The passage notes that Eve saw that the tree was “to be desired to make one wise” (v. 6). Now let this sink in: “to be desired to make one wise.” Eve was enjoying close, personal, loving, daily communion with the One who is Wisdom. She was in fellowship with the most awesome source of wisdom that ever existed or ever would exist. She didn’t need wisdom. The garden wasn’t a place of wisdom famine. So what then was Eve seeking? What kind of wisdom vision captured her awe? The Serpent was selling Eve autonomous wisdom, that is, wisdom that would no longer depend on God as its source. Instead of awe of God producing in her a submission to his wise will, awe of independent wisdom caused her to rebel against God’s will.
In the garden that day, a great and destructive exchange took place—not first an exchange of obedience for disobedience but awe of God for awe of self. It was a look-what-you-could-be form of temptation that aggrandized Eve and made God seem small. Once awe of God is lost, the loss of a heart to obey isn’t far off.

Spiritual Adultery
I made my vow to you and entered into a covenant with you, declares the Lord GOD, and you became mine. Then I bathed you with water and washed off your blood from you and anointed you with oil. I clothed you also with embroidered cloth and shod you with fine leather. I wrapped you in fine linen and covered you with silk. And I adorned you with ornaments and put bracelets on your wrists and a chain on your neck. And I put a ring on your nose and earrings in your ears and a beautiful crown on your head. Thus you were adorned with gold and silver, and your clothing was of fine linen and silk and embroidered cloth. You ate fine flour and honey and oil. You grew exceedingly beautiful and advanced to royalty. And your renown went forth among the nations because of your beauty, for it was perfect through the splendor that I had bestowed on you, declares the Lord GOD.
But you trusted in your beauty and played the whore because of your renown and lavished your whorings on any passerby; your beauty became his. You took some of your garments and made for yourself colorful shrines, and on them played the whore. The like has never been, nor ever shall be. You also took your beautiful jewels of my gold and of my silver, which I had given you, and made for yourself images of men, and with them played the whore. And you took your embroidered garments to cover them, and set my oil and my incense before them. . . .
And after all your wickedness (woe, woe to you! declares the Lord GOD), you built yourself a vaulted chamber and made yourself a lofty place in every square. At the head of every street you built your lofty place and made your beauty an abomination, offering yourself to any passerby and multiplying your whoring. You also played the whore with the Egyptians, your lustful neighbors, multiplying your whoring, to provoke me to anger. Behold, therefore, I stretched out my hand against you and diminished your allotted portion and delivered you to the greed of your enemies, the daughters of the Philistines, who were ashamed of your lewd behavior. You played the whore also with the Assyrians, because you were not satisfied; yes, you played the whore with them, and still you were not satisfied. You multiplied your whoring also with the trading land of Chaldea, and even with this you were not satisfied. . . .
Men give gifts to all prostitutes, but you gave your gifts to all your lovers, bribing them to come to you from every side with your whorings. So you were different from other women in your whorings. No one solicited you to play the whore, and you gave payment, while no payment was given to you; therefore you were different. (Ezek. 16:8b–18, 23–29, 33–34)

The language is shocking, but the charge is even more shocking. You cannot read Ezekiel 16 and then think that breaking God’s law is some impersonal offense against abstract regulations. Ezekiel 16 makes it very clear that God doesn’t see your disobedience that way at all. To the Lord, it is fundamentally personal. His outrage here is not first about law but about relationship.
The word picture depicts a marriage where not only has the bride dishonored her marriage vows, but she has also been soliciting lovers on the street. And not only has she been soliciting lovers on the street, she hasn’t asked them to pay her. Rather, in a kind of reverse prostitution, she has paid them to be her lovers. The bride here (the people of Israel) was so anxious to find love anywhere, she went out on the street and paid for it.
It really is true that disobedience is always first about breaking covenantal relationship with God before it is about breaking God’s law. Disloyalty to one’s relationship with God always leads to disobedience of some kind. But there is more. True love is a state of awe. You are enthralled with the other person, enthralled with what he or she has brought into your life and enthralled that he or she would choose to live with a person like you.
Perhaps you remember, if you are married, the days before your wedding, when you were in a bit of awe that you were going to get married. Perhaps you remember the first few days of your marriage when you would wake up and the awe of being married would hit you again. And perhaps you can relate to that sad, progressive loss of awe and gratitude that often follows. Increasingly you take your spouse for granted. Increasingly you forget the blessing of your relationship. Increasingly you are bored with the repeated cycle of the mundane that settles into every marriage. At this point your eyes and your heart begin to wander. At this point you fantasize about what it would be like to be single or to be with someone else. In the crowd of humanity that you see every day, potential replacement mates catch your attention, make you wonder, and cause you to hunger for something other than what you have.
When you come to that place and adultery has captured your mind and may soon control your body, you don’t have a law problem; you have a marital awe problem. Gratitude and celebration have been replaced by dissatisfaction and complaint. You are about to step over your marital boundaries because you’ve lost your awe.
So it is with every act of disobedience. It is a breaking of a marital covenant with God that was achieved, signed, sealed, and paid for by his grace. You’ve lost your awe, and because you have, you are capable of doing what you thought you’d never do. Your heart is capable of wandering because awe of God no longer holds it captive. You’re still shopping for awe because that quest is hardwired into you, but you’re looking for it horizontally and not vertically. Almost any lover will do at almost any cost. You’re going to break God’s laws all over the place, not because you’re looking for laws to break but because you’re an awe amnesiac searching for an awe fix in things that won’t ever satisfy and climbing over God’s fences to get what you think will give that sense of awe back to you again.

How the Ten Commandments Work
And God spoke all these words, saying,
“I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.
“You shall have no other gods before me.
“You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.
“You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.
“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
“Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.
“You shall not murder.
“You shall not commit adultery.
“You shall not steal.
“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.” (Ex. 20:1–17)

There is no escaping the essential order of God’s commands. The first four commands have to do with one thing and one thing alone: the worship of God. They represent an uncompromising call to live in a real, committed, day-to-day, heart-gripping, life-shaping awe of God. Why? Because only when awe of God rules my heart will I set everything else in my life in its rightful place. Joyful, perseverant obedience only ever grows in the soil of worship. You see, because worship is not just something I occasionally do but the foundation of who I am and because I worship my way through every moment of every day, if my heart is not given over to the worship of God, it will give itself to the worship of something else. Whatever has captured the awe of my heart will also set the agenda for the things that I desire, think, choose, say, and do. The moral life of every human being is driven and shaped by awe, either awe of God or awe of something in God’s creation.
But there is something more to be said. The fourth commandment is particularly interesting for our discussion. The command to reserve the Sabbath “to the LORD your God” is itself a gift of grace. Not only are the Ten Commandments rooted in the awe of God, but also built into the commands is a regular, God-ordained recharge of your awe. God knows how quickly we become awe amnesiacs. God knows that life in this fallen world is a day-to-day war of awe. God knows how easily we replace our awe of the Creator with awe of something in his creation. God knows that awe of God constantly wars with awe of self. As the Creator, who hardwired every aspect of our personhood, he knows that our obedience is fueled by worshipful awe. So he commanded one day in every seven to be reserved for rest from our labors and for personal and corporate reflection on him.
You could argue that every element of the gathered worship of God’s people is intended to give people their awe back again. We need a moment to refocus on the grandeur of God’s glory and grace. We need to see his awesome wisdom and power again. We need to dwell on his patience and faithfulness again. We need to be stunned by the perfection of his holiness and the righteousness of his judgment again. We need to be encouraged by the awesome truth of his constant presence again. We need to be reminded to rest in his amazing sovereignty again. And we need to be blown away by the reality that, by grace, he is all these things for us. He has unleashed his awesome glory on us! You see, awe doesn’t just remind you of who God is; it redefines for you who you are as his creature and his blood-bought child.
Sadly, not a day passes without us becoming transgressors in some way. We willfully step over God’s wise and holy boundaries again and again. We know the law. Theologically, we know it is wise and for our good. We don’t transgress because we are ignorant. Think with me. If you’re angry and you’re up in someone’s face, so close that he can feel your breath, saying mean things that you shouldn’t say, you’re not doing that because you’re ignorant of the fact that it is wrong. No, you’re doing it because at that moment you don’t give a rip what is wrong. At that moment, you are lord sovereign in your life, setting your own rules. You want something, and nothing is going to stop you from getting it. You don’t have a law problem; you have an awe problem that causes you to have a law problem. God is not in your thoughts at that moment, let alone ruling your heart. This is the real struggle for all of us in the family rooms, kitchens, bedrooms, apartments, malls, offices, and automobiles of everyday life. Between the “already” and the “not yet,” our problem is awe amnesia issuing forth in awe replacement.
So we need constant reminders of God’s awesome glory. Thankfully, God has embedded those reminders in his creation. The problem is that we so easily become blind. We look but don’t see, and because we don’t see, we don’t worship, and because we don’t worship, we fail to obey. So, in beautiful grace, God has carved out a day for us to stop, look, listen, consider, and worship once again. He invites us to remember the awe that brought us to conviction, living faith, gospel hope, and heart and life transformation. He welcomes us to come together into his presence again and again and again because he knows just how fickle our wandering hearts can be. He knows that we will never live as he has ordained if we do not stand in awe of who he is.

Powerless Law
So where does this leave us? It leaves us with no hope, no plea, no help but the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. If our disobedience was just a law problem, then perhaps the law could rescue us. But since our lawlessness lives at a profoundly deeper heart level—our propensity to live for ourselves, to write our own rules, and to step over God’s boundaries—the law will never fix our transgressions. And let me add that human effort will never fix human immorality. Since I am my biggest problem and since the greatest danger to me is me and since I am never able to escape from myself, I have no capacity whatsoever to fix what is broken. I need help. I need a Redeemer.
The apostle Paul says it this way in Romans 8:3: “For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh.” Both elements are here: the powerlessness of the law and the weakness of the flesh (sinful nature). I am too weak in every way to help myself, and the law does not have the power to rescue me. The law is able to expose my sin and guide me as to how God wants me to live, but it has no power whatsoever to rescue me from my sin.
Once you admit that you don’t just have a behavior-oriented moral problem but, more fundamentally, a heart-located awe problem, you will see that you need more than a system of reform; you need a Redeemer. We must not reduce Christianity to a system of theology and rules. Theology and rules will never redeem you. They were never given by God to be an end in themselves. They are a means to an end. Their purpose is to cause you to see the depth of your need and the sufficiency of Christ’s work so that you might run to him in the desperation of faith, placing your hope in his grace and having your heart filled with awe of him.
Transgression is an awe problem before it is a law problem, and for that we need a Redeemer. Thankfully, the Redeemer has come, and his work for you is complete. Turn to him, and you will find the grace you need to see the reality of your awe problem and the hope that only comes through Christ.

7

COMPLAINT

I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought; and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.

G. K. CHESTERTON6

I’m about to hurt your feelings. If right now you’re complaining about something, you’re not complaining because you have a

lack of resources problem,
location problem,
situation problem,
people problem,
suffering problem,
fairness problem,
physical health problem,
church problem,
marriage problem,
employment problem,
parent problem,
life-difficulty problem,
neighbor problem, or
fallen-world problem.

Sure, you may be dealing with difficulty in one or more of these areas, but they are not the cause of your grumbling. Your tendency to complain is rooted at a deeper level. Here’s the bottom line: we complain not because we have a stuff-of-life problem but because we have an awe problem. Our problem is not just what we are dealing with but, more foundationally, how our view of God shapes how we see and deal with it. We tend to think of complaining as a little thing, but maybe it’s bigger than we realize. Let me use a well-known biblical story to illustrate.

River of Complaint
Read the account that follows carefully:

Then we set out from Horeb and went through all that great and terrifying wilderness that you saw, on the way to the hill country of the Amorites, as the LORD our God commanded us. And we came to Kadesh-barnea. And I said to you, “You have come to the hill country of the Amorites, which the LORD our God is giving us. See, the LORD your God has set the land before you. Go up, take possession, as the LORD, the God of your fathers, has told you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” Then all of you came near me and said, “Let us send men before us, that they may explore the land for us and bring us word again of the way by which we must go up and the cities into which we shall come.” The thing seemed good to me, and I took twelve men from you, one man from each tribe. And they turned and went up into the hill country, and came to the Valley of Eshcol and spied it out. And they took in their hands some of the fruit of the land and brought it down to us, and brought us word again and said, “It is a good land that the LORD our God is giving us.”
Yet you would not go up, but rebelled against the command of the LORD your God. And you murmured in your tents and said, “Because the LORD hated us he has brought us out of the land of Egypt, to give us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us. Where are we going up? Our brothers have made our hearts melt, saying, ‘The people are greater and taller than we. The cities are great and fortified up to heaven. And besides, we have seen the sons of the Anakim there.’” Then I said to you, “Do not be in dread or afraid of them. The LORD your God who goes before you will himself fight for you, just as he did for you in Egypt before your eyes, and in the wilderness, where you have seen how the LORD your God carried you, as a man carries his son, all the way that you went until you came to this place.” Yet in spite of this word you did not believe the LORD your God, who went before you in the way to seek you out a place to pitch your tents, in fire by night and in the cloud by day, to show you by what way you should go.
And the LORD heard your words and was angered, and he swore, “Not one of these men of this evil generation shall see the good land that I swore to give to your fathers, except Caleb the son of Jephunneh. He shall see it, and to him and to his children I will give the land on which he has trodden, because he has wholly followed the LORD!” (Deut. 1:19–36)

So that you fully understand this story and the significance of Israel’s complaint, I need to set the scene for you. The people of Israel were the chosen children of the Most High God, the Creator of the universe, the sovereign planner of all things, the One who had redeemed them from Egypt and had sustained them in the wilderness. He had placed his covenant love on them and had promised not only that they would be his people but that he would provide for them a land. As the Lord Almighty and in defense of his people, he would defeat all the nations that stood in the way of Israel taking possession of what was theirs by the will of God.
Now the only thing that separated Israel from actually possessing what God had promised was the Jordan River. That river should have been the doorway to their victory; instead, its banks became the scene of their complaint.
They had sent spies into the land to check it out and collect some of the rich produce that grew there, but they collected something else—a whole lot of fear. They came back reporting that the people who lived in the land were not only taller than the Israelites but also lived in great, fortified cities. At this point, with hearts melting with fear, the people of Israel refused to leave their tents and take what God had given them. Instead they sat in their tents complaining against the Lord: “Because the LORD hated us he has brought us out of the land of Egypt, to give us into the hands of the Amorites, to destroy us” (Deut. 1:27). This statement exposes the problem. Israel didn’t have just a big-people problem. They didn’t have just a fortified-cities problem. They didn’t have just a “we’re tired after trekking through the wilderness and don’t want to have to fight for the land God promised” problem. No, at the bottom of their grumbling was an awe problem.
Of course, what they were facing was bigger than their natural ability. Of course, they would have to be willing to fight battles. Of course, the possession of the land would be difficult. Life in this fallen world is hard. God does orchestrate difficulties in my life that I would never have chosen to face. But the words of Israel demonstrate that their complaint was not just about their circumstances but about God. If praise is celebrating God’s awesome glory, then complaint is antipraise. Not only does complaint fail to recognize his grandeur, it questions his power and character. If you believe that God is the Creator and controller of all that is, then it is impossible to complain about your circumstances without complaining about God. Complaint is awelessness verbalized.
Awelessness that leads me to question God’s power and character will cause me to take my life into my own hands, and because I have taken my life into my own hands, I will rebel against what God calls me to do. This is what took place on the banks of the Jordan River. Far from simple grumbling about difficult circumstances, Israel’s complaint was deeply theological and morally rebellious. You simply cannot understand this story and walk away thinking that, for the believer, complaining is a little thing. This passage clearly shows that God does not view it as a little thing at all. He was swift in his critique and judgment. Because Israel questioned the Lord, they would not see the land of promise. How tragic! Let’s further unpack the awe problem in this narrative.

Five Questions That Steal or Seal Your Hope
It is quite clear that your view of God will inescapably shape your perspective on your circumstances. In this way your theology is like a lens through which you examine life. This means you never come at your circumstances from some happy place of neutrality. You and I are always evaluating our situation from the vantage point of vertical awe or awelessness. In some way, we, like the children of Israel, are always asking and answering five deeply theological questions, and the way that we answer them will push us toward hope or panic.
And it is important to say that you answer these questions in some way every day. Every day you and I theologize about our lives. In this way, our functional, street-level theology may fundamentally influence our daily living more than our formal theology. The unconscious theology that we embrace may differ significantly from the theology that we say we believe when we are making conscious theological commitments. The God in our formal outlines may be very different from the God we think about every day in those moments when we are unaware that we are thinking about him. You ask and answer these profoundly significant theological questions every day whether you are a pastor, a computer programmer, an office assistant, a student, or a plumber. And you do so in a state of either vertical awe or awe amnesia.

  1. Is God good? Now you can rest assured that the goodness of God will confuse you. You see, what looks good from God’s perfect eternity-to-destiny perspective doesn’t always seem good to us at ground level. It is hard to accept that God knows better than we do. It is hard to admit that God can use difficulties for good in our lives. When it comes to what is good, it is very hard for us to stay on God’s agenda. And again the issue of awe lies at the heart of this. If I live at the center of my God-given capacity for awe—that is, if awe of self has replaced awe of God—then I will invariably conclude that God is not always good, and loads of complaints will follow.
    If I am at the center, I will define good as what is comfortable, predictable, pleasurable, natural, and easy. The good life will be the easy life because awe of self will have replaced awe of God as the principal motivator of my life. So when difficulty comes my way, my default theological response will be to wonder why God is doing what he is doing and to question his goodness. In my early days of ministry, I was blown away by how many of the people whom I counseled were angry with God. I was amazed at how many people no longer assumed that God was good.
    Now here’s what’s deadly about this. As I have mentioned earlier in this book and elsewhere, if you allow yourself to question God’s goodness, you will quit following his commands, and you will quit running to him for help because you will no longer rely on, follow, or seek the help of someone you no longer trust. But God is good. His goodness is the foundation stone of his awesome qualities. He never thinks, desires, says, or does what is evil. He is the definition of all that is good, right, and true. Everything he does is good in every way. His goodness is so bright and glorious it should leave us breathless, silent, and amazed. And if we are amazed at his goodness, we won’t panic in times of trouble, and we won’t refuse to do the hard things he calls us to do.
    I wish I could say that I’ve never brought God into the court of my judgment or questioned his goodness, but I have. For three years I housed my aging father, whose sin had devastated our family. I hoped I would be an agent of his confession and repentance, but it never happened. One day he fell on the steps in my house, slipped into a coma, and died. In my view, there was nothing good about the whole story. Housing him seemed to have been a colossal waste. In a hospital elevator, all the pent-up anger came gushing out of me. I was glad that I was alone. The way I angrily questioned God’s goodness scared me. It was humbling that for even one moment I would allow myself to think that I knew better than God, that my “good” was better than the good he had willed for me. What about you? Does awe of God’s goodness interpret life for you? Or do the hardships of life cause you to question his goodness?
  2. Will God do what he promised? Few questions in life are more important than this one. Since we are all small and weak, since we never really know what is going to happen next, and since God calls us to do difficult, sacrificial things, we need to know that his promises are reliable. Will he be with us always? Will he give us everything we need? Will he forgive us no matter what? Will his love last forever? Will he stay with the work of his grace until that work is done? Will he provide the guidance and protection that we need? Will he?
    God’s promises are meant to move and motivate us. They are meant to instill hope. They are meant to give us courage. They are meant to defeat feelings of loneliness, inability, and fear. They are meant to give us peace when things around us are chaotic and confusing. God’s promises are meant to blow your mind and settle your heart. They are his gifts of grace to you. In your heart of hearts, you know you could never have earned the riches that he pours down on you. His promises are meant to leave you in awe of him and in wonder at the glory of his grace. His promises are designed to be the way that you interpret and make sense of your life.
    I am amazed at the numbers of believers I meet who are in some state of spiritual paralysis because they no longer believe the promises of God. Because they don’t believe the promises of God, they don’t have much reason to continue doing the radical things that God calls every one of his children to do. When doubt replaces awe, you will soon give up on all the gospel disciplines of the Christian life. Your problem isn’t that life is hard. Your problem is that you’ve lost your awe of the God who made the promises that once motivated the way you dealt with life. Do you stand with hope and courage on the awesome promises of God? Or do you walk through the quicksand of questioning their reliability?
  3. Is God in control? Here is a fundamentally important place for your awe to rest. In some ways, all the other questions rest on this one. It would make no good difference in life if God didn’t rule the places that resist his goodness. God’s promises are only as trustworthy as the extent of his control. He can only guarantee that he will do something in the places where he has absolute control. What good is his almighty power if he lacks the authority to exercise it? It is of no comfort to know that God is in control if he does not rule over the circumstances where his care is essential. Yes, all the comfort of God’s awesome qualities rests on his sovereign control over every situation, location, and person.
    But here’s the problem: at ground level, your world doesn’t look to be under careful and wise control. In fact, at times it seems totally out of control. This gets us right back to the same place we have been with each of these questions. Will you let your interpretation of circumstances tell you who God is, or will you allow God’s awesome revelation of himself to interpret your circumstances for you? You see, people who live in fear, who beat themselves up with way too many “what if” questions, or who have trouble turning off their minds when they go to bed don’t have a circumstances problem; they have an awe problem. You and I will only rest in situations over which we have no control if we are in awe of the One who controls them all for his glory and for our good.
    People who have to be in control don’t first have a power problem; they have an awe problem, which produces power hunger. A lack of awe at the sovereignty of God causes them to try to establish personal peace and safety by means of personal control. What about you? Has your awe of God’s infinite sovereignty freed you from both fear and the need to be in control?
  4. Does God have the needed power? How do you measure the power of God? How can poor, feeble minds grasp that which is without limit? Scripture tells us that God comes to us with the same power by which he raised Christ from the dead. Now that’s a definition of ultimate power! What in the universe would be more powerful than the ability to speak life into a dead body? What could be a better definition of almighty power than to be able to rise up and walk away from being dead? There is no place where human beings are more powerless than in death.
    If you’ve experienced the death of a loved one, you know what it is like. I stood next to my mom’s bed after she had died and wished for one more conversation, wished I could hear her say “I love you” one more time, wished that she could squeeze my hand and say it would be okay. I wished with all that was in me for more, but she was gone, and I was powerless to do anything about it.
    God’s power is so great that he rules life and death. Now here’s why this matters. You will only have peace in the face of your own weaknesses, failures, foibles, and inabilities when you are in awe of God’s awesome power. You will only rise up to do what you don’t have the natural ability to do when you know that God’s awesome power is with you. Awe of God’s power produces courage in the face of weakness. Awe of God’s power enables you to admit your limits and yet live with courage and hope. Timidity, fear, denial, hiding, excusing, and running away are not first weakness problems but awe problems. I step into what is bigger than me because I know the One who is with me is bigger than what I am facing. What about you? How much of what you do is done out of fear and not faith? How often are you paralyzed by your weakness? Does awe of God’s power cause you to live a forward-moving and courageous life?
  5. Does God care about me? Perhaps this is the question we’re most conscious of. It’s the question that the bullied teenager asks. It’s the question asked by the wife who has watched her marriage go sour. It’s the question the exhausted parent asks at the end of a very hard day with children. It’s the question asked by the lonely single woman. The man who has just lost his job asks this question. It’s what’s asked by the person who with sadness has left the church that has lost its way. It’s what the person suffering the weaknesses of old age asks. It’s what the person asks who is struggling through a long illness. It’s what you wonder about as you watch the surrounding culture coarsen and worsen.
    God’s care is foundational. It lets me know that all that he is, he is for me. His care means he will be good for me. His care means he will do what he promised for me. His care means he will exercise his control for me. His care means he will unleash his awesome power for me. Awe of his care allows me to embrace the hope found in all of his other qualities. The Bible never debates God’s care; it assumes and declares it. It confronts you with the lavish nature of his mercy, love, patience, forbearance, grace, tenderness, and faithfulness. He is the ultimate loving Father. He is the completely faithful Friend. He is the One who stays closer than a brother. He alone will never leave you, no matter what. He is the One who never sends you without going with you. He is your protector, guide, defender, teacher, Savior, and healer. He never mocks your weakness but gives you strength. He never uses your sin against you but affords you forgiveness. He never plays favorites, never wants to give up on you, never gets exhausted or wishes he could quit. He never plays with you. He is never disloyal. His care is so awesome and so complete that nothing in your life’s experience in any way compares. He cares!
    What about you? Do you go through times of disappointment and complaining because you have allowed yourself to question his care? The size of your hope is directly related to the level of your awe of God’s care.
    So every word spoken in complaint, every murmur of grumbling is deeply theological. Our problem is not that the “good life” has passed us by, that people have failed us, or that life has been hard. All these things have happened to us because we live in a broken world. And if our contentment rests on life being easy, comfortable, and pleasurable, we’ll have no contentment this side of eternity. We complain so much not because we have horizontal problems but because we have a vertical problem. Only when the awe of God rules your heart will you be able to have joy even when people disappoint you and life gets hard. Awe means your heart will be filled more with a sense of blessing than with a sense of want. You will be daily blown away by what you have been given rather than being constantly disturbed by what you think you need. Awe produces gratitude, gratitude instills joy, and the harvest of joy is contentment.
    Tomorrow there is a good possibility that complaint will be on your lips, and when it is, cry out for your Savior’s help. He alone can open your eyes to his glory. His grace alone can satisfy your heart. And as you cry out, remember that he is so rich in grace that he will never turn a deaf ear to your cries.

8

MATERIALISM

Vision is the art of seeing things invisible.
JONATHAN SWIFT7

The designer sneakers
The hot sports car
The top-tier filet mignon
The exotic vacation
The $75,000 remodeled kitchen
The huge suburban home
The expensive watch
The gorgeous dress
The new nose
The toned body
The next tattoo
The carefully collected antiques
The well-manicured lawn
The sixty-inch flat screen
The lavish wedding
The beautiful garden
The seldom-used set of fine china

What do the things on this list have in common, and what in the world do they have to do with the topic of this book? Above is a seemingly random list of material things. None of them is inherently evil, but together they may depict a massive problem many of us have with the material world. I am not about to suggest that you jettison all the beautiful material things in your life. I am not about to suggest that it is evil to possess or enjoy these things. But I will suggest that street-level materialism is capturing our hearts and eating up the time, energy, and resources of our lives. For many of us, something is fundamentally amiss in our relationship to the world of physical things with which we come in contact every day.
I am deeply persuaded that the problem lies not with the things that attract us, addict us, and eat up our lives. Rather, our problem is what we bring to those things, which renders us unable to control our desire for, and our seemingly endless acquisition and enjoyment of, them.

The Search for Life
Why do we keep acquiring more possessions when we clearly already have enough?
Why do we so often envy what other people have?
Why do we eat more than we need to eat to be healthy?
Why do we tend to live in a house way larger than our family truly needs?
Why are we so obsessed about our physical appearance and fitness?
Why do we employ modern medical technologies to ward off old age?
Why are so many of us in debt?
Why do we stare into overstuffed closets and tell ourselves that we have nothing to wear?
Why do we eat out so often?
Why do we invest so much time and money in our vacations?
Why does illicit sex seduce so many of us?
Why? I am deeply persuaded that materialism is not first a “thing” problem but an awe problem. We cannot control our lust for things because our capacity for awe has been kidnapped. We find it nearly impossible to be content because the vertical awe that produces contentment is not functioning in our hearts the way God intended it to. Only when awe of God is in its rightful place in our hearts will the physical things around us be in their appropriate places in our lives.
Let’s examine the underlying spiritual dynamics of our struggle with material things.

  1. Everyone is searching for life. It’s hardwired inside all of us. Because God created us as spiritual beings to have a relationship with him, we are all on a bit of a frantic, personal, story-shaping quest for life. We are hunting for contentment, satisfaction, joy, hope, courage, meaning and purpose, a reason to get up in the morning, peace of heart, confidence that we are on the right path and doing the right thing, fulfillment, security, an internal sense of well-being, freedom from fear and dread, and identity. We are searching for life, and there are only two places to look. You can look to the Creator for life or you can search for life in what he created. But there is one thing for sure: you will search for life.
  2. You will be in awe of what you think will give you life. Your search for life is at the center of your world of awe. You and I will tend to be captivated by, controlled by, and in awe of whatever we think will give us awe. The future bride is in awe of her fiancé because she thinks he offers her life, life as she has never known it before. The new hire is in awe of his new job because he thinks his job will be a major component in the “good life” he has always hungered for. The couple is vibrating with excitement as they turn the key to their new house because they think they will find and make life there. The athlete can’t believe he has just signed his first professional contract; it’s all he ever wanted out of life. The wealthy businessman has gained lots of weight over the past several years pursuing and enjoying too much success. The Hare Krishna convert is so excited because he thinks he has finally found the key to life. The old man is depressed and bitter because he feels that life has passed him by. The teenager will cross any boundaries you try to set for him in his anxious and immature search for life. The divorced woman can’t deal with the fact that the unfaithfulness of another person has taken life from her. The couple loads another several thousand dollars on their credit card in yet another attempt to buy life. Thousands of us look over the fence every day at someone else and envy their existence because we think that they’ve found life. No matter who you are, no matter where you are, and no matter your gender or age, you either tell yourself that you have life or you are on a quest to find life, and you will tend to be in awe of whatever you think will give you life. God made us to search for life.
  3. Material things are a miserable place to look for life. The mistake we all make is the moment-by-moment, day-to-day loss of our awe. This tragic mistake is the overarching theme of every word in this book. It is why we tend to be so spiritually empty, so consistently unfulfilled, and so driven to fill up our lives with so many things. It is why we tend to be anxious and depressed. It is why we tend to be more jealous than thankful. It is why so many of us are unhappy. It is why we all tend to be looking for the next big thing. We make the profound mistake of looking horizontally for what can only be found vertically. Material things capture our awe and, in so doing, dominate our lives because we mistakenly think they can give us the one thing that they will never give—life. I find myself saying to people, “Earth will never be your savior.” We know it theologically, but it seems to get lost in the pursuits of everyday life. And because it does, we repeat to ourselves, “If only I had , then my life would be .”
    So let’s consider God’s purpose for material things.
  4. Material things are for your sustenance. You and I literally could not live without the material world that surrounds us. The flora and fauna around us provide nutrition and health for us. The liquid in our world keeps us hydrated. We could not live if there was no physical air to breathe. Material things provide shelter and warmth for us. Material things protect and transport us. Material things give covering to our bodies and shade to our eyes. Material things defend us against disease and help cure the diseases that have inflicted us.
    The proper relationship to the physical world is not to hate it, to separate yourself from it as much as possible. No, you should celebrate how God in his infinite wisdom and love built a physical world that sustains you. You and I should be amazed at the grace that is exhibited by the fact that the world God made sustains us even in those moments when we ignore him, are angry with him, or rebel against his will for us. It should astonish us that we don’t have to earn the right to have the earth sustain us. This is God’s good gift to us all. The physical realm is not just designed to give God glory but is also carefully designed to provide for us what we physically need.
  5. Material things are for your pleasure. Biblical faith doesn’t curse the material world, and it is not antipleasure. God created a gloriously beautiful and pleasurable world. Consider the multihued vista of a sunset. Think about the gorgeous coat of a zebra. Listen to the melodious songs of the birds. Consider the vast array of colors, textures, and tastes of the food you eat. Imagine standing in front of a masterpiece painting or listening to a famous piece of music. Think of the beauty of the grain of wood or the swirling stripes that course their way through a piece of marble. Remember the pleasure of a kiss or the succulence of a ripe piece of fruit.
    God designed his world to give you pleasure every day in a variety of ways. And God carefully built pleasure gates into your physical and emotional being. Your eyes, ears, nose, mouth, hands, mind, and emotions all enable you to take in and enjoy the pleasures that God has embedded into the physical world that surrounds you. For instance, God did not decide that you would be physically fed by a tasteless gray pill. He unleashed his creativity on your diet so that you can consume an almost endless variety of smells, tastes, colors, and textures. So eating is not just a habit of sustenance, it is one of life’s greatest pleasures.
    You should never feel guilty for pursuing, participating in, and enjoying the pleasures of the material world God created. What you and I need to guard against is allowing awe of those pleasures to become the principal motivator of our hearts. When awe of material things rules your heart, then you will live for material things, and when you live for material things, you will do just about anything to gain them, maintain them, keep them, and enjoy them. This is precisely what Jesus is addressing in Matthew 6:19–33. (It would be helpful if you would stop now and read this passage). Such a materialistic attitude is not only morally dangerous but is also a violation of the reason for which you and I were created. It is wrong for material cravings to dominate our hearts and lifestyles.
    But this is what sin does to all of us. It causes us to exchange awe of the Creator for awe of the created thing. We try to fill our spiritual hunger with the material world. We end up defining ourselves and the good of our lives by the size of our pile of physical stuff. We say we love God, but our lives become controlled and directed by the frenetic pursuit of material satisfaction. We live with worry about what we have and envious anxiety about what we don’t have. We possess much, but we always feel needy. We own much, but we’re always acquiring. We tend to find much more pleasure in receiving than in giving. In our individual economic worlds, no matter how much we make, income always seems to chase lifestyle. We live in debt, but we don’t stop spending. We own so much that we have no more space, so we rent storage units for more stuff. We get fat and addicted and fall into debt, but that does not stop us. Our obsession with material things brings trouble and heartache into our lives. So we tell ourselves that we’ll do better—we commit ourselves for a time to new budgets, we go on temporary diets, we hold garage sales. But none of it lasts for long because deep inside us, we treasure the creation more than we treasure the Creator.
    Material pleasure is one of spirituality’s most significant battlefronts between the “already” of our conversion and the “not yet” of our home going. This deep spiritual war rages in our lives every day. And it rages not because we have a pleasure problem but because we have an awe problem that produces a pleasure problem. When awe of the creation replaces awe of the Creator in your life, you will have a very difficult time controlling your desire for and pursuit of material things. Our material addiction is rooted in awe replacement. Only when awe of God rules your heart will you be able to keep the pleasures of the material world in their proper place.
    I can’t leave this discussion without again saying that God provides grace for this struggle. God’s grace aims for the rescue, transformation, and deliverance of your heart. God’s grace works to free you from bondage to your own desires. God’s grace battles for your thoughts and desires even when you don’t. God’s grace is powerful and unrelenting. You and I have no ability whatsoever to liberate ourselves from ourselves, but God’s grace does. And this grace—our only hope—is not something you earn by your prayers of guilt or by your material asceticism; you and I can never earn this grace by anything we do. It is God’s eternal gift to us. We will only find hope for our battle with material things in the forgiving, liberating, and transforming power of this grace. And this grace will fight for us until it finally wins the war of awe so that material things will never again lay claim to our hearts. Even so, Lord Jesus, come quickly!
  6. Material things are for your remembrance. All the variegated glory of the material world has a purpose in God’s plan. The One who made us owns us and loves us. He knows how quickly we forget. He knows how quickly awe of him is replaced by awe of what he made. He knows that we all tend to be recovering from or heading toward our next moment of vertical awe amnesia. So in tender love and grace, he purposefully designed the material world to point to him. He doesn’t hide his existence, character, and glory from us, keeping it only for the superspiritual elite. No, everyone who has eyes to see, ears to hear, and a heart to receive encounters him every day in and through what he made (see Psalm 19 and Romans 1). The physical world itself is meant to be one big constant reminder of the One of infinite power and glory who fashioned every part of it and holds it together by the power of his will.
    Now this means you should have two types of awe in your life. First, you should exercise remembrance awe. This is the kind of awe you are to have for the created world. The physical world is amazing. It should leave you in awe but in a specific type of awe. It should produce in you the awe of remembrance. Every beautiful vista, every intriguing sound, every amazing thing should remind you of the God of glory who created and stands behind it all. It’s wrong not to be in awe of what God created, but it’s even more deeply wrong when you can look at created glory without remembering God.
    Here’s the point: remembrance awe should immediately stimulate in us the second and deeper awe, worship awe. The glories of the created world are intended to cause you to worship the God of glory who made and controls them. Remembrance awe is meant to awaken and stimulate your heart. Worship awe is meant to capture your heart and bend your knee in humble, joyful adoration. We all get into spiritual difficulty when remembrance awe becomes worship awe, when we begin to worship the creation and forget the Creator. As I stated earlier, this is the battle of battles, that the thing created to stimulate worship in you becomes instead the object of your worship. In little mundane moments, we do this again and again. Craving for the next physical thing that we think we need becomes more important to us than God’s existence, character, plan, and grace.
    I say it jokingly, but I am serious at the same time: there are days when I don’t care about redemption; all I want is a good steak. There are days when I don’t care about God; I just want nice weather for a change. There are times when I don’t care about God’s will; I just want the people in my life to like me. There are moments when I don’t think about the beauty of God’s grace; I just want a little control over my schedule. It’s sad, but I must confess that I sometimes stop at remembrance awe and don’t allow it to stimulate worship awe in my heart, and because I do, I still need the grace that alone has the power to rescue me from me.
  7. Material things can never give you life. You and I need to remember that the physical world around us was never designed to give us life. It can give us temporary fulfillment. It can give us a short-term emotional buzz. It can give us beauty that provides momentary distraction and retreat. It can entertain and educate us, but it cannot offer the one thing every human being desperately craves: life. This whole discussion begs the question asked in Isaiah 55. The first nine verses of this passage contain one of the most beautiful word pictures of God’s free gift of grace in the entire Bible. It’s a passage that you and I should return to again and again because we need this picturesque language to reorient our minds to the gospel. In the middle of the amazing glories of the created world, you can lose your mind and become obsessed with cravings, thinking that you’re desperately needy when, in fact, you are both well loved and lavishly supplied.
    The question in this passage is the question. It really does capture the everyday battle that we all have with the material world. Here it is: “Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy?” (v. 2). In words that paint pictures in your mind, the prophet essentially says that God is the only food that will ever satisfy your heart. Eating anything else will leave you hungry and dissatisfied. But that’s what we all do at some point. We tell ourselves that if we only had __, then we would be happy and content. But we never are because our souls will never be satisfied until they find their satisfaction in him.
    Could it be that you struggle with material things because you’ve stayed at remembrance awe and stopped that from leading you into worship awe? Is there evidence in your life that you are looking for life where it will never be found? Here’s the bottom line: when awe of the creation replaces awe of the Creator, you will have a terrible time controlling your craving for and pursuit of material things. Biblical literacy and theological knowledge won’t help you, because, at the deepest level of the motivation of your heart, a deadly exchange has taken place, and because it has, you keep running after the created world, hoping that it will be your personal messiah. So you look to your possessions or your marriage or your job or the next location or the next experience to give you life, but it never does—you always come up empty. And Isaiah would ask, “Why do you labor so hard for what does not satisfy?”

Grace to Beat Guilt
Now all this could be very discouraging to consider if you were left to the limited resources of your own wisdom and strength, but as God’s child, you’re not. The Creator of the physical world is also your “I am with you always” Savior. He not only offers you resources, he gives you himself. He makes you the place where he dwells, in powerful protecting, rescuing, transforming, and delivering grace. He meets you with strength in moments when you are weak. He graces you with wisdom in moments when you’re acting as a fool. He fights for your soul even when you don’t fight for yourself. He doesn’t wait for you to measure up. No, he measures up for you in every situation and in every way so that, when you don’t measure up, you receive mercy and not judgment.
So you don’t have to hide your materialism in shame. You don’t have to hide the guilt of your material craving. You don’t have to work to explain away your debt. You can run into God’s presence in weakness and failure knowing full well that you will receive his love and his restorative grace. Admit it. You’re like me. At times your awe of the material world replaces your awe of the God who made the material. But as you admit this, don’t run from God. Run to him, and find mercy and grace that form-fits to your particular need and your unique struggle.

9

GROWTH

You will never cease to be the most amazed person on earth at what God has done for you on the inside.
OSWALD CHAMBERS8

If someone asked you what the two most important questions you could ask were, what would you answer? If you are God’s child, there may be no more important questions than these two:

What in the world is God doing right here, right now?

And how in the world should I respond to it?

How would you answer these questions, and how would your answer shape the way you think about God, yourself, life, what is important, and what you should daily give yourself to?
Because Sharon didn’t answer these questions well, she was perennially depressed. Since Joe didn’t answer these questions well, he spent much of his life angry. Since Joslynn didn’t answer these questions well, her heart was constantly eaten by envy. Because Frank didn’t answer these questions well, he was all too driven by material success. Since Judy didn’t answer these questions well, she was entirely too focused on what others thought of her. Brad never answered these questions well, and as an old man, he looked back on his life with bitterness and regret.
Sharon, Joe, Joslynn, Frank, Judy, and Brad were all believers, but they all lived dissatisfied lives, thinking that somehow the good life had passed them by. They were all confused by God’s promises. They all wondered why he hadn’t come through for them, and each of their stories was a narrative of an ever-weakening faith. They never really understood God’s agenda between the “already” and the “not yet,” and because they didn’t, their faith didn’t rescue, encourage, protect, comfort, or guide them. Their faith was relegated to the “spiritual/religious” part of their lives but never became the overarching lifestyle that gave sense and meaning to all they did.
I think thousands of people remain in the same place as my friends. God confuses them, Christianity confuses them, living by faith confuses them, grace confuses them, and so their walk with God is very different from what they imagined it would be. Between the “already” of their new birth and the “not yet” of their final home going, they were gloriously forgiven and lavishly loved by God, but sadly, they lived like lost souls. They simply never understood or got on God’s agenda. Their Christianity lived most vibrantly on Sunday, but it was more a formal religious habit than a radical new way of living. None of them talked much about their faith to others because they just didn’t have much spiritual enthusiasm to share. I often wonder how many truly forgiven people live like lost souls, wandering through their Christian life like someone in a strange city with no map or GPS. I wonder how many truly forgiven people are lost in their job, lost in their marriage, lost in parenting, lost in their pile of possessions, lost in their pursuit of success—forgiven, but lost in the journey between the “already” and the “not yet.”
What is God doing right now? Well, if justification is an event that secures our forgiveness and acceptance with God, then sanctification is a process that works the radical transformation of our hearts. This lifelong process of radical personal heart and life transformation is the Redeemer’s focused zeal between the “already” and the “not yet.” Justification is God’s totally complete work to purchase your forgiveness. Sanctification is God’s ongoing work to change and grow you.
You see, God hasn’t promised you a good job or great kids. He hasn’t promised you an easy marriage and a comfortable place to live. He hasn’t promised you physical health and a good church to attend. He hasn’t promised that you would experience affluence and be surrounded by things that entertain you. What he has promised is that he will complete the work that he has begun in you. And if you’re honest, you will admit that you exhibit empirical evidence every day that you still need to change. Maybe that’s seen in a moment of irritation, pride, impatience, envy, lust, greed, or doubt. Maybe it’s seen in an act of rebellion, vengeance, or harsh and unkind words. Maybe it’s seen in cheating a little on your taxes, slightly bending the truth as you tell a story, or going to a website that you shouldn’t visit. Maybe it’s seen in subtle racism or in hoarding blessings that you should share. Maybe it’s anger in traffic or impatience in the line at the convenience store. But it’s there and you know it, evidence that you are not yet all that God in his grace can make you. You and I may be satisfied with who we are, but God isn’t satisfied and will not quit until his work is done.
At this point you may be thinking, “Paul, this all makes sense, but I’m confused as to what it has to do with a book on the awe of God.” Permit me to explain.

What Sin Does to All of Us
You’ll never understand what God is doing right here, right now until you understand what sin does to the way that your heart functions. We all know that sin makes all of us lawbreakers, but many of us miss the fact that sin does something much more foundationally destructive in our hearts. Sin makes all of us awe breakers.
A verse in 2 Corinthians 5 explains this concept of being an awe breaker. It says that Jesus lived and died so that “those who live might no longer live for themselves” (v. 15). Here’s what this powerful little phrase means: people whose every thought, desire, word, and action was meant to be motivated and shaped by awe of God, exchange awe of God for awe of self. It’s not just that sin makes us rebels and fools. It’s not just that sin makes us want to write our own laws. No, sin does something more fundamental to each of us. Sin captures and redirects the motivational system of our hearts. In a practically life-shaping way, sin changes how our hearts operate. Paul is talking here about two opposite perspectives on life. In one, the heart is filled with a vision of what I want for me and my little world; in the other, the heart is filled with wonder at who Christ is and what he has done. Each is driven by awe, either awe of personal glory or awe of the glory of Christ. Though we were created to be moved by the awe of God, sin causes our hearts to be moved by the small, individualistic agenda of awe of self. Because we break God’s awe design, we then proceed to break God’s law design. Let me say it as clearly and practically as I can. Because of sin, awe of God is very quickly replaced by awe of self.
What this means is that we don’t think, desire, purpose, want, or plan as we should. We want our will to be done. We want the freedom to do what we want to do when we want to do it. We want our lives to be comfortable and our days predictable. We want the people around us to appreciate, indulge, and serve us. We don’t want people to disagree with us or tell us that we are wrong. We want affluence without hard work, and we want to do what pleases us without consequences. Sin leaves us tragically broken at the deepest of motivational levels, that is, at the level of our capacity for awe.
Now when God draws you to himself, you are completely forgiven and unconditionally accepted by him, but the battle for the awe of your heart continues. Yes, your heart is now awake to God’s glory in a way it has never been, but you still have awe conflict inside. There are still huge motivational battles to be won. This war for awe is really what the lifelong process of change for the Christian—sanctification—is all about. It’s not just about learning the correct theology and the right rules. If all we needed were theology and rules, the earth-invading person and work of Jesus simply wouldn’t have been necessary. Sanctification is really about the grace of God doing for us what we can’t do for ourselves: recapture our awe for God and God alone.
Spiritual growth is about recapturing your awe. The more that the awe of God rules the motivation systems of your heart, the more you will love his kingdom and find pleasure in his work and satisfaction in doing his will. Romans 12:2 talks of being “transformed by the renewal of your mind.” There it is. The mind is where change needs to take place. If grace does not transform my motivation, it will not alter my living.

God Battles for Your Awe
Since you are unable to run from or change your heart, you must depend on God’s powerful, transforming grace to do for you what you cannot do for yourself. God knew that, and that’s why he didn’t just forgive you. That forgiveness is a wonderful thing, but he did something else so amazing and mysterious that it is almost impossible to get it inside our finite little brains: he sent his Spirit to live inside you. His Spirit does battle with your flesh. Since this battle rages deep within the motivational system of your heart, it must be fought from the inside out. Knowledge is wonderful but not enough. Rules are incredibly helpful, but they lack the power to do what needs to be done. Sin has kidnapped your awe and put you in the center of your awe, where God alone should be.
Paul tells the Corinthian Christians to “be reconciled to God” (2 Cor. 5:20). Now what does that mean? If they’re believers, aren’t they already reconciled to God? Well, in this passage, Paul uses the term reconciliation in two ways. First is the positional reconciliation of justification. On the basis of Christ’s work, I have been reconciled to God, that is, accepted into his presence and adopted into his family. But Paul uses reconciliation in another way: the reconciliation of sanctification. Here it is: to the degree that my capacity for awe is ruled or controlled by something or someone other than God, to that degree I need to be further reconciled to God. That’s the war of sanctification. It is a war of reconciliation. It is a war to reclaim my awe for God and God alone.
Thankfully, you and I don’t fight that war alone. Look at what Paul says to the Galatian believers: “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do” (Gal. 5:16–17). You see, spiritual growth is about the recapture of your thoughts, desires, and motivations, which depends on the recapture of your awe. The goal is that you and I would no longer live for ourselves but live joyfully and willingly for God. We pursue and participate in the work of the Spirit as he works inside us to liberate us from our bondage to ourselves.

The Recapture of Your Awe at Street Level: A Portrait
Galatians 5 actually presents two awe portraits. Each gives a picture of how what controls your awe controls your living. The first portrait depicts the lifestyle of an awe breaker. Remember that sin causes all of us to become awe thieves. We take the awe that was meant to cause us to worship God and direct it toward ourselves. We put ourselves where God alone was meant to be, making our lives all about us. Now that doesn’t mean that when you’re living for yourself, you will do all the things described in Galatians 5, but these are the kinds of things that result when awe of God is replaced by awe of self.
Portrait #1: “Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Gal. 5:19–21). This list is very helpful and instructive. Notice what unifies all these sin words: self. These are the kinds of things you fall into when, at the deepest level of the motivational system of your heart, you are living for you.
For example, when awe of self has replaced awe of God (i.e., when you are living for you), you will find it very hard to say no to you. You will find it very hard to stay inside the moral boundaries that someone else has set for you. So it will be difficult for you to harness your desire for personal pleasure, and you’ll be a sitting duck for sexual immorality and impurity. Your living will be morally shaped more by your physical senses and pleasure than by moral commitments. Because personal pleasure will mean too much to you, you will ask it to do for you what it cannot do, going back again and again for more and soon finding yourself addicted to what you thought you could control (drunkenness). Because you are living for you, you will find it hard to deal with the reality that others have what you don’t (jealousy, envy). And because awe of self has replaced awe of God, you will be mad at anything or anyone who happens to get in the way of what you want. You’ll be better at making war than peace (enmity, fits of anger, rivalries, strife, dissensions).
You see, all the dark, sad brokenness in the human community that results in such hurt, pain, disillusionment, and disappointment is rooted in a deeper brokenness. Sin is profoundly larger than simply doing the wrong things. Behavioral sin grows out of the malfunctioning, corrupted motivational system of the heart. You simply cannot live for yourself and stay inside God’s boundaries. You cannot live in a greater awe of you than of God and live the way God designed you to live.
Here’s the point of this portrait: because we are all sinners, this kind of living is intuitive and natural for us. Have you ever lived a conflict-free week? Do you ever get jealous of someone or envious of another’s blessing? Have you ever struggled to harness your desire for the pleasures of sex, food, or drink? Have you ever brought strife into your life because you said or did something that was unloving or unkind? If we were honest, we would have to say that this list describes every single one of us. It is a shockingly accurate portrait of the life of every sinner. Why? Because sin makes all of us awe breakers. We all put ourselves in God’s place. We all enthrone ourselves in the center of our worlds. All sinners forget God and crown themselves, and what follows is massive moral and interpersonal dysfunction. This is not a here’s-how-the-bad-guys-live list. No, this is a what-sin-does-to-all-of-us list.
Portrait #2: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Gal. 5:22–24). Now what holds all these beautiful character qualities together? They all result from living for something bigger than you. This portrait shows how a person’s street-level living is transformed when the motivational system of his or her heart begins to be ruled by awe of God rather than awe of self. The agenda that drives every one of these things is bigger than personal pleasure and control.
Let me comment on what this list represents. These character qualities are not moral goals for you to achieve. You and I have no independent ability to produce these things in ourselves because we have no capacity for changing the motivational direction of our hearts. Even though God, in amazing grace, has forgiven us, too many of the things in the previous list still plague our lives. We still desperately need to grow. The clue to the nature of this character list lies in its identification as the “fruit of the Spirit.” These things are just not natural for us. They only ever result from the powerful transforming presence of the Spirit of God in our hearts. He comes to reside within our hearts to do in and for us the one thing we can’t do for ourselves: reclaim the motivational system of our hearts for God and God alone. The gospel is that Jesus not only died for your forgiveness but also died for your growth and transformation. Jesus died so that between the “already” and the “not yet,” we would progressively become people that this portrait displays. And you and I need grace for this transformation as much as we needed grace for our initial acceptance with God.
Look at the list and consider with me how reclaiming awe leads to transformed lives. What keeps us from loving others? Isn’t it always love of self that gets in the way of a consistent and practical love for others? Here’s the point: only people who keep the first great commandment will ever keep the second great commandment. Only when God is in his rightful place will others be in the appropriate place in my heart and life. Only when I love God above all else will I ever love others as myself.
How about joy? The DNA of joy is gratitude. When I am living in self-focused, demanding entitlement, I will find it very hard to be joyful. I will find endless reasons to complain. But if I am living in awe of God’s existence, sovereignty, and grace, coupled with a knowledge of the depth of my own need, I will find reasons to be thankful all around me. And as I do, I will live with the constant joy of gratitude.
Or think about peace. Why do I have so much conflict in my life? Why is it easier for me to make war than peace? The answer is simple: I tend to live for myself, and as I do, I find that people are always in my way. But when my motivations change and I am living for God and not for myself, I quit making everything about me. I quit personalizing things that aren’t personal. I am willing to overlook minor offenses, and I live in a more peaceful community with others.
How about patience? Do you know why few of us like to wait? We don’t like to wait because waiting immediately reminds us that we are not in charge. Nothing more quickly offends our delusions of self-sovereignty than being forced to step out of our own schedules and wait for another. Think about it. You have never gotten angry because you have had to wait for you! Only when my heart is progressively in awe of the agenda of One vastly greater and wiser than me will I surrender my schedule to him and be willing to wait for others.
None of the words in this second portrait pictures a behavior; rather, each represents a character item that will result in a whole catalog of behaviors. And the progressive presence of this kind of character in your life develops in response to the Holy Spirit’s progressive reclaiming of the motivational system of your heart, that is, your capacity for awe. The Spirit works within you to complete the work of Christ so that “those who live might no longer live for themselves” (2 Cor. 5:15). He is working at the deep motivational (awe) level, which is why Paul says that we “have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Gal. 5:24). Yes, your heart was crucified with Christ so that a new heart could live within you. Right here, right now the Holy Spirit who lives inside you is completing that work as he increasingly kills your awe of self and, by grace, plants within you a life-altering awe of God.
You can’t do that work of awe reclamation on your own. You desperately need grace. But you and I are called to treasure that work and to pursue and participate in it in any way we can. And we are called to humbly admit our need and again and again run to the grace that stands as our only hope of personal growth and change.
Restoring the proper function to any dysfunctional thing only happens when the power of change is applied to its brokenness. The spiritual growth of progressive sanctification concerns something vastly deeper than a greater allegiance to God’s rules. It requires God working to fix what sin has broken, and that brokenness exists in our hearts. Only when awe of God progressively replaces awe of self will we joyfully, willingly, and consistently live as God designed us to live. And for the reclaiming of the motivational system of each of our hearts, we have been given amazing, powerful, zealous, unending, and transformative grace.

10

WORLDVIEW

Who is like you, O Lord, among the gods?
Who is like you, majestic in holiness,
awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders?
EXODUS 15:11

Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
  and cry to her
that her warfare is ended,
  that her iniquity is pardoned,
that she has received from the LORD’s hand
  double for all her sins.

A voice cries:
“In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD;
  make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be lifted up,
  and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
  and the rough places a plain.
And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed,
  and all flesh shall see it together,
  for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”

A voice says, “Cry!”
  And I said, “What shall I cry?”
All flesh is grass,
  and all its beauty is like the flower of the field.
The grass withers, the flower fades
  when the breath of the LORD blows on it;
  surely the people are grass.
The grass withers, the flower fades,
  but the word of our God will stand forever.

Go on up to a high mountain,
  O Zion, herald of good news;
lift up your voice with strength,
  O Jerusalem, herald of good news;
  lift it up, fear not;
say to the cities of Judah,
  “Behold your God!”
Behold, the Lord GOD comes with might,
  and his arm rules for him;
behold, his reward is with him,
  and his recompense before him.
He will tend his flock like a shepherd;
  he will gather the lambs in his arms;
he will carry them in his bosom,
  and gently lead those that are with young.

Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand
  and marked off the heavens with a span,
enclosed the dust of the earth in a measure
  and weighed the mountains in scales
  and the hills in a balance?
Who has measured the Spirit of the LORD,
  or what man shows him his counsel?
Whom did he consult,
  and who made him understand?
Who taught him the path of justice,
  and taught him knowledge,
  and showed him the way of understanding?
Behold, the nations are like a drop from a bucket,
  and are accounted as the dust on the scales;
  behold, he takes up the coastlands like fine dust.
Lebanon would not suffice for fuel,
  nor are its beasts enough for a burnt offering.
All the nations are as nothing before him,
  they are accounted by him as less than nothing and emptiness.

To whom then will you liken God,
  or what likeness compare with him?
An idol! A craftsman casts it,
  and a goldsmith overlays it with gold
  and casts for it silver chains.
He who is too impoverished for an offering
  chooses wood that will not rot;
he seeks out a skillful craftsman
  to set up an idol that will not move.

Do you not know? Do you not hear?
  Has it not been told you from the beginning?
  Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth?
It is he who sits above the circle of the earth,
  and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers;
who stretches out the heavens like a curtain,
  and spreads them like a tent to dwell in;
who brings princes to nothing,
  and makes the rulers of the earth as emptiness.

Scarcely are they planted, scarcely sown,
  scarcely has their stem taken root in the earth,
when he blows on them, and they wither,
  and the tempest carries them off like stubble.

To whom then will you compare me,
  that I should be like him? says the Holy One.
Lift up your eyes on high and see:
  who created these?
He who brings out their host by number,
  calling them all by name,
by the greatness of his might,
  and because he is strong in power
  not one is missing.

Why do you say, O Jacob,
  and speak, O Israel,
“My way is hidden from the LORD,
  and my right is disregarded by my God”?
Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The LORD is the everlasting God,
  the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
  his understanding is unsearchable.
He gives power to the faint,
  and to him who has no might he increases strength.
Even youths shall faint and be weary,
  and young men shall fall exhausted;
but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength;
  they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
  they shall walk and not faint. (Isaiah 40)

I have never quoted a passage of this length in any book I have written, but I have a reason for doing it here. I would like you to do something right now. Go back and read this quotation of Isaiah 40 two or three times slowly. Let the words wash over you. Permit the poetic language to paint word pictures in your brain. Give your heart time to absorb the awesome glory depicted here. As you read, notice how the prophet is literally stretching the limits of human language to portray for you the glory of God. Pay attention to how hard he is working with descriptive words to leave you in heart-pounding, silence-inducing, worship-stimulating awe of God.
As an author, it is humbling to admit what I am about to admit, but the most important words in this book are words that I have not written. The most important, potentially transformative words in this book were written by the prophet Isaiah as he was inspired by the Holy Spirit. What we need to ask is, “Why were these words given?” and “What are we to do with them now?”

Say Good-bye to “Two-Drawer” Living
Sadly, many people who call themselves Christians live functionally compartmentalized lives. Whether they realize it or not, they have divided their lives neatly into two drawers: real life and spiritual life.
The real life drawer is the one they dig into most and are most comfortable with. It contains all the stuff of everyday life, like job, physical health, food, drink, friends, leisure, money, marriage, parenting, possessions, and daily experiences. This drawer dominates their thinking and their doing. It’s where most of their emotional and physical energy is expended and where most of their dreams will be realized or dashed. The big joys they feel and the big sorrows that crush them are usually felt because of what goes on here. This is where they envision the good life for themselves and their children. They often have little functional consciousness of anything other than the mundane stuff that real life throws their way. Yes, they believe in Jesus, his forgiveness, and the eternity to come, but these beliefs don’t have a radical impact on the way they think about themselves and life in general. I think I am describing hundreds of thousands of Christians.
They have a second drawer, to be sure. It’s the spiritual life drawer. All the God stuff goes here. It’s the drawer for Sunday services, small group, tithes and offerings, right theology, keeping the rules, short-term missions, and, if they’re really spiritual, family worship. Their Christianity is sectored off from the rest of life. Their faith is an aspect of their life, rather than something that shapes everything in their life. And if you pay attention to what’s going on with them, you can see clear signs of the negative impact of two-drawer living. We will consider those symptoms after we take a look at why Isaiah 40 was written and then preserved for us.

The “Here’s Your God” Worldview
Ask yourself, On any given day, what most influences the way that I think about myself and my life? Isaiah 40 was written to comfort hurting, suffering, and besieged people, but you need to understand the nature of that comfort. This passage should not be relegated to a list of helpful passages for a person needing comfort—along with maxims like “God is sovereign” and “This too will pass.” Isaiah 40 is not meant to be an abstract theological salve on the wounds of a hurting person. The reach of Isaiah 40 is meant to be much wider and broader than that. Isaiah 40 is meant to speak into the life of every child of God.
Here’s what you need to understand. Isaiah 40 is not comfort literature; it’s worldview literature. These words only provide comfort because of the radical, amazing, awe-inspiring worldview that they put forth. When you begin to understand, believe, and live in light of the awesome glory that Isaiah 40 reveals, you have reason to be comforted no matter what you happen to be facing at the moment.
There are two things that Isaiah 40 confronts. It first confronts any view of the world that doesn’t place a God of infinite grandeur in the middle of it. You simply cannot properly understand anything unless you look at it through the lens of the awesome glory that Isaiah sticks in your face. Not only does God exist and not only is he active and not only is he in control, but he is also so glorious that it is almost impossible to find words or illustrations that are huge enough to capture his majesty.
I am afraid that a whole lot of functional atheism exists in the church of Jesus Christ. I am afraid that we often live as if there is no God and it’s all on us. We tend to worry too much. We tend to control too much. We tend to demand too much. We tend to regret too much. We tend to run after too many God replacements. We do all these things because we so quickly forget God’s presence and glory. Isaiah won’t let you forget. He arouses your memory with grand and expansive word pictures. He works to reintroduce you to a God you may have forgotten. I can’t tell you how many times in counseling I have heard people—people who seem to have a rather well-developed theology—recount their stories but omit God from them entirely. I have thought many times, the fact that they assess their lives in such a God-absent way explains much of the distress, confusion, and despair they are experiencing. They are not discomforted simply because life has been uncomfortable. They are discomforted because they have brought a fundamentally unbiblical worldview to the uncomfortable things they are facing.
But Isaiah 40 addresses a second thing. It addresses the massive number of Christian people who remember God, but the God they remember is small, distant, disconnected, uncaring, and seemingly unwise. In a way, they are suffering not just because of the size of the things they are facing but also because of the smallness of the God they are trusting. Many people have talked to me about God in the middle of difficulties, and after listening to them, I have been struck that, if I believed in the “God” they described, I wouldn’t run to him for help either, and I’d be in a panic too.
This is where Isaiah 40 helps us. It addresses an age-old misconception that you can measure the size and nearness of God by assessing your circumstances. Your idea of God will never be either accurate or stable if you’ve arrived at it by trying to figure out what he is doing in the situations in your life. This is the mistake that Moses made at the burning bush—as well as the Israelites as they faced the nations on the other side of the Jordan River, and the army of Israel as they faced Goliath and the Philistines, and Gideon as he was called to defeat the Midianites, and the disciples as they hid in fear after Jesus’s death. Between the “already” and the “not yet,” if you look around, it will seem that the bad guys are winning and that God must lack the power or will to do anything about it.
If you think about it, you can remember times in your life when God confused you, when he seemed distant, or when you couldn’t see much evidence of him exercising his power for your welfare. This is precisely why the worldview of Isaiah 40 is so important. It confronts our practical atheism—that is, our conclusions that God is small. It reminds us that proper theology is rooted not in our interpretations of our circumstances but in God’s revelation to us of his unchangeable glory. In those moments when we can’t see that glory, we need the powerful word pictures of Isaiah 40 to re-form in us an accurate worldview that has an awesome God in the center of it.
Every hope you have as a believer is rooted in the glory of God that Isaiah reveals. Every act of obedience flows out of your belief that One of this awesome grandeur exists. Every courageous act of faith gets its courage from the understanding that this kind of God sits on the throne of the universe. Every bit of personal willingness to persevere through trial is ignited by the remembrance of what Isaiah stretches the words of human language to describe.
So because of this vision, you don’t live a two-drawer existence, filing all the real-life things in one drawer and all the spiritual-life things in another. You have only one drawer called life. Everything goes in that drawer. Where does Isaiah 40 fit? Well, it’s not another drawer. Isaiah 40 is a pair of glasses that you put on so that you can read and understand everything in your life drawer. Only when you wear the glasses of Isaiah 40 can you understand yourself, others, meaning and purpose, right and wrong, identity, morality, history, and the future properly. If awe of God is not at the center of your worldview, you will look at nothing properly.
Now retaining this worldview in a practical manner that actually affects your living presents a struggle. I was thinking this morning of all the duties, responsibilities, opportunities, difficulties, relationships, decisions, and concerns that flood into my mind like a dam that has been breached every morning as I wake up. It’s so easy to get distracted by it all. It’s so easy to forget things. It’s so easy to go through a day without God ever entering your thoughts. It’s so easy to load life onto your shoulders and be more motivated by low-grade anxiety than by divine awe. It’s so easy to have a formal worldview that is shaped by the theology of the Word of God but has little impact on the way that you act, react, make decisions, or plan.
Perhaps two-drawer living is more natural to us than we would like to think. Perhaps we separate pure lives into real life and spiritual life more than we know. Perhaps the awesome God-reality of Isaiah 40 doesn’t invade our consciousness as much as we need it to. Or perhaps what once produced awe in us doesn’t do so anymore. That’s why Isaiah 40 has been retained for us, because ten out of ten of us will again and again need our awe recharged. We will need to have the distortions in our worldview exposed and cleared out. We will need to remember that in the center of all that makes up our daily existence is a God of expansive, inestimable, awe-inspiring glory. We will need to reconnect with the fact that any worldview that doesn’t begin with recognizing this glory distorts reality and is a functional lie. We will need to remember that Isaiah 40 doesn’t merely speak to the spiritual dimension of our lives but offers the only lens through which we can see all of life properly. Any other view of life is like looking through carnival glass; the distortions in the glass will warp the appearance of anything you see through it.
The comfort of Isaiah 40 is that it gives us the only worldview that has eternal hope embedded in it. Isaiah 40 comforts us not because it helps us understand life or divine the future but because it reminds us of the glory of the God who rules in majesty over all the things that would otherwise rob us of comfort and hope. We need Isaiah to say to us again and again, “Here is your God!” And we need to let the awesome glory of his description of our God wash our hearts clean of cynicism, doubt, fear, discouragement, anxiety, worry, and control.

Signs of Two-Drawer Living
This has been a very convicting chapter for me to write. As I have been writing, I have been going through one of the most spiritually stressful and discouraging periods of my ministry life. I have tried to make good choices and have failed more than once. I have been under attack by people who loved me. I’ve had moments when I just wanted to quit. I have thought, “Forget ministry. Forget the church. I just want to go where no one knows me and live a quiet life! I’m tired of trying to help others only to get attacked myself. I’m tired of the burdens and the stress. I’m tired of uncomfortable conversations and tough decisions. I’m tired of private things being made public. I’m tired of praying and praying and nothing changing. In fact, things only seem to get worse. I’m tired of feeling alone and misunderstood.”
It is embarrassing to even write these thoughts and feelings down on paper, but they do capture where I’ve been recently. And it has hit me that, in the past six months, I haven’t been very good at preaching the gospel of Isaiah 40 to myself. While I was preaching it to others, I was looking at my ministry life in a way that was lacking the strengthening hope of Isaiah 40. This chapter has reminded me again that it is impossible for me to teach, preach, or write of truths that I don’t desperately need myself. If I ever stop being the first audience of my writing, I should stop writing. And as you read this book, please remember me and pray for me. Pray that God will help me to live, with courage and hope, the things that I write.
Now I would like to turn to consider some symptoms of two-drawer living.

  1. Anxiety. I am reminded of Christ’s question to his followers in Matthew 6, where he essentially asks, “Why are you anxious?” Jesus goes on to propose that it makes sense for the Gentiles (unbelievers) to be anxious because they don’t have a heavenly Father. But then turning to his followers, he reminds them that they have a Father who knows what they need and is committed to delivering it to them. Jesus is saying that the anxiety of a believer is directly connected to his street-level view of God. If awe of God does not grip your heart, the anxieties of life will likely influence how you live.
  2. Control. Why do we tend to be so controlling? Why do we try to work ourselves into positions of power? Why do we love authority more than we love submitting to authority? Why do we fear the loss of control? Why are we afraid of being controlled? Why do we tend to look at our lives as being out of control? Why do we have to be right, be affirmed, be validated, be respected, or be in power? Why do we not like to be told what to do? Why does control seem to be such a big issue for so many of us?
    I am convinced that rest in this chaotic world, submission to authority, and a willingness to give and share power all arise from a certain knowledge that every single detail of our lives is under the careful administration of One of awesome glory. We will rest in the middle of unrest not because we have it figured out but because of who he is. When you are in awe of God’s glory, you just don’t have to be in control of everything and everyone in your life.
  3. Addiction. Why are we so easily addicted to the substances, people, possessions, and experiences in our lives? Why do we tell ourselves that we can control things while the evidence suggests that they are already controlling us? Why is it so hard for us to say “no” to the pleasures of creation? Why do we go back again and again when these things not only fail to deliver what we seek but actually hurt us? Here’s the answer: whenever you ask creation to do what only the Creator can do, you are on your way to addiction. You don’t get the rest, peace, hope, or life that you’re seeking. What you get is a temporary retreat or pleasure or buzz, so you have to go back again and again. Each time, you need a little more, and before long, you are enslaved. When awe of God isn’t ruling your heart, you are rendered more susceptible to some kind of addiction.
  4. Depression. I do not want to oversimplify this very complex human experience, and I don’t want to cheapen the difficulties of people who struggle with depression. But I will say that often one of the spiritual components of the paralyzing darkness of depression is a worldview that has no awesome God in it whatsoever. It’s like sitting in a pitch-black basement with no windows and convincing yourself that the sun has ceased to shine, that the world will grow unbearably cold, and that you will die. Your problem is not that the sun has quit shining. If you went upstairs, you would experience its brightness and warmth. Your problem is that, because you can’t see its brightness, you allow yourself to think that it has quit shining and that you have no hope. A God-absent view of life surely functions like fertile soil for personal hopelessness.
  5. Debt. Why do we spend more than we have? Why do we constantly crave more? Why do we envy the affluent? Why are we all too skilled at spending more than we make? Why is it so hard for us to be satisfied with what we have? While I have addressed all these questions in the chapter on materialism, let me speak in summary again. To the degree that you forget the awesome and satisfying glories of the Creator, to that degree you will look for satisfaction in the creation. And because the creation has no ability to satisfy your heart, you will look again and again, acquiring more and more but never achieving contentment of heart.
  6. Fear of man. Why do we ride the roller coaster of people’s responses to us? Why do we fixate on the appreciation of one particular person? Why are we willing to compromise our convictions to get someone to accept us? Why do we rehearse conversations in obsessive regret? Why are we afraid to be honest about our struggles? Why do we live in fear of being known? To the degree that you’re getting your identity from the people around you and not from the awesome God of Isaiah 40, to that degree you will be a sitting duck for fear of man.
  7. Workaholism. Why do we work longer and harder than we should responsibly work? Why are we focused on achievement and obsessed with success? Why are we willing to sacrifice family and friendships to get ourselves a few rungs further up the ladder of achievement? Why do position and power tend to mean too much to us? Again, if you need a public track record of personal success to have inner rest and peace, rather than getting your peace from your connection to the glorious God of Isaiah 40, you will tend to work more than you should.
  8. Dissatisfaction. Perhaps all the moans and groans of dashed dreams and discontented hearts that color our thoughts and conversations expose the degree to which the glory that we say we believe in (Isaiah 40) gets separated from the way that we think about and live our everyday lives. Maybe we’re dissatisfied not just because people are unpredictable and life is hard. Perhaps we’re experiencing two-drawer dissatisfaction. Perhaps the strengthening rest that is depicted at the end of Isaiah 40 has eluded us because the awesome God of Isaiah 40 is not in our thoughts and at the center of the way we make sense of our life (worldview).
    So pray right now that God would grace you with the desire and strength to get yourself up out of that dark basement and into the comforting and encouraging light of his existence and glory, and believe that you can fly. Not because you under­stand, are appreciated, or are in control, but because God controls all things, because he is glorious, and because by grace he is all that he is for you.

11

CHURCH

If you don’t feel strong desires for the manifestation of the glory of God, it is not because you have drunk deeply and are satisfied. It is because you have nibbled so long at the table of the world. Your soul is stuffed with small things, and there is no room for the great.

JOHN PIPER9

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Col. 3:12–17)

Jim said that he and Sherri will never forget driving onto the campus of First Baptist Church (FBC). The grounds and the building were a picture of longevity and stability. FBC had been founded almost two hundred years earlier and had remained faithful to the gospel throughout its storied history. The huge, beautiful, and traditional sanctuary made Jim and Sherri feel safe and secure. They loved the regal worship service and the elegant preaching. But within their first year at FBC, they both began feeling smothered by tradition. Sherri told Jim she just couldn’t go to a church that was so traditional that you felt embarrassed if you coughed during the worship service.
A friend had told Sherri about the Vine, so they gave it a try. “What a breath of fresh air!” Sherri exclaimed after their first visit; attending the Vine wasn’t a hard decision for them at all. After all the traditionalism of FBC, they liked the warehouse environment and the rather raucous worship. Jim thought the preaching was creative, almost conversational. He told Sherri it was much easier to listen to than the theological lectures at FBC. But before long, the preaching began to drive Jim and Sherri crazy. The rambling style, marked with a heavy dose of humor, started to irk them, so they began to look again.
They found Fleet Street Presbyterian Church almost by accident. It was a block away from a restaurant they tried one Friday night, and the only place to park was right in front of the church. They decided to give Fleet Street a shot. That first Sunday they thought they had found the best of both worlds. The service included some traditional elements in a more traditional setting, but the congregation was young, the music was lively, and the pastor had a very contemporary way of communicating biblical truth. At the same time, as they began attending Fleet Street, Jim and Sherri started experiencing some bumps in their marriage. They were happy to see that Fleet Street had a well-developed counseling ministry, so they sought help for their marriage. But after two sessions, Jim was so upset by the counsel they received that he said he not only lost all confidence in his counselor but also refused to attend a church that would promote that kind of “help.”
Jim and Sherri learned about Immanuel, a little church plant, through a flyer they received in the mail. They had no other options, so they thought they would give it a try. The first Sunday was very uncomfortable because only about sixty people were there. It felt like they were attending someone else’s family reunion. But the people were very friendly, and they decided to go back. Just as Jim and Sherri were beginning to think that Immanuel would work for them, their teenage children began to protest. Emma and Josh hated the church because only one other teenager attended. They both said they couldn’t understand why their parents would choose a church that had nothing for them. With reluctance, and without a plan, Jim and Sherri left Immanuel.
Jim and Sherri now go to a megachurch about twice a month. They love that they can slip in and out without being noticed, and they have no intention of joining. Their children reluctantly go with them on Sunday morning but express no interest whatsoever in the church’s youth ministry. Jim says they would leave this church in a second if they could find a better alternative, but they’re tired of looking.
Now go back and read the verses that open this chapter again and reflect on your personal relationship to your local church. Think about how your church approaches its ministry. Consider the expectations your church has for you. Colossians 3:12–17 puts before us a radical, countercultural view of what God designed the church to be and do. It is a singeing critique of the passive relationship that most believers have to the church to which they have for the moment committed themselves. (Because this is such a pressing issue, I plan to make an extended unpacking of Colossians 3 the topic of a future book.)
Why do so many Christians act like Jim and Sherri? Why aren’t most Christians living the local church lifestyle captured by these words in Colossians 3? Why do so many of us think of church as something we attend rather than a central mission of our lives? Why do we most often expect the paid church staff to shoulder almost the entire burden of ministry? Why don’t more of us share Paul’s understanding of what the church is? Why aren’t more believers trained and ready for the ministry to which God has called them? What is at the root of Jim and Sherri’s struggle with the church?
The answers to these questions are embedded in the opening words of Colossians 3: “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth” (Col. 3:1–2). The radical ecclesiastical lifestyle of Colossians 3:12–17 will never happen until God first radically recaptures your heart, as these verses depict.

Understanding the State of Things
A shocking amount of Christian consumerism exists in the church of Jesus Christ today. Many, many believers think of their church as a place to attend rather than something with which they are intimately involved. They think of church as a worship gathering, a weekly duty that is part of the religious dimension of their lives. It is sad, but most pastors seem content with an ever-increasing attendance, enough financial giving to fuel church programs, and a small percentage of people who will volunteer in episodic ministry. In most churches, the paid staff carry the burden of the church’s spiritual health, while the members happily play their role as the recipients.
People move from church to church as if the churches in their community are nothing more than ecclesiastical department stores. They’re shopping for just the right preacher, women’s ministry, youth ministry, or worship style. These Christians’ relationship to the church mirrors my relationship to Macy’s. If I go to Macy’s looking for a certain color and style shirt and they don’t have it, I feel no guilt whatsoever in leaving Macy’s and going to look for it at Bloomingdale’s. I move from store to store until I find what I want because my commitment is not to a particular store but to myself and the satisfaction of my desire for that shirt.
Hordes of Christians have this kind of church lifestyle, and they will, like shoppers, chase the deal of the moment. Maybe that’s running after the celebrity preacher, the cool Saturday night worship band, or the best youth program ever. They are high-expectation and low-commitment attenders, and there is a good possibility that they will soon be worshiping somewhere different from where they are right now.
Many Christians also live inside the church virtually unknown. They slip in and out of the weekly service almost unnoticed. Sure, they will exchange niceties with the people near them, and if they do that, they will learn a few cursory details about one another’s lives, but they don’t really have a relationship with the people with whom they worship. Most of what they call fellowship simply isn’t. It seldom reaches deeper than the kind of conversation you would have at the local pub. I think we should just be honest and call it “pubship.” Many Christians live in a Christian community where no one knows the condition of their marriage, their struggles as parents, or the places where they feel overburdened and overwhelmed. No one knows what goes on in the private moments of their lives, where they are defeated by temptation again and again or where they are tempted to doubt the goodness of God. Their life in the church is not the life of an essential member of an organic body of faith where each member feels the pain when another member hurts. No, they are spiritual shoppers looking for the best religious store in town.
Even more believers have no personal commitment to ministry. Sure, they put a little money in the plate to pay for professional staff to shoulder ministry, but they don’t live with a ministry mentality. To them, ministry is a formal religious thing conceived, programmed, and scheduled by their church. In this view, if you get involved in ministry, you step out of your life for a moment of ministry and then back into your life. Here ministry interrupts the regular routine, representing an exceptional thing for the spiritually zealous. How many believers really live a lifestyle that results from believing that God has graced them to be not just recipients of the work of his kingdom but instruments of the work of the kingdom as well? When you believe this, you live with a constant ministry mentality that results in an everyday ministry lifestyle. Here ministry is no interruption but an essential part of the normal routine.
Many more Christians than we would imagine have attached their Christianity to their pursuit of the “American dream.” Whether they know it or not, they have bought into the cultural definition of success, and they are pursuing the culture’s portrait of the “good life”: career success, financial ease, the big house, the trendy wardrobe, the fancy food, and the extravagant vacations. And because they are, they spend most of their physical, emotional, and spiritual energy gaining, maintaining, keeping, and enjoying these things, rather than investing in the eternal treasures of the kingdom of God through the vehicle of their local church. Sadly, the cultural dream is their vocation, and their Christianity is relegated to a religious pastime.
You have to ask yourself, why? Why has this become the regular state of things? Why do so many Christians have such a passive relationship to the church?

And Now for Our Passage
When it comes to the church, Colossians 3 presents to us a radical lifestyle that results from a commitment of the heart. Let’s look at the radical lifestyle first. This lifestyle is rooted in an understanding of what I have called in another book God’s “total involvement paradigm.”10 What does this mean? It means God has designed that all his people would be involved in his redemptive work all the time. It means no one is given grace just to be a recipient but to be an instrument of that very same grace in the lives of others. This passage highlights five characteristics of this radical ministry lifestyle to which God has called each of us. If you are committed to this lifestyle you will do the following:

  1. Take your local-church relationships seriously (vv. 12–14). These verses list several character qualities—compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, patience, forbearance, forgiveness—and God expects every believer to commit to nurturing these qualities in all their relationships. They form the bedrock of this ministry lifestyle, and they immediately confront us with the fact that God owns our relationships—we do not—and that he has a higher purpose for them than we do.
    If we were honest, I think most of us would have to admit that we rarely look at our everyday relationships with a ministry mentality. We tend to view our relationships as little more than containers for our personal happiness. When you have a personal-happiness agenda for your relationships, four things will tend to happen: (1) You will turn moments of ministry into moments of anger, seeing another person’s sin or need as an interruption or hassle rather than an opportunity for grace. (2) You will tend to do this because you will personalize what is not personal. You will make it all about you when, in actuality, that person has in no way plotted against you. Rather, God has chosen to reveal their need to you so you can be his tool of grace. (3) Because you’ve personalized what is not personal, you will likely become adversarial in your response. It won’t be you for them but you against them because they are in the way of something you want. (4) And finally, you will settle for quick situational solutions that don’t really bring God’s grace to the heart of the matter. You will strike back or walk away, but you won’t be a tool in God’s hands.
    God intends these character qualities to transform the relationships of your daily life, changing them from containers for your happiness to workrooms for the transforming grace of the Redeemer.
  2. Rest in the peace of the gospel (v. 15). Why does Paul call for the “peace of Christ” to rule in our hearts? Well, that phrase is a hint that he is first talking about something more foundational than relational peace. We must first have the peace of Christ if you and I are ever going to experience lasting peace in the community around us. Why peace of Christ? Because this rest for the heart only comes when you are getting your identity and personal security from the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. Because you rest in his forgiveness, you don’t need to fear being exposed since nothing could be known about you that hasn’t already been covered by his sacrificial work. Because you rest in his acceptance, you are freed from riding the roller coaster of people’s responses to you. Because you rest in his indwelling power, you are not afraid of the difficulties and challenges of personal ministry. You see, the gospel frees you from focusing so much on yourself that you have little time to minister to others.
  3. Be a committed student of God’s Word (v. 17). It is my experience that most Christians are barely biblically literate, let alone equipped to use their Bible appropriately and effectively in personal ministry. When you don’t know your Bible well, you will tend to use it as an isolated collection of wisdom statements for daily living, and you will tend to look for the verse that best seems to fit the situation you are discussing. This method completely misses the genius of the Bible’s grand redemptive themes that form the basis of the hope and courage of the brand-new way of living to which God has called us. Or a second thing will happen, and sadly, I think this happens very often: ministry opportunities will tend to devolve into human advice giving. Because we don’t know God’s Word well, we will dip into our own experience and tell people what we think they should do, ignoring God’s call to them, his grace in them, and his wisdom for them.
  4. Look for ministry opportunities (v. 16). Paul says you need the Word of God dwelling in you richly so that you are ready to “teach” and “admonish.” Think about these two words. They tend to be ministry terms that we apply only to formally trained, full-time, paid ministry staff. Yet Paul is saying here that these two words capture God’s call to every believer. For the church to be the church—not just a place where you can find ministry but where the people are a ministering community—every believer must accept his or her role in the life of every other believer. It may sound radical, but it is God’s plan that all of his children would teach and all of his children would admonish. What does this mean? What does this look like? To teach means that I am always committed and ready when God gives me the opportunity to help others see life from God’s perspective. And to admonish means that I am always committed and ready when God gives me the opportunity to help others see themselves in the mirror of God’s Word. No church will ever be able to afford enough staff to cover all the teaching and admonishing moments that God will give his church in any given week.
  5. Recognize that your life no longer belongs to you (v. 17). Here again is a reminder to do everything in God’s name. We have no separate, private lives that belong to us. God owns us, and he owns every one of our relationships. A lifestyle of ministry begins with a surrender to the ownership of the Lord over all we are and all we have.
    So why don’t more Christians live this way? The answer is found in the words noted earlier that I will repeat here: “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth” (Col. 3:2). This sentence really does yank us back to the core message of this book. It takes us back to the fundamental struggle that rages in my heart and yours, which is why I decided to write what you now have in your hands.
    Here’s what we all need to understand. The church (by which I mean the people, not the institution) doesn’t first have a people-mobilization problem or a people-training problem. The church of Jesus Christ has an awe problem. It’s not that the church is losing the ministry war; it is losing the awe war. And because it is losing the awe war, very few people participate in very much ministry.
    Let me give you a practical example and then explain it. I have been convinced for a long time that evangelism classes don’t produce evangelists. Evangelism classes are a way of training people who are already committed to an evangelistic lifestyle. Without that commitment, the class won’t turn you into an evangelist. Counseling training doesn’t produce counselors. It can simply impart necessary understanding and skills to people who are already committed to a lifestyle of personal ministry.
    So Colossians 3:2 goes right to the heart of the matter, which happens to be the heart. It addresses what has captured the awe capacity of your heart. Remember, your heart always functions in the awe of something. The thoughts, desires, motivations, purposes, and choices of your heart are all shaped by whatever your heart is in awe of. This passage simplifies this profound struggle down to two possible options. Either your heart lives in a fundamental, life-shaping awe of the horizontal, physical, created world (“things that are on the earth”), or your heart lives in a foundational vertical awe of God, his work, his grace, and his kingdom.
    If your heart has been captured by the glories of the physical world’s people, places, experiences, and things, that’s where you will invest the majority of your physical, emotional, and spiritual energies. And because you are seeking to find true happiness and fulfillment here, your relationship to your church and its work and to your community with other believers will exist as an adjunct, or add-on, to what your life is really about. I think hundreds of thousands of believers live this way. Yes, they are God’s children. Yes, they have been redeemed by his blood and accepted by his grace. But to them, church is a place that they attend thankfully but that constitutes no essential aspect of their living.
    Yet if your heart is being progressively captured by the awe of God, his work, his grace, and his kingdom (“things that are above”), you will see your church not just as a place you attend but as a major commitment of your life, and you will live with a ministry lifestyle in the place where God has put you. When awe of God has captured your heart, ministry will fill your schedule. You won’t need the church to schedule ministry for you; you will approach work, marriage, parenting, extended family, friendships, and community with a ministry mentality. Awe of God will free you from thinking of your life as belonging to you and of ministry as temporarily offering pieces of your life to God that you will quickly take back as an episode of ministry ends. Awe means that you will look at everything in your life through the lens of God’s existence and glory, and you will surrender all your life to his purpose, humbly recognizing that, when you do this, you are not offering what is yours to him but returning what he already owns back to him for his use.
    If the church is populated with people who have set their minds on the things that are on earth, then the bulk of people in the church will have a passive relationship to the church, and the burden of ministry will fall on the shoulders of a few paid staffers. But if the church is populated with people who have set their minds on things above, then widespread daily ministry will take place in the hallways, bedrooms, boardrooms, family rooms, and vans of everyday life. There is a direct connection between what kind of awe has captured your heart and the amount of ministry that occupies your life.
    If you have read this chapter and thought, “Paul, I’m one of those passive people,” don’t be paralyzed by guilt and regret. No, run to your Redeemer. Confess what has ruled your heart, and cry out for his delivering and enabling grace. And as you do, remember once again that your Lord will never turn a deaf ear to the cries of one of his children. You too can experience a rejuvenated awe of God that issues forth in a ministry mindset that will transform your church relationships.

12

PARENTING

A man can no more diminish God’s glory by refusing to worship Him than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word ‘darkness’ on the walls of his cell.

C. S. LEWIS11

If you had to capture on a piece of paper what God’s job description of the family is, what would you write? What has God called parents to be and to do? What goals should you have for your children? When you’re at the end of a week as a parent and you say, “That was a good week,” what makes you say that? What are you trying to accomplish with all those early-morning and late-night conversations? What are you trying to produce with all those mini-lectures? What are you trying to instill in your children when you seek to bring peace to all those sibling wars? If you had to paint a portrait of the ideal child you’re trying to produce, what would that portrait look like? How will you know when you have been successful?
We all know that few things in life are as profoundly important as being God’s agent for forming a human soul. But I fear that many of us parent without a big picture, without a grand agenda in mind. We seem to lack expansive goals that guide everything we do as parents. We do various things with the hope that our children will behave, will be polite, and will believe, but our parenting tends to be piecemeal and reactive rather than unified around a central vision or an overarching goal.
Judy was a frustrated parent, and in her frustration, she reached out to me. She had begun to hate her relationship with her children. No, she didn’t hate her children; what she hated was the negative cast of her relationship with them. Judy said, “All I am is a lawgiver, a prosecutor, a judge, a jury, and a jailer. From morning to night, I say no over and over again and enforce punishments when my children don’t respond. I am always wondering what they’re going to do next, and they see me coming and wonder what they’ve done wrong. I know I must be missing something, but I just don’t know what it is.”
Sally and Bill approached me at a parenting conference. Sally was in tears before she spoke. She told me that it was embarrassing to have to admit what she was about to admit, but she had to talk to someone. Sally proceeded to tell me that she had no ability whatsoever to control her four-year-old. “Rather than me parenting him, he controls me,” she said sadly. She expressed that she was already scared to death as she thought of what it would be like when her son became a teenager.
Frank shared with me the grief of thousands of fathers. He had been a conscious and faithful disciplinarian. While they were at home, his kids all submitted to his authority. In many ways, at school, church, home, and work, Frank’s children looked like model kids. People in Frank’s church repeatedly told him what a fine job he had done as a father. Frank confessed that when his first son graduated from high school at the top of his class, he was not just proud of his son, he was proud of himself. But as he stood before me, Frank didn’t look like a proud and self-confident father. He looked broken and defeated. “I thought we did it all right, but when my son and daughter went away to college, they both forsook the faith. They have no relationship with God and little closeness with us.”
I can’t tell you how many of these conversations I’ve had with parents over the years. The names and places differ, but the themes are all the same. Masses of Christian parents have lost their way or never had their way in the first place. Thousands of parents have begun to think that all their hard work has been for naught. Thousands of parents don’t know what they’re doing or why they’re doing what they’re doing. Thousands of good-hearted, hard-working parents lack the big picture that would give sense and direction to everything they do. This chapter addresses what is missing in the parenting of countless well-meaning believers. Let’s begin by examining the “state of the union.”

Parenting without the Big Picture
I am convinced after talking with hundreds of parents that most parents lack a big, overarching vision that guides all that they do with their children. Sure, they want their children to believe in Jesus, and they want their children to obey, and they hope that they will have athletic and musical ability along with a good education, marriage, and career. But at the street level, they’re just reacting to whatever comes at them on a particular day. Yes, they may say and do many good things with their children. Yes, they are sincere about their children’s spiritual life. And yes, they work to enforce a set of rules to shape their children’s behavior. But it is a reactive system.
The problem with reactive parenting is that it lacks a big picture, which enables parents to interpret what is going on in the hearts and lives of their children and thus target the significant heart issues that are really the focus of all good and successful parenting. This inadequate vision leaves these parents with a neat system set up to control, regulate, and conform the behavior of their children. Now if all you do is control the behavior of your children when they are in the home with you, then when they leave your home, they will have nothing. When they leave home and no longer have that system of control over them, their lives will go where their heart has been for a long time.
Let me give you an example. Every year thousands of supposedly Christian young people go off to residential universities and forsake the faith. I would propose to you that they are not forsaking the faith at all. They never had it in the first place. They grew up under a system of control that forced the faith upon them, but when they get to college and the system vanishes, their true hearts reveal themselves.
Reactive parenting has another problem. Since it lacks a grand, big vision, it tends to be way more determined on any given day by the emotion or mood of the parent. The thing that was okay yesterday is not okay today because mom isn’t doing well. Or the thing that made dad angry yesterday doesn’t seem to bother him at all today. Instead of children being molded by a consistent standard, they become emotional weathermen, reading the “weather” of their parents to see what they can or cannot get away with. Siblings will even have conversations to find out if one or the other is cued into how their parents are doing on any given day.
This is simply not the way that God intended children to be parented. It becomes an emotionally driven, behavior-control system that misses both the centrality of the heart and the transforming power of the gospel to create lasting change in the child’s behavior.

The Big Picture
Here’s what every parent needs to understand: your child doesn’t just have a behavior problem; he or she has a heart problem. The Bible teaches that all the words and behavior of a child are controlled, shaped, and directed by what’s in that child’s heart (see Luke 6:43–45). And the core dysfunction of the heart of every child doesn’t first have to do with law; it has to do with awe. Every child is born with a heart controlled more by awe of self than by awe of God.
Let me say it this way: every child comes into the world embracing two very seductive but equally seductive lies. First is the lie of autonomy. Autonomy says, “I am an independent human being, and I have a right to live my life the way I want to live it.” Those early battles that you have with your child about what to eat, what to wear, and when to go to sleep are not just about those issues. Your child is pushing back because your child does not want to be ruled. She sees herself in the center of her universe. He has appointed himself as a little self-sovereign. Although they have no understanding of a healthy human diet, what is appropriate to wear when, and the amount of sleep a healthy child requires, they will fight you because they do not want to be told what to do. That’s why a little boy will scream “no!” at an adult four times his size or a little girl will stiffen up in anger and turn red. They’re after autonomy. They want no other authority over them than their own.
The second lie is the lie of self-sufficiency. This lie says, “I have everything I need inside myself to be what I am supposed to be and to do what I am supposed to do.” Although young children have almost no understanding of the world around them, they will resist help because they want to hold onto the delusion that they do not need wisdom, instruction, or correction. Let me give you an example. Little Jimmy has discovered that his shoes have laces, and he has realized that after he puts the shoes on, they need to be tied. So you walk into Jimmy’s bedroom, and he has his shoes on the wrong feet and is fumbling with the laces. You know that he could fumble with those laces for a century and not make a bow, but when you bend down to assist him, he slaps away your hand. He wants to believe that he is capable, that he doesn’t need to be quiet, submit, and learn.
These two lies were first told by the Serpent in the garden of Eden and unleashed an unspeakable chain of disastrous consequences on the physical world and on humanity. Now it’s important to understand that these laws reveal that your child has not only a law problem, which he or she does, but a deeper and more formative awe problem. Children will only live as God has ordained them to live if their hearts have been freed from their bondage to awe of self and have been captured by the awe of God.
So, parents, it simply doesn’t work to have a law system as the model for your parenting. Now maybe you’re thinking, “But don’t my children need rules and enforcement in their lives? Don’t they need constant authority?” Of course they do, but these things are not enough. If all your children needed was a tight system of law to be what they’re supposed to be and to do what they’re supposed to do, Jesus would never have had to come and live a perfect life, shed his precious blood, and rise again from the grave. The gospel of Jesus Christ tells us that this kind of parenting simply is not enough.
Do your children need the law? Yes, they do! God employs the law to help your children see how spiritually needy they are. The law tells your children how God wants them to live, but the law can never, ever deliver them from the sin and self-worship that have captured their hearts.
So our parenting must target the central heart issue of our children. We know that as long as their hearts are ruled by awe of self, they will push against our authority, they will go their own way, and they will practically ignore the God who created and sustains them. This means that our parenting must be guided by a great big awe agenda. We need to do everything we can to put the glory of God and his grace before our children so that the awe of God would rule over their hearts.
Now maybe you’re thinking, “Paul, how in the world do we do that?” I’m afraid that for many of us, the only time we regularly refer to God as parents is when our children will not listen to us, and so we get God out as the ultimate threat. “You know, God is watching, and he could crush you like a bug!” This just makes the hearts of children want to run away from such a God!
Well, God in his condescending love and mercy has helped us here because he has created his world in such a way that it would reveal him. The fact that the physical world points to God is no accident; it was his divine intention as he was forming the physical universe with his awesome power. So God has made his power, faithfulness, wisdom, goodness, love, and mercy visible to us every day through the lens of the world that he created. Every glorious created thing points to a God of far greater glory. So, parents, it’s not unnatural to talk about God every day to your children; it’s positively unnatural not to. God made hot, and God made cold. God made water that freezes on one end and boils on the other (wow!). God made the delicacy of a lily, the inexhaustible wings of a hummingbird, the lumbering gait of an elephant, the multicolored stripes of a rainbow, the terror of a storm, the processes of the earth to supply us food to eat, the splash of stars at night, and a myriad of other things to see, hear, touch, and taste every day. You just can’t get up in the morning without bumping into God. Every day it’s God here, God there, God over there and there and there.
Now, parents, you need to understand something further. You are parenting children who have a perverse ability to look at the world around them and not see God. Sin and self blind the eyes of your children to the glory everywhere around them, the glory that has the power to change their hearts and put them in their proper place. They see the tree, but they don’t see the glory. They taste the sumptuous meal, but they don’t see the awesome God who made everything they just enjoyed. They may be afraid of the storm, but they have little fear of the power of the One who sent it. The disaster of spiritual blindness is one of the reasons God put you on earth and in the lives of your children. He has strategically positioned you so that you would function as his instruments of seeing, pointing to his presence, power, and glory over and over every day. He has called you to be a tool that recaptures the awe of your children’s hearts, so that awe of him would reign where awe of self once did. You can nurture that change as a result of his grace, but you are called to commit yourself to being a tool of his awe-recapturing agenda (see Psalm 145).
So when you go to the petting zoo with your little girl, talk about the God who made each distinct characteristic of every single animal. When you bake bread, talk about how the rising of dough is just one of millions of physical, chemical processes that came out of the mind of God. When your child smells a fragrant flower, talk about how God created these smells and then gave us the organs in our body to take them in and enjoy them. When you’re hiking with your son through the woods, talk about the One who created these huge organisms with arms that reach toward the heavens. When your child is sick, talk about the One who created all the delicate, interdependent systems of the body that must work in complete harmony for us to be well. When your daughter is complaining about the rainy weather, talk about what an impossible job it would be to control the world’s weather, yet God does it every day. Have your young son make faces in the mirror, and talk about how God designed all those little muscles in the face that allow us to communicate so much without saying a word. I could give page after page of illustration after illustration. We live in the middle of an awesome, never-ending glory display, and it is our job—and should be our joy—to point our children to this glory again and again day after day.
But here’s the rub. In parenting it is very hard to give away what you don’t have. In many of our homes, it’s not just our children who are blind to the awesome display of God’s presence, power, and glory everywhere around us; we are also blind to it. So perhaps we should start with asking God not to open our children’s eyes, but first to open ours, so that we can help them to see. It is impossible to point someone to something that you don’t see. We tend to see transportation that needs to be supplied, lunches that need to be made, clothes that need to be washed, activities that need to be scheduled, homework that needs to be done, and sibling squabbles that need to be resolved. For some of us, we can go through days with no awareness of God whatsoever. Only as God graciously opens our eyes to his glory and captures our hearts with his awe will we ever be his instruments in the eyes of our children.
Maybe you’re saying to yourself right now, “But I just want to have children who obey and do what is right.” So what is the only pathway to complete and willing submission to God’s authority and his law? Only when our children are living out of a heartfelt awe of God will they quit living for themselves, recognize God’s authority, and submit to the instruments of his authority that God has placed in their lives—their parents. Only awe of God has the power to defeat awe of self in my heart. It’s the glory of God that can protect our children from the seductive draw of self-glory. If awe doesn’t rule my child’s heart, God’s law won’t control my child’s behavior. The great battle of parenting is not the battle of behavior; it’s the battle for what kind of awe will rule children’s hearts.
Let’s get even more specific. Parents, you don’t have any independent authority over your children. None. Your children haven’t been given to you as indentured servants to make your life easier. They have not been given to build your identity or prop up your reputation. They are not to be viewed as potential trophies on the mantel of your success. The only kind of authority you have is representative or ambassadorial authority.
Here’s God’s plan: God intends to make his invisible authority visible in the lives of children through their parents, who exercise their authority in submission to him. Parents, there is no higher calling than this. You have been chosen to visibly represent the authority of God on earth in the lives of your children. You are the look on God’s face. You are the tone of his voice. You are the touch of his hand. You are his character and attitude. This means that every time you exercise authority in the lives of your children, it must be a beautiful picture of the patient, firm, gracious, wise, loving, tender, merciful, forgiving, and faithful authority of God. Why? Because your job is to leave your children in awe of the stunning, rescuing beauty of God’s authority. Your job is to be used of God to help your children move from natural rebels against any authority but their own to those who are in awe of God’s authority. Once they embrace this awe of God, they will cheerfully submit to his rules and honor the visible representatives of his authority whom God has placed in their lives.
This means that every time your authority is exercised in a selfish, impatient, irritable, name-calling, abusive, partial, or condemning way, you are not part of what God is doing in the life of your child; you are in the way of it. When you express your authority this way, you don’t lead your children to stand in awe of the beauty and helpfulness of God’s authority. No, you help deepen the natural rebellion your child has toward it. You know that when anyone has gotten up in your face and ripped into you, you have never felt thankful, loved, or helped. That has never made you feel rescued and cared for. In those situations, you have never felt like you’re being blessed with rare wisdom. No, you just want the pain of the demeaning onslaught to end. You see, if my child has an awe problem in his heart and I have been sent to visibly represent the God who should be at the center of his awe capacity, then the manner in which I respond to my child affects the way he views God himself.
Who can read what I have just written and say, “No problem, I can do that!” If you have any humility and sanity as a parent, you would confess with me that you are not up to such a task. You are unworthy of such a high calling. I know I can be so incredibly impatient, so easily irritated, so comfortable with failing. Yet when God’s grace has produced in me greater awe of him than I have for myself, I will then be motivated to serve as an instrument of awe of him in the lives of my children. This means not only that my children need parenting that rescues their awe but that I need that as well. I need a heavenly Father who will again and again show me his glory until this fickle heart of mine rests in an awe-filled understanding that he is the only One worthy of the worship of my heart.
What, then, is the fruit of the awe of God in the hearts of our children? I would propose to you that awe of God can produce in the heart of a child what every parent longs for. A child whose heart is ruled by the awe of God will submit to authority, will listen to and value wisdom, and will not resist but will hunger for rescue and will surrender control to God and the ambassadors he has placed in his life.
You and I can’t recapture the hearts of our children; only God can. But we need to understand that this is the mission he has called us to be part of. We need to recognize the daily evidence that our children live out of an attitude and behavior-shaping awe of self. And we need to do everything we can to point to God’s visible glory, so that the hearts of our children will, by grace, be captured by awe of him. We need to finally realize that it is not enough to announce and enforce God’s law; we should carry out both of these charges, but we must also do more. And we must submit our parenting to the reality that only when our children are in awe of God will they surrender their lives to his control, heed the call of his Word, and esteem the authorities that he has graciously placed over them. To do this, we also need to be rescued by his grace, rescued not from our children but from the selfishness and pride of our own hearts. Thankfully, Jesus purchased this rescue.

13

WORK

Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him!
PSALM 33:8

John is never at home. Jenny, his wife, has gotten used to having dinner alone with the kids and making excuses for John’s absence at all the evening activities she attends by herself.
To say that Frank is driven and aggressive would be the understatement of the century. He has left a trail of bodies behind him as he has climbed the corporate ladder.
Gina has been in a significant depression since her firm downsized and permanently furloughed her. She can barely get out of bed in the morning and says she feels like her life is over.
Bill can’t believe that he makes as much as he makes. He never imagined he would experience such affluence, yet he is still deeply in debt.
Sharon says that she has never been satisfied with any job she has ever had because she is always able to spot one that appears more exciting and challenging.
Both Sam and Freda work sixty hours a week. They have little free time to enjoy their beautiful home, and they have always had to hire help to care for their children.
Peter keeps saying that when he reaches a certain level of success, he will cut back and get more involved with the ministries of his church, but even as his success exceeds his goals, church involvement never happens.
Tim had a dream of owning his own business, a dream he finally achieved. That business demands his attention 24/7, and his wife and children feel his absence daily.
Sean hasn’t taken a vacation in years. He says he wants to, but he just can’t seem to break free from his duties to do it.
Sally lost her job, and when she did, she lost her desire to ever have a job again. She feels guilty that she is not working but not guilty enough to do something about it.
Jose learned to value hard work at the feet of his father, but even though he works constantly, he has little to show for it.
Mike is the boss but not the kind that employees love. He is known for being endlessly demanding and seldom encouraging, and his business has suffered from a constant turnover of employees.
Kim told Tom, her pastor-husband, that he should just put a bed in his office because he’s never at home.
Can I be so bold as to ask, what’s going on with your world of work? Is your life of work balanced appropriately? Do spiritual and relational commitments suffer because of your job? Could it be that you’re asking work to do for you what it cannot do? How often do you feel torn between the demands of work and the responsibilities of family?

Work and the Limits of Time
People often propose that workaholics have a “priorities” problem, and while I understand that, I don’t find that critique specific or deep enough. Often people are counseled to list their priorities from top to bottom, and making such a list may be helpful for gaining insight, but it simply doesn’t lead to a solution. Let me suggest two reasons why.
First, none of us lives “listologically.” By that I mean that you don’t list your priorities and then get up every day and start at the top of the list again. Everything on the list is important in some way, and nothing on the list can be responsibly ignored. Your life is simply not a list of priorities but rather the coming together of three inescapable dimensions of calling. You are called to relationships, you are called to work, and you are called to God. Each of these is a significant expression of how God calls every one of us to live. In a way, none of them is more important than the other since each exists because of divine calling. So rather than a list, you have three intersecting, overlapping domains of godly living: the social domain, the labor domain, and the spiritual domain (although everything is spiritual). Think of these as a triad of overlapping circles, where each circle connects with the other two.
Yet you have a limited amount of time to devote to these domains—24 hours in a day, 7 days in a week, 30 days in a month, and 365 days in a year. So if one activity expands over a longer span of time, it can only expand because you have contracted the duration of another activity. Almost no one says, “Work is a greater priority to me than family, so I am going to put family lower on my list.” Rather, the demands of work gradually begin to gobble up more and more of my time, and as they do, because I don’t have limitless time, I am left with less time for my family. Few believers would say that work is more important than their relationships with God and his people, but their life of work expands to the point where they have little time left to do anything but casually attend the church to which they once committed themselves. It is impossible for one area of my calling to expand without it causing other areas of equally important calling to contract. So it’s important to ask not what your priorities are but if your world of work has expanded to the point that it has caused a harmful contraction of your time with your family and your pursuit of God? This seems to me to be a much more helpful way of thinking about the schedule tensions that so many of us experience when it comes to work, family, and church.
Second, listing your priorities doesn’t get at causality. The question we need to ask and answer is, why are so many of us closet workaholics? Why are so many of us so driven when it comes to our careers? Why are so many of us working to the detriment of family and church? Why do so many successful Christians carry around with them marital and parental guilt? Why is it so hard for us to keep work in its proper, God-designed place?

Work and Identity
I want to say what I have said again and again in this book, but in a different way. I don’t think that the workaholics among us have first a priorities or a schedule problem; I think that they have an awe problem, which results in a relationally and spiritually detrimental schedule problem. Only awe of God is capable of keeping work in its rightful place. Let me explain.
I want to repeat something I said earlier in this book because it is central to what we are talking about right now. In this book, we have focused on a theology of awe, and here’s how that theology relates to you. Good theology doesn’t just define who God is; it also defines who we are as his children. It’s not just that God is in every way awesome in glory, but that he is all that he is for you by grace! God’s awesome glory has been showered down on you and me by grace. He is awesome in power for us. He is awesome in sovereignty for us. He is awesome in mercy for us. He is awesome in wisdom for us. He is awesome in love for us. He is awesome in holiness for us. He is awesome in patience for us. He is awesome in faithfulness for us. He is awesome in grace for us. What he is, he is for us!
So the grace that has connected me to him has also freed me from looking for identity anywhere else. I am what I am because of who he is for me by grace. In his awesome glory, I really do find everything I need. I do not have to look elsewhere for the spiritual resources I need for living. I do not have to hunt elsewhere for meaning and purpose for my life. I do not have to look elsewhere to define who I am. I do not have to look elsewhere to measure my potential. I do not have to look elsewhere to find that inner sense of peace and well-being. Why? Because I have found all those things in him. Awe of him liberates me from a life-distorting bondage to awe of anything else. Remember, you and I tend to be in awe of what we are convinced will give us life (identity, meaning, purpose, pleasure, etc.).
So awe amnesia will leave you with an identity vacuum that you will fill with something in your life. If you forget who God is (i.e., you misdirect your awe), you will not know who you are as his child (i.e., you will lose your identity), and you will look horizontally for what you have already been given vertically. Now here’s the application to the topic of this chapter: because work is such a huge and significant dimension of our lives, it becomes very tempting for us to look for our identity there. And when you look to work for your identity, you will find it very hard to resist its challenges, demands, and promises of reward.

The Horizontal Identities of Work

  1. Identity in achievement/success. “I am what I have accomplished” is a very tempting place to look for identity. Success makes you feel able and competent. A trail of achievement seems to make a statement about who you are and what you are able to do. We generally celebrate successful people as our personal and cultural heroes. We tend to see success as always a good thing. But when success becomes your personal savior—that is, the place where you are looking for life—it becomes very hard to harness your drive for it. If you look to achievement to feel good about your life, to feel secure, or to have a life of meaning and purpose, then you will be dissatisfied with today’s success. The buzz of today’s success will fade, and you’ll need the next success to keep you going and another success to follow it. You will be looking incessantly for the next mountain to conquer. Without realizing it, success will have morphed from something you enjoyed to something you cannot live without. Your heart that once desired success will now become ruled by it. Because of this, you will tend to go where success leads you, willing to invest whatever time, energy, and relationships you need to invest to get it.
    Here’s where it all gets dangerous. Here’s where you begin to steal time away from your family, spiritual, and church commitments to get another step closer to the success that now rules your heart. I have spent lots of time with guilt-ridden absentee mothers and fathers who were driven by success and are now looking back with a huge burden of regret. I have talked with many men who sacrificed their marriages on the altar of success. I have talked with many people who still call themselves Christians but have an occasional Sunday-morning relationship with their faith because they worshiped every day at the throne of another god called achievement. Only when awe of God has redefined you as his child and given you a lasting and secure identity will you be able to keep something like a natural hunger for success in its proper place.
  2. Identity in power/control. “I am in control; therefore, I am” is a seductive place to look for identity. In a world where most of us have so little control and where our lives often seem out of control, control is a very powerful thing. In a world where most of us have a variety of people who tell us what to do every day, it is intoxicating to be the person in power, the one doing the commanding. In a world where you rarely know what is coming around the corner, it is tempting to see the “good life” as predictable and controlled. So how do you assure yourself that you will have the good life? The answer is easy: by working yourself into a position of power over people and things.
    But identity in self-sovereignty is a dangerous thing. A wife finds no comfort in being ruled by a power-hungry, controlling husband. What she really wants is a husband who loves her. She will be comfortable in his leadership if it is an expression of servant love. Children aren’t drawn to a dad who gives more rules than affection. They don’t find comfort in a father who is demanding, critical, or always needing to be right because he always needs to be in control. The children of this kind of dad don’t feel loved; they feel used. They feel that what their father does is done for him, not for their good. Workers never develop an appreciative loyalty toward a power-hungry boss. They will resent his constant, success-driven demands. They will hate the fact that no achievement is ever enough. No pastor is ever thankful to have a power-hungry, controlling, success-driven person as a member of his leadership team. That person will always end up creating needless conflict and division.
    People who have attached their identity to success always leave a trail of personal and spiritual carnage behind them. On the contrary, awe of God teaches me that my life is under perfect control and that One of inestimable power rules all the things that I would otherwise want to rule in order to feel secure. Power and control are miserable places to find identity, yet since my life of work is a place to establish power and control, it is very hard not to work more than I should just to get them.
  3. Identity in affluence/possessions. “I am the size of the pile of stuff I have accumulated” is a dangerous place to look for identity. What are the cultural markers of success and, therefore, the markers of identity? When we picture the successful person, don’t we think of the big, beautiful house (lavishly furnished, of course), the luxury cars (you’ve got to have more than one), the expensive wardrobe, and the fine watches and jewelry? These are the images of success that the media puts before us every day. And because we are physical people living in a physical world, and because God has given us the capacity to recognize and enjoy beauty, it is tempting to identify the “good life” as a life filled with beautiful things. Now again, the desire for beautiful things is not evil in itself. In fact, when I appreciate beauty, I mirror the Creator, whose artistic hand is the source of everything beautiful. I am designed to appreciate beautiful things, but I must not attach my identity to how many of those things I possess, and I must not let my heart be ruled by them.
    If you’ve attached your identity to material possessions and physical affluence, you will spend the bulk of your waking hours seeking to gain them, maintain them, use them, enjoy them, and keep them. And because you are constantly working to increase and maintain your pile of stuff, other areas of your life will suffer. You may have a beautiful house, but you will never have time to enjoy it, and your family will generally dwell there without you. You may have an amazing car, but that car will seldom transport you to your church to participate in its many ministries, because you just won’t have the time. You will tend to live in debt, because your desire for the next thing will always exceed the size of your paycheck. Looking to physical possessions to give you identity is potentially destructive. Only when you are living in awe of the One who created and owns everything will you be able to rest as his child in the knowledge that he will faithfully provide every good thing that you need. And only when your heart is satisfied in him can you be freed from looking for spiritual satisfaction in the fleeting pleasures of the physical world. When you’re satisfied in him, you will be liberated from working constantly in order to possess more of what you hope will give you identity.

Universal Temptations
It’s important to humbly admit that all these things tempt us. I know they tempt me. I tend to be driven and tend to take too much personal credit for my achievements. I forget that every achievement points to God’s awesome glory. I could not achieve anything without the body that he has given me, the gifts he has bestowed upon me, the control he has over me and my world, and the grace that daily rescues me from me. My successes should depend on my awe of him rather than tempting me to be in awe of me.
I wish I could say that I don’t like power or don’t enjoy being in control. I wish I could say that I don’t need to be right or have the last word. I wish I could say that I am okay when my life is chaotic, when unexpected things enter my door, or when control over a situation is ripped out of my hands. I wish I could say that I never wonder what God is doing and always trust him when life makes no sense. I wish I could say that I find more joy in being a servant than in being the decision maker. I wish self-sacrificing love was always a greater treasure to me than ruling the day and having my say. I wish I could say all these things, but I can’t. As I near the end of this book, I am deeply aware that all the battles of awe described in it rage on in my heart. I become an awe amnesiac, and when I do, I tend to work way too hard at trying to get from the people, situations, and things around me what I can only get from the God of awesome glory, who is my Savior.
I would like to think that I have set the world of physical things in its proper place, but that is not always the case. There are still times when I eat too much, spend too much, covet what someone else has, or wish that I made more so I could spend more on what my eyes are able to see and my heart is tempted to crave. Yes, I am a lot better at saying no to myself than I once was. And I know that it never works to look for spiritual heart satisfaction in physical things. But the temptation remains, and my heart is still susceptible to it.
As I have stated before, my problem is not that I live in a world awash in physical beauty. My problem is not that I have been wired to recognize and delight in that beauty. No, my problem is that when my heart is not taking in and being satisfied by the awesome beauty of my Lord, I will look for beauty elsewhere to satisfy me. Remember, every beautiful physical thing has been designed by God to point you to the incomparable beauty found in him. You see, when I don’t let awe of God give my heart rest and define me as his child, I will seek identity in things like success and achievement, power and control, and possessions and affluence, and I will work like crazy to get them, leaving a trail of relational and spiritual destruction behind me.
Workaholism is not a need problem. It’s not a schedule problem, a gift problem, or an opportunity problem. It happens when the awe of God is replaced by the awe of something else. When I forget that God in all his awesome glory is all that he is for me by grace, I will look for life somewhere other than in him.

What the Awe of God Teaches You about Your Work
When you require yourself to gaze upon and consider God’s awesome glory, it will teach you things that will help you put your work in its proper place.

  1. The gifts that you employ in your work come from and belong to God. Work is not about applying your abilities to achieve the life you have always dreamed of. Such an approach to work is scarily self-focused. Awe of God teaches you that work is the regular place where God calls you to be a good steward of the gifts, opportunities, and abilities he has given you. Since God has given you these gifts, you need to exercise them in submission to his will and for the sake of his glory. So how can you use these gifts in your work in a way that recognizes God as the giver and submits to the commands, values, and principles of his Word?
  2. The time that you invest in work belongs to the Lord. I must recognize that God, in his awesome glory, is the only being in the universe who exists in timelessness. He has created me to live in and for a certain time and place. I must do all he has called me to do within the limits of the time he has given me. Since my time belongs to him, I have to live with the awareness that if my world of work expands, it will expand into the space already occupied by other things to which God has called me. I must then be careful to invest my time in a way that recognizes him and submits to all he has called me to do.
  3. You are called to live for something bigger than yourself. Awe of God teaches me that my life is enormously bigger than merely my life. By grace, God has connected me to things that are huge and eternal. I am not at the center of things. What I want should not be the principal motivator of what I do and how I spend my time. The choices and investment I make in my world of work must always submit to the reality that I have been called to the building of a kingdom that is not my own. Success is not about how well I’ve been able to build my own little kingdom but about the degree to which I’ve done all I’ve done in the service of a greater King.
  4. Success is not about accruing power but about resting in God’s power. The most successful person is the person who knows his place. The most successful person is the person who humbly submits all that she has and all that she does to the power of One greater than her. Success is not about using my world of work to create personal power and control. Success is about recognizing God’s control and using my gifts for his purpose, accepting the power that comes my way as a stewardship from him. Success also means recognizing that whatever power I have is not independent power to use however I wish to use it. All human power is representative power. God grants me this power and calls me to use it in a way that is consistent with values that he makes clear in his Word.
  5. God is too wise and loving ever to call you to one area of responsibility that will necessitate you being irresponsible in another. Awe teaches me that I can never blame God for the consequences of my bad choices. God will never call me to a work life that makes biblical commitments to my family and my church impossible. If it seems impossible for me to balance my life of work with doing what God calls me to do in my family and church life, I am in the situation not because God’s calls are unmanageable but because I am seeking to get things out of work that I should not. And when I do that, I will work too much and too long, and other places in my life will suffer.
  6. By grace, God welcomes you to rest in the knowledge that you will find everything you need in him. Awe of God teaches me that, by grace, my life of work can now be an expression of rest and not worry. Rather than your life of work being driven by “I’ve got to have _,” it can now be shaped by “Look at the amazing things I have been given.” Rather than work being driven by anxious need, it can now be shaped by worshipful gratitude. Yes, you are committed to work because God calls you to labor, but as you work, you can rest in his covenantal commitment to meet every one of your needs.
    Many of our work lives are out of whack, so it is important for us to remember that this is not a priorities problem but an awe problem. Celebrate that you are not in this battle by yourself. In fact, God continues to battle for us even when we don’t have the sense to battle for ourselves. His grace is just that awesome.

EPILOGUE

If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.

C. S. LEWIS12

It’s deep in the heart of every human being. It wanders around in your soul, waiting to be satisfied. It is everyone’s quest and, in this life, no one’s destination. The way you deal with it will set the course of your personal narrative. Every human being will only ever find one place of rest, one location of final fulfillment. There and there alone will the journey end, the war be over, and our hearts be given the rest they always wanted but never fully had.
When that time comes, we will get it right. Then we will be completely full, never to hunger again. Then we will experience what we have longed for at times and in ways that we didn’t even know we were longing. Then we will be happy—no, not with the temporary physical, emotional, relational, or situational happiness that fades like morning fog. Then we will be happy in a deeply contented happiness of heart, a kind of joyful contentment of soul unlike anything we have ever known before.
We will no longer be haunted by ghosts of “what ifs” and “if onlys.” Then we will not wish for what others have or lament what we have missed. Then we will no longer try to satisfy spiritual hunger with physical food. Then we will be freed from trying to calm internal restlessness with things that cause us trouble and only deepen our longing. Then we will know what we have never known before, and we will celebrate that knowledge forever.
Impressed upon my mind as I have come to the end of this book is that I have failed to state explicitly one thing that would leave this book tragically incomplete. It is a glaring and significant omission. Here it is: awe is a longing. Perhaps that doesn’t seem too thunderous to you, but it is. The capacity for awe that God has given us fundamentally explains the endless variety of human dissatisfactions. Between the “already” of our conversion and the “not yet” of eternity, we are granted greater satisfaction, but our hearts are not at rest; the war still goes on, and we crave more.
If awe is a longing, then embedded in that longing is the cry for a destination. And if awe requires a destination, then every moment of awe in this life merely prepares us for the incalculable awe that is to come. You just can’t write a book about awe and not talk about eternity. Perhaps we can find no more real and present argument for heaven than the angst that we all carry in the face of the temporary and dissatisfying awes of the present. Whether we know it or not, the awe of every human being—that desire to be amazed, blown away, moved, and satisfied—is actually a universal craving to see God face-to-face. All the awesome things in creation point me to the awesome God who created and holds them together, and his presence is the destination where my hunger will finally be satisfied. God designed this present world to stimulate awe so we would hunger for another world. On the other side, we won’t need the fingers of creation pointing us to God’s awesome glory because we will see that glory face-to-face and dwell in the light and heat of its sun forever and ever. We will finally stand in the actual presence of God, and we will bask in heart-satisfied awe, never to long again.
It is impossible to characterize how deep and expansive our delight in him will be. It is hard to find words that do justice to how completely satisfied we will be. Our hearts will finally have what they have always searched for, and our celebration will never end.
Yes, it is true; your capacity for awe is a longing for another world. It’s a craving for what this fallen world will never give you. The awe capacity of your heart cries out every day to be enveloped by the glory of God, freed from the seductive voices of competing glories. The quest for awe is a cry for the heaven that God has guaranteed for every one of his blood-purchased children.
Awe is a longing for a place where your hunger will be satisfied. Jesus has paid for and prepared that place for you. There is no greater grace than to be invited into the presence of such glory. There is no greater grace than to have your fickle heart forgiven and finally satisfied forever and ever. Amen.

The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price. . . . He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! (Rev. 22:17, 20)

NOTES

 1. Keith and Kristyn Getty, “Don’t Let Me Lose My Wonder,” on In Christ Alone, Getty Music, Koch Records, 2007, compact disc.
 2. Albert Einstein et al., Living Philosophies (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1931), 6.
 3. G. K. Chesterton, Tremendous Trifles (New York: Dodd, Mead and Company, 1910), 7.
 4. John Calvin, Sermon No. 10 on 1 Corinthians, quoted in William J. Bouwsma, John Calvin: A Sixteenth-Century Portrait (New York: Oxford University Press, 1988), 134–35.
 5. Bernice Johnson Reagon, “The Songs Are Free,” interview by Bill Moyers, PBS, 1991, transcript excerpt published online November 23, 2007, http://www.pbs.org/moyers/journal/11232007/transcript2.html.
 6. G. K. Chesterton, A Short History of England (New York: John Lane Company, 1917), 72.
 7. Jonathan Swift, “Thoughts on Various Subjects,” in The Works of Dr. Jonathan Swift (Edinburgh: A. Donaldson, 1761), 8:301.
 8. Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, Deluxe Christian Classics (Uhrichsville, OH: Barbour, 2000), 59.
 9. John Piper, A Hunger for God: Desiring God through Fasting and Prayer (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2013), 25–26.

  1. Paul David Tripp, New Morning Mercies: A Daily Gospel Devotional (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2014), Nov. 10 entry.
  2. C. S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1996), 47.
  3. C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1996), 121.

GENERAL INDEX

achievement, and identity, 173–74
Adam and Eve: AWN of, 27–28, 54–55; disobedience of, 82–85
addiction, 60–61, 113, 126, 142
admonishing, 153
adultery, 45, 87–88; spiritual adultery, 81, 85–88
affluence, and identity, 176–77
“already” and “not yet,” and the journey between them, 25–26, 44–45, 91, 113, 120–21, 127, 138, 184
“American dream,” the, and Christianity, 150
anger, 19–20, 57, 72–73, 91, 126, 151–52
anxiety, 50, 113, 139, 141
atheism, of Christians, 137, 138
autonomy, lie of, 161
awe: horizontal awe, 21, 49, 60, 155; as a longing for eternity, 184–85; remembrance awe, 114–15; vertical awe, 21, 60, 69, 99, 109, 155; what awe does, 90–91; worship awe, 115. See also awe, helicopter view of
awe, helicopter view of: awe is everyone’s lifelong pursuit, 17–18; awe stimulates the greatest joys and deepest sorrows in us all, 19–20; awesome stuff never satisfies, 21; every created awe is meant to point you to the Creator, 20–21; God created an awesome world, 18; God created you with an awe capacity, 18–19; misplaced awe keeps us perennially dissatisfied, 20; where you look for awe will shape the direction of your life, 19
awe amnesia, 31, 44–45, 51, 60, 61, 65, 88, 91, 173, 177. See also blind amnesia
awe capacity, 18–19, 25–26, 154–55
awe problems: adultery, 45, 87–88; control, 32, 45, 71, 103, 141–42, 174–75; debt, 45, 113, 143, 176; fear of man, 45, 50, 143; gluttony, 45; materialism, 19, 26, 45, 107–8, 112–13, 143, 176–77; obesity, 45, 113; power, 45, 51, 174–75. See also awe problems, principles of
awe problems, principles of: awe amnesia always leads to awe replacement, 60; only grace can give us back our awe of God again, 61–64; we quickly replace awe of God with awe of self, 61; we replace vertical awe with horizontal addiction, 60–61; your emotional life is always a window into what has captured your awe, 59–60
awe replacement, 26, 29–30, 45, 48, 53–56, 60, 61, 63, 84, 100, 122, 125; and replacement angst, 56–59; the role of awe amnesia in, 60, 61, 91
awe wrongedness (AWN), biblical theme of, 26–39 passim, 62–63; Adam and Eve, 27–28; AWN as attributing to something in physical creation what only God could do, 31; AWN as the root of every horrible act of man’s inhumanity, 36–37, 62; AWN as why Jesus had to come, 39, 63–64; the book of Judges, 35; Cain, 29; the core of AWN, 33; the disciples, 37; Herod, 36; Israel’s refusal to face Goliath in battle, 31–32; Israel’s leaders, 35–36; Israel’s replacement of God with the golden calf, 30–31; Moses, 30; Nebuchadnezzar, 32–34; Saul, 34–35; summary of AWN and its results in Romans 1, 37–38
awelessness. See awe, vertical awe

Bible, the, study of, 152–53
blind amnesia, 68–69. See also blind amnesia, symptoms of
blind amnesia, symptoms of: anger, 19–20, 57, 72–73, 91, 126, 151–52; control, 32, 45, 71, 103, 141–42, 174–75; discontent, 70; doubt, 75, 102; drivenness, 74; entitlement, 69–70, 128; envy, 58, 73–74, 110, 126; exhaustion, 74–75; fear, 32, 48, 58, 72, 103, 104; relational dysfunction, 70–71; self-centeredness, 69; spiritual coldness, 75

Cain, AWN of in his act of worship and murder of Abel, 29
Calvin, John, 65
Chambers, Oswald, 119
Chesterton, G. K., 53, 95
children: embracing of the lie of autonomy and the lie of self-sufficiency, 161–62; God’s employment of the law to help them see how spiritually needy they are, 162; heart problem of, 160–61
Christian ministry lifestyle, commitment to: be a committed student of God’s Word, 152–53; look for ministry opportunities (teaching and admonishing moments), 153; recognize that your life no longer belongs to you, 154–56; rest in the peace of the gospel, 152; take your local-church relationships seriously, 151–52
churches: and attachment of Christianity to the “American dream,” 150; and Christian atheism, 137, 138; and Christian consumerism and spiritual shoppers, 148–50; and lack of believers’ personal commitment to ministry, 150; and “pubship,” 149–50
complaining, 56–57, 95–96, 128; as antipraise, 98; as awelessness verbalized, 98–99; Israel’s complaining in the wilderness, 96–99; why we complain, 96, 105. See also complaining, and five questions that steal your hope
complaining, and five questions that steal your hope, 99–100: does God care about me? 104–5; does God have the needed power? 103–4; is God in control? 102–3; is God good? 100–101; will God do what he promised? 101–2
compromise, of ideals, 51
confession, 76–77, 156; of Nebuchadnezzar, 34
conflict, 128
contentment, 70, 106
control, 32, 45, 71, 103, 141–42; and identity, 174–75
courage, 49, 72, 101, 104
creation. See world, the

Daniel, book of: central theme in (God’s sovereignty), 32–33; the contrast between the central theme of the book and the story of Nebuchadnezzar in, 33–34
David, correct spiritual assessment of the battle with Goliath of, 31–32
debt, 45, 113, 143, 176
denial, 32, 104
depression, 57–58, 142–43
disappointment, 57
disciples (of Jesus): AWN of, 37; inaccurate view of God of, 138
discontent, 70
disobedience, 80–81, 91; of Adam and Eve, 82–85; as spiritual adultery, 81, 85–88
dissatisfaction, 16, 20, 144
dissension, 126
doubt, 75, 102
drivenness, 74

emotions, 19–20, 59–60
enmity, 126
entitlement, 69–70, 128
envy, 58, 73–74, 110, 126
eternity, 183–85
excusing, 104
exhaustion, 74–75

fall, the. See Adam and Eve
fear, 32, 48, 58, 72, 103, 104; fear of God, 48, 72; fear of man, 45, 50, 143
flesh (sinful nature), weakness of, 93
fools, 62
fruit of the Spirit, 126–29; as character items that result in a whole catalog of behaviors, 128–29; our lack of an inherent ability to produce these things, 127
frustration, 58

Galatians 5, awe portraits in, 125; portrait #1 (the awe breaker), 125–26; portrait #2, 126–29 (see also fruit of the Spirit)
Getty, Keith, 11
Getty, Kristyn, 11
Gideon, inaccurate view of God of, 138
gluttony, 45
God: care of, 104–5; as a dimension of one’s calling, 171; forgiveness of, 123; glory of, 30, 35, 50, 51–52, 66–67, 138, 142, 144; goodness of, 100–101; grace of, 26, 39, 52, 61–64, 81, 82, 91, 102, 106, 113–14, 117, 123, 123–24, 127, 129, 144, 168, 172–73, 180–81, 185; indictment of humanity in Genesis 6:5–6, 29–30; power of, 103–4; promises of, 101–2, 121; sovereignty of, 32–33, 34, 71, 102–3, 144; as Wisdom, 85
gospel, the, 127; resting in the peace of the gospel, 152
gratitude, 106, 128

“here’s your God” worldview (Isaiah 40), 131–35, 136–40; addressing of Christians who remember God as small, distant, disconnected, uncaring, and seemingly unwise, 137–38; confronting of any worldview that doesn’t place God in the middle of it, 136–37; and one-drawer living, 138–39; as the only worldview that has eternal hope embedded in it, 140
Herod, jealous act of infanticide of, 36
hiding, 104
Holy Spirit, 124, 128–29. See also fruit of the Spirit; sanctification
hope, 49, 104, 105. See also hope, and five questions that steal your hope
hope, and five questions that steal your hope, 99–100: does God care about me? 104–5; does God have the needed power? 103–4; is God in control? 102–3; is God good? 100–101; will God do what he promised? 101–2
hopelessness, 59, 142–43
humility, 49
hurt feelings, 57

Israel: Amos’s description of the AWN of Israel’s leaders, 35–36; as the chosen children of God, 97; complaining of in the wilderness, 96–99; fear of facing Goliath in battle, 31–32; inaccurate view of God of, 138; and the Mosaic law, 80; replacement of God with the golden calf by, 30–31

jealousy, 126
Jesus, 26; our need for Jesus as our Redeemer, 39, 62, 63–64, 77, 92–93, 127, 168
joy, 106, 128
Judges, book of, AWN cycle in, 35
justification, 120–21; the reconciliation of justification, 124

law, the, 80; as a concrete expression of God’s love, 80; powerlessness of, 63, 92; purpose of, 63, 92, 162; what produces a law problem (an awe problem), 81, 84, 91. See also Ten Commandments, the
leadership culture, in the twenty-first century, and AWN, 36
Lewis, C. S., 183
lies: the lie of autonomy, 161; the lie of self-sufficiency, 161–62; Satan’s use of lies in Eden, 54, 162
life: everyone is searching for life, 109; material things are a miserable place to look for life, 110–11; material things can never give you life, 115–17; you will be in awe of what you think will give you life, 109–10
loners, 58–59
Lord’s Prayer, the, 46–47; as an “awe prayer,” 46; as following the right order for prayer, 47
love, 127–28

material things, God’s purpose for: material things are for your pleasure, 111–14; material things are for your remembrance, 114–15; material things are for your sustenance, 111; material things can never give you life, 115–17
materialism, 19, 26, 45, 107–8, 112–13, 143; and identity, 19, 176–77. See also materialism, and the spiritual dynamics of our struggle with material things
materialism, and the spiritual dynamics of our struggle with material things: everyone is searching for life, 109; material things are a miserable place to look for life, 110–11; you will be in awe of what you think will give you life, 109–10
ministry, and the awe of God as personal protection, 47–52; awe of God is the only lens through which we can see ministry successes and hardships accurately, 50–51; the big bad danger that lurks in the shadows of the life of every ministry person is familiarity, 51–52; in ministry you are supposed to feel small, weak, and unable, 48–49; ministry is meant to be something bigger than completing a list of tasks, 49–50; the spiritual warfare of ministry is all about awe, 50; your ministry is supposed to be shaped by the fear of God, 48; your ministry lifestyle always reveals what has captured your awe, 51
ministry, bad agendas for, 41–42
ministry, grand agenda for (Psalm 145), 42–47; goal of (“one generation shall commend your works to another,” v. 4), 44; and the intentional inspiration of awe, 46; the Lord’s Prayer as a model, 46–47
Moses: fear of, 30; inaccurate view of God of, 138

Nebuchadnezzar, AWN of, 32–34; and God’s deliverance, 34; and Nebuchadnezzar’s confession, 34

obedience, 81–82; as growing in the soil of worship, 89
obesity, 45, 113

parenting with the big picture, 160–68; parents as representatives of the authority of God on earth in the lives of their children, 46, 166–67; and the recognition that children come into the world embracing the lie of autonomy and the lie of self-sufficiency, 161–62; and the recognition that children have not just a behavior problem but a heart problem, 160–61, 162, 162–63; and the recognition that God employs the law to help children see how spiritually needy they are, 162; and talking about God every day to children, 163–65
parenting without the big picture (reactive parenting), 159–60, 166–67; as determined by the emotion or mood of the parents, 160; the insufficiency of a law system as the model for parenting, 162; and leaving children with nothing when they leave home, 160; using God as the ultimate threat, 163
parents/parenting. See parenting with the big picture; parenting without the big picture (reactive parenting)
patience, 128
peace, 101–2, 104, 128; the peace of Christ, 152
Piper, John, 145
power, 45, 51; and identity, 174–75
praise, 98
prayer, and AWN, 47
pride, 26, 49

Reagon, Bernice Johnson, 79
reconciliation, 124; reconciliation of justification, 124; reconciliation of sanctification, 124
relationships: the consequences of a personal-happiness agenda for relationships, 151–52; as a dimension of one’s calling, 171; the qualities God expects believers to nurture in relationships, 151, 152; relational dysfunction, 70–71
respect, of others, 26
rest, 103, 142; resting in God’s covenantal commitment to meet every one of your needs, 180–81; resting in God’s power, 180; resting in the peace of Christ, 152
rivalry, 126
running away, 104

Sabbath, the, 90
sanctification, 121, 123, 129; the reconciliation of sanctification, 124
Saul, disobedience of, 34–35
self-assuredness, 49
self-centeredness, 69
self-sufficiency, lie of, 161–62
sexual immorality, 123. See also adultery
sin, 26, 55–56, 62, 112, 124, 126; what sin does (makes us all lawbreakers and awe breakers), 121–23, 126
spiritual adultery, 81, 85–88
spiritual blindness, 164, 165
spiritual coldness, 75
spiritual growth. See sanctification
strife, 126
success: and identity, 173–74; as not about accruing power but about resting in God’s power, 180
Swift, Jonathan, 107

teaching, 153
temptation, 55, 84, 85; universal temptations, 177–78
Ten Commandments, the, 88–91; essential order of, 89; the fourth commandment as a gift of grace, 90
theology: influence of on our daily living, 99–100; as a lens through which you examine life, 99; purpose of, 92
timidity, 104
“total involvement paradigm,” 151
transgression. See disobedience
“two-drawer” living, 135–36, 138–39; as more natural to us, 139–40; the real-life drawer, 135, 139; the spiritual-life drawer, 135–36, 139. See also “two-drawer” living, signs of
“two-drawer” living, signs of, 140–41; addiction, 60–61, 113, 126, 142; anxiety, 50, 113, 139, 141; control, 32, 45, 71, 103, 141–42, 174–75; debt, 45, 113, 143, 176; depression, 57–58, 142–43; dissatisfaction, 16, 20, 144; fear of man, 45, 50, 143; workaholism, 51, 143–44, 170–71, 178

vengeance, 59

wisdom: autonomous wisdom, 85; God as Wisdom, 85
work: as a dimension of one’s calling, 171; and identity, 172–73; and the limits of time, 170–72; and universal temptations, 177–78. See also work, horizontal identities of; work, what the awe of God teaches you about it
work, horizontal identities of: identity in achievement/success, 173–74; identity in affluence/possessions, 176–77; identity in power/control, 174–75
work, what the awe of God teaches you about it: by grace, God welcomes you to rest in the knowledge that you will find everything you need in him, 180–81; the gifts that you employ in your work come from and belong to God, 179; God is too wise and loving ever to call you to one area of responsibility that will necessitate you being irresponsible in another, 180; success is not about accruing power but about resting in God’s power, 180; the time that you invest in work belongs to God, 179; you are called to live for something bigger than yourself, 179
workaholism, 51, 143–44, 170–71, 178
world, the: as awesome, 18, 20–21; as designed to point us to God, 20–21, 114–15, 163; as a gloryscape, 66–67, 76, 163, 164–65; as God’s good gift to us, 111; as mnemonic, 67–68, 76; as pleasurable, 111–12; the proper relationship to the physical world, 111; as a reminder of God, 114
worry, 32, 113
worship, 75; AWN in acts of worship, 29; in the first four commandments, 89–90; and reservation of the Sabbath to God, 90; worship awe, 90–91, 113

SCRIPTURE INDEX

Genesis
 
3:1–7
27
3:1–13
83
3:5–6
55
3:6
84
3:8
83
4:1–16
29
6:6–5
29
Exodus
 
3
30
4
30
15:11
131
20:1–17
89
32:4
31
Deuteronomy
 
1:19–36
96–97
1:27
98
1 Samuel
 
15
34
15:23
34
17
31
17:10
31
17:37
32
Psalms
 
14
62
19
114
19:1–4
67
33:8
169
145
42–44, 164
145:4
44
145:5
25
Isaiah
 
6:3
67
40
131–34, 136–40, 141, 144
55:1–9
116
55:2
116
Ezekiel
 
16:8b–18
85–86
16:23–29
85–86
16:33–34
85–86
Daniel
 
3–4
33
4:30
33
4:34b–35
34
Amos
 
4:4–6
35
Matthew
 
2:16
36
6
141
6:19–33
112
Mark
 
8:36
23
9:30–37
37
Luke
 
6:43–45
161
Acts
 
17:24–28
71
Romans
 
1
114
1:18–32
37–38
1:19
67
1:20
67
1:25
54
8:3
92
12:2
123
2 Corinthians
 
5:15
56, 122, 129
5:20
124
Galatians
 
5
125
5:16–17
124
5:19–21
125
5:22–24
127
5:24
129
Colossians
 
3:1–2
148
3:2
154
3:12–14
151
3:12–17
145, 147, 148
3:15
152
3:16
153
3:17
152–53, 154
Revelation
 
22:17
185
22:20
185

For more information, visit crossway.org or paultripp.com

Tripp, P. D. (2015). Awe: why it matters for everything we think, say, and do. Wheaton, IL: Crossway.

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Look at the book- study guide

Look at the Book Labs via LAD Rosary

John Piper

Desiring God
2014–2015

Study guide, Look at the books lab- LAD Rosary
Covenant of the rainbow

2 Chronicles 16:8–9

The Eyes of the Lord

September 23, 2014
by John Piper
Scripture: 2 Chronicles 16:8–9
Topic: The Love of God

Principle for Bible Reading

Look for promises in Scripture that rest in the never-changing character of God, and therefore are true for his people throughout all of history, even for us today. God gives us a broader, general principle about himself and his ways using a specific event in biblical history.

Outline

Introduction/Prayer (00:00–00:42)

Observations (00:42–07:15)

1.      Asa king of Judah relied on the king of Syria, and not on God (2 Chronicles 16:7).
2.      Therefore, Judah lost the battle with Syria (2 Chronicles 16:7).
3.      And because of their lack of faith, from now on, Judah will suffer wars (2 Chronicles 16:9).
4.      We should rely on God, and not man, because God is searching for opportunities to help those whose hearts are wholly trusting in him (2 Chronicles 16:9).

Application (07:15–08:54)

What kind of God is our God?

1.      Our God is not needy; He is strong.
2.      Our God is not passive or hesitant; He’s aggressively pursuing us with goodness and mercy.
3.      Our God is not limited; He’s everywhere, and he’s eager and ready to help anyone wholly trusting in him.

Study Questions

1.      Based on these verses, why did Syria escape Judah?


2.      What specific things do you learn about God from 2 Chronicles 16:8–9?


3.      Based on these verses, why does the promise of 2 Chronicles 16:9 apply to all of us?

Related Resources

•      When God Works for You (four-minute video)
•      When Should I Stop Praying for Something? (interview)
•      Regeneration, Faith, Love: In That Order (sermon on 2 Chronicles 16)

Psalm 50:8–15

God Does Not Need You

May 14, 2015
by John Piper
Scripture: Psalm 116:12–14 and Psalm 50:8–15
Topic: The Sovereignty of God
Series: The Uniqueness of God

Principle for Bible Reading

Why did God make human beings? Was it because he needed something that he didn’t already have? This series of labs asks what sets our God apart from all others. In this lab, John Piper asks how we can ever repay God for all he’s done for us.

Outline

Introduction/Prayer (00:00–01:18)

Selfish Sacrifices of Praise (01:18–03:31)

1.      Virtually all gods required sacrifices, including the God of the Old Testament.
2.      God commanded burnt offerings, and Israel was offering them (Psalm 50:8), but God was not pleased with their sacrifices. (Psalm 50:9)
3.      Israel was offering their sacrifices in a way that suggested God needed their sacrifices, as if God depended on them. (Psalm 50:12–13)

Our Giving Is Always Getting (03:31–06:45)

1.      We are fundamentally receivers. In our relationship with God, we are always the recipients, even when we make an offering to him. We’re not meeting any need of God’s. (Psalm 50:14)
2.      Therefore, relate to God, even in your offerings to God, as recipients. Do not give in a way that says God needs your gifts. (Psalm 50:14)
3.      We do this by calling upon God, and allowing him to deliver us, and by allowing him to get all the glory. (Psalm 50:15)

Lift Up the Cup Again (Psalm 116:12–14) (06:45–09:35)

1.      The question is how we will repay God for everything he has done for us. (Psalm 116:12)
2.      As we lift our cup, we are not just toasting God, but asking him for more. (Psalm 116:13)
3.      Of course we serve the Lord (Psalm 116:14, but even in our serving, we are crying out for more of him and his help. (Psalm 116:13)

Study Questions

1.      Read Psalm 50:8–15. What problem does God have with Israel’s worship?


2.      Explain the difference between the kind of sacrifice described in Psalm 50:8–13 and the kind described in Psalm 50:13–14.


3.      Now, look at Psalm 116:12–14. What do we render back to God for all that he’s given us? What does it mean to lift the cup up again?

Related Resources

•      Praise: The Consummation of Joy (article)
•      Is God a Needy Vacuum Trying To Suck Praise Out of Us? (interview)
•      Call upon Me in the Day of Trouble and I Will Deliver You (sermon on Psalm 50:1–15)

Psalm 141:1–4, Part 1

Pray for God to Meet You

August 18, 2015
by John Piper
Scripture: Psalm 141:1–4
Topic: Prayer

Principle for Bible Reading

We learn to pray by reading the prayers in the Bible. This short series will look at David’s prayer in Psalm 141. In the first lab, John Piper asks why we pray for God to come. God is everywhere all the time, so what would it even mean for him to come to you today?

Outline

Introduction/Prayer

O Lord, Hear My Prayer

1.      “Call” appears twice in Psalm 141:1, forming two parallel statements.
2.      The first call asks God to come to him, and the second asks God to hear him. (Psalm 141:1)
3.      The psalmist hopes that God will overcome some distance between them (come to and hear him).

How Does God Come?

1.      God is omnipresent, so what does it mean for him to come to us? (Psalm 141:1)
2.      “Hasten to me” means coming with influence, or intimacy, or power, or help. (Psalm 141:1)
3.      This prayer is a prayer for the manifest presence of God, an experience of his nearness and power. (Psalm 141:1)

A Prayer of Sacrifice

1.      Psalm 141:2 offers a second pair of parallel phrases.
2.      Psalm 141:2 seems to intensify the nature of the prayer by involving the body.
3.      Incense and sacrifice were elements of temple worship in the Old Testament. The psalmist wants his prayer to be pleasing to God like those rituals were. (Psalm 141:2)

Same Prayer, Second Verse

1.      Psalm 141:2 seems to be saying something similar to Psalm 141:1. Both verses are striving through prayer to overcome the distance between God and David.
2.      In verse 1, David asks God to bring his presence to him.
3.      In verse 2, David has come into God’s presence.

Study Questions

1.      David repeats the phrase “I call” in Psalm 141:1. What might he be trying to communicate to God and to us through these parallel statements?


2.      What does it mean for God to come to David (or to us)? Can you think of other texts in the Bible that use the same language?


3.      How does David’s prayer change or progress in Psalm 141:2? What’s new in the second verse?

Related Resources

•      What God Can Do in Five Seconds (article)
•      Prepared Prayers, Impromptu Prayers, Sloppy Prayers (interview)
•      Ask Your Father in Heaven (sermon on Matthew 7:7–12)

Psalm 141:1–4, Part 2

Pray for God to Guard You

August 20, 2015
by John Piper
Scripture: Psalm 141:1–4
Topic: Prayer

Principle for Bible Reading

Prayer is vital for the fight to be more like Jesus. In this lab, John Piper looks at prayer in the Bible that models the pursuit of purity. All of our effort in the pursuit of purity and holiness rests on the power and favor of God to guard us from evil.

Outline

Introduction/Prayer/Recap (00:00–02:56)

Guard My Mouth (02:56–05:24)

1.      What is God guarding David’s mouth from? (Psalm 141:3)
2.      God is not guarding David’s mouth from something coming into it, but from something coming out of it, especially in prayer. (Psalm 141:2)
3.      David does not want to offend God by saying anything envious of the wicked or resentful toward God. (Psalm 141:3)

Guard My Heart (05:24–08:50)

1.      David’s prayer for God to guard him goes deeper down into his heart. (Psalm 141:1)
2.      God governs the inclinations of his heart. (Psalm 141:1)
3.      Prayers ought to be pure in the words we use, but even more importantly in the heart from which it comes. (Psalm 141:4)
4.      All of our deeds are motivated by desires. We want to do the good or bad that we do.
5.      Don’t let the delicacies of the world appear more desirable to me than you are. (Psalm 141:4)

Summary of the Prayer (08:50–10:41)

Study Questions

1.      What would God be guarding David’s heart from in Psalm 141:3?


2.      Based on Psalm 141:4 (and any other passages you can think of in the Psalms), how does David understand the relationship between his heart and his deeds?


3.      David prays that God not allow him to enjoy the delicacies of the wicked. Why would he pray that way in this prayer?

Related Resources

•      Seven Ways to Pray for Your Heart (article)
•      A Prayer to Hold Your Life Together (interview)
•      Prayer and the Victory of God (sermon on Isaiah 37)

Psalm 141:1–4, Part 3

Pray for God to Satisfy You

August 25, 2015
by John Piper
Scripture: Psalm 141:1–4
Topic: Prayer

Principle for Bible Reading

When we ask God to incline our hearts, can he do it? In this third lab, John Piper asks a couple of hard questions about what we pray when we pray. Are we hypocrites to pray for our mouths and behavior even when our hearts fail? We need God to meet us at every level of our lives.

Outline

Introduction/Prayer (00:00–01:08)

A Clarification: The Temple (01:08–02:47)

When John used “temple” in the previous labs in this series, he was referring to the place where God’s presence dwelt before the temple existed (“tent” or “tabernacle” are better terms in this case). The Temple was built by Solomon, David’s son, later on in Israel’s history.

Praying from the Heart (02:47–07:49)

1.      Why does David pray for his mouth if he is praying for his heart? Would not the work God does on his heart make his work on the mouth unnecessary? (Psalm 141:3–4)
2.      David, inspired by the Holy Spirit, is modeling what should happen in our prayers. How he prays is how things are because he’s been inspired by God when he writes.
3.      We should pray for our mouths and our hearts, so that thoughts are stopped at our mouths even if they’ve proceeded from a bad heart. (Psalm 141:3)
4.      The battle should be fought mainly at the level of the heart, but that does not mean we do not make war at the mouth level, as well.
5.      We can fight the battle at both levels (heart and mouth) without being a hypocrite, even when we lose in what we feel and win in what we say.

Do You Incline Your Heart? (07:49–13:00)

1.      Am I in charge of the inclinations of my heart, or is God? (Psalm 141:4)
2.      Based on David’s prayer, we know that God governs our hearts (Psalm 141:4). Otherwise, David would not pray this way.
3.      This does not lessen David’s ability to please or displease God. Even though God governs his heart, he can still please (“incense”) or offend God in what he prays and in how he lives. (Psalm 141:2)
4.      David wants God to govern his heart in the deepest, most intimate way. He invites to do so. (Psalm 141:4)
5.      Prayer is not worthless because God governs all things, but instead it is wise, because it is God who can do all things.

In Jesus’s Name (13:00–14:02)

Study Questions

1.      Why does David pray for his heart and for his mouth? Wouldn’t a changed heart effect the necessary change in his mouth? Why might he still pray for his mouth?


2.      Based on Psalm 141:1–4, who does David believe inclines his heart? What does that mean for our prayers?


3.      Summarize the takeaways for your prayer life from studying David’s prayer in Psalm 141:1–4.

Related Resources

•      How Prayer Glorifies God (article)
•      A Theology of Prayer in Three Minutes (interview)
•      Always Pray and Do Not Lose Heart (sermon on Luke 18:1–8)

Psalm 147:10–11

What Will Please God?

August 13, 2015
by John Piper
Scripture: Psalm 147:10–11 and Isaiah 8:12–14
Topic: The Pleasures of God

Principle for Bible Reading

What kind of heart and faith pleases God? In this lab, John Piper looks at several texts to try and understand what it means for us to fear God. How can we be terrified of God and still find hope in him at the same time?

Outline

Introduction/Prayer (00:00–01:02)

The Good Benefits of Fearing God (01:02–05:22)

1.      The Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him and hope in him. (Psalm 147:11)
2.      But fear and hope do not ordinarily go together in our experience. How can this tension be resolved for the Christian?
3.      God befriends those who fear him, so fear and friendship go together with God. (Psalm 25:14)
4.      God delivers those who fear him, so fear and safety go together with God. (Psalm 34:7)
5.      God loves those who fear him, so fear and love go together with God. (Psalm 103:11)

A Terrifying Sanctuary (05:22–08:23)

1.      God must be our “dread.” (Isaiah 8:12–13)
2.      But if God is your dread, he becomes a sanctuary for you. (Isaiah 8:14)
3.      Dreading God means dreading running away from God. It means fearing the consequences of leaving him.

Follow the Fear of God (08:23–10:54)

1.      God takes great pleasure in those who fear him and hope in him. (Psalm 147:11)
2.      If they start looking away to other things, to other gods, they should fear God and run back to him. (Psalm 147:10)
3.      Fear of God will drive us to trust in God’s steadfast love and not ourselves. (Psalm 147:10)

Study Questions

1.      Based on Psalm 147:10–11, explain what pleases God in your own words.


2.      Read Psalm 25:14, 34:7, and 103:11. What do you learn about the fear of the Lord?


3.      Now read Isaiah 8:12–14. Now how would you describe the relationship between the fear of the Lord and hope in the Lord?

Related Resources

•      Your Joy Rests on Jesus’s Righteousness (article)
•      Can My Good Works Outweigh My Bad? (interview)
•      The Gentiles Have Obtained Righteousness by Faith (sermon on Romans 9:30–33)

Proverb 22:17–19, Part 1

Enjoy, Apply, and Share

January 28, 2016
by John Piper
Scripture: Proverbs 22:17–19
Topic: Life of the Mind

Proverbs is one of the most ruthlessly practical books in the whole Bible. In this lab, John Piper breaks down several lines, asking what they mean and how they relate to each other. Before getting into one specific example, he makes some observations about the nature and purpose of the Proverbs.

Principle for Bible Reading

In the Bible, and especially in the book of Proverbs, you will get pairs of lines, or even pairs of couplets. Study the relationships between the lines and pairs of lines, looking for any structural observations that might help make sense of the whole.

Study Questions

1.      If Proverbs 22:21 is stating the purpose of the thirty sayings in Proverbs 22:17–24:20, restate that purpose in your own words.


2.      Now, read Proverbs 22:18. How does that verse change or fill out your answer to the first question?


3.      Proverb 22:17 and Proverbs 22:18 are a pair of couplets. Study the relationships between each of the four lines. Why might the author structure these ideas this way?

Introduction/Prayer (00:00–01:29)

Getting Started (01:29–05:26)

•      “Words of the wise” is a title over the passage from Proverbs 22:17–24:20.
•      In this passage (Proverbs 22:17–24:22), the author gives us thirty sayings. (Proverbs 22:20)
•      There are more than thirty verses, but you can find thirty distinct sayings in all those verses.
•      There is a lot of overlap between these thirty sayings and Egyptian sayings. Is that a problem?
•      No, because the Proverbs send us into the world to learn (e.g. ants), assuming that the world testifies to the truth. And because the author of the Proverbs has chosen these sayings carefully in order that you would believe (choosing only what serves that purpose). (Proverbs 22:19)

Wisdom for You and Through You (05:26–06:45)

•      The stated aim in these thirty sayings is that you know what is right and give a right answer. (Proverbs 22:21)
•      The double purpose in these Proverbs, then, is to know things that are right and true with a view to being sent and giving those things to others.
•      We see in Proverbs 22:18 that the Proverbs are there for us to enjoy (“within you”) and to share with others (“on your lips”).

Inside Out (06:45–10:34)

•      Proverbs 22:17–18 give us two couplets of ideas.
•      The progression from 22:17a to 22:17b moves us from our ears to our hearts, and from words to knowledge (knowledge is based on words and is communicated through words, but it is more than words).
•      In 22:18a, the heart is delighting within us (“pleasant”) in the knowledge that has now sunk in (from 22:17b).
•      And 22:18b move outside of us again through our lips, beginning the process again (for those who will hear with their ears). (Proverbs 22:17)
•      22:17b–22:18a deals with the inside of us, and 22:17a and 22:18b sandwich that with the external pieces.

Related Resources

•      Back to School: A Biblical Perspective (article)
•      I Read the Bible and Feel Nothing—What Should I Do? (interview)
•      “The Lips of Knowledge Are a Precious Jewel” (message on Proverbs 20:15)

Proverb 22:17–19, Part 2

Fix Your Eyes and Heart on the Bible

February 2, 2016
by John Piper
Scripture: Proverbs 22:17–19
Topic: The Bible

Our Bible reading is about much more than reading. Proverbs calls us to incline our ears and apply our hearts. In this lab, John Piper highlights these two major principles for getting the most out of your time in God’s word.

Principle for Bible Reading

Some phrases in the Bible have become so familiar, we’ve never really stopped to ask what they mean (e.g. “apply your heart to God’s word”). We have to slow down enough to really ask what these words and phrases mean, so that we can put them into practice in our lives, and in this case, in our Bible reading.

Study Questions

1.      What do you think it means to “incline your ear” in Proverbs 22:17? What might that look like in your daily life?


2.      What do you think it means to “apply your heart” in Proverbs 22:17–18? What might that look like in someone’s daily life?


3.      Now, how do those two exercises relate to each other in our personal (or corporate) Bible reading?

Introduction/Prayer/Recap (00:00–03:32)

Incline Your Ear (03:32–05:45)

•      Do you incline your ear (or eye) to the Bible when you read it? (Proverbs 22:17)
•      Inclining your ear means paying close attention and observing carefully.
•      We have to slow down to do this.
•      Remove distractions, and be willing to read something over and over again until you understand it.
•      We have to give rigorous attention to each line and even to each word.

Apply Your Heart (05:45–09:41)

•      “Apply your heart to knowledge.” (Proverbs 22:17)
•      The heart is an organ that takes pleasure (or displeasure) in something. It enjoys or values things. (Proverbs 22:17–18)
•      The heart is moving through mere knowing to feelings, to treasuring something.
•      Do you fix your heart on a truth to try and feel something?
•      Pursue the pleasure that is in the object of observation, the words and truths in front of you. Apply your heart to knowledge.
•      The effort to discern meaning with feeling cannot be done without prayer.

Summary (09:41–10:24)

Related Resources

•      How to Read the Bible for Yourself (article)
•      6 Tips If You Find the Bible Hard to Read (interview)
•      “Scripture: The Kindling of Christian Hedonism” (message on Bible reading)

Proverb 22:17–19, Part 3

God’s Bigger Purpose for Proverbs

February 4, 2016
by John Piper
Scripture: Proverbs 22:17–19
Topic: Life of the Mind

You probably know the book of Proverbs as a collection of practical advice for God’s people. Proverbs itself, though, defines its purpose in a deeper, more significant way. In this lab, John Piper looks at the purpose and lays it onto several proverbs to see how the book works in the life of the believer.

Principle for Bible Reading

We take some things for granted about the Bible, for instance, that Proverbs is essentially a book about to-do’s. The author of Proverbs, though, explicitly offers a different and deeper purpose for these sayings. Watch for the biblical authors to give purpose statements for their writing, either for a paragraph or for a whole book. It will be an important lens through which to read everything else.

Study Questions

1.      Read Proverbs 22:17–19, and identify the primary or highest purpose of this group of proverbs (Proverbs 22:17–24:20).


2.      Now, read the proverbs in Proverbs 22:22–25. How would you explain how these proverbs carry out the primary purpose given in 22:17–19?


3.      What might the “trust” in Proverbs 22:19 mean for the “knowledge” in 22:17 and the “pleasure” in 22:18? How does the author’s statement about our trust in God help us understand the other two ideas?

Introduction/Prayer/Recap

The Purpose of Proverbs

•      The unmistakable purpose in Proverbs 22:17–19 is “that your trust may be in the LORD” (Proverbs 22:19).
•      The LORD here is Yahweh, the covenant God of Israel.
•      Most of the Proverbs are instructions for what to do in life.
•      For instance, “Do not rob the poor” (Proverbs 22:22).
•      Or another example, “Make no friendship with a man given to anger” (Proverbs 22:24).
•      Proverbs 22:19 says that all of the proverbs are meant to cause us to trust in God. God strengthens our trust by showing us what the fruit of trust looks like.
•      The commands in Proverbs (and elsewhere in the Bible) is what saving faith does.

The Joy of Knowing God

•      The purpose statement in Proverbs 22:19 should not be disconnected from what we saw in Proverbs 22:17–18.
•      Trust as the ultimate purpose in Proverbs 22:19 suggests that the knowledge in 22:17 is a collection of reasons to trust God.
•      And therefore, the pleasure in Proverbs 22:18 is a knowledge of God, his word, and his works that cause us to trust in him.

Related Resources

•      The Distance Between Head and Heart (article)
•      “Piper Is Too Intellectual” (interview)
•      “The Life of the Mind and the Love of God” (message)

Isaiah 48:9–11

For My Name’s Sake

September 30, 2014
by John Piper
Scripture: Isaiah 48:9–11
Topic: The Glory of God

Principle for Bible Reading

We should be constantly comparing lists of characteristics about God to determine if qualities are the same, different, or overlapping. This is especially important when statements seem contrary to each other. In this lab, John Piper models this and uncovers God’s love for us and his commitment to his own glory.

Outline

Introduction/Prayer (00:00–00:35)

Observations (00:35–06:24)

1.      God refers to his radical commitment to his own praise six times in three verses.
2.      The progression of God’s passion for his glory: being ⇒ name ⇒ glory ⇒ praise.
3.      God also expresses his patience with and love for us six times.
4.      The foundation of his love for us is his commitment to himself.

Conclusions (06:24–10:35)

1.      Love for people is not the most foundational thing in God’s being. Underneath his love for us is his commitment to himself.
2.      God is angry. Why is he angry? They still need to be refined, because they continue to profane his name. The restraining of his anger is not the resolution of God’s anger. Isaiah 53:4–5 and Romans 3:25 are the resolution of God’s anger.

Study Questions

1.      What does it mean for God to say that he acts, “for my name’s sake,” or, “for the sake of my praise,” or, “for my own sake”?


2.      Based on these verses, how does his commitment to his own glory relate to his love for his people?


3.      God lovingly defers his anger in verse 9, but the restraining of his anger is not the resolution of his anger. Can you think of other verses in Isaiah that tell us how the problem of God’s righteous anger is resolved for the believer?

Related Resources

•      God’s Glory and the Deepest Joy of Human Souls Are One Thing: Fifteen Implications (article)
•      What Is God’s Glory? (interview)
•      God Is a Very Important Person (sermon on Isaiah 48:9–11)

Isaiah 55:6–9

God Will Abundantly Pardon

May 12, 2015
by John Piper
Scripture: Isaiah 30:15–22, Isaiah 57:15, and Isaiah 55:6–9
Topic: The Grace of God
Series: The Uniqueness of God

Principle for Bible Reading

The God of the Bible is not like any god of any other religion. This series of labs asks what sets our God apart from all the alternatives. In this lab, John Piper looks at the beauty of an infinitely high and holy God stooping to forgive and receive sinners like us.

Outline

Introduction/Prayer (00:00–00:50)

Seek the Lord (00:50–04:02)

1.      God wants us to seek him, depend on him, wait on him. (Isaiah 55:6)
2.      The essence of wickedness is to fail to seek the Lord, and to look to other things for what only God can provide. (Isaiah 55:6–7)
3.      If you are wicked, you are away from the Lord. Your sin separates you from God. (Isaiah 55:7)
4.      If you return from your wickedness to God, God will abundantly pardon. (Isaiah 55:8)
5.      This willingness to pardon sinners who will return to him is the height of his uniqueness among all beings. (Isaiah 55:8)

High and Lifted Up (Isaiah 57:15) (04:02–05:34)

1.      God is high and lifted up. He is holy, set apart from humanity in every way. (Isaiah 57:15)
2.      God manifests his holiness by dwelling in the high and holy place and by descending to live and work among humble, lowly people. (Isaiah 57:15)
3.      When God works for the lowly, the height of his holiness is glorified. The height of God’s holiness is not compromised by his going to the lowly and giving them life. It is magnified and exalted. (Isaiah 57:15)

Isaiah 30:15–18 (05:34–09:00)

1.      The strength of God’s people is found in their waiting for God, in their trust in him. (Isaiah 30:15)
2.      But God’s people rebelled against God by putting their trust in their strength and in their horses. (Isaiah 30:16)
3.      Therefore, God gives them and their self-reliance over to defeat. (Isaiah 30:17)
4.      But God also waits to show grace and patience to those who wait on him, who rely on him. (Isaiah 30:18)
5.      God exalts himself—and not you—in showing you mercy. God will not reward us for our self-reliance or self-help. He works for those who will receive his help, and allow him to get all the glory.

Isaiah 30:19–22 (09:00–10:42)

1.      At just the sound of your cry for help, God will answer and show you lavish grace. (Isaiah 30:19)
2.      And when you turn, you will deny and discard every false god, including the idol of your performance, self-reliance. (Isaiah 30:22)
3.      All the false gods of the world are not like our God. Our God exalts himself not in demanding our labor, but in demanding that we stop trying to prove ourselves and simply receive his grace and help.

Study Questions

1.      Read Isaiah 55:6–9. Explain the “for” at the beginning of verse 8. How does what comes before explain the uniqueness of God in verses 8 and 9?


2.      Looking now at Isaiah 57:15, how can God be high and holy, and yet mingle with the lowly? Explain how does God’s highness relates to his lowness.


3.      There are two kinds of people described in Isaiah 30:15–18. Who are they and what separates them? How does God treat the two groups differently?

Related Resources

•      Prayer: We Get the Help, He Gets the Glory (article)
•      What Is God’s Glory? (interview)
•      The Great Invitation: A High Way for Low Sinners (sermon on Isaiah 55:6–9)

Isaiah 64:1–4; 46:1–4

God Works for Those Who Wait

May 7, 2015
by John Piper
Scripture: Isaiah 46:1–4 and Isaiah 64:1–4
Topic: The Glory of God
Series: The Uniqueness of God

Principle for Bible Reading

The Bible says several times that our God is utterly unique among all the gods in the world and in history. But what makes him so unique? In this lab, John Piper begins a series looking at key texts for understanding why there is no god like our God.

Outline

Introduction/Prayer (00:00–01:15)

Observations (01:15–03:07)

1.      God seems distant in this passage. He is withholding his presence at this point. (Isaiah 64:1)
2.      God’s adversaries seem to have the upper hand right now, so Isaiah is praying that God would come reveal himself and vindicate his name. (Isaiah 64:1–2)
3.      Often when the saints in the Bible were praying for God to do a new thing, they called to mind an old thing God had done. (Isaiah 64:3)

What Makes God Unique? (03:07–05:25)

1.      There isn’t any God like this God. (Isaiah 64:4)
2.      God “works (or acts or performs deeds) for those who wait for him.” (Isaiah 64:4)
3.      What sets God apart from all other gods is that he works for people who are willing to look to him, trust him, and give him the credit for working, rather than presuming that God needs more workers like me. (Isaiah 64:4)
4.      All the other gods go around the world amassing slave labor. They all say prove yourself; come work for me, and then I will bless you.

Same Song, Different Verse (05:25–08:50)

1.      The Babylonian gods must be carried. They do not bear the burden, but put a burden on their worshippers. (Isaiah 46:1)
2.      The other gods say, “Carry me,” but God says, “I will carry you.” (Isaiah 46:4).
3.      Our God bears. Our God carries. Our God saves. (Isaiah 46:3–4)
4.      Other gods demand performance as a grounds for blessing. Our God offers performance for those who trust in him, and not themselves.

Study Questions

1.      Read Isaiah 64:1–4. Isaiah says in verse 4 that God is utterly unique. From this passage, describe what makes God so unique from other gods?


2.      What do you learn about Bel and Nebo in Isaiah 46:1–4? Do you see similarities with other popular gods or religions today?


3.      How does Isaiah 46:1–4 reinforce or support the uniqueness you were seeing in Isaiah 64:1–4? Are there any new dimensions in these verses?

Related Resources

•      11 Ways God Works for Us (article)
•      Personal Comfort in God’s Sovereignty Over Evil (interview)
•      God Works for Those Who Wait for Him (sermon on Isaiah 64:1–4)

Lamentations 3:31–33

He Will Not Cast Off Forever

September 23, 2014
by John Piper
Scripture: Lamentations 3:31–33
Topic: The Grace of God

Principle for Bible Reading

God is completely consistent in all he does, but he is also very complicated. You’ll never find a contradiction in his character, but you’ll often have to work hard to see how different aspects of who he is relate to one another. In this lab, Pastor John asks how God could cause his children grief and remain compassionate towards them.

Outline

Introduction/Prayer (00:00–00:37)

A Word About Lamentations (00:37–03:30)

Lamentations might be the most painful book in the Bible, because it describes the horrors of God’s judgment against his people. It is also one of the most clearly structured books. How could such an emotional book be so neatly ordered? Perhaps, it is a way for God to say that our pain is bounded or channeled. It might be to say that it has a purpose.

Observations (03:30–08:17)

1.      This suffering is not God’s last word to his people (Lamentations 3:31). A New Covenant is coming (Jeremiah 31:31–34) when God will return with compassion.
2.      God really does cause grief (Lamentations 3:32)
3.      This grief, though, is not his last word. He will have compassion (Lamentations 3:32).
4.      God does not grieve or afflict us from his heart (Lamentations 3:33).
5.      Our pain is not God’s delight. Our pain is a means to the good in which God does delight.
6.      God’s compassion and steadfast love come from his heart.

Application (08:17–09:05)

1.      We bow down to God’s sovereignty. He does indeed cause grief.
2.      We trust that at the bottom of his heart is his love and compassion.
3.      There is good that is coming to the children of God through their pain.

Study Questions

1.      Why was Lamentations written? What is the context of these verses about God’s love and compassion?


2.      How could the writer of Lamentations say that God causes grief (Lamentations 3:32) and that he does not grieve (Lamentations 3:33)?


3.      What does the “for” at the beginning of verse 33 say about how God’s love and compassion relate to the grief he causes his people?

Related Resources

•      When It Feels Like God Is Punishing You (article)
•      How Do I Know If I’m Being Disciplined by God? (interview)
•      The Painful Discipline of Our Heavenly Father (sermon)

Piper, J. (2014–2015). Look at the Book Labs (2Chr 16,8–Klgl 3,33). Minneapolis, MN: Desiring God.

Doctrine of GOD- via LAD Rosary

NO
ONE
LIKE
HIM

FOUNDATIONS OF

EVANGELICAL THEOLOGY

THE DOCTRINE OF GOD

JOHN S. FEINBERG

JOHN S. FEINBERG, GENERAL EDITOR

CROSSWAY BOOKS

A MINISTRY OF
GOOD NEWS PUBLISHERS
WHEATON, ILLINOIS

with friendly free gifted present from LOGOS Library by:
Feinberg, John S., 1946–
No one like Him : the doctrine of God / John S. Feinberg.
p. cm. — (The foundations of evangelical theology)
Includes bibliographical references and indexes.
ISBN 1–58134-275–6 (alk. paper)

  1. God. I. Title. II. Series.
    BT103 .F45 2001
    231—dc21 2001001912

In Memory of
My Wonderful Mother
Anne Priscilla Fraiman Feinberg
One of the First
To Teach Me about God

CONTENTS
Foreword by Harold O. J. Brown
Introduction by General Editor
Preface
List of Abbreviations
CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION

PART ONE:
CONCEPTS OF GOD
CHAPTER 2 GOD—THE VERY IDEA
What Sort of Reality is God/Does God Have?
God as Mental Projection
God as Being-Itself
God as a Being
God Without or Beyond Being
What Role(s) Does God Play in Our Universe?
Biblical Images, Motifs, and Metaphors for God
The Transcendence and Immanence of God
Several Models of Christian Theism
Three Understandings of the Metaphysics of Christian Theology
How Should We Understand Language about God?
CHAPTER 3 WHAT HAPPENS TO GOD IN CONTEMPORARY THOUGHT?
What Is Modernity?
Human Consciousness (“The Subjective Turn”)
Knowledge, Truth, Objectivity, and Theory of Meaning
Naturalism
Human Freedom and Individuality
The Goodness of Human Nature
Science and Progress
What Is Postmodernity?
Postmodern Epistemology
Naturalism, But …
Human Freedom in Community
The Goodness of Human Nature!?
Science and Progress
God in Contemporary Thought
Contemporary Theologies in the Modern Mindset
Contemporary Theologies in the Postmodern Mindset
CHAPTER 4 PROCESS THEOLOGY
Backgrounds of Process Theology
Developments in Science
Attack on Classical Theism
Philosophical Background
Theological/Religious Climate of the Times
Major Concepts in Process Thought
Key Definitions
Central Concepts
Assessment of Process Theology
Contributions of Process Theology
Problems with Process Theology

PART TWO:
THE BEING AND NATURE OF GOD
CHAPTER 5 THE EXISTENCE AND BEING OF GOD
Introduction to Theistic Proofs
The Ontological Argument
Anselm I
Anselm II
The Cosmological Argument
Causal Arguments
Contingency Arguments
Swinburne’s Inductive Argument
Teleological Arguments
William Paley: The Watch and the Watchmaker
Moral Arguments
C. S. Lewis’s Moral Argument
Objections
General Value of Theistic Arguments
The Reality of God
God Is Real
God Is a Being
God as a Perfect, Necessary, and Infinite Being
A Perfect Being
A Necessary Being
An Infinite Being
God as Spirit
Implications of God as Spirit
God as Person/Personal
CHAPTER 6 THE ATTRIBUTES OF GOD
Classifying the Divine Attributes
Non-Moral Attributes
Aseity
Infinity
Immensity and Omnipresence
Eternity
Immutability
CHAPTER 7 THE NON-MORAL DIVINE ATTRIBUTES (II)
Omnipotence
Biblical Data on Omnipotence
Defining Omnipotence
Testing the Definition
Sovereignty
Omniscience
The Bible and Divine Omniscience
Defining Divine Omniscience
Wisdom
Unity
Simplicity
CHAPTER 8 THE MORAL ATTRIBUTES OF GOD
Holiness
Righteousness
Love
Grace
Mercy
Longsuffering
Goodness
Lovingkindness
Truth
CHAPTER 9 GOD, TIME, AND ETERNITY
The Bible and Divine Eternity
Historical Interlude
Arguments for Timeless Eternity
Timelessness a Logical Derivation from Other Doctrines
Immutability Necessitates Timeless Eternity
Nature of Time Necessitates a Timeless God
Infinity and God as Everlasting
Creation and a Sempiternal God
Timelessness and Divine Freedom
Temporal Duration Inadequate for the Ground of All Being
Analogy of God as Spaceless
Temporal God Leads to Process Theism
Arguments Against Timeless Eternity
Timelessness and God as a Person
Divine Eternity and Divine Action
Divine Eternity and Divine Simplicity
Divine Eternity and Divine Immutability
Biblical Portrait of God Sanctions Sempiternity
Divine Eternity and Simultaneity with Events in Time
Divine Omniscience and Timeless Eternity
Atemporal God or a Temporal God?
Why a Temporal God?
Temporalism and Process Theology
CHAPTER 10 THE DOCTRINE OF THE TRINITY
The Bible and the Doctrine of the Trinity
There Is Only One God
Evidences of Plurality in the Godhead
History and the Doctrine of the Trinity
Tertullian
Dynamic and Modalistic Monarchianism
Origen
Arianism
Councils of Nicea and Constantinople
Clarification and Defense of Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed
Filioque Controversy
Augustine
Formulation of the Doctrine of the Trinity
Logic and the Doctrine of the Trinity

PART THREE:
THE ACTS OF GOD
CHAPTER 11 THE DECREE OF GOD
Is There a Divine Decree? Positions Described
Classical Theism
Process Theism
Mediating Positions
Scripture and the Decree
Is There a Divine Decree?
What Is the Nature of God’s Decree?
The Decree and Foreknowledge
Further Theological Formulation of the Doctrine of God’s Decree
The Order of the Decrees
CHAPTER 12 THE DOCTRINE OF CREATION
Various Theories of Origins
Dualistic Theories
Emanation Theories
Naturalistic Evolutionary Theories
Theistic Evolution
Creation Theories
Biblical Teaching on Creation
Creation Ex Nihilo
Other OT Themes
NT Themes
Genesis 1–2 and the Days of Creation
Creation and Ancient Near Eastern Literature
Structure of the Accounts
Theological Themes
Literary Genre of Genesis 1 and 2
The Days of Creation and the Age of the Universe, Earth, and Mankind
Naturalistic Evolutionary Theories
Day-Age Theories
Twenty-four-hour-day Theories
Literary Framework Theory
Assessment and Evaluation
CHAPTER 13 DIVINE PROVIDENCE: THE DECREE AND HUMAN FREEDOM
Basic Definitions
Indeterminism
Determinism
Other Definitions
Models of Providence
General Sovereignty vs. Specific Sovereignty
A Case for General Sovereignty Theologies
Biblical/Theological Arguments for General Sovereignty
Philosophical Arguments for General Sovereignty
CHAPTER 14 A CASE FOR A COMPATIBILIST SPECIFIC SOVEREIGNTY MODEL
Biblical/Theological Arguments for Compatibilistic Specific Sovereignty
The Basic Argument
Objections to My Handling of Eph 1:11, and My Responses
Other Objections
Philosophical Considerations
Controlling Events, But Not Actions
What Kind of Determinism?
Choosing an Action
Are Reasons Causes?
The Agent Could Have Done Otherwise
Libertarian Freedom and the Ontological Argument
Other Indeterminist Objections
CHAPTER 15 THE ISSUE OF FREEDOM AND FOREKNOWLEDGE
Clarifying the Problem
Determinist Responses to the Freedom/ Foreknowledge Problem
Indeterminist Responses to the Freedom/ Foreknowledge Problem
The Boethian Resolution
Simple Foreknowledge
Middle Knowledge
The Ockhamist Resolution
Present Knowledge
Conclusion
CHAPTER 16 DIVINE PROVIDENCE AND EVIL
Introducing the Problem
Strategy of Defenses and Theodicies
Two Modified Rationalist Defenses
The Free Will Defense
Integrity of Humans Defense
Conclusion

CONCLUSION
CHAPTER 17 “NO ONE LIKE ME”
General Index

FOREWORD

John Feinberg’s No One Like Him is a magisterial work, one that truly deserves to be called a magnum opus. Formidable in size, it reveals its author as one of the only—perhaps the only—modern scholar whose work, like that of Carl F. H. Henry, can compare in size, detail, comprehensiveness, and intellectual acuity with the accomplishments of the late Karl Barth, who in turn is perhaps the only contemporary theologian whose work rivals that of the old masters—of Luther and Calvin—in scope. However, there is a serious difference between Henry and Feinberg on the one hand and Karl Barth on the other hand: Henry and Feinberg are firmly and deliberately in the tradition of what the late Francis A. Schaeffer called “historic Protestantism”; Barth, despite his genuine conservatism and his orthodoxy on many points, really is not. Karl Barth generated his theology in an atmosphere dominated by late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century liberalism. Henry and Feinberg work in an age when Protestant liberalism has been deemed passé, superseded by all manner of inventive theologies, and when evangelical theology itself sometimes stands on shaky legs on a slippery slope, willing to compromise with modernity and even with postmodernism as much as possible without falling into the abyss of what Georges Florovsky called “pious atheism,” which is increasingly characteristic of modern and postmodern Protestantism.
Henry and Feinberg address the fundamental question of God and the world, time and eternity, incarnation and atonement, sin and salvation, on the basis of a sure and confident trust in the Holy Scriptures as God’s inerrant and infallible Word, while for the Swiss master, the Bible is only the witness to God’s revelation, the authoritative and essential witness, to be sure, but nevertheless a witness to the Word, not the Word itself. There is a difference between Henry’s magisterial work (God, Revelation and Authority) and that of Feinberg in that Henry wrote in a time when evangelicalism was just emerging from the fundamentalist controversies, whereas Feinberg writes a generation later, when the players on the theological field have changed and to some extent the rules have changed; but the goal of the evangelical theologian is nevertheless to speak the truth—in love, be it understood—but plainly and clearly to speak the truth.
The fact that he rivals both Karl Barth and Carl F. H. Henry in completeness and erudition, while agreeing with the latter in his fidelity to Scripture as being divine revelation, not merely testifying to it, makes John Feinberg’s work a reliable guide for the inquiring Christian reader to a degree that is not always the case with the author of the ponderous Kirchliche Dogmatik.
Feinberg’s work is close to half as large as John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion, but unlike the great Reformer’s work, which covers the whole scope of Christian doctrine, John Feinberg limits himself to what is called special theology, i.e., the doctrine of God. Readers who find Calvin formidable and therefore might be put off by this comparison or by the sheer bulk of Feinberg’s work should note that it is not at all necessary to read it from cover to cover to derive great benefit from it. Far from being merely another university or post-graduate level course in the doctrine of God, it is really a guide to several centuries of Christian thought. Consequently, it is able to serve as an immensely useful handbook providing accurate and readable information about scores of thinkers as diverse as the neo-Platonist Plotinus and the postmodernist feminist Nancey Murphy.
Feinberg offers a succinct and balanced treatment of speculative and esoteric approaches to understanding divine reality, from liberal Christian to modern pagan, and combines with it an insight into and critique of the efforts of contemporary thinkers within the evangelical tradition or close to it. He offers a thorough and nuanced discussion of specific points of controversy among orthodox Protestant Christians, such as whether God lives in timeless eternity or endless time. His treatment of God’s eternity as well as of predestination, foreknowledge, and human freedom is fascinating, although—precisely because these are and remain questiones disputatae—his recommendations for their solution will not find universal agreement among all of his fellow evangelicals. Because of the massiveness and comprehensiveness of this work, it is sure to draw friendly as well as unfriendly fire from various quarters, but like that of Henry, it will doubtless emerge relatively unscarred.
If the dogma of materialistic, naturalistic evolution, of chance and necessity as the origin of all that is, as the late Nobel prizewinner Jacques Monod and scores of lesser authorities would have it, cannot be challenged, then Feinberg’s work is irretrievably superfluous. In fact, however, it is not merely Christian theologians but scientists and scholars from other fields who are drawing increasing attention to the flaws in evolutionary dogma. To deal with the doctrine of God requires one to deal with the doctrine of his works, and in particular with creation, and here John Feinberg makes a distinct contribution to the discussion. His treatment of the various Christian efforts to relate the creation account in Genesis to the many secular theories that question or deny intelligent design and divine purpose is thorough and balanced. When he proceeds from criticism of errors to an attempt to present the truth, reasoning primarily on the basis of the scriptural witness and hermeneutical considerations, he reaches a conclusion that will be appreciated by advocates of a six twenty-four-hour day creation but which will not seem compelling to all upholders of biblical inerrancy.
The doctrines of creation and of the other acts of God, important as they are, are not Feinberg’s primary interest in this volume. Instead, it is the doctrine of the nature and attributes of the infinite-personal God. Here we note a detailed interaction with alternatives to classical orthodoxy from within the Christian community, such as pantheism and process theology, and sometimes even from fellow evangelicals, such as the concept of the openness of God. With respect to the Trinity and the incarnation, Feinberg interacts extensively with interpretations and explanations offered by early church fathers, medieval scholastics, Reformation thinkers, and contemporary figures of various shades. Unwilling to leave the doctrines of the Trinity and of the incarnation entirely in the realm of transcendent mystery as many do, he seeks to go beyond traditional Nicene and Chalcedonian dogma and to make the mysteries as accessible to reverent analysis as can be done.
It is impossible in a few paragraphs or even in dozens of pages, to do justice to John Feinberg’s work, but it is evident that even readers unprepared to follow each of his arguments and fully to endorse each of his conclusions must stand in admiration of his achievement. It is not risky to predict that his No One Like Him will come to be a milestone in evangelical theology.

Harold O. J. Brown

INTRODUCTION

BY GENERAL EDITOR

Why another series of works on evangelical systematic theology? This is an especially appropriate question in light of the fact that evangelicals are fully committed to an inspired and inerrant Bible as their final authority for faith and practice. But since neither God nor the Bible change, why is there a need to redo evangelical systematic theology?
Systematic theology is not divine revelation. Theologizing of any sort is a human conceptual enterprise. Thinking that it is equal to biblical revelation misunderstands the nature of both Scripture and theology! Insofar as our theology contains propositions that accurately reflect Scripture or match the world and are consistent with the Bible (in cases where the propositions do not come per se from Scripture), our theology is biblically based and correct. But even if all the propositions of a systematic theology are true, that theology would still not be equivalent to biblical revelation! It is still a human conceptualization of God and his relation to the world.
Although this may disturb some who see theology as nothing more than doing careful exegesis over a series of passages, and others who see it as nothing more than biblical theology, those methods of doing theology do not somehow produce a theology that is equivalent to biblical revelation either. Exegesis is a human conceptual enterprise, and so is biblical theology. All the theological disciplines involve human intellectual participation. But human intellect is finite, and hence there is always room for revision of systematic theology as knowledge increases. Though God and his Word do not change, human understanding of his revelation can grow, and our theologies should be reworked to reflect those advances in understanding.
Another reason for evangelicals to rework their theology is the nature of systematic theology as opposed to other theological disciplines. For example, whereas the task of biblical theology is more to describe biblical teaching on whatever topics Scripture addresses, systematics should make a special point to relate its conclusions to the issues of one’s day. This does not mean that the systematician ignores the topics biblical writers address. Nor does it mean that theologians should warp Scripture to address issues it never intended to address. Rather, it suggests that in addition to expounding what biblical writers teach, the theologian should attempt to take those biblical teachings (along with the biblical mindset) and apply them to issues that are especially confronting the church in the theologian’s own day. For example, 150 years ago, an evangelical theologian doing work on the doctrine of man would likely have discussed issues such as the creation of man and the constituent parts of man’s being. Such a theology might even have included a discussion about human institutions such as marriage, noting in general the respective roles of husbands and wives in marriage. However, it is dubious that there would have been any lengthy discussion with various viewpoints about the respective roles of men and women in marriage, in society, and in the church. But at our point in history and in light of the feminist movement and the issues it has raised even among many conservative Christians, it would be foolish to write a theology of man (or, should we say, a “theology of humanity”) without a thorough discussion of the issue of the roles of men and women in society, the home, and the church.
Because systematic theology attempts to address itself not only to the timeless issues presented in Scripture but also to the current issues of one’s day and culture, each theology will to some extent need to be redone in each generation. Biblical truth does not change from generation to generation, but the issues that confront the church do. A theology that was adequate for a different era and different culture may simply not speak to key issues in a given culture at a given time. Hence, in this series we are reworking evangelical systematic theology, though we do so with the understanding that in future generations there will be room for a revision of theology again.
How, then, do the contributors to this series understand the nature of systematic theology? Systematic theology as done from an evangelical Christian perspective involves study of the person, works, and relationships of God. As evangelicals committed to the full inspiration, inerrancy, and final authority of Scripture, we demand that whatever appears in a systematic theology correspond to the way things are and must not contradict any claim taught in Scripture. Holy Writ is the touchstone of our theology, but we do not limit the source material for systematics to Scripture alone. Hence, whatever information from history, science, philosophy, and the like is relevant to our understanding of God and his relation to our world is fair game for systematics. Depending on the specific interests and expertise of the contributors to this series, their respective volumes will reflect interaction with one or more of these disciplines.
What is the rationale for appealing to other sources than Scripture and other disciplines than the biblical ones? Since God created the universe, there is revelation of God not only in Scripture but in the created order as well. There are many disciplines that study our world, just as does theology. But since the world studied by the non-theological disciplines is the world created by God, any data and conclusions in the so-called secular disciplines that accurately reflect the real world are also relevant to our understanding of the God who made that world. Hence, in a general sense, since all of creation is God’s work, nothing is outside the realm of theology. The so-called secular disciplines need to be thought of in a theological context, because they are reflecting on the universe God created, just as is the theologian. And, of course, there are many claims in the non-theological disciplines that are generally accepted as true (although this does not mean that every claim in non-theological disciplines is true, or that we are in a position with respect to every proposition to know whether it is true or false). Since this is so, and since all disciplines are in one way or another reflecting on our universe, a universe made by God, any true statement in any discipline should in some way be informative for our understanding of God and his relation to our world. Hence, we have felt it appropriate to incorporate data from outside the Bible in our theological formulations.
As to the specific design of this series, our intention is to address all areas of evangelical theology with a special emphasis on key issues in each area. While other series may be more like a history of doctrine, this series purposes to incorporate insights from Scripture, historical theology, philosophy, etc., in order to produce an up-to-date work in systematic theology. Though all contributors to the series are thoroughly evangelical in their theology, embracing the historical orthodox doctrines of the church, the series as a whole is not meant to be slanted in the direction of one form of evangelical theology. Nonetheless, most of the writers come from a Reformed perspective. Alternate evangelical and non-evangelical options, however, are discussed.
As to style and intended audience, this series is meant to rest on the very best of scholarship while at the same time being understandable to the beginner in theology as well as to the academic theologian. With that in mind, contributors are writing in a clear style, taking care to define whatever technical terms they use.
Finally, we believe that systematic theology is not just for the understanding. It must apply to life, and it must be lived. As Paul wrote to Timothy, God has given divine revelation for many purposes, including ones that necessitate doing theology, but the ultimate reason for giving revelation and for theologians doing theology is that the people of God may be fitted for every good work (2 Tim 3:16–17). In light of the need for theology to connect to life, each of the contributors not only formulates doctrines but also explains how those doctrines practically apply to everyday living.
It is our sincerest hope that the work we have done in this series will first glorify and please God, and, secondly, instruct and edify the people of God. May God be pleased to use this series to those ends, and may he richly bless you as you read the fruits of our labors.

John S. Feinberg
General Editor

PREFACE

I must have been crazy to think that I could write a book on the doctrine of God. Still, like the moth drawn to a flame, I keep coming back to this topic. In one way or another, it has been the concern of much of my adult intellectual thought and publications. Of course, the subject is more than worthy of our attention, because nothing could be more important than coming to understand God better and hence worship him more.
But, even more so in the contemporary milieu, this topic has taken on enormously significant proportions. The movements in culture in general and theology in particular during the past century have been phenomenal. The advent and growing entrenchment of the postmodern mindset, not only in our universities but in culture more broadly, have had dramatic implications for our very understanding of who and what God is. Theologians and non-theologians alike are clamoring for a God who is engaged in our lives and responsive to our needs. The remote God of classical Christianity seems irrelevant to our contemporaries. Even Christians broadly in the evangelical community sense a need to replace or at least significantly alter the concept of the classical God.
Originally, I had planned a somewhat standard volume on the doctrine of God, but as I read and reflected on what is happening to God in contemporary thought, I saw that something else was needed. Most of the usual topics for a doctrine of God will be covered, but the whole discussion must now be framed in light of the issues of our times. In short, the question confronting the evangelical theologian is what to do about the classical conception of God that has been handed down through centuries of church history. Process theologians and openness of God advocates encourage us to abandon this God and replace him with their versions of a more responsive God. While I find their complaints about the traditional God very thought provoking, I cannot agree with them that their replacement “Gods” are the answer or that they more accurately reflect biblical revelation about God. Rather than totally abandoning the traditional concept of God, a substantial overhaul and reconstruction seems more appropriate. In the pages of this book you will see the results of such modifications.
One of the reasons for writing a volume exclusively on the doctrine of God is that it allows one to give more coverage of the doctrine than if one were writing a standard systematic theology. Even so, there are always decisions to make about what to cover and what to omit. Once I decided to address directly the contemporary situation in discussions about God, certain decisions were required. One of the early casualties was a section on angels, Satan, and demons as an extension of the doctrine of creation. Those doctrines will now be covered in another volume in this series along with the doctrine of man. Then, I had originally planned to include a chapter on the names of God, a most worthy topic; but as I saw how long the manuscript was becoming, I had to make another decision. Over at least the last half century there haven’t been many developments with respect to understanding of the divine names, so that seemed a likely candidate for exclusion. Those interested in pursuing that topic can easily do so in various standard evangelical theologies. And, then, as I saw again the need to address in detail the issues surrounding the doctrine of providence, it became evident that I could not also cover every other divine action. Hence, though miraculous intervention in our world is certainly something God can and does do from time to time, I have not addressed that topic as such. In many ways, I feel it is better served in a more general work on apologetics.
In spite of these omissions, I soon realized that what I was doing in this book is not frequently done. There have been many books written solely on divine providence, or on creation, or on the divine attributes. There have not been many written which attempt to cover the whole doctrine of God in one single volume. Over the many years that it has taken to research and write this book, I have periodically thought about how crazy it is to try to do all of this in one book. And yet, by the goodness and grace of God, this work has been completed and it has given me a chance to look holistically at God. It is my hope and prayer that readers will find the structure and strategy of the book helpful and stimulating, regardless of whether they agree with my conclusions.
In doing a project of this sort, the help of others has been invaluable, and they should be acknowledged. First, various colleagues have read and commented on chapters of this book at one stage or another. These include Harold O. J. Brown, Paul Feinberg, Wayne Grudem, and Bruce Ware. Of special significance, however, has been the careful reading and detailed commenting on specific chapters of the manuscript by Kevin Vanhoozer, Willem VanGemeren, and Harold Netland. In particular, Harold Netland has read most of this manuscript in one stage of production or another. Because of suggestions and interaction especially by Harold, Kevin, and Willem, this work has greatly benefited. Whatever errors still remain are attributable to me.
There have also been countless student assistants over the years who have helped me by collecting bibliography for this project or by proofreading various portions of the manuscript. In several cases, these brothers have long since graduated and are themselves engaged in teaching and writing at various seminaries. Of specific note are Steve Wellum, Gregg Allison, and Adam Co. Other assistants have also helped, but these three were especially significant.
Then, a word of appreciation is in order for the board and administration of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. Their gracious granting of sabbaticals during which I wrote most of this book was invaluable. Without their help this book could not have been written. Next, I must also express my gratitude to Crossway Books. Without their original approval of this series, let alone this volume, and their help and encouragement along the way, this work would not have been done. Of special note is the extraordinary competence and care in editing by Bill Deckard. Any academician would be eager to have such an editor. In addition, Crossway’s gracious patience over the years as they have waited for this volume has been greatly appreciated. Finally, a word of thanks to my wife and children for their support and encouragement. There were many times when they gave up time with me so that I could work on this project, and for their sacrifice I am deeply grateful.
It is my hope and prayer that the pages that follow will not only inform but also stimulate you to love, worship, and serve our great God even more! I trust as well that they will help us all recapture a sense of the wonder and grandeur of God. Most of all, I pray that what I have written will be pleasing to God himself and will bring him glory. He is most deserving of all our worship and praise, for there is no one like him!

John S. Feinberg
July 2000

LIST OF
ABBREVIATIONS

Amer Phil Quart
American Philosophical Quarterly
Austl J Phil
Australasian Journal of Philosophy
CSR
Christian Scholar’s Review
Faith Phil
Faith and Philosophy
ICC
International Critical Commentary. Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark.
Int J Phil Relig
International Journal for Philosophy of Religion
J Relig
The Journal of Religion
JETS
Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
J Phil
The Journal of Philosophy
JTS
Journal of Theological Studies
Mod Theol
Modern Theology
Perspect Rel S
Perspectives in Religious Studies
Phil Quart
The Philosophical Quarterly
Phil Rev
The Philosophical Review
Phil Stud
Philosophical Studies
Phil Phenomenol Res
Philosophy and Phenomenological Research
Phil Rel
Philosophy of Religion
Process Stud
Process Studies
Relig Hum
Religious Humanism
Relig Stud
Religious Studies
Relig Stud Rev
Religious Studies Review
SJT
Scottish Journal of Theology
Theol Stud
Theological Studies
TDNT
Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. G. Kittel and G. Friedrich, eds. G. W. Bromiley, trans. 10 vols. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1964–1976.
TWOT
Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament. R. Laird Harris, Gleason Archer, and Bruce K. Waltke, eds. 2 vols. Chicago: Moody, 1980.
Theol Today
Theology Today
Trin J
Trinity Journal
Tyndale Bul
Tyndale Bulletin
WTJ
Westminster Theological Journal

CHAPTER
ONE

INTRODUCTION

In Isaiah 46 Israel’s God compares himself to the gods of the Babylonians. They are mere idols, but not so the true and living God of Israel. In fact, no nation has a God like Israel’s. In verse 9 God says, “I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me.” No one like the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob! No one like the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!
But if there is no one like this God, that still does not tell us what he is like.
Although it might not seem difficult to describe the God of the Bible, in our day there are various understandings of him. For many centuries of church history the predominant portrait of God has been the one painted by Augustine, Anselm, and Aquinas. In our time, many theologians are saying that this concept of God is both outmoded and unbiblical. The absolutely immutable, impassible, self-sufficient, sovereign, and omniscient God of the classical Christian tradition, we are told, is too domineering, too austere, and too remote to be at all religiously adequate. This God monopolizes all the power, and refuses to share it with anyone. If his human creatures don’t like this, that is their problem.
Process theologians claim that this classical God is too infected with ancient Greek philosophy; the God of Anselm and Aquinas is not the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Instead of the classical God, process thinkers propose a more relational and vulnerable God. He is a God who suffers with us and changes as we change. He increases in knowledge as he continually interacts with us and our world. The process God of Whitehead, Hartshorne, and Cobb is no divine monarch who rules with a rod of iron. Rather, he shares his power with his creatures. He won’t force his creatures to do what he wants, but instead lovingly tries to persuade them to do what he deems best. Of course, they can refuse, and if they do, this God won’t violate their freedom.
Process theologians don’t claim to be evangelicals, but they think their depiction of God is more attuned to Scripture than that of classical Christian theism. Advocates of what is known as the open view of God agree that the biblical God is much kinder and gentler than the God of classical theism. However, proponents of the open view believe that process thinkers have strayed too far from biblical revelation. The open view of God purports to offer a mediating position between the classical and process views. Espousers of the open view believe they have captured the best insights from the classical and process traditions while formulating their concept of God in a way that more accurately reflects biblical revelation.
There is certainly much to fault in both the classical and process concepts of God. This does not mean, however, that the open view should be accepted as the best alternative. I agree that we need a mediating position between classical and process views of God, but the open view isn’t that position. Hence, in this book I come not to bury God, but to reconstruct him—at least to refashion the idea of God from an evangelical perspective. I don’t delude myself into thinking that all evangelicals will adopt my reconstruction. But, I intend to offer an account of God which is sensitive to process and open view concerns without altogether abandoning the best insights of the classical conception. And I intend to ground that conception in Scripture.
So, what does my model of God look like? Process and open view thinkers seem to believe that a commitment to the classical God’s non-moral attributes (absolute immutability, impassibility, eternity, simplicity, omnipotence, etc.) requires a monarchical God who is distant from, unrelated to, and unconcerned about the world he made, and yet still exercises absolute control over everything that happens in it. Correspondingly, if one holds to God as a sovereign king, it is deemed inevitable that one will adopt the classical package of divine attributes.
Despite such assumptions, there is no entailment between the two. The God I shall describe is indeed a king, but he is the king who cares! I believe that process and open view critiques of the classical God are most persuasive in relation to the classical attributes, but my nuancing of those attributes even differs from their revisions. When it comes to how God relates to and rules over our world, in my judgment process and open view conceptions are least persuasive. The God I present is absolutely sovereign, but he is no tyrant, nor is he the remote and unrelated God of classical theism. He is instead the king who cares!
Indeed, there is no one like God, the king who cares. But though there is no one like him, there is no lack of competitors in our day, even as there were many false gods during biblical times. In order to understand more accurately the distinctness of the Christian God, we must place him alongside the pantheon of pretenders. Hence, the first section of this book is devoted to describing the various models and conceptions of God in the intellectual and spiritual milieu of our day. That will illustrate the issues that are on the minds of our contemporaries as they think about God, and it will help us to see why non-evangelicals and many evangelicals are clamoring for a revisioning of God. Because the final two parts of the book will be devoted to articulating a specifically Christian conception of God, the first section will emphasize heavily non-Christian and non-evangelical notions of God. This doesn’t mean nothing will be said relevant to the evangelical Christian concept, but only that we must first understand the whole range of views of God in contemporary thought and religion in order best to see that there truly is no one like the biblical God!
In the second section of the book, the discussion will turn directly to the Christian God. Here the focus will be the being and nature of God. In this portion of the book, I shall present my nuancing of the divine attributes. There will be some agreement with process and open view understandings of those attributes, but there will be significant differences as well.
After we have seen who and what the Christian God is, the third section of the book will turn to what God does—his acts. There are many things that God does which are covered in other volumes of this series. For example, God is in the business of saving humans from their lost and hopeless condition of sin, but his actions in redeeming lost humanity are covered in the volume on the cross and salvation. God has also revealed himself in many ways, including Scripture, but the doctrines of revelation, inspiration, and inerrancy are treated in the volume on Scripture. The focus in this volume will be on God’s acts of creation, his decree, and his providential control over our universe. It is on the last two matters that the greatest difference between my views and those of the open view will become apparent. The God I present relates to and cares about his creatures, but he is unquestionably king. He not only has sovereign power, but he uses it in our world—but not so as to eliminate human freedom and dignity. Impossible, you think, to wed divine control with human freedom? Perhaps so for some rigidly deterministic models of God, but not so on the soft deterministic model I shall offer.
Needless to say, the issues under consideration in this volume are both controversial and extremely important for Christian doctrine and practice. Though my intent is to offer a constructive piece of Christian theology, because of the controversy surrounding so much of the doctrine of God in our day, of necessity we cannot entirely escape polemics. My goal, however, is to engage in those debates for the sake of clarifying a biblically accurate and religiously adequate evangelical notion of God. This is no easy task, but we dare not allow the difficulty of the issues to deter us, for too much is at stake for Christian thought and life.

Feinberg, J. S. (2001). No One Like Him: The Doctrine of God (S. i–33). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

CHALLENGES OF PASTORAL MINISTRY- via LAD Rosary

DANGEROUS CALLING

CONFRONTING THE UNIQUE

CHALLENGES OF PASTORAL MINISTRY

Challanges

PAUL DAVID TRIPP

WHEATON, ILLINOIS

Dangerous Calling: Confronting the Unique Challenges of Pastoral Ministry

Copyright © 2012 by Paul David Tripp

Published by Crossway
1300 Crescent Street
Wheaton, Illinois 60187

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording, or otherwise, without the prior permission of the publisher, except as provided for by USA copyright law.

Cover design: Dual Identity inc.

First printing 2012

Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4335-3582-6
PDF ISBN: 978-1-4335-3583-3
Mobipocket ISBN: 978-1-4335-3584-0
ePub ISBN: 978-1-4335-3585-7

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Tripp, Paul David, 1950-
Dangerous calling : confronting the unique challenges of pastoral ministry / Paul David Tripp.
p. cm.
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN 978-1-4335-3582-6 (hc)
1. Pastoral theology. I. Title.
BV4011.3. T75 2012
253—dc23
2012015795

Crossway is a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

To all the pastors who have cared for me.
The imprint of your hands is still on me,
and I am grateful.

CONTENTS

Introduction

PART 1
EXAMINING PASTORAL CULTURE

1 Headed for Disaster
2 Again and Again
3 Big Theological Brains and Heart Disease
4 More than Knowledge and Skill
5 Joints and Ligaments
6 The Missing Community
7 War Zones

PART 2
THE DANGER OF LOSING YOUR AWE
(FORGETTING WHO GOD IS)

8 Familiarity
9 Dirty Secrets
10 Mediocrity
11 Between the Already and the Not Yet

PART 3
THE DANGER OF ARRIVAL
(FORGETTING WHO YOU ARE)

12 Self-Glory
13 Always Preparing
14 Separation
15 So, What Now?

General Index
Scripture Index

INTRODUCTION

Books are penned for many reasons. There are explanatory books written to help you understand something that has left many people confused. There are encouraging books written to speak into the discouragement of life in a fallen world and give you motivating hope and a reason to continue. There are instructive books that help you know how to do something that you need to do but simply don’t know how. There are exegetical books that take apart a portion of God’s Word, helping you to understand it and to live in light of its truths. There are ways in which the book you are about to read has elements of all four of these types of books, yet that isn’t meant to be its main focus.
This is a diagnostic book. It is written to help you take an honest look at yourself in the heart-and life-exposing mirror of the Word of God—to see things that are wrong and need correcting and to help you place yourself once again under the healing and transforming power of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Of the books that I have written, I found this one the hardest to write, not because of the writing process itself but because its pages expose the ugliness of my own heart and display how desperate my need for grace continues to be. It is not an exaggeration to say that I wept my way through writing some of the chapters. There were moments when I would go upstairs to share what I had written with Luella, the tears of conviction would come, and I would be unable to continue. But as I did my writing, it did not leave me feeling discouraged or hopeless but, rather, with a deeper hope in the gospel and a greater joy in ministry than I think I have ever known.
This book is written to confront the issue of the often unhealthy shape of pastoral culture and to put on the table the temptations that are either unique to or intensified by pastoral ministry. This is a book of warning that calls you to humble self-reflection and change. It is written to make you uncomfortable, to motivate you toward change. At points it may make you angry, but I am convinced that the content of this book is a reflection of what God has called me to do. Perhaps we have become too comfortable. Perhaps we have quit examining ourselves and the culture that surrounds those of us who have been called to ministry in the local church. I think that, more than any other book I have written, I wrote this book because I could not live with not writing it. And I have launched myself on a ministry career direction to get help for pastors who have lost their way.
I guess that means I am a pastor who is so bold as to assume that you, like me, need pastoring and, at least in the pages of this book, I will attempt to pastor you. I do that knowing that every warning I put before you I need myself, and each dose of the medicine of grace I give you I need to take as well.
It is the gospel of the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ that makes possible the honesty that is on the pages of this book. If all the sin, weaknesses, and failures that this book addresses have been fully covered by the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, then we can break the silence, walk out into the light, and face the things that God is calling us to face. My prayer is that this book would get a conversation started that will never stop and that it will lead to changes that have been needed for way too long.
I would simply ask that as you read, you deactivate your inner lawyer and consider with an open heart. Be so bold as to ask God to reveal in you what needs to be revealed and to give you the grace to address what needs to be addressed. And as you do these things, celebrate the grace that has been lavished on you that frees you from the burden of having to pump up your righteousness to yourself and to parade it before others. Because your standing before your Lord is based on the righteousness of Another, you can stand before a holy God and admit to your darkest secrets and own your deepest failures and be unafraid, knowing that because of the work of Jesus, the one to whom you confess will not turn his back on you but will move toward you with forgiving, rescuing, transforming, empowering, and delivering grace. This is the good news not only that makes this book possible but also that you and I need to preach to ourselves and to one another day after day.

Paul David Tripp
April 10, 2012

PART 1

EXAMINING PASTORAL CULTURE

CHAPTER ONE

HEADED FOR DISASTER

I was a very angry man. The problem was that I didn’t know I was an angry man. I thought that no one had a more accurate view of me than I did, and I simply didn’t see myself as angry. No, I didn’t think I was perfect, and, yes, I knew I needed others in my life, but I lived as though I didn’t. Luella, my dear wife, was very faithful over a long period of time in bringing my anger to me. She did it with a combination of firmness and grace. She never yelled at me, she never called me names, and she never called me out in front of our children. Again and again she let me know that my anger was neither justified nor acceptable. I look back and marvel at the character she showed during those very difficult days. I found out later that Luella had already been putting together her escape plan. No, she wasn’t planning to divorce me; she just knew that the cycle of anger needed to be broken so that we could be reconciled and live in the kind of relationship that God had designed marriage to be.
When Luella would approach me with yet another instance of this anger, I would always do the same thing. I would wrap my robes of righteousness around me, activate my inner lawyer, and remind her once again of what a great husband she had. I would go through my well-rehearsed and rather long list of all the things I did for her, all the ways I made her life easier. I’m a domestic guy. I don’t mind doing things around the house. I love to cook. So I had a lot of things I could point to that assured me I was not the guy she was saying I was and that I hoped would convince her that she was wrong as well. But Luella wasn’t convinced. She seemed more and more convinced that she was right and that change had to take place. I just wanted her to leave me alone, but she wouldn’t, and frankly that made me angry.
In ways that scare me now as I look back on them, I was a man headed for disaster. I was in the middle of destroying my marriage and my ministry, and I didn’t have a clue. There was a huge disconnect between my private persona and my public ministry life. The irritable and impatient man at home was a very different guy from the gracious and patient pastor our congregation saw in those public ministry and worship settings where they encountered me most. I was increasingly comfortable with things that should have haunted and convicted me. I was okay with things as they were. I felt little need for change. I just didn’t see the spiritual schizophrenia that personal ministry life had become. Things would not stay the same, if for no other reason than that I was and am a son of a relentless Redeemer, who will not forsake the work of his hands until that work is complete. Little did I know that he would expose my heart in a powerful moment of rescuing grace. I was blind and progressively hardening and happily going about the work of a growing local church and Christian school.
When being confronted, I told Luella numerous times that I thought she was just a garden-variety, discontented wife. I told her that I would pray for her. That helped and comforted her! Actually, it did the opposite—it depicted two things to her. It alerted her to how blind I was, and it reminded her that she had no power whatsoever to change me. The change that was needed would take an act of grace. Luella was confronted with the fact that she would never be anything more than a tool in God’s powerful hands.
But God blessed Luella with the perseverant faith that she needed to keep coming to me, often in the middle of very discouraging moments. What I am about to share next is both humbling and embarrassing. On one occasion, as Luella was confronting me with yet another instance of my anger, I got on a roll and actually said these deeply humble words: “Ninety-five percent of the women in our church would love to be married to a man like me!” How’s that for humility? Luella very quickly informed me that she was in the 5 percent! How blind does one have to be to let a statement like mine roll out of one’s lips? God was about to undo and rebuild the heart and life of this man, and I did not know I needed it and had no idea that it was coming.
My brother Tedd and I had been on a ministry training weekend and were on our way home. I never thought that a single trip up the Northeast Extension of the Pennsylvania Turnpike could be so momentous. Tedd suggested that we try to make what we had learned over the weekend practical to our own lives. He said, “Why don’t you start?” and then proceeded to ask me a series of questions. I think I will celebrate what happened next for ten million years into eternity. As Tedd asked me questions, it was as though God was ripping down curtains and I was seeing and hearing myself with accuracy for the first time. There is no way that I can overstate the significance of the work that the Holy Spirit was doing at that moment in the car through Tedd’s questions.
As God opened my eyes in that moment, I was immediately broken and grieved. What I saw through Tedd’s questions was so far from the view of myself that I had carried around for so many years that it was almost impossible to believe that the man I was now looking at and hearing was actually me. But it was. I couldn’t believe what I saw myself doing and heard myself saying as I recounted scenarios in answer to Tedd’s questions. It was a moment of pointed and powerful divine rescue, a bigger moment than I was able to grasp in the shock and emotion of the moment. I don’t know if Tedd knew at the time how big this moment was, either.
I couldn’t wait to get home and talk with Luella. I knew the insight I was being given was not just the produce of God’s using Tedd’s questions; it was also the result of Luella’s loving but determined faithfulness for all of those trying years. I am a man with a lively sense of humor, and I often enter the house humorously, but not this night. I was in the throes of life-altering, heart-reshaping conviction. I think Luella knew right away that something was up by the way I looked. I asked her if we could sit down and talk, even though it was late. As we sat down I said, “I know you have been trying for a long time to get me to look at my anger, and I have been unwilling. I have always turned it back on you, but I can honestly say for the first time that I am ready to listen to you. I want to hear what you have to say.”
I’ll never forget what happened next. Luella began to cry; she told me that she loved me, and then she talked for two hours. It was in those two hours that God began the process of the radical tearing down and rebuilding of my heart. The most important word of the previous sentence is process. I wasn’t zapped by lightning; I didn’t instantly become an unangry man. But now I was a man with eyes, ears, and heart open. The next few months were incredibly painful. It seemed that my anger was visible everywhere I looked. At times it seemed the pain was too great to bear. That pain was the pain of grace. God was making the anger that I had denied and protected to be like vomit in my mouth. God was working to make sure that I would never go back again. I was in the middle of spiritual surgery. You see, the pain wasn’t an indication that God had withdrawn his love and grace from me. No, the opposite was true. The pain was a clear indication of God’s lavishing his love and grace on me. In this trial of conviction, I was getting what I had so often prayed for—the salvation (sanctification) of my soul.
I will never forget one particular moment that took place months after that night of conviction and rescue. I was coming down the stairs into our living room, and I saw Luella sitting with her back to me. And as I looked at her, it hit me that I couldn’t remember the last time I had felt that old ugly anger toward her. Now, I want to be candid here. I’m not saying that I had risen to a point in my sanctification where I found it impossible to experience a flash of impatience or irritation; but that that old, life-dominating anger was gone. Praise God! I walked up behind Luella and put my hands on her shoulders, and she put her head back and looked up at me, and I said to her, “You know, I’m not angry at you anymore.” Together we laughed and cried at the same time at the beauty of what God had done.

NOT ALONE

I wish I could say that my pastoral experience is unique, but I have come to learn in my ministry travels to hundreds of churches around the world that, sadly, it is not. Sure, the details are unique, but the same disconnect between the public pastoral persona and the private man is there in many, many pastors’ lives. I have heard so many stories containing so many confessions that I have carried with me grief and concern about the state of pastoral culture in our generation. It is the burden of this concern, coupled with my knowledge and experience of transforming grace, that has driven me to write this book.
There are three underlying themes that operated in my life, which I have encountered operating in the lives of many pastors to whom I have talked. These underlying themes functioned as the mechanism of spiritual blindness in my life, and they do in the lives of countless pastors around the world. Unpacking these themes is a good way to launch us on an examination of places where pastoral culture may be less than biblical and on a consideration of temptations that are either resident in or intensified by pastoral ministry.

1) I LET MINISTRY DEFINE MY IDENTITY

It is something I have written about before, but I think it is particularly important for people in ministry to understand. I always say it this way: “No one is more influential in your life than you are, because no one talks to you more than you do.” Whether you realize it or not, you are in an unending conversation with yourself, and the things you say to you about you are formative of the way that you live. You are constantly talking to yourself about your identity, your spirituality, your functionality, your emotionality, your mentality, your personality, your relationships, etc. You are constantly preaching to yourself some kind of gospel. You preach to yourself an anti-gospel of your own righteousness, power, and wisdom, or you preach to yourself the true gospel of deep spiritual need and sufficient grace. You preach to yourself an anti-gospel of aloneness and inability, or you preach to yourself the true gospel of the presence, provisions, and power of an ever-present Christ.
Smack-dab in the middle of your internal conversation is what you tell yourself about your identity. Human beings are always assigning to themselves some kind of identity. There are only two places to look. Either you will be getting your identity vertically, from who you are in Christ, or you will be shopping for it horizontally in the situations, experiences, and relationships of your daily life. This is true of everyone, but I am convinced that getting one’s identity horizontally is a particular temptation for those in ministry. Part of why I was so blind to the huge disconnect between what was going on in my public ministry life and my private family life was this issue of identity.
Ministry had become my identity. No, I didn’t think of myself as a child of God, in daily need of grace, in the middle of my own sanctification, still in a battle with sin, still in need of the body of Christ, and called to pastoral ministry. No, I thought of myself as a pastor. That’s it, bottom line. The office of pastor was more than a calling and a set of God-given gifts that had been recognized by the body of Christ. “Pastor” defined me. It was me in a way that proved to be more dangerous than I would have thought. Permit me to explain the spiritual dynamics of all this.
In ways that my eyes didn’t see and my heart was not yet ready to embrace, my Christianity had quit being a relationship. Yes, I knew God is my Father and that I am his child, but at street level things looked different. My faith had become a professional calling. It had become my job. My role as pastor was the way I understood myself. It shaped the way I related to God. It formed my relationships with the people in my life. My calling had become my identity, and I was in trouble, and I had no idea. I was set up for disaster, and if it hadn’t been anger, it would have been something else.
It’s no surprise to me that there are many bitter pastors out there, many who are socially uncomfortable, many who have messy or dysfunctional relationships at home, many who have tense relationships with staff members or lay leaders, and many who struggle with secret, unconfessed sin. Could it be that all of these struggles are potentiated by the fact that we have become comfortable with looking at and defining ourselves in a way that is less than biblical? So we come to relationship with God and others being less than needy. And because we are less than needy, we are less than open to the ministry of others and to the conviction of the Spirit. This sucks the life out of the private devotional aspect of our walk with God. Tender, heartfelt worship is hard for a person who thinks of himself as having arrived. No one celebrates the presence and grace of the Lord Jesus Christ more than the person who has embraced his desperate and daily need of it. But ministry had redefined me. In ways I now find embarrassing, it told me that I was not like everyone else, that I existed in a unique category. And if I was not like everyone else, then I didn’t need what everyone else needs. Now, if you had sat me down and told me all this specifically, I would have told you it was all a bunch of baloney; but it was how I acted and related.
I know I am not alone. There are many pastors who have inserted themselves into a spiritual category that doesn’t exist. Like me, they think they are someone they’re not. So they respond in ways that they shouldn’t, and they develop habits that are spiritually dangerous. They are content with a devotional life that either doesn’t exist or is constantly kidnapped by preparation. They are comfortable with living outside of or above the body of Christ. They are quick to minister but not very open to being ministered to. They have long since quit seeing themselves with accuracy and so tend not to receive well the loving confrontation of others. And they tend to carry this unique-category identity home with them and are less than humble and patient with their families.
The false identity that many of us have assigned to ourselves then structures how we see and respond to others. You are most loving, patient, kind, and gracious when you are aware that there is no truth that you could give to another that you don’t desperately need yourself. You are most humble and gentle when you think that the person you are ministering to is more like you than unlike you. When you have inserted yourself into another category that tends to make you think you have arrived, it is very easy to be judgmental and impatient. I heard a pastor unwittingly verbalize this well.
My brother Tedd and I were at a large Christian-life conference listening to a well-known pastor speak on family worship. He told stories of the zeal, discipline, and dedication of the great fathers of our faith to personal and family worship. He painted lengthy pictures of what their private and family devotions were like. I think all of us felt that it was all very convicting and discouraging. I felt the weight of the burden of the crowd as they listened. I was saying to myself, “Comfort us with grace, comfort us with grace,” but the grace never came.
On the way back to the hotel, Tedd and I rode with the speaker and another pastor, who was our driver. Our pastor driver had clearly felt the burden himself and asked the speaker a brilliant question. He said, “If a man in your congregation came to you and said, ‘Pastor, I know I’m supposed to have devotions with my family, but things are so chaotic at my house that I can barely get myself out of bed and get the child fed and off to school; I don’t know how I would ever be able to pull off devotions too’—what would you say to him?” (The following response is not made up or enhanced in any way.) The speaker answered, “I say to him, ‘I’m a pastor, which means I carry many more burdens for many more people than you do, and if I can pull off daily family worship, you should be able to do so as well.’ ” Maybe it was because he was with a group of pastors, but he actually said it! There was no identifying with the man’s struggle. There was no ministry of grace. Coming from a world this man didn’t understand, he laid the law on him even more heavily, as sadly I did again and again with my wife and children.
As I heard his response, I was angry, until I remembered that I had done the very same thing again and again. At home it was all too easy to mete out judgment while I was all too stingy with the giving of grace. But there was another thing operating that was even more dangerous. This unique-category identity not only defined my relationship with others but also was destroying my relationship with God.
Blind to what was going on in my heart, I was proud, unapproachable, defensive, and all too comfortable. I was a pastor; I didn’t need what other people need. Now, I want to say again that at the conceptual, theological level, I would have argued that all of this was bunk. Being a pastor was my calling, not my identity. Child of the Most High God was my cross-purchased identity. Member of the body of Christ was my identity. Man in the middle of his own sanctification was my identity. Sinner and still in need of rescuing, transforming, empowering, and delivering grace was my identity. I didn’t realize that I looked horizontally for what I had already been given in Christ and that it was producing a harvest of bad fruit in my heart, in my ministry, and in my relationships. I had let my ministry become something that it should never be (my identity); I looked to it to give me what it never could (my inner sense of well-being).

2) I LET BIBLICAL LITERACY AND THEOLOGICAL KNOWLEDGE DEFINE MY MATURITY

This is not unrelated to the above, but it’s enough of a different category to require its own attention. It is quite easy in ministry to give in to a subtle but significant redefinition of what spiritual maturity is and does. This definition has its roots in how we think about what sin is and what sin does. I think that many, many pastors carry into their pastoral ministries a false definition of maturity that is the result of the academic enculturation that tends to take place in seminary. Permit me to explain.
Since seminary tends to academize the faith, making it a world of ideas to be mastered (I will write about this at length later in this book), it is quite easy for students to buy into the belief that biblical maturity is about the precision of theological knowledge and the completeness of their biblical literacy. So seminary graduates, who are Bible and theology experts, tend to think of themselves as being mature. But it must be said that maturity is not merely something you do with your mind (although that is an important element of spiritual maturity). No, maturity is about how you live your life. It is possible to be theologically astute and be very immature. It is possible to be biblically literate and be in need of significant spiritual growth.
I was an honors graduate of a seminary. I won academic awards. I assumed I was mature and felt misunderstood and misjudged by anyone who failed to share my assessment. In fact, I saw those moments of confrontation as part of the persecution that anyone faces when he gives himself to gospel ministry. Now, the roots of this are a deep misunderstanding of what sin and grace are all about. You see, sin is not first an intellectual problem. (Yes, it does affect my intellect, as it does all parts of my functioning.) Sin is first a moral problem. It is about my rebellion against God and my quest to have for myself the glory that is due to him. Sin is not first about the breaking of an abstract set of rules. Sin is first and foremost about breaking relationship with God, and because I have broken this relationship, it is then easy and natural to rebel against God’s rules. So it’s not just my mind that needs to be renewed by sound biblical teaching, but my heart needs to be reclaimed by the powerful grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. The reclamation of my heart is both an event (justification) and a process (sanctification). Seminary, therefore, won’t solve my deepest problem—sin. It can contribute to the solution, but it may also blind me to my true condition by its tendency to redefine what maturity actually looks like. Biblical maturity is never just about what you know; it’s always about how grace has employed what you have come to know to transform the way you live.
Think of Adam and Eve. They didn’t disobey God because they were intellectually ignorant of God’s commands. No, they knowingly stepped over God’s boundaries because they quested for God’s position. The spiritual war of Eden was fought on the turf of the desires of the hearts of Adam and Eve. The battle was being fought at a deeper level than mere knowledge. Consider David. He didn’t claim Bathsheba as his own and plot to get rid of her husband because he was ignorant of God’s prohibitions against adultery and murder. No, David did what he did because at some point he didn’t care what God wanted. He was going to have what his heart desired, no matter what.
Or think what it means to be wise. There is a huge difference between knowledge and wisdom. Knowledge is an accurate understanding of truth. Wisdom is understanding and living in light of how that truth applies to the situations and relationships of your daily life. Knowledge is an exercise of your brain. Wisdom is the commitment of your heart that leads to transformation of your life.
Even though I didn’t know it, I had walked into pastoral ministry with an unbiblical view of biblical maturity. In ways that now scare me, I thought I had arrived. I viewed myself as being way more mature than I actually was. So when Luella would lovingly and faithfully confront me that I was just being defensive, by definition I thought she was wrong. And increasingly I was convinced that she was the one with the problem. So I didn’t see myself as needy, and I was not open to correction, and I would use my biblical and theological knowledge to defend myself. I was a mess, and I had no idea.

3) I CONFUSED MINISTRY SUCCESS WITH GOD’S ENDORSEMENT OF MY LIFESTYLE

Pastoral ministry was exciting in many ways. The church was growing numerically, and people seemed to be growing spiritually. More and more people seemed to be committing to this vibrant spiritual community, and we saw battles of the heart taking place in people’s lives. We founded a Christian school, which was growing and expanding its reputation and influence. We were beginning to identify and disciple leaders. It wasn’t all rosy, and there were moments that were painful and burdensome, but I started out my days with a deep sense of privilege that God had called me to do what he had called me to do. I was leading a community of faith, and God was blessing our efforts. But I held these blessings in the wrong way. Without knowing that I was doing it, I took God’s faithfulness to me, to his people, to the work of his kingdom, to his plan of redemption, and to his church as an endorsement of me. It was a “I’m one of the good guys and God is behind me all the way” perspective on my ministry, but more importantly on myself. In fact, I would say to Luella (and this is embarrassing, but important to admit), “If I’m such a bad guy, why is God blessing everything I put my hands to?” God was acting as he was not because he was endorsing my manner of living but because of his zeal for his own glory and his faithfulness to his promises of grace for his people. And God has the authority and power to use whatever instruments he chooses in whatever way he chooses to use them. The success of a ministry is always more a picture of who God is than a statement about who the people are that he is using for his purpose. I had it all wrong. I took credit that I did not deserve for what I could not do; I made it about me, so I didn’t see myself as a man headed for disaster and in deep need of the rescue of God’s grace.

I was a man in need of rescuing grace, and through Luella’s faithfulness and Tedd’s surgical questions, God did exactly that. What about you? How do you view yourself? What are the things you regularly say to you about you? Are there subtle signs in your life that you see yourself as being different from those to whom you minister? Do you see yourself as a minister of grace in need of the same grace? Have you become comfortable with discontinuities between the gospel that you preach and the way that you live? Are there disharmonies between your public ministry persona and the details of your private life? Do you encourage a level of community in your church that you do not give yourself to? Do you fall into believing that no one has a more accurate view of you than you do? Do you use your knowledge or experience to keep confrontation at bay?
Pastor, you don’t have to be afraid of what is in your heart, and you don’t have to fear being known, because there is nothing in you that could ever be exposed that hasn’t already been covered by the precious blood of your Savior king, Jesus.

CHAPTER TWO

AGAIN AND AGAIN

I wish I could say that my story is unique, that most pastors don’t struggle the way that I did. I wish I could say that in the lives of the vast majority of pastors there is no disconnect between their public ministry personas and the details of their private lives. I wish I could say that most pastors are as skilled at preaching the gospel to themselves as they are to others. I wish I could say that relationships between pastors and their staff are seldom tense and seldom break down. I wish I could report that few pastors are angry and bitter. I wish I could tell you that my experience is that most churches pastor their pastors well. I wish I could encourage you with the fact that most pastors are known for their humility and approachability. I wish I could say that most pastors minister out of a deep sense of their own need. Yes, I wish I could say all of these things, but I can’t.
Because of what God has called me to do, I am with a different pastoral staff, somewhere in the world, about forty times a year. On these weekends I am obsessively nosy, in the best ministry sense of those words. I love pastors. I love the local church. I understand the push and pull of pastoral ministry. I have experienced its brightest moments and its darkest nights. I know how this calling can seem unbearably burdensome and how it can be a sheer delight. I know pastors not only face trouble but also can be all too skilled at troubling their own trouble. I know no pastor has graduated from his need for forgiving, transforming, empowering, and delivering grace. So I care, and because I care, I want to know what’s going on and how the pastor(s) is (are) doing. I love meeting with the pastoral staff and rattling their cages. I love helping them to communicate what they’re going through and how they’re doing in the middle of it. I love reminding pastors of the present benefits of the person and work of Jesus. I love helping them to see that their security is not to be found in how much the people of their church will come to love them but in the reality of how much Jesus already has loved them. I love giving the rather proud pastor eyes to see himself with a greater biblical clarity, and I love helping the defeated pastor see himself in light of the grace of the gospel. So I listen carefully. I watch with ministry intent. I draw out stories and probe for their meaning in the heart of the pastor. I try to access the character of the local pastoral/staff culture. I do all of this with one question in mind: how is the gospel of Jesus Christ forming and transforming the heart of this pastor and his local ministry culture?
Besides my commitment to eavesdrop on the life of the pastor and his partners in ministry, there is a second experience that has informed and motivated the material in this book. Almost every weekend I am somewhere teaching on some kind of Christian life topic (marriage, parenting, communication, body of Christ, living in light of eternity, etc.). Again and again on these weekends one of the pastors will pull me into a room and begin to confess to me that he is the “jerk” I have been talking about (I never use that word). He will confess to the sorry state of his marriage, that he is an angry parent, that he numbs himself every evening with too much television, that he deals with ministry pressure by drinking more than he should, or that he has dysfunctional ministry relationships all around him. Here is one of my weekend stories.
The day before I arrived for the weekend I got a call from a senior staff member asking me if I would be willing to spend an hour with the church board. I knew right away what the topic of our conversation was to be. I was ushered into one of the staff offices immediately after the weekend conference was over and was greeted by the shell-shocked board. My heart went out to them before they had shared any of the details of their totally unexpected week. We prayed, and they began to tell their story.
The members of the leadership team had arrived for the weekly Monday morning debrief meeting. Usually they would spend some time in prayer and then talk over the events of Sunday. But this meeting would prove to be different in every way. First, the senior pastor was late. He was never late. He hated being late, but this time he was so late that one of the team members called to see what was wrong and if he was on his way. When he entered the room, they all knew something was wrong, very wrong. He was only forty-five and in the height of his ministry, but he looked old, tired, and beaten. He didn’t look like the same man who had preached just a day earlier. He mumbled an apology about being late and without any further hesitation said:

I’m done, I can’t do this anymore. I can’t deal with the pressures of ministry. I can’t face preaching another sermon. I can’t deal with another meeting. If I am honest, I would have to say that all I want to do is leave. I want to leave the ministry, I want to leave this area, and I want to leave my wife. No, there’s been no affair. I’m just tired of pretending that I’m someone that I’m not. I’m tired of acting like I’m okay when I’m not. I’m tired of playing as if my marriage is good when it is the polar opposite of good. I can’t preach this coming Sunday, and I have to get away alone or I’m going to explode. I’m sorry to lay this on you this way, but I’m done—I can’t go on.

And with that, he got up and walked out. The leadership team was too stunned to stop him. After talking amongst themselves and praying together again, they called him and asked him to come back. It was in this following conversation that these fellow leaders came to know a man they had lived and ministered with but had not known.
For me, the attention-getting thing about this sad scenario, which I’ve heard way too many times, was not its stunning suddenness but the shocking reality that the pastor lived in this day-by-day ministry community fundamentally unknown and uncared for. I helped the leadership team to think about what to do next and how to care for their pastor, but I left with a heavy heart and with the knowledge that they had been cast into something that would be very painful for them all and would not go away very soon.
I have walked through similar scenarios with many pastors all around the world. From Belfast to Los Angeles, from Johannesburg to New York, from Minneapolis to Singapore, from Cleveland to Berlin, I’ve heard their stories and felt their discouragement, bitterness, aloneness, fear, and longing. As I’ve told my story, pastors have felt safe in telling their stories. And it has hit me again and again that there are too many pastors with sad stories to tell, and I’ve wondered again and again to myself, what’s gone wrong with pastoral culture?
I’m often asked to do material similar to what is in this book as a preconference to a conference on another topic. I always try to be unflinchingly honest while being unshakingly hopeful. I finished addressing about five hundred pastors at one of these preconferences, but I was not prepared for what would happen next. When I finished and came off the platform, a long line of concerned and broken pastors formed in front of me. About five pastors down the line stood a man who wept his way toward me. I think I could have set up a counseling office for two weeks, full-time, and still not have ministered to all the needs that stood before me. It was at this conference that I determined that I would speak to these issues and do all that I could to minister to my fellow pastors. This book is the result of that clear moment of calling.
As I have unpacked my own story and have endeavored to exegete the story of others in ministry, themes have risen to the surface. Yes, each story is unique, and generalizations can be both unhelpful and dangerous, but the pathway to being lost in the middle of your own ministry story is a road that has been traveled by many. Inspecting their journey can help you understand yours.

SIGNS OF A PASTOR LOSING HIS WAY

There are things that my pastor friend, whom I spoke of above, did and did not do that summarize well the signs of a pastor in trouble.

1) HE IGNORED THE CLEAR EVIDENCE OF PROBLEMS

The evidence was all around him, and yet he simply didn’t pay attention. I’ve noted in other books that no one is more influential in your life than you are, because no one talks to you more than you do. My pastor friend had been in a long conversation with himself denying, minimizing, and rationalizing the evidence that pointed to the fact that he was a man in trouble. No, it wasn’t adultery or pornography; his struggle was more fundamental than that. His explosive anger with his children, which was not an irregular experience, was one of those signs. His constant complaints about fellow leaders after ministry meetings was another piece of troubling evidence. The growing distance between him and his wife pictured that something was not right. His nonexistent devotional life pointed to something being wrong. The fact that he numbed himself every night with hours of television pointed to an unsettled heart. His fantasies of ministering in a different capacity or in a different place pointed to something amiss. His skill at giving nonanswers to personal questions was evidence of his losing his way. Yes, there was all kinds of evidence, but it was denied, ignored, or explained away.
This pastor had become what all of us have the tendency in our sin to become—very skilled self-swindlers. Here’s how it works. If you aren’t daily admitting to yourself that you are a mess and in daily and rather desperate need for forgiving and transforming grace, and if the evidence around has not caused you to abandon your confidence in your own righteousness, then you are going to give yourself to the work of convincing yourself that you are okay. How do you do that? Well, you point to the ample evidence the fallen world gives you, that the people and situations around you are flawed and broken and are, therefore, the reason you respond to life the way you do. You tell yourself again and again that you are not the problem—that it is or they are, but not you. And you tell yourself that you don’t really need to change; it’s the people and circumstances around you that need to change. What you are doing, although you probably aren’t aware of it, is building elaborate, seemingly logical arguments for your own righteousness. Daily you defend it to yourself and find ways to parade it before others. Rather than casting yourself on the mercy of the one true Savior, you are acting as your own savior, building atoning arguments for the rightfulness of what God clearly says is wrong. You deny evidence, defend your righteousness, and resist grace. No wonder things worsen until they finally come to a tipping point. I know this evidence-denying pattern. I got my master’s degree in it! The problem was that I was a pastor and I had no sense of the fact that at the very time I was holding the one beautiful Savior before others, I was working hard to be my own savior.

2) HE WAS BLIND TO THE ISSUES OF HIS OWN HEART

One of the scarier components of remaining sin is its deceitfulness. It is a reality that is vital to acknowledge and confess. Sin blinds. You see, you and I are in possession of two vision systems. There are our physical eyes that enable us to see the physical universe that surrounds us, and there are the eyes of our heart that help us “see” the spiritual realities that are vital to see if we are going to be who we were designed to be and do what we were designed to do. Sin plays havoc with our spiritual vision. Although we are able to see the sin of others with specificity and clarity, we tend to be blind to our own. And the most dangerous aspect of this already dangerous condition is that spiritually blind people tend to be blind to their blindness.
Here’s how it works. My pastor friend did his best to hold onto the delusion that no one had a more accurate view of him than he did. He thought no critique of his thoughts, desires, motivations, choices, words, and actions was more reliable than his own. He thought that the only questions and confrontation that he needed were what he brought to himself. He was all too confident in his vision and all too trusting of his critique of himself. When others would question or confront him, without knowing that he was doing it, he would activate his inner lawyer and generate arguments in his own defense. He often told himself that the speaker didn’t really know him because if he did, he wouldn’t question him in the way that he was. He often angrily said to his wife, “Darling, you just don’t know me as well as you think you do.”
Because sin blinds, God has set up the body of Christ to function as an instrument of seeing in our lives, so that we can know ourselves with a depth and accuracy that would be impossible if left on our own. But my friend didn’t trust the vision help of others; rather, he relied solely on his view of himself and was left to his own blindness. Patterns were left unaddressed, and because they were unaddressed, they were given time and room to grow until the disconnect between his life and ministry became so obvious and burdensome that all he could think of was getting out.

3) HIS MINISTRY LACKED DEVOTION

I am more and more convinced that what gives a ministry its motivations, perseverance, humility, joy, tenderness, passion, and grace is the devotional life of the one doing ministry. When I daily admit how needy I am, daily meditate on the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and daily feed on the restorative wisdom of his Word, I am propelled to share with others the grace that I am daily receiving at the hands of my Savior. There simply is no set of exegetical, homiletical, or leadership skills that can compensate for the absence of this in the life of a pastor. It is my worship that enables me to lead others to worship. It is my sense of need that leads me to tenderly pastor those in need of grace. It is my joy in my identity in Christ that leads me to want to help others live in the middle of what it means to be “in Christ.” In fact, one of the things that makes a sermon compelling is that the preacher is worshiping his way through his own sermon.
Having a ministry that is fueled by personal devotion has its roots in humble, heart-deep confession. This is where it all went wrong with my pastor friend and many others in his shoes. Because he denied the evidence that was around him and was blind to his own heart, he tended to see himself as okay, when he wasn’t okay. So he wasn’t convicted and encouraged by his preparation and didn’t sit under his own preaching. His self-satisfaction meant his words and actions in ministry did not grow in the soil of a personal love for and worship of Christ. Preparation became about downloading a body of truths to people who needed to have their thinking rearranged. His counseling was more problem solving than gospel encouraging. And along the way it all began to get dry and unappealing. It quit having life. It all stopped being about worship and became an ever-repeating series of pastoral responsibilities.

4) HE WASN’T PREACHING THE GOSPEL TO HIMSELF

If you are in ministry and you are not reminding yourself again and again of the now-ism of the gospel, that is, the right-here, right-now benefits of the grace of Christ, you will be looking elsewhere to get what can be found only in Jesus. If you are not feeding your soul on the realities of the presence, promises, and provisions of Christ, you will ask the people, situations, and things around you to be the messiah that they can never be. If you are not attaching your identity to the unshakable love of your Savior, you will ask the things in your life to be your Savior, and it will never happen. If you are not requiring yourself to get your deepest sense of well-being vertically, you will shop for it horizontally, and you will always come up empty. If you are not resting in the one true gospel, preaching it to yourself over and over again, you will look to another gospel to meet the needs of your unsettled heart.
Because my pastor friend didn’t preach to himself the truths of who he was in Christ, he began to look for rest in places where rest could not be found. In ways he did not realize, he asked the people and situations around him to be his savior. He was all too aware of how his leaders responded to him, and he needed their respect to have inner peace. He needed the congratulatory responses of his congregation to his preaching, because that made him feel good about what he was doing. He had his identity too attached to his opinions and ideas and felt that rejection of them was rejection of him. And as he looked horizontally for what could only be found vertically, he felt more and more alone and under-appreciated. His private conversation with himself was more self-defense, self-pity, and hurt toward others than it was a liberating and motivating rehearsal of the present glories of the love of Christ. Forgetting to preach to himself the gospel he sought to give to others kicked in a downward spiral in his heart, which he was unaware of until it was so burdensome, all he wanted to do was quit.

5) HE WASN’T LISTENING TO THE PEOPLE CLOSEST TO HIM

In many ways my pastor friend was unknown at the level of the struggles of his heart, but he was not without outside help of any kind. He did live and minister with leaders who cared about him and spoke to him honestly. There were many occasions where a fellow elder or a long-term staffer would approach him about his attitude or about the way he had spoken to someone. There were many times over the years when someone had come to him with concerns about his marriage and the time he was or was not investing there or about things they saw happening in the lives of his children. He had been confronted about how closely he guarded the details of his personal life or about how many late nights he would spend in his office. No, no one knew the momentous war that was being waged in his heart, but he was not left to himself. There was care that, if taken seriously, could have and probably would have got at the bedrock issues of the heart.
Although my friend wasn’t overtly dismissive, he didn’t really listen. Because he wasn’t open, he would tell himself that he had been misunderstood or that things weren’t really that bad; he would even say that he was thankful for all the people who cared for him—they just didn’t really know all the good things he was doing in his personal life. He was a very approachable guy who was at the same time very skilled at failing to heed the warnings that God was giving him through faithful members of the body of Christ.

6) HIS MINISTRY BECAME BURDENSOME

This is where it inevitably leads. You’ve lost sight of the gospel in your personal life; you feel a growing disconnect between your private life and your public ministry persona; your ministry is no longer fueled by your own worship; you feel misunderstood by those around you; you feel wrongly criticized by those in your home; you think that you and your leadership are not treated with the esteem that they deserve; and you are increasingly spiritually empty because you are looking for spiritual life where it cannot be found. The impact of all of these things together is that you find your ministry less and less a privilege and a joy and more and more a burden and a duty.
I think we would be shocked if we knew how many pastors have lost their joy—how many of us get up at the beginning of each week and grind it out, if for no other reason than we don’t know what else to do. For how many of us is ministry no longer an act of worship? How many of us are building a kingdom in our ministries other than the kingdom of God? How many of us are carrying a burden of hurt and bitterness into each ministry moment? How many of us want to escape and just don’t know how?

7) HE BEGAN TO LIVE IN SILENCE

There are two things that kick in here. First, when people are your substitute messiah (you need their respect and support in order to continue), it’s hard to be honest with them about your sins, weaknesses, and failures. There is a second thing that kicks in as well: fear. The more separation and discontinuity there is between the real details of my personal life and my public confession and image, the more I will tend to fear being known. I will fear how people would think of and respond to me if they really knew what was going on in my life. I may even fear the loss of my job. So my responses to the concerns and inquiries of others become structured by fear rather than faith. So I do not make the regular, healthy confessions of struggle to my ministry co-partners, I do not ask candidly and humbly for prayer in places where I clearly need it, and I am very careful with how I answer personal questions when they come my way.
This all means that I am no longer benefiting from the insight-giving, protecting, encouraging, warning, preventative, and restoring ministries of the body of Christ. I am trying to do what none of us is able to do—spiritually make it on my own. Autonomous Christianity never works, because our spiritual life was designed by God to be a community project.

8) HE BEGAN TO QUESTION HIS CALLING

Because I am not seeing myself with accuracy and because ministry has become burdensome, instead of examining my character and my responses, I will tend to begin to question whether I was right in thinking I was called to ministry. You see, there are only two ways to explain the external and internal breakdown of my ministry. Either I am attempting to do something that I was not called to do, or I am thinking and doing the wrong things in the middle of the ministry I was clearly called to. Once you have closed your eyes to the evidence and quit listening to the voices of others, you are left to the blindness and self-righteousness of your yet-sinful heart. This makes it very hard for you to conclude that you are the problem. No, what you will conclude is that ministry or things in your ministry is the problem, and therefore ministry is the thing that needs to be addressed if things are going to change. This is exactly where my pastor friend found himself. He had deep insecurities when it came to his calling that weren’t there five years before.

9) HE GAVE WAY TO FANTASIES OF ANOTHER LIFE

All of these led to one hope, one dream: getting out. At first it scared him to think of such a thing, but he couldn’t seem to stop. More and more he got comfortable with the fantasies of doing something else, but he was afraid to speak a word of them to anyone else. Before long, though, he had opened up the subject with his wife, trying to feel her out as to how comfortable she would be with the prospect of life on the other side of ministry, and it wasn’t too long before he thought about telling his team he wanted out. It was a bad week that brought it all out in a messier manner than he had envisioned.
I wish I could say that I’ve seen these dynamics operating only in the heart of this one man, but sadly I can’t. I’ve heard the stories again and again. I can predict what I am going to be told next. And for all the pastors who know they are in trouble, there are many, many who are and don’t yet know it. No, not all of these characteristics are in the lives of each of the men I have talked with, but in all of them many of these things are operating. And not only are they operating, but they are operating outside of the motivating, encouraging, empowering, transforming, and delivering truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I write this because I am concerned for me and I am concerned for you. And I am concerned for the culture in our churches that allows this to happen, often unchecked.

CHAPTER THREE

BIG THEOLOGICAL BRAINS AND HEART DISEASE

It was a moment of greater insight than I realized at the time. I look back and see it as a sweet moment of divine rescue—just the kind of grace that was to be the passion of the ministry to which I had been called. I was exegeting my way through Romans, Paul’s foundational gospel exposition. I had taken a bound legal-sized notebook and cut a square out of the top right-hand corner of every third page so I could glue a page of the Greek text on both sides of the page. I would then fill the pages with corresponding exegetical notes, sermon outlines, and illustrations. It was an exercise that brought all of my recently taught and newly acquired ministry skills together. I found the exercise challenging and exciting. I felt proud that my notebook was filled with my notes on Romans. I was engulfed in an intoxicating world of language syntax and theological argument. I labored over tenses, contexts, objects, and connectors. I studied etymologies and the Pauline vocabulary. I tried to connect every minute detail to the overarching intention of the author. I consulted all of the experts, weighing insight over insight and opinion against opinion. Countless hours of disciplined private study were represented by page upon page of legal-sized page notes. It was all very rewarding.
One evening, hours into exegeting the next section of Romans, it hit me. I had spent hours each day for months studying perhaps the most extensive and gorgeous exposition of the gospel that has ever been written, and I had been fundamentally untouched by its message. The message had had little impact on me. It had been all grammar and syntax, theological ideas and logical arguments. It had been a massive intellectual exercise but almost completely devoid of spiritual power. I can remember staring at my ink-filled pages. They seemed distant and blurry, somehow not attached to real life, somehow not having anything to do with me. No, I wasn’t delusional; I had written all of it, but it all seemed detached from me, my real life, my marriage, my struggles with sin, my past, my future, my deepest hopes, dreams, and fears. I stared at the page, and it seemed impossible that I could have done all of this work when it had been little more than an assignment for a class, for a grade, in pursuit of a degree.
I sat there numb for a moment as if I had been suspended between two worlds, one real and one that seemed anything but real. I thought of all the classes, all the papers, all the tests. I thought of the huge investment of time, energy, and money. Was it all for this? I began to cry—no, I mean really cry. Powerful emotion came out of me, so much so that Luella heard from another room and came in to see if I was okay. I was anything but okay, and she knew it at first glance. Luella bent down, put her arms around me, and asked me to tell her what was wrong. I remember that she looked frightened as she watched her young seminary husband fall apart before her eyes. In my typically dramatic fashion, I told her I was done. That I couldn’t continue my seminary studies. I told her it was over.
Fortunately, I am married to a wise and patient woman who helped me get my bearings and stood with me as I continued and then finished my studies. That evening, with my exegetical notebook in my hands, I learned something about myself and about the Scriptures. My eyes began to open to the dangers inherent in academizing our faith. I personally experienced what can happen when the gospel of Jesus Christ gets reduced to a series of theological ideas coupled with all the skills necessary to access those ideas. Bad things happen when maturity is more defined by knowing than it is by being. Danger is afloat when you come to love the ideas more than the God whom they represent and the people they are meant to free.
One of the courses I was asked to teach as a member of the practical theology faculty of Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia was in pastoral counseling. It was the one counseling course that MDiv students who didn’t really have any interest in pastoral counseling had to take. It was a required course, and my students took the course only because it was required. I went in each year knowing that my students didn’t want to be in the class and didn’t have much interest in or commitment to what I was about to teach. I found the first few years of teaching this course to be incredibly difficult until I began to understand the importance of my voice in the lives of these big-brained future pastors. I developed a strategy that not only changed the atmosphere of the course but made me anticipate it each year.
I decided that I would come in each semester armed with a catalog of pastoral horror stories—you know, the kinds of things no pastor really wants to deal with but which all pastors do. I told my students stories of the late-night calls from wives who have just been slugged by their husbands, of the grief of the mother who has discovered her fifteen-year-old daughter is pregnant, of standing with a mom and dad before the casket of their four-year-old son, of the hours with the severely depressed person or with the man who has spent his family into financial disaster. I told them stories of the grief and travail of the body of Christ as it is lived with the realities of life in a sin-broken world. I told stories of fear, disloyalty, discouragement, anger, depression, aloneness, and loss. I wanted my students to understand that they are called not just to preach exegetically correct and theologically precise sermons but also to pastor people, to walk, live, support, and suffer with them. I wanted them to know that they are called to be more than local-church theological instructors; they are called to be Christ’s ambassadors, to be the look on his face, the touch of his hand, and the tone of his voice. I wanted them to feel the weight of being called to make an invisible Christ visible in the lives of people who desperately need to “see” his presence and remember his grace. I longed for them to understand that they aren’t called just to teach theology to their people but also to do theology with their people. I wanted them to grapple with the question of whether they were in seminary because they loved the labyrinthine superstructure of the theological concepts of Scripture or because they loved Jesus and wanted to be his tool of transformation in the lives of messy people.
I began each semester by dipping into stories of my own pastoral unreadiness and failure, with hopes that my narrative would be used to birth in them a greater, more roundly biblical vision of pastoral ministry. It was in the middle of one of those stories when something happened that I will never forget, nor will any of the students who were in that class. I was recounting my own heart struggle, when I had been asked yet again to visit a man who had already eaten up much of my pastoral time and energy, when one of my students raised his hand and blurted out, “All right, Professor Tripp, we know that we will have these projects in our churches. Tell us what to do with them so we can get back to the work of the ministry!” There are many things to pay attention to in his statement, but notice this: he didn’t even call the struggling people, to whom we are all called to bring the gospel, “people.” To him they were projects, that is, obstructions in the way of his definition of ministry. Now, if these people are not the focus and object of ministry, then what is ministry? There was no love for people in this student’s statement, and if there was no love for people in his vision of ministry, then it is safe to conclude that there was little operational love for Christ either. He was like many other idea, technology-of-theology guys who populated so many of my classes. My rather pejorative term for them was theologeeks, the guys who see theology as an end in itself rather than as a means to an end. They love the academy and would unwittingly drag the academy into the local church and preach sermons that are more theological lectures than gospel meditations.
I walked down the aisle to his desk, knelt down so we were face-to-face, and asked him to repeat what he had said, loudly and word for word. I was pastoring him at the moment and the class who had heard what he had said. I wanted them never to forget that moment. I asked him to repeat what he had called these people. He softly said, “Projects.” It was a wonderful, God-given teaching moment. Not too long ago I was greeted by a pastor who had been in that class years before. He had remembered it and had been warned again and again by his memory.
Over the years of teaching this course many of my students asked if I would counsel them. Here’s what the dynamic was: as I talked to them about the now-ism of the gospel and encouraged them with the power of the gospel to transform lives in very concrete ways, students in the class would reflect on issues in their own lives. Since the class would uncover things that had not been previously uncovered, and since they were just a few months from graduating and stepping into some kind of ministry position, they felt the urgency to deal with what the course had exposed. I was unprepared for the narratives that I would hear and the kinds of things my students were struggling with.
Frank was one of the first. He had been married for fifteen years, had four children from young teenager on down, and had come to seminary after a successful career in finance. We sat down in my office, and after way too much small talk it became obvious that Frank was having trouble talking about what had motivated him to seek my help. I reassured him of my commitment to him, the importance of his getting help, and the confidentiality of our relationship. What he blurted out next I was unprepared for: “I have a closet of women’s clothes in my basement that I put on at night; it’s the one time in my day when I feel comfortable.” I must admit I was a bit blown away. He was a very bright and gifted young theologian, an intellectual star of sorts. He lived and worked with the Word of God every day. He could parse the details of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Yet with all of this he was lost in a world of deep identity confusion, and the gospel that he was studying in order to help others seemed unable to rescue him. I wondered what he was telling himself as he did ministry interviews. I wondered how his wife had made her way through all of this. I wondered how he thought he’d be able to keep it from his increasingly sophisticated children. But most of all, I wondered how you wear women’s clothes at night and get up the next morning and exegete Colossians.
George didn’t find it as hard to talk to me, because he was no longer able to trust himself, and he was scared. He had begun to study at Barnes and Noble at night after dinner with his wife. He found it gave him a break from the hothouse of seminary while providing a quiet place to study. It wasn’t long before he began to notice all the beautiful young women who also chose Barnes and Noble as their evening hangout. One night he sighted a beautiful young lady and actually moved in order to position himself to have a better, more strategic look at her. Sometimes he would sit so that he could have eye contact with one of these ladies, or he would sit so that he could have the view of them that he wanted without their feeling his stare. Some months in, he saw the woman he was watching get up and leave, so he did the same, perhaps hoping they would bump into one another. She got into her car without noticing him, and he went back in to study. This led to not merely leaving when a woman left but getting in his car and following her, at a distance, to her home. He asked to see me the night after he had followed a woman all the way home, got out of his car, and walked up to her door. Just before he knocked, he got scared and ran to his car and drove away. In class he seemed to be a sweet and pliable seminary student; the contrast between the day and night of his life was stunning.
I was told stories of nearly broken marriages, of domestic violence, of women who were ready to walk out, of angry men, of broken relationships with children and extended families, of private sexual sin, of conflict with neighbors and in church, of deep debt, of battles with depression and anxiety, of obsessive and compulsive thoughts, and of Internet pornography.
The more I heard, the more I was convinced that the things I was being exposed to in the lives of my students were not just individual; they were systemic. I determined I was going to pastor my students; I would apply whatever I was teaching to the foundational thoughts and motives of their hearts. I became convinced that it is dangerous to handle Scripture any other way. Yet when I would endeavor to do so, I would often get push-back from one of my students. One student even confronted me in front of the whole class, saying, “Professor Tripp, you’re preaching at us. This is a seminary classroom, which means this is not your church, and we are not your congregation.” Yes, it really did happen.
Over the years I had heard way too much “Will we need to know this for the exam?” and not enough “Help me understand how to live in light of what you are now teaching us.” I have received many arrogant and self-assured response papers from students who saw themselves as more my teacher than my student. I would read and shudder to think that they were going to be someone’s pastor very soon. Were all of my students in some kind of personal spiritual trouble? Of course not, but many were, and most of them had no idea, even though they were looking in the mirror of the Word of God every day. This sad experience has been a major motivator for writing this book. It has led me to meditate upon and discuss with others this question: what is wrong with the way that we seek to prepare people for local church ministry?

WHAT ARE WE DOING WITH THE WORD?

I have a friend (about whom I have written before) who became an avid rose gardener. His rose garden was the community’s most beautiful and healthy and with the widest variety of roses. He did everything humanly possible to prune, protect, and nourish his bushes into maximum health and productivity. During the season, he would work many hours every day on his bushes. He did it with discipline and perseverance. He told himself he did it because he loved roses. He didn’t mind the early mornings or the gardening that repeatedly took him into the night. His wife thought he was a little nuts, and his friends wondered what it was about roses that hooked this guy, but nothing seemed to weaken his resolve. He knew the URL of all of the important rosebush sites, he was friends with all the good nursery proprietors in his area, and he had filled his head with endless trivia about the history, health, and care of roses. He was able to speak in a rose lingo that needed translation if the listener was not himself a “roser.”
One Friday evening after three hours of rose work, he was looking out the window as he washed his hands at the kitchen sink, and it struck him all of a sudden that the one thing he hadn’t done in years with his roses was enjoy them. He had studied the world of roses. He had cultivated the soil around his rose bushes. He had carefully pruned his bushes. He had given bunches of roses to others. He had fed and watered his roses. He had had long discussions with other rosers. He had spent time at the local nurseries learning more and examining bay bushes with the intent to purchase. But with all of the time invested in roses, he hadn’t taken the time to enjoy the fruits of his labor. He had become an expert, but he had not been moved or changed by the display of beauty that was the object of all his efforts.
That evening, as he stood at his sink, he determined he would do what he hadn’t taken time to do: he would enjoy his roses. The next morning he decided to get up and go out and sit in his rose garden—sit in front of one of the objects of his work—but this time he wouldn’t work; he would sit, watch, listen, and enjoy. So before noon, he placed himself in front of one of his bushes, and for hours he just sat there. He noticed how every branch of each bush was unique. He noticed the individual curvature and placement of each thorn. He watched the insect civilization that attached itself to each bush. He noticed the contrast between the new-growth green of the infant shoots and the rough-bark exterior of the older branches of the bush. He was awestruck by the precise and delicate architecture of each blossom. He couldn’t believe how each yellow petal wasn’t really one shade of yellow but actually a wash of a hundred different yellow hues coursing across it that gave it its yellow appearance. He told me that it may seem weird to say, but his hours before that bush changed him. Those hours gave him back his sight; they made him thankful, they made him smile at the level of his heart, they filled him with mystery and joy, and, most importantly, they caused him to worship.
You see, those bushes were never intended to be an end in themselves. No, those bushes were designed to be a means to an end. The glory of the bushes isn’t ultimate glory. No, it’s sign glory, like every other created thing. All creation is meant to be a finger pointing us to ultimate glory, the only glory that can ever satisfy the human heart, the glory of God. My friend was a rose expert, but he had seen neither the sign nor what the sign pointed to. Expert, but unchanged. Expert, but without awe. Expert, but not driven to worship. Expert, but lacking in joy. Expert, but not very thankful. It was a sad state of affairs for a man who professed to love roses.
Could it be that this is very close to what a seminary education might do to its students? Is it not possible for seminary students to become experts in a gospel that they are not being exposed and changed by? Is it not dangerous to teach students to be comfortable with the radical content of Scripture while holding it separate from their hearts and lives? Is it not dangerous for students to become comfortable with the message of the Bible while not being broken, grieved, and convicted by it? Is it not important for seminary students to be faced daily with the personal implications of the message that they’re learning to unpack and deliver to others? Is it not vital to hold before students who are investigating the theology of Christ the frequent and consistent call to life-shaping love for Christ? Could it be that many students in seminary are too academically busy to sit before the Rose of Sharon in awe, love, and worship? Could it be that in academizing the faith, we have unwittingly made the means to an end the end? Shouldn’t every Christian institution of higher learning be a warm, nurturing, Christ-centered, gospel-driven community of faith? Could it be that rather than having as our mission students who have mastered the Book, our goal should be graduating students who have been mastered by the God of the Book?
Isaiah 55, one of the Bible’s most beautiful offers of grace, confronts us right at this point:

For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven
and do not return there but water the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.
For you shall go out in joy
and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and the hills before you
shall break forth into singing,
and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.
Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress;
instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle;
and it shall make a name for the LORD,
an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off. (vv. 10–13)

I have heard many sermons preached out of the first stanza of this great promise. It is very encouraging that God’s Word will not return empty. It is very motivating to know that God’s words always accomplish God’s purpose. It is wonderful to understand that I do not have to worry about results and outcomes. It is good to know that the God of the Word has a purpose for his Word and that he stands behind his Word, securing its productivity. All of this is amazing and stimulating, but I am always left as a bit of a crazy man when I hear a preacher expound this declaration without unpacking the critical question that it leaves. Declaring that God’s Word will always accomplish its purpose leaves you with this inescapable question: what, then, is its purpose? You simply cannot understand the genius and hope of this passage without answering this question. You see, it is quite possible and, sadly, quite regular for us to use the Bible unbiblically. Even given its God-driven purposefulness, you can approach, handle, and make use of the Word of God in ways that are outside of its intended purpose.
The second stanza of this passage answers the question that the first asks. In beautiful, nature-oriented word pictures, it calls us to recognize that the ultimate purpose for the Word is worship. This has to be so, because the deep drama of this broken world and the image bearers that inhabit it is a drama of worship. The gospel narrative is all about the larceny and restoration of true worship, the thing for which we were given breath, the worship of God. The story that the Word of God contains guarantees a time when all of creation will bow in worship of God. All sin is idolatrous, and grace’s work is to reclaim the deepest desires, passions, thoughts, and motives of our heart for God. This confronts us with the fact that the content and theology of the Word of God is not an end in itself but must be viewed as a means to an end. The intended end of this content is God-honoring, life-shaping worship.
But there is more left wondering, “How is this heart-deep worship produced?” This is where the passage goes next. It employs one of the stranger word pictures in the Bible. Remember, the overarching metaphor is the falling of rain and snow. Strangely, this passage says that when this rain falls down, the thornbush will become a cypress and the brier will become a myrtle. Now think with me. If you have a little thornbush in your backyard and it’s nourished by the snow and rain, what do you expect to get? The obvious answer is a bigger thornbush. If the rain and snow water that brier in your yard, you know the result will be a bigger brier. But not so with the Word of God; when this rain falls on the thornbush it actually becomes something organically different! The picture here is of fundamental, specific, and personal transformation.
When the Word of God, faithfully taught by the people of God and empowered by the Spirit of God, falls down, people become different. Lusting people become pure, fearful people become courageous, thieves become givers, demanding people become servants, angry people become peacemakers, complainers become thankful, and idolaters come to joyfully worship the one true God. The ultimate purpose of the Word of God is not theological information but heart and life transformation. Biblical literacy and theological expertise are not, therefore, the end of the Word but a God-ordained means to an end, and the end is a radically transformed life because the worship at the center of that life has been reclaimed. This means it is dangerous to teach, discuss, and exegete the Word without this goal in view. It should be the goal of every seminary professor. It should be his prayer for every one of his students. It should cause him or her to make regular pastoral pleas to the students. It means recognizing that this student’s future ministry will never be shaped by his knowledge and skill alone but also, inevitably, by the condition of his heart.
Think about it. When a pastor has left his office and is at home yelling at his wife, he’s not ignorant of the fact that his yelling is wrong. At that point he doesn’t care what is right or wrong, because something else is ruling his heart. When a pastor is responding to issues in his church in ways that are more political than pastoral, it’s not because he’s ignorant of the selfishness of this response but because he’s more committed to building his kingdom than God’s. When a pastor is eaten with envy over the ministry position of another, he isn’t giving way to envy out of ignorance of its danger but because his self-absorbed heart feels entitled to what is a blessing and not a right.
Have we accomplished our training task if we produce generations of graduates who have big theological brains but tragically diseased hearts? Must we not hold together theological training and personal transformation? Should we not require every seminary classroom to be faithful to God’s intended purpose for his Word? Shouldn’t every seminary professor have pastoral love for his students? Shouldn’t every instructor long to be used of God to produce a growing love for Christ in each of his students?
I am convinced that the crisis of pastoral culture often begins in the seminary class. It begins with a distant, impersonal, information-based handling of the Word of God. It begins with pastors who, in their seminary years, became quite comfortable with holding God’s Word distant from their own hearts. It begins with classrooms that are academic without being pastoral. It begins with brains becoming more important than hearts. It begins with test scores being more important than character. The problem with all of these things is that they’re subtle and deceptive. They don’t exist in a black-or-white world of either/or but in a messy world of both/and. Yes, every seminary professor would say that he cares about the hearts of his students. All of us would say that we want to stimulate love for Christ. The question is, does this goal shape the content and process of the theological education to which we have given ourselves?

THE SPECIALIZATION OF THEOLOGICAL EDUCATION

If you would go back, let’s say, a hundred years, every professor in the classroom would be a churchman. He would have come to theological education by means of the pastorate. In these men there burned a love for the local church. They came to the classroom carrying the humility and wisdom gained only by their years in the trenches. They taught with the hearts and lives of real people in view—the people with whom they had wept, become angry, rejoiced, and contended. They came to the classroom knowing that the biggest battles of pastoral ministry were fought on the turf of their own hearts. They were pastors who were called not to quit pastoring but to bring pastoral love and zeal into the ecosystem of theological education.
But over the years theological education began to change. It became more specialized and more departmentalized. Over the years more and more professors came to the seminary classroom with little or no local church experience. They got to the classroom not because they were successful pastors and therefore equipped to train and disciple the next generation. No, they got to the seminary classroom because they were experts in their field. So the energy in the classroom was not cloning a new generation of pastors but cloning experts in apologetics, ethics, systematics, church history, and biblical languages. It has been a subtle but seismic change in the culture of the seminary and the kind of results it produces. In some situations it all degenerates into a culture of little feudal kingdoms (the kingdom of systematics or ethics, etc.) with the professor as the feudal lord, guarding the kingdom he has built and protecting the turf he has acquired against the expansion of other kingdoms. The student matriculates from kingdom to kingdom, always being assured that the particular kingdom of his present focus is the most vital to the health of the federation of kingdoms that makes up the world of theological education. It is a politically charged culture, more given to gate keeping than to pastoring and more focused on vital information acquisition than on character development. I write these things as a pastor with a heavy heart who lived in this culture for twenty years. I know what I have written will make some angry, and I know that the system has a way of rising to defend itself, but it’s a price I am willing to pay. The stakes are that high. Seminary self-examination is that important. Honest talk is vital.

SO WHAT’S THE DANGER?

Academized Christianity, which is not constantly connected to the heart and puts its hope in knowledge and skill, can actually make students dangerous. It arms them with powerful knowledge and skills that can make the students think that they are more mature and godly than they actually are. It arms students with weapons of spiritual warfare that if not used with humility and grace will harm the people they are meant to help.
Permit me to list the things that may happen in the lives of the students when the seminary environment is less than faithful to God’s intention for his Word. I will write just a couple sentences about each.

1) SPIRITUAL BLINDNESS

Because sin blinds, and those blinded by sin tend to be blind to their blindness, it is dangerous to handle the truths of the Word without asking students to look into the mirror of the Word and see themselves as they actually are. Students who don’t do this will enter ministry convinced that they are prepared to fix the world but will fail to recognize that they need fixing just as much as anyone to whom they have been called to minister.

2) THEOLOGICAL SELF-RIGHTEOUSNESS

For students who have not been required to confess that it is easier to learn theology than to live it, it is tempting to think maturity is more a matter of knowing than a matter of living. They think that godliness is more a matter of what you intellectually grasp then a matter of how you live your life. So, puffed up with knowledge, they smugly think they are okay.

3) DYSFUNCTIONAL PERSONAL RELATIONSHIP TO THE WORD

Somewhere in his theological education, the student loses his devotional relationship not only to the Word but also to the God of the Word. Study of the Word becomes more a world of correct ideas than a world of submission to the Lord, whom those ideas introduce and define.

4) LACK OF PERSONAL GOSPEL NEEDINESS

Since the student has come to think of himself as more mature than he actually is because of the knowledge he has gained, he doesn’t approach God’s Word with a tenderness and neediness of heart. His study of the Word brings him again and again to his desk, but it seldom brings him to his knees.

5) IMPATIENCE WITH OTHERS

I have written and said many times that no one gives grace better than the person who is deeply persuaded that he needs it himself. Self-righteous people tend to be critical, dismissive, and impatient with others.

6) WRONG PERSPECTIVE ON MINISTRY

Because of all this, ministry is driven more by theological correctness than by worship of and love for the Lord Jesus Christ. The sermon becomes more of a theological lecture than an exposition of the grace of the gospel and a plea to run after the Savior. Sadly, it is often driven more by the passion for ideas than by love for people and for Christ.

7) NO LIVING COMMUNION WITH CHRIST

It can finally all degenerate into a Christ-less Christianity that puts its hope in theology and rules and somehow forgets that if theology and rules had the power to transform the heart of idolaters, Jesus would never have had to come, live, die, and rise again. It ends with the means becoming the end and a Christianity devoid of power against the world, the flesh, and the Devil.

WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?

I am not suggesting at all that the seminary curriculum needs to be gutted. All the areas of study that make up seminary education are vital. What I am suggesting is that pastoral passion for the students shape the way the content of seminary education is delivered and applied. I am suggesting that seminary professors become committed to making community with their students and that they always teach with the heart in view and the transforming power of the gospel as their hope. I am suggesting that the seminary student should feel known and loved by his professors and that, in the process of his education, he will come to know his heart and his Lord more deeply and more fully. I am suggesting that seminary classrooms should be places of both education and worship. I am suggesting that professors must preach to and pastor their students. I am suggesting that spiritual formation is not a department of theological education or a particular course. No, the goal of spiritual formation must dye the content of every area of study. Finally I am suggesting that every course of study hold before each student a beautiful Savior, whose beauty alone has the power to overwhelm any other beauty that could capture his heart.

CHAPTER FOUR

MORE THAN KNOWLEDGE AND SKILL

I have heard the tale again and again. The summary is always the same: “We finally came to the realization that we had called (hired) someone we didn’t know.” The most recent story was quite typical. The senior pastor, now in his sixties, knows his time to step down is drawing near. A search committee is formed and begins to develop the criteria they will use for vetting the applicants. The opening is published through the church’s network, and the process begins. Other than a few lines that were vague and all too general, the two pages describing the profile of the man they were looking for showed little interest in the man himself. Getting to know the heart of the man, whose impressive list of knowledge and skills was expected to jump off the application page, was simply not a part of the search process in an essential way.
There was excitement at the search committee meeting when the head of the committee presented the application of the man that seemed to fit their profile in every way. Not only did he have the right training, the right skill set, and what seemed to be the right ministry philosophy for bonding with and growing their church, but also he came with a resume of ministry experience in a variety of settings. By the end of the meeting the search group had decided to send a delegation to hear the man preach and get a read of how his current church was doing. After hearing him speak that first Sunday morning, it was full steam ahead for the committee. They loved the way he handled the passage, and several members of the committee remarked that his preaching reminded them of their retiring pastor. It wasn’t long before he was invited to preach at the calling church, followed by a Monday morning interview and an invitation later that week to be the new senior pastor of the church. Yes, there were cursory interviews with elders and deacons, and the group had one opportunity to meet his family, but the reality is that once he matched their profile of knowledge, experience, and skill, it was hard for the committee to listen to or hear anything that would get in the way of offering him a call.
The first several months of his ministry at this new church were filled with enthusiasm and hope. It did seem as though God had provided just the right person. There was one thing that gave some insightful people pause: the new pastor’s wife seemed neither comfortable nor happy. She was not bonding with the ladies of the church, and she seemed to participate only in the required “pastor’s-wife-must-be-there” activities. He was not around the office as much as the staff had anticipated and was therefore hard to reach, but these seemed to be minor issues. “Eight months, and no one has been invited to their house or spent time with them socially,” was the concerned comment of a wise, old elder as he met for coffee with a fellow leader. It was clear that the new pastor hated meetings and was socially uncomfortable in informal settings. He spent most of his time during the week studying at his home office and generally only showed up at the church for Thursday staff meetings and Sunday services. The staff had to learn how to operate without him, and the interns felt abandoned. In public settings he seemed like the quintessential qualified and experienced pastor, but the public persona and the private man were beginning to collide, and no one seemed to know.
At the end of the first year, he announced that his wife was going home for a time to be with her parents. He said he felt that it was too soon for him to take time off, so she and the kids would be gone for a couple weeks, and he would be “batching it” on his own. No one thought much about it, and meals were provided so that he would not starve in his wife’s absence. It made people wonder when two weeks stretched to four, but not many questions were asked. It wasn’t long after his wife returned that he began to ask for prayer for his family and for the “normal” tensions that pastors experience between family and ministry. Meanwhile his wife did not appear to be any better adjusted to her new ministry home or any closer to her peer group in the church.
His abnormal isolation from the staff and leadership of the church and his wife’s abnormal discomfort with her new church community became the new normal. Everyone seemed to adjust and to forget what had been and what could be. The staff learned to load all their essential dealing with the senior pastor onto Thursdays, the interns learned to make their own way, and the congregation seemed content with well-functioning public gatherings. The “less-than-what-should-be” became the “we-can-make-this-work.” This is often the way it is.
I’m convinced that the big crisis for the church of Jesus Christ is not that we are easily dissatisfied but that we are all too easily satisfied. We have a regular and perverse ability to make things work that are not and should not be working. We learn to adjust to things that we should alter. We learn to be okay with things we should be confronting. We learn how to avoid things we should be facing. We would rather be comfortable than to hold people accountable. We swindle ourselves into thinking that things are better than they are, and in so doing we compromise the calling and standards of the God we say we love and serve. Like sick people who are afraid of the doctor, we collect evidence that points to our health when really, in our heart of hearts, we know we are sick. So we settle for a human second best, when God, in grace, offers us so much more.
Four years in, and the evidence was mounting and inescapable that something was wrong in the heart and life of this man and his family. He often looked beaten and distracted. He had become less patient and more easily irritated with those who worked with him, and his wife often looked as if she was at the edge of tears. He quietly asked the deacons if there was a fund that could assist in getting counseling for him and his wife, and money was gladly provided. People in the inner circle were heartened by the fact that the couple was seeking help and, looking back months later, were thankful that a crisis had been avoided. But it hadn’t.
The call that no elder wants to get came to the head of the elder board on a cold winter Saturday afternoon. It was the pastor asking if there was any possibility of finding someone to fill in for him the next day (two morning sermons and a missions luncheon talk). The elder mistakenly thought his pastor must be physically sick, so when the pastor told him it was a family emergency, his heart sank. Little did he know what the next few days would bring.
Monday the pastor called an emergency meeting of the executive committee of the board and told them what was going on. On Saturday the pastor’s wife had given him an ultimatum: “It’s me or your ministry. You have to choose one or the other, because you’re not going to have both.” She went on to say that she could not do it anymore. She couldn’t deal with the huge disconnect between their public and private lives. She said she was exhausted with pretending that things were okay when they were everything but okay. She was tired of hearing her husband consistently call people to do things he wasn’t doing. She hated the new city she lived in and bitterly reminded her husband that she had begged him not to uproot her and the children. Having unloaded on him, she then told him that she would not be in church on Sunday or any other Sunday to come. It was “done, over” and he would have to make her and the children the focus of his attention “for the first time in many years.”
“She’s right,” he said with head bowed. “It has gone on too long. I don’t know if this is my resignation, a request for a leave of absence, or just a cry for help, but we can’t continue doing what we have been doing. My wife is home packing. She’s heading with the kids to her mother’s, and I plan to go as well, as soon as this meeting is over and I have put several ministry things in order.” The shocked executive committee should not have been shocked. They should have known. They should have guided, counseled, and protected. They should have warned and encouraged. They should have served and rescued. But they had hired a man they did not know in a marriage they did not know and with a wife who was more troubled than they knew. They were persuaded by a body of knowledge, the history of ministry experience, and obvious ministry skills. They made assumptions they should not have made. They failed to ask questions that they should have asked. They knew the vitae of the man, but they did not know his heart. Had they known, they never would have called him, because they would have been able to predict what they were now dealing with.
They had no knowledge of the late-night arguments between their potential pastor and his wife that had led up to his acceptance of the call. They did not know that the isolation the staff and interns had been experiencing was also the experience of every member of the pastor’s family. They did not know that the reason he had sought and taken this new position was that his relationship with his wife had already begun to disintegrate, and she was already beginning to emotionally crash. They did not know that she had been devastated when he took the call and that he was convinced it was the only way to rescue his marriage and family. The operative words that unpack the crisis of this one local church and many other churches that are going through similar things are “they did not know.”

WHAT MAKES PASTORS SUCCESSFUL?

I am convinced that much of the problem in situations like this is an unbiblical definition of the essential ingredients of ministry success. Sure, on their candidate profile was a line that required, “Vibrant walk with the Lord,” but these words were weakened by a process that asked few questions in this area while making grand assumptions. They were really interested in his knowledge (right theology), skill (good preacher), ministry philosophy (will build the church), and experience (isn’t cutting his pastoral teeth in our place of ministry). Because of what I do, many times I have heard church leaders, in moments of pastoral crisis, say to me, “We didn’t know the man we hired.”
What does knowing the man mean? It means knowing the true condition of his heart (as far as that is possible). What does he really love, and what does he despise? What are his hopes, dreams, and fears? What are the deep desires that fuel and shape the way he does ministry? What are the anxieties that have the potential to derail or paralyze him? How accurate is his view of himself? Is he open to the confrontation, critique, and encouragement of others? Is he committed to his own sanctification? Is he open about his own temptations, weaknesses, and failures? Is he ready to listen to and defer to the wisdom of others? Does he see pastoral ministry as a community project? Does he have a tender, nurturing heart? Is he warm and hospitable, a shepherd and champion to those who are suffering? What character qualities would his wife and children use to describe him? Does he sit under his own preaching? Is his heart broken and his conscience regularly grieved as he looks at himself in the mirror of the Word? How robust, consistent, joyful, and vibrant is his devotional life? Does his ministry to others flow out of the vibrancy of his devotional communion with the Lord? Does he hold himself to high standards, or is he willing to give way to mediocrity? Is he sensitive to the experiences and needs of those who minister alongside of him? Is he one who incarnates the love and grace of the Redeemer? Does he overlook minor offenses? Is he ready and willing to forgive? Is he critical and judgmental? Is the public pastor a different person from the private husband and dad? Does he take care of his physical self? Does he numb himself with too much social media or television? If he said, “If only I had __________,” what would fill in the blank? How successful has he been in pastoring the congregation that is his family?
You see, it is absolutely vital to remember that a pastor’s ministry is never just shaped by his knowledge, experience, and skill. It is always also shaped by the true condition of his heart. In fact, if his heart is not in the right place, all of the knowledge and skill can actually function to make him dangerous. Let’s examine the situation that I have been unpacking for you.
The problem was not the pastor’s wife, although she had significant heart issues to deal with. The problem was not that he had a perennially troubled marriage. The problem was not his isolation from ministry partners and the body of Christ. All of these things were the signs and symptoms of a deeper, more foundational problem. The problem was one of the heart, one that would have an inescapable negative effect on his ministry. The problem was a vertical problem. It had to do with the character and content of this pastor’s relationship with God.
The problem was the pastor’s lack of a living, humble, needy, celebratory, worshipful, meditative communion with Christ. It was as if Jesus had left the building. There were all kinds of ministry knowledge and skill, but those seemed divorced from a living communion with a living and ever-present Christ. All this knowledge, skill, and activity seemed to be fueled by something other than love for Christ and a deep, abiding gratitude for the love of Christ. In fact, it was all shockingly impersonal. It was about theological content, exegetical rightness, ecclesiastical commitments, and institutional advancement. It was about preparing for the next sermon, getting the next meeting agenda straight, and filling the requisite leadership openings. It was about budgets, strategic plans, and ministry partnerships. None of these things are wrong in themselves. Many of them are essential. But they must never be ends in themselves. They must never be the engine that propels the vehicle. They must all be an expression of something deeper, and that something deeper must reside in the heart of the senior pastor. It must ignite and fuel his ministry at every level, and what ignites his ministry must ignite every aspect of his personal life as well.
The pastor must be enthralled by, in awe of—can I say it: in love with—his Redeemer so that everything he thinks, desires, chooses, decides, says, and does is propelled by love for Christ and the security of rest in the love of Christ. He must be regularly exposed, humbled, assured, and given rest by the grace of his Redeemer. His heart needs to be tenderized day after day by his communion with Christ so that he becomes a tender, loving, patient, forgiving, encouraging, and giving servant leader. His meditation on Christ—his presence, his promises, and his provisions—must not be overwhelmed by his meditation on how to make his ministry work.
You see, it is only love for Christ that can defend the heart of the pastor against all the other loves that have the potential to kidnap his ministry. It is only worship of Christ that has the power to protect him from all the seductive idols of ministry that will whisper in his ear. It is only the glory of the risen Christ that will guard him against the self-glory that is a temptation to all who are in ministry and that destroys the ministry of so many. Only Christ can turn an arrogant, “bring on the world” seminary graduate into a patient, humble giver of grace. Only deep gratitude for a suffering Savior can make a man willing to suffer in ministry. It is only a heart that is satisfied in Christ that can be spiritually content in the hardships of ministry. It is only in your brokenness in the face of your sin that you can give grace to the fellow rebels to whom God has called you to minister. It’s only when your identity is firmly rooted in Christ that you are free from seeking to get your identity out of your ministry.
We must be careful how we define ministry readiness and spiritual maturity. There is a danger of thinking that the well-educated and trained seminary graduate is ministry ready or to mistake ministry knowledge, busyness, and skill with personal spiritual maturity. Maturity is a vertical thing that will have a wide variety of horizontal expressions. Maturity is about relationship to God that results in wise and humble living. Maturity of love for Christ expresses itself in love for others. Thankfulness for the grace of Christ expresses itself in grace to others. Gratitude for the patience and forgiveness of Christ enables you to be patient and forgiving toward others. It is your own daily experience of the rescue of the gospel that gives you a passion for people to experience the same rescue.
Because all of this is true, these things need to be brought to the forefront in the application and examination of all pastoral candidates. We are not calling skills, knowledge, and experience to ministry. We are calling whole people who live out of the heart and whose ministries will always be shaped and directed by some kind of worship. We are calling people in the middle of their own sanctification, still struggling with the seductive and deceptive power of sin. We are calling people who face the daily snares of a world that is simply not operating the way that God intended. We are calling people whom God will call into hardship for their redemptive good and for his glory. We are calling people who are in intimate daily relationships with other sinners. We are calling people who are capable of losing their way, capable of self-deception, and tempted to be self-sufficient and self-righteous. We are calling people who drag their feelings about and interpretations of previous ministry experiences into this new place of ministry. We are calling people who are as desperately in need of forgiving, transforming, empowering, and delivering grace as anybody to whom they would ever minister. We are calling people, real people who are not yet grace graduates.
So we must get to know, really know, the people we put into positions of spiritual leadership and care of God’s people.

SOME BIBLICAL EXAMPLES

It is clear from examining Scripture that leadership fruitfulness or failure is seldom only about knowledge, strategy, skill, and experience. Consider what is said of Abraham in Romans 4. He was chosen by God to receive his covenant promises. He was told that his offspring would be like the sand on the seashore. Yet his wife was a very old woman, way, way beyond childbearing age, and he had not yet given birth to the son who would carry on his line. Romans 4 tells us something very significant about Abraham’s heart. Think about it: when you and I are called by God to wait for an extended period as Abraham was, often for us our story of waiting is a chronicle of ever-weakening faith. The longer we have time to think about what we are waiting for, the longer we have time to consider how we have no ability to deliver it; and the longer we have to let ourselves wonder why we have been selected to wait, the more our faith weakens. But not so with Abraham. We’re told in this passage that during this time of protracted waiting, his faith actually grew stronger, and the passage tells us why. Rather than meditating on the impossibility of his situation, Abraham meditated on the power and the character of the One who had made the promise. The more Abraham let his heart bask in the glory of God, the more convinced he became that he was in good hands. Rather than a cycle of discouragement and hopelessness, Abraham’s story was one of encouragement and hope. Why? Because he meditated on the right thing.
What about Joseph, whom God had chosen as his tool to preserve the children of Israel from famine and resultant extinction? When seduced by the Egyptian ruler Potiphar’s wife, he would not give in. Why? It wasn’t fear of consequences, or what he had learned from past experiences, or his skill at negotiating the complicated relationships of the palace. Genesis 39 tells us clearly what motivated Joseph at this critical-choice point in his life. You see, he was able to resist because of the deep heart devotion he had to his Lord. His heart was not ruled by horizontal pleasure but by vertical worship. He could not conceive of doing such a wicked thing against God. A glory greater than the temporary glories of the created world had captured his heart; and so he spoke with an immediate, emphatic, and heartfelt no.
Or think about Moses as he stands before that burning bush. God had chosen Moses to be his tool of redemption, to lead Israel out of captivity and into the land of promise. But Moses is neither willing nor hopeful. Exodus 3 and 4 record Moses’s argument with God. Moses’s personal assessment is that he is completely unable, unprepared, and unqualified to do the thing that God has called him to do. God’s response is simple: “I will go with you.” Moses’s bottom line is just as simple: “Oh, my Lord, please send someone else” (4:13). Moses says this even after God has given him a firsthand demonstration of the power that will be at his disposal as the chosen tool of God. What is going on here? Moses is not being protected by all of his Egyptian education. He is not being motivated by the wealth of his Egyptian cultural knowledge. He is not being heartened by his personal understanding of palace politics. None of these things are helping Moses at this point, because he is being betrayed by the fear of his own heart. And it is only in the face of God’s anger that Moses finally goes.
Or think of the army of Israel in the valley of Elah, armed for battle but too afraid to fight. They stood there as the chosen army of the Most High God, the Lord of Hosts, afraid to face the Philistine champion. It was an army suffering from a tragic case of identity amnesia. They forgot who they were. They forgot the promises they had been given. And because they did, they drew a false spiritual equation as they evaluated the moment. It wasn’t these puny little soldiers against this huge giant; it was this puny giant against Almighty God. First Samuel 17 chronicles David’s arriving. This shepherd, there to deliver provisions to his brothers, was a man of faith, a man who had experienced the rescuing power of God. So David couldn’t understand why the army was not fighting. In an act of courage that is possible only for someone who knows who he is as the child of God and rests in what he has been given, David walks into that valley to face Goliath with nothing more than a shepherd’s sling. David is drawing the right spiritual equation and knows that God will deliver the Philistine champion and his army into his hand. David knows that he fights not in the shadow of the glory of Goliath but in the brightness of the glory of God. It is the courage of the faith residing in his heart that propels him into that valley.
Or remember Elijah, who, after the great victory over the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel, finds himself so alone, discouraged, and hopeless that he wishes he could die. First Kings 19 pictures for us this pathetic prophet who has completely lost his way and is convinced it’s the end. He can see no way out. He is convinced that he is the only righteous man left, and from his vantage point it looks as though evil is going to win. God has to come to Elijah and return him to his senses. He is not alone; God’s work is not done. Evil will not ultimately win. There are seven thousand faithful who are still left to carry on the work of God.
Think about what Paul says of his opposition of Peter, who was about to compromise a core principle of the gospel because he was afraid of what a certain group of people would think and how they would respond to him. He was about to act in a way that directly contradicted the message that he was called to represent, not because he lacked knowledge, experience, or skill but because, at the moment, his heart was ruled more by horizontal fear than vertical belief.
In each instance, with each leader, the thing that makes the difference at crucial-choice points is the condition of the person’s heart. The heart is the inescapable X factor in ministry. Put two men with the exact same training, experience, and skill set next to one another, and it would be easy to conclude that they will respond in similar ways to the push and pull of local church ministry. It would be easy to conclude this, but dangerous. The potential for significant difference in the way these men function as pastors is as wide as the catalog of things that can rule a person’s heart in ministry. It is naive to think that pastoral ministry is always propelled by love for Christ and his gospel. It is simplistic to conclude that people in ministry have a natural and abiding love for people. It is dangerous to conclude that everyone in ministry is working for the furtherance of the big kingdom. It is important to recognize that many people in ministry have been seduced by self-glory and have lost sight of the glory of God. Not all people in ministry do their work out of a humble sense of their own need. Ministries are derailed because leaders begin to think they have arrived and don’t do the protective things that they warn everyone else to do. It’s naive to think that pastors are free from sexual temptation, fear of man, envy, greed, pride, anger, doubt of God, bitterness, and idolatry. It is vital to remember that every pastor is in the middle of being reconstructed by God’s grace.
So it is essential to know the heart of the man behind the knowledge, skill, experience, and ministry strategy before you call him to pastor God’s flock. You can be assured that like God’s leaders of old, he will face crucial personal-and ministry-choice points. In those significant moments, what will win the day and determine what he will do will be his heart because, like everyone else, it is inescapably true that whatever rules his heart will direct his life and his ministry. It is vital to get way, way beyond the profile that emerges from the data on his vitae.

CHAPTER FIVE

JOINTS AND LIGAMENTS

Pastor, have you ever asked yourself, who am I, and what do I spiritually need? Or have you ever thought about your pastor and asked, who is my pastor, and what does he need in order to remain spiritually healthy and grow in grace? Does it seem right and healthy that in many churches the functional reality is that no one gets less of the ministry of the body of Christ than the pastor does? Does it seem best that most pastors are allowed to live outside of or up above the body of Christ? If every pastor is, in fact, a man in the middle of his own sanctification, shouldn’t he be receiving the normal range of the essential ministry of the body of Christ that God has ordained for every member of the church to receive? Is there any indication in the New Testament that the pastor is the exception to the normal rules that God has designed for the health and growth of his people? Is it possible that we have constructed a kind of relationship of the pastor to his congregation that cannot work? Could it be that we’re asking something of our pastors that they will be unable to do? Is it biblical to tell pastors that they won’t be able to be friends with anyone, that they must live in an isolation that we would say is unhealthy for anyone else?

THE BLIND LEADING THE BLIND

You only need to take seriously what the Bible has to say about the presence and power of remaining sin to know the great danger in allowing anyone to live separate from the essential ministry of the body of Christ, let alone the person who is charged with leading, guiding, and protecting that body as the representative of Christ. If Christ is the head of his body—and he is—then everything else is just body. The most influential pastor or ministry leader is a member of the body of Christ and therefore needs what the other members of the body need. There is no indication in the New Testament that the pastor is the exception to the rule of all that is said about the interconnectivity and necessary ministry of the body of Christ. What is true of the seemingly less significant members of the body is also true of the pastor. An intentional culture of pastoral separation and isolation is neither biblical nor spiritually healthy.
Let me suggest one passage, which I have written about before, that powerfully reinforces this point. It is Hebrews 3:12–13: “Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today,’ that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” This passage puts before us a critical warning and an essential call that together reinforce the presence and power of remaining sin and the need for the daily ministry of the body of Christ in the life of every member (pastor included) of the body of Christ.
Consider with me the critical warning. I don’t know if you noticed it, but the warning in this passage is progressive. It pictures the progressive steps of the hardening of a believer’s heart. (The greeting, “brothers,” tells us this passage is written to believers.) The warning reads like this: “See to it that none of you has an evil—unbelieving, falling away—hardened heart.” It is a picture of what sin does if undetected, unexposed, and unforsaken. Let me work through the steps with you.
It all begins with me giving way to sin in my life. I let things into my life that are outside the boundaries of what God has called me to be and do, things that God would name as “evil.” Because I am a believer and the heart of stone has been taken out of me and replaced with a heart of flesh, my conscience bothers me when I sin. This is the beautiful, convicting ministry of the Holy Spirit. When my conscience is activated and bothered, I am faced with making one of two choices. The first and best choice is to admit that what I have done is wrong and place myself once again under the justifying mercies of Christ, receiving his forgiveness. Or I can erect some system of self-atonement that essentially argues for the rightness of what I’ve done. What I am doing here is making myself feel good about what God says is not good. I am participating in my own spiritual blindness. Every person still living with sin inside is a very skilled self-swindler. I think we do this way more often than we are aware.
So the pastor who has just become angry during an elders’ meeting will tell himself he wasn’t angry; he was just speaking like one of God’s prophets: “Thus says the Lord!” The husband and wife who are gossiping about someone in their small group all the way home from the meeting will tell themselves that it isn’t gossip; it’s just a very extended and detailed prayer request. The tightfisted businessman who struggles to be giving will tell himself that he is just being a good steward of the resources that God has entrusted to him. We all have a perverse ability to make ourselves feel good about what is in no way good.
This is exactly what the next step in the hardening process is about. “Unbelieving” captures what we do to cover our sin and defend our righteousness. Rather than a simple faith and rest in the accurate diagnosis of the Word of God and the sufficient grace of Christ, we work to tell ourselves that we are not really, in this particular instance, sinners in need of forgiving mercy, because what we have done is not, in fact, wrong. Our self-atoning arguments are acts of pride, rebellion, and unbelief.
This street-level pride, rebellion, and unbelief invariably give sin further room to operate. Because we have not confessed, repented, and sought the forgiving, transforming, empowering, and delivering grace that we need, we have opened ourselves up to more of sin’s ugly work. The third part in this sad progression, “falling away,” captures this well. It is a firm acceptance of the diagnostic of Scripture and a firm rest in the grace of Christ that anchor us against the storms of temptation, and when we cut that anchor rope, we will always end up drifting further.
Where we finally end is with a “hardened” heart. What once bothered us doesn’t bother us anymore. What once activated our conscience doesn’t seem to anymore. What we knew was outside of God’s boundaries, and therefore was functionally outside of ours, lives inside our boundaries, and it doesn’t matter to us anymore. It is a scary place to be. The hard heart is a stony heart. It’s not malleable anymore. It’s hard and resistant to change, no longer tender and responsive to the squeeze of the hands of the Spirit. There is evil in our hearts and in the acts of our hands, and we’re okay with it. Could there be a more dangerous place for a believer to be?
Let me be candid here. I’ve been in this place as a pastor. I held a bitter list of wrongs against people in my congregation, and I worked to be okay with it. I gossiped about people I was called to care for, and it didn’t bother me. I was envious of the ministry of others, and it did not grieve me. At times I preached to gain the respect of someone in my congregation and did not see that as the idolatry it was. And because I didn’t see these things as the evil that they were, I felt no need for change.
Now, the question that every reader should be asking at this point is how can these scary steps of hardening take place in the life of a believer? It is here where you need the writer of Hebrews’ theology of remaining sin. Essentially he says that this is able to happen because sin is fundamentally deceptive. You will never understand the warning of this passage and the call that follows until you understand the theology of spiritual blindness that is the epicenter of both the warning and the call.
Sin is deceptive, and think with me about who it deceives first. I have no difficulty recognizing the sin of the people around me, but I can be quite unprepared when my sin is pointed out. Sin deceives ten out of ten people reading this book. But it is not enough even to say that; there is more that needs to be said. It needs to be noted that spiritual blindness is not like physical blindness. When you are physically blind, you know that you are blind, and you do things to compensate for this significant physical deficit. But spiritually blind people are not only blind; they are blind to their own blindness. They are blind, but they think that they see well. So the spiritually blind person walks around with the delusion that no one has a more accurate view of him than he does. He thinks he sees and is unaware of the powerfully important things in his heart that he absolutely does not see at all.
This is where the essential call of the passage comes in. The call is to encourage (or exhort) each other daily. Here’s the significant explanation as to why this call is essential: “that none of you be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” The blinding ability of sin is so powerful and persuasive that you and I literally need daily intervention. What the writer of Hebrews is crushing with this warning and call is any allegiance we might have to an isolated, individualized, “Jesus and me” Christianity. He is arguing for the essentiality of the ministry of others in the life of every believer. Obviously, this includes the pastor. None of us is wired to live this Christian life alone. None of us is safe living separated and unknown. Each of us, whether pastor or congregant, needs the eyes of others in order to see ourselves with clarity and accuracy. And what is this daily ministry of intervention protecting us from? The answer should sober every one of us: the grace of having our private conversations interrupted by the insight-giving ministry of others is protecting us from becoming spiritually blinded to the point of the hardening of our hearts. The author argues here that personal spiritual insight is the product of community. It’s very difficult to get it by yourself. Perhaps every pastor needs to humbly recognize that because of the blinding power of remaining sin, self-examination is a community project. Every pastor needs people in his life in order to see himself with biblical accuracy.
This means that pastors who convince themselves that they are able to live outside of God’s regular system of help and protection are in danger of becoming increasingly blind and hard of heart. This means that in their blindness they begin to think of themselves as more righteous than they actually are, and because they think they are more righteous than they actually are, they are resistant to change. This means they will not hunger for the exhortation and admonition of others. They will not respond well when being reminded of their ongoing need for change. They will not work well with others because they will tend to think that they are right and know best. Thinking that they are right and know best means that they will not listen well and work as well as someone who is convinced that his walk with God is a community project.
It also means that they will struggle to be patient with people who are messing up or have lost their way. Self-righteous people tend not to be patient and understanding in the face of the failure of others. This goes back to the reality that no one gives grace better than a person who knows he desperately needs it himself. This self-righteous blindness also means that they will not deal very well with opposition and accusation. They will not see these things as tools of uncomfortable grace sent by a God who is continuing his work in them. Because they are content with who they are, they will wonder why God has singled them out for this particular difficulty, in moments giving way to questioning the goodness and wisdom of God.
I have talked with many pastors whose real struggle isn’t first with the hardship of ministry, the lack of appreciation and involvement of people, or difficulties with fellow leaders. No, the real struggle they are having, one that is very hard for a pastor to admit, is with God. What has caused ministry to become hard and burdensome is disappointment with and anger at God. It’s hard to represent someone you have come to doubt. It’s hard to encourage others to functionally trust someone you’re not sure you trust. It is nearly impossible in ministry to give away what you yourself do not have.
Could this passage be a more needed and accurate diagnosis, warning, and call to every pastor, no matter how long he’s been in ministry, no matter where he is located, and no matter the size of the church he serves?

LIVING IN THE DANGER ZONE

Joe and Judy entered ministry with a mutual sense of excitement and calling. They could not believe that they were called to the privilege of doing ministry for a living. They loved the church they had attended for years, the place where their gifts and calling had been recognized. They loved being interns and then members of the staff and finally the honor of being chosen as the leaders of the newest church plant. It all seemed like a dream come true. They had lived in vibrant, mutually ministering community. People had spoken into their lives almost daily. They simply were never left to their own view of themselves. They were never expected to make it on their own. It was expected that they would mess up at points or lose their way. Protecting and preventing love was all around—love that was candid, encouraging, confronting, forgiving, and hopeful. Because they had grown so used to it, Joe and Judy left to plant the new church, seriously underestimating the importance of the ministry of personal insight and growth that they were leaving behind. They had no idea that they were stepping into the danger zone where no Christian, let alone a pastor, should attempt to live.
Almost immediately things began to change inside Joe, changes that he neither saw nor was concerned about. As a young pastor with a committed core group and a zeal to bring the gospel to his community, Joe began to deal with heart issues that he hadn’t dealt with before, although he didn’t recognize the significance of these issues. And he surely had no idea that these concerns would lead him into the danger zone and almost become the undoing of his ministry. I first met with Joe and his wife when they were just on the cusp of throwing in the towel. Judy said it this way: “All I long for is the freedom to live with a man who is not in ministry. I can’t stand what it has done to Joe and our family. I’m done. I just can’t do this anymore, and I think Joe is in no condition to lead others.”
How did Joe and Judy get to this disheartening and discouraging place? The journey from ministry excitement to personal danger and ministry discouragement began with changes in Joe’s heart. Perhaps these changes won’t seem very significant or dangerous to you, but they almost led to this gifted man’s undoing. Almost the minute they arrived to plant the church, Joe began to feel burdens that he hadn’t felt before. He shared these burdens with no one, not even Judy. As the leader of this core group of courageous people, who had left a vibrant church to give themselves to this new ministry, Joe felt a huge pressure not to do anything that would disappoint. He felt more pressure than he had ever felt before to be sure to always say and do the right thing. He did not want people to be concerned at those moments when he felt weak, overwhelmed, unable, or afraid. And he surely didn’t want Judy to see those things, because, of all people, she had been willing to leave much and risk much to follow him to this new place of ministry. He felt the need to act encouraged, hopeful, and assured (the operative term here is act), even when he wasn’t. And in doing this, he began to be comfortable with a disharmony between his public ministry persona and the actual realities of his heart and life.
He told himself that this was important because he didn’t want people to begin to question their involvement as a result of questioning his ability to lead. In ways of which he was not aware, Joe began to wall himself off from people. He got good at giving generalized nonanswers to personal questions. He got good at dispensing biblical, theological platitudes instead of talking about what he was really thinking and feeling. Yes, a pastor needs to be wise in what he discloses to whom, but he must not wall himself completely off from the body of Christ and name that as the cost of the ministry to which he has been called. But that is exactly what Joe did and what many, many pastors are doing around the world. Not only are they living in isolation, but also they are convinced that it is what they have been called to do. They name their isolation not as a danger but as a good and mature choice. Many young pastors tell me that they have been counseled by the more senior pastors, who are mentoring them, to live in isolation.
Joe worried about how the knowledge of his struggles would harm people’s hope in the power of the gospel. He didn’t want people to question the gospel because it didn’t look as though the gospel was working in the life of their pastor. He wondered how they could trust God’s help if it didn’t look as if God was helping their pastor. So without there being one conscious moment of decision, Joe went into hiding. It seemed natural to him, the cost of his calling. Sure, he would say theological things about his need for grace, but never in a way that would lead others to seriously think that their pastor was a spiritually needy man.
Yet being the man that he thought he needed to be, working to be more publicly righteous than he actually was, was exhausting and burdensome. Even in more informal gatherings, Joe didn’t relax. So he didn’t enjoy these gatherings and would look for reasons not to participate. He had looked forward to the freedom and joy of being able to use and express his gifts as a senior pastor, but he didn’t feel free, and he wasn’t experiencing the joy that he thought he would experience. Joe was convinced of something that I have had many pastors say to me as well: he was convinced that everyone else in the body of Christ could confess sin, but he could not and must not.
Not only did Joe’s isolation significantly add to the burden of pastoral ministry, but it also did something that was even more dangerous. It left Joe to his own blindness. It left him to his rationalizations, excuses, defenses, and self-atoning arguments. I’m not being hard on Joe here. These things are the tendencies of every sinner, because one of the most powerful components of spiritual blindness is self-deception. There is no one we swindle more than we swindle ourselves. There is no one we run to defend more than we do ourselves. And like every other spiritually blind person, Joe was blind to his blindness. In fact, Joe’s blindness was even harder for him to acknowledge because his ministry gifts, skill, and discipline made it look to him that he was doing okay. But he wasn’t okay.
Increasingly Joe was allowing himself to be okay with things that he should not be okay with: a hurtful poke at another person, gossip about a fellow leader, impatience in the middle of a meeting, walking away angry from a conversation, harboring bitterness against certain people in the church, infrequency in his time of personal worship and devotion, and growing impatience, irritation, and isolation at home. Judy began to notice what she would now characterize as a changed Joe, but the changes didn’t happen in an instant. It was a process of Joe’s doing and saying things that he once wouldn’t have done; but what concerned Judy was that this no longer seemed to bother Joe. When Joe had given in to these temptations in the past, his pattern had always been to confess and make right what needed to be made right.
Not only was Judy concerned that Joe wasn’t confessing, but he would also get angry quickly when Judy would try to point out the problems. He would tell her that so much of his ministry was about being scrutinized and criticized by people that he didn’t need to come home and have it happen there as well. Judy also noticed Joe separating himself from the family. He spent way too much time Facebooking the world and a scary amount of time numbing himself with television. And there seemed to be no way Judy could talk to him about it, and if the kids disturbed him, Joe responded with anything but parental patience and grace.
The separation between Joe’s public ministry persona and his private life became too much for Judy to bear. She began to feel that ministry was destroying Joe and her family. Quietly she began to hope and pray that Joe would come to the end of himself and want to get out of ministry. Joe was in pastoral isolation and survival mode. He was cranking out his duties, but the joy was gone. When Judy looked at Joe and watched him struggle through another week, it really did look as if Jesus had left the building. She could take it no more. She loved Joe too much. She thought his calling was too holy. So, she gave that fateful ultimatum to Joe: “It’s me or the ministry.”
I wish I could say that Joe’s story is unique, but it is not. The details are individual, but I have heard the contours of this story again and again. The problem is bigger than the sin of an individual pastor. There are changes needed in the shape of pastoral culture. How can we realistically expect anyone in the middle of the sanctification process to live outside of one of God’s most important means of personal insight and growth and be spiritually healthy at the same time? How can we ask pastors to confess what they, because of their isolation, don’t see? How can we ask them to confess when they are convinced that honest confession would cost them not only respect but also their jobs? And how can we expect them to repent and turn from what they have not confessed? How is it that in many situations we have come to expect that the one leading the body of Christ can do well spiritually while getting less of the ministry of the body of Christ than everyone he has been called to lead? Why would we be surprised that pastors struggle with sin? Why would we think that pastors do not need to be lovingly confronted and rebuked? Why would it surprise us to know that pastors too fall into identity amnesia and begin to seek horizontally what they have already been given in Christ? Why would we conclude that pastors are protected from self-righteousness and defensiveness just because they are in full-time ministry? Why would we assume that pastors who have not been educated in the ways of grace would rest in the righteousness of Christ and not defend and parade their own?
Is it safe to assume that your pastor is loving his wife, children, and extended family well? Is it safe to assume that he is using his time and money well? Is it safe to assume that he is honoring God with what he does in his most private moments? Is it safe to assume that he is as committed to the opportunities and responsibilities of his calling as he should be? Is it safe to assume that he works to make sure that there is living agreement between his public proclamations and his private life? Doesn’t every member of the body of Christ need the ministry of the body of Christ, including the pastor?

A BETTER, MORE HEALTHY WAY

Let me suggest several steps that can work to bring pastors out of isolation and into more regular contact with the essential and normal ministries of the body of Christ. These are written to pastors and those who care for them.

1) REQUIRE YOUR PASTOR TO ATTEND A SMALL GROUP HE DOESN’T LEAD

It is a simple but very effective way for a small group of people to get to know their pastor, to see him in a more normal setting, and to learn the places where he needs ministry and prayer. The pastors I have talked to who are doing this have all reported how spiritually beneficial it has been.

2) PASTOR, SEEK OUT A SPIRITUALLY MATURE PERSON TO MENTOR YOU AT ALL TIMES

Pastor, make sure you are being pastored the entire time you are pastoring others. Seek out a mature and reliable person with whom you can share your heart. Work to build with that person a sturdy bond of trust. Refuse to live without this kind of person in your life. Meet with this individual as frequently as possible. Share your struggles with him and be humble enough to listen when pastorally spoken to.

3) ESTABLISH A PASTORS’ WIVES’ SMALL GROUP

At Tenth Presbyterian Church, where I served for the last several years, there is a beautiful monthly gathering of all the pastors’ wives. It is a “what is said here stays here” gathering. The main part of this gathering is extended sharing by each of the pastors’ wives, followed by an extensive time of prayer for each. Not only has this been an amazing help and protection for each of the wives, but also it has stimulated and directed each to minister to her husband more boldly and more wisely. This may be the most effective small group in the church. If your church is small and does not have multiple pastors, try to establish something similar between several churches.

4) PASTOR, BE COMMITTED TO APPROPRIATE SELF-DISCLOSURE IN YOUR PREACHING

There are surely struggles that you should not share in a public ministry setting, but there are many that you can. Not only do these often become the most effective illustrations of the importance and practicality of the truths you exegete, but also they remind people that, like them, you too need rescuing, forgiving, empowering grace. When you do this, people quit looking at you and saying, “If only I could be like my pastor.” No, they look through you and see the glory of an ever-present Christ. You quit being a painting that they gaze at, and you start being a window to the One who is your and their hope. It has impressed me, when I share personally in preaching, how many people let me know later that they have prayed for me.

5) BE SURE THAT YOUR PASTOR AND HIS FAMILY ARE REGULARLY INVITED INTO THE HOMES OF FAMILIES IN YOUR CHURCH

Determine that you will not let your pastor and his family live in isolation. Encourage the people in your church to invite him and his family over for a summer barbeque or a swim in the backyard pool. Invite them over to watch a game during the playoffs or to enjoy the meal that has been passed down in the family for generations. Take the pastor and his wife out to eat. Invite him to go golfing or fishing with the group of guys who do that regularly. Get them out of hiding and invite them into situations where they can relax and just be as ordinary as possible.

6) MAKE SURE THERE IS SOMEONE WHO IS REGULARLY MENTORING YOUR PASTOR’S WIFE

Every pastor’s wife needs a “go to” person that she can call spontaneously in a moment of need and be sure that a listening ear and help will be on the other end. Such an individual can be trusted with the delicate things that the pastor’s wife may need to discuss and will need to be willing to be available, as much as anyone could, 24/7.

7) MAKE SURE YOUR PASTOR AND HIS WIFE HAVE THE MEANS TO BE REGULARLY OUT OF THE HOUSE AND AWAY FOR WEEKENDS WITH ONE ANOTHER

Make sure that the busyness of family and the endless demands of ministry don’t combine to cause the pastor and his wife to fail to give their marriage the attention and maintenance it needs. Do everything you can to give your pastor and his wife the help, time, and resources they need to get out of the house on a regular basis and away for the weekend as frequently as is feasible. Don’t allow your pastor and his wife to assume that tensions between family and ministry are acceptable and unavoidable. Help your pastor and his wife to have all the resources possible to give their relationship the focus and investment that it needs, to be a place of unity, understanding, and love.

8) MAKE SURE COUNSELING HELP IS ALWAYS AVAILABLE TO THE PASTOR, HIS WIFE, AND THEIR FAMILY

Assure your pastor from day one that there is counseling help available whenever it is needed. Pastors, be honest about the condition of your heart and seek help quickly and willingly when needed. Pastor, are you telling yourself that it is okay, the duty of your calling, to live in isolation? Who knows you well enough to speak truth to you when you need it? Who works to protect you from you? How accurate is the view of the body of Christ as to who you really are? Is the culture of your church such that you can be comfortable there confessing your sin? Are you fearful of any self-disclosure in public ministry settings? Does your wife live with the pain of the differences between the public and private man?

May fewer and fewer of those who are called to lead us live in isolation and separation from the body of Christ, and may that lead to more and more pastors who are tender and humble examples, in both their private and public lives, of both the need for and the transforming power of the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.

CHAPTER SIX

THE MISSING COMMUNITY

I was raised in the “Jesus and me” privatized, individualized Christianity of the fundamentalism of the ’60s and ’70s. The closest our church got to an actual functioning, ministry-oriented body of Christ was a rare pastoral visit and the Wednesday night prayer meeting. No one knew my father and mother—I mean, really knew them. No one had a clue what was going on in our home. No one helped my father to see through the blindness that allowed him to live a double life of skilled deception and duplicity. No one knew how troubled my mother was beneath her encyclopedic knowledge of Scripture. No one knew. We were a Christian family in active participation in a vibrant church, but what we were involved in lacked one of the primary and essential ingredients of healthy New Testament Christianity: a trained, mobilized, and functioning body of Christ. It was Christianity devoid of Ephesians 4; 1 Corinthians 12, and Hebrews 3:12–13.
For much of my Christian life and a portion of my ministry, I had no idea that my walk with God was a community project. I had no idea that the Christianity of the New Testament is distinctly relational, from beginning to end. I understood none of the dangers inherent in attempting to live the Christian life on my own. I had no awareness of the blinding power of remaining sin, which was discussed in the last chapter. I had no idea that I was living outside of God’s normal means of sightedness, encouragement, conviction, strength, and growth. I had no idea how much consumerism and how little true participation marked the body of Christ. I had no idea of the importance of the private ministry of the Word to the health of the believer. I had no idea.
I have now come to understand that I need others in my life. I now know that I need to commit myself to living in intentionally intrusive, Christ-centered, grace-driven, redemptive community. I now know it’s my job to seek this community out, to invite people to interrupt my private conversation, and to say things to me that I couldn’t or wouldn’t say to myself. I have realized how much I need warning, encouragement, rebuke, correction, protection, grace, and love. I now see myself as connected to others, not because I have made the choice but because of the wise design of the one who is the head of the body, the Lord Jesus Christ. I cannot allow myself to think that I am smarter than him. I cannot allow myself to think that I am stronger than I am. I cannot assign to myself a level of maturity that I do not have. I cannot begin to believe that I am able to live outside of God’s normal means of spiritual growth and be okay. I cannot allow the level of my spiritual health to be defined by my ministry experience and success or by my theological knowledge. I cannot let myself be lulled to sleep by the congratulatory comments on ministry weekends by people who mean well but really don’t know me. I cannot let myself think that my marriage can be healthy if I live in functional isolation from the body of Christ.
Since, as one who has remaining sin still inside of him, it is right to say that the greatest danger in my life exists inside of me and not outside of me, then wouldn’t it also be the height of naivety or arrogance to think that I would be okay left to myself? No, not for a moment would I forget or diminish the convicting ministry of the indwelling Holy Spirit, but I would posit that the Spirit uses instruments (his transforming Word brought faithfully by his people and empowered by his ever-present grace).
Having said all of this, it is my grief to say that individualized, privatized Christianity still lives. Sadly, it lives in the lives and ministries of many pastors who have forged or been allowed to forge a life that is lived above or outside of the body of Christ. It happens this way for many pastors. Their spiritual life became immediately more privatized when they left their home church to go to seminary in another city. For many, the seminary became their primary spiritual community, a community that was neither personal nor pastoral in the way it handled Scripture and related to the student. Having graduated from an environment where, for three or more years, they were not pastored and had a rather casual relationship to a local church, they are now called by a church that doesn’t really know them. This is all magnified by the fact that they are not joining the church per se; no, they have been called to lead it. So they are not entering into a situation of naturally expected peer, mutual-ministry relationships. They are not afforded the normal expectations and protections that anyone else is offered when they join the church. It is a potentially unbiblical and unhealthy culture that does not protect the pastor and does not guard his ministry from danger.
Pastor, you know that every day you give personal empirical evidence that you have not yet arrived. Every day you think, desire, say, and do things that point to the existence of remaining sin within your heart. Since this is true of each of us, is it not also true that we need to live in a willingly submissive commitment to God’s normal means of protecting and growing his still-being-sanctified children?

A THEOLOGY OF ESSENTIALITY

I want to consider with you three very familiar passages of Scripture that need a second look, particularly for how they speak into normal pastoral culture. Before we look at these three passages, I want to first give you the helicopter view of the ministry of the Word in the life of the local church. The Bible envisions two essential, interdependent, and complementary ministries of the Word. First there is the public ministry of the Word. This is the regularly scheduled public teaching and preaching of God’s Word to gathered groups in the church. This ministry makes up the formative discipline of the church. Every member is discipled from the pulpit with the same body of foundational perspective-altering, life-shaping truths. Here all of God’s people are placed on the same tracks and headed in the same direction. Because this public ministry of the Word is done with groups of people, it must be general in its consideration of audience and therefore in its application. God gifts and sets apart certain people for this important formative ministry.
Because it is also important that God’s Word be applied with concrete specificity to the lives of individual believers so that they are clear as to what it looks like to follow Christ in the context of their particular situation and relationships, God has ordained a second, complementary ministry of the Word, its private ministry. This makes up the corrective discipline of the church. This ministry does not have a different body of content. No, it takes the general truths that everyone has been hearing and applies them with specificity to the lives of individual believers so that they can more concretely understand what it means to live in light of the things they are being taught. The radical Word culture of the church as God designed it drafts all of God’s children to be willing, envisioned, trained, and mobilized participants in this second ministry of the Word. Private ministry of the Word depends on public ministry of the Word to give people their formative foundation, and the public ministry looks to private ministry to counsel people into understanding the specific practical life implications of what they have been learning as the Word has been taught publicly. Neither ministry is a luxury. Each is an essential part of God’s bi-factoral, Word-centered growth strategy for the local church.
Now let’s apply this model to the life and ministry of the pastor. The first passage is Ephesians 4:11–16:

And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

As I work through these passages, you pastors who are reading through with me are going to have to resist the spiritual pride that causes you to hit the shutoff switch in the middle of the discussions because in your heart of hearts you really don’t think all of this applies to you. Ephesians 4 has a very clear “already-not yet” structure. Already each of us has been gifted with redeeming grace. Each of us has been indwelt by the Holy Spirit. Each of us has been blessed with a now-illumined Bible. But not yet do we fully and perfectly understand our faith. Not yet have we been fully matured into the likeness of Christ. Not yet is the deceptive war for our hearts over. We live and minister smack-dab in the middle, and in the middle God has set up essential tools for our protection and growth. None of us will be safe or healthy if we tell ourselves that we can live outside of these essential tools.
What are the goals of the “everybody-all-the-time” ministry that Paul lays out in this passage? The goals are unity of the faith, knowledge of the Son of God, and maturity in every way in Christ. The goals encourage us to humbly admit that all of us—yes, even pastors—live on the short side of these goals. None of us exists in fully unified communities of faith, none of us knows Christ as fully as he can be known, and none of us is fully grown into the likeness of Jesus. So what is the implication of that humble admission? It is that each of us—yes, even pastors—needs to joyfully submit to God’s means of bringing these goals into completion in our hearts and lives.
What are the dangers inherent in convincing ourselves that we can live outside of God’s normal means of personal spiritual health and growth? They are equally clear in this passage. If we attempt to do what we are not wired by redemption to do, we will be susceptible to lingering immaturity in specific areas of our life and to doctrinal error or confusion, and we will live in danger of being deceived. Think with me for a moment. Each of us is able to cite occurrences of each danger in our own circles of pastors. I have counseled pastors who damaged their churches because they had failed to grow up. I have experienced churches damaged by pastors who were moved away by the latest wind of fad doctrine. I was a self-deceived pastor, thinking I knew myself better than I did and thinking I was more spiritually well off than I actually was. These warnings are not just for the average Christian but for every member of the body of Christ. They call everyone in ministry to humbly admit that in the middle of the already-not yet, there is a war that is still taking place for the rulership of our hearts. And because there is, we all need the warning, protective, encouraging, rebuking, growth-producing ministry of the body of Christ.
Now, what methodology has God chosen to employ to guard, grow, and protect us? It is the public and private ministry of the Word. This passage particularly emphasizes the essentiality of private, body-member-to-body-member ministry. Again the words are specific and clear: “Speaking the truth in love … joined and held together by every joint … when each part is working properly … builds itself up in love.” There is no indication in this passage that any member of Christ’s body is able or permitted to live outside of the essential ministry of the body of Christ. But I think it is exactly at this point that we can be tempted to draw conclusions from this passage that it doesn’t actually teach. Because it ascribes to the pastor the responsibility of training God’s people for their member-to-member ministry function, I am afraid that we have unwittingly concluded that the pastor is above a need of what the rest of the body needs and does. But the passage never teaches this; it actually teaches the opposite. The pastor is in the unique position of not only training the body for this ministry but also of personally needing the very ministry for which he trains them. Remember, the words here—“every joint,” “each part”—do not leave much room for exemptions. Again, I think of it this way: if Christ is the head of his body, then everything else is just body, including the pastor, and therefore the pastor needs what the body has been designed to deliver.
First Corinthians 12:14–25 in ways presents this even more forcefully:

For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.

The picture here is the body of Christ as a functioning organism of many mutually essential, interrelating, mutually contributing members. The interconnectedness and the interdependency of these members are so essential to the proper health, function, and growth of the body that Paul says it is impossible for one member to say to another, “I simply don’t need you,” or “I am able to function quite well on my own, thank you,” or “I have grown to the point where I no longer need what you have to offer.” In the context of Paul’s word picture of a healthy physical body, these assertions would take a denial of inescapable realities. So it is with the body of Christ. So it is, I would add, with the spiritual healthiness and ministry vitality of the pastor. He is a member of the body of Christ who himself desperately needs the ministry of the very body he has been called to train and lead. The model is of a man in need of help in training people to be ready to give him the very same help. You simply cannot escape what these passages are teaching.
Darrel stood before me during a break at a major conference and wept. He couldn’t have cared less who was looking at him or what they heard him say. He was just that desperate. He had the appearance of a completely beaten, totally broken man, but he was a God-gifted, divinely appointed pastor. No, he wasn’t in a proud war with his leaders, he hadn’t committed adultery, and he was not addicted to pornography or substances. He was an angry, discouraged, embittered, and now desperate man. Through his tears he said, “Paul, I just don’t know how to go home. No one knows me there. No one knows what is going on in my family. No one knows what is in my heart. No one knows that I force myself to crank out sermons every week. No one knows that I hate most of the meetings that I lead. No one knows that my wife and I bicker and fight our way through week after week. No one knows that my children are beginning to hate the gospel because of me. No one knows that I numb myself with hours of television. I have no one to talk to, not one close relationship in the entire church. My family lives in isolation, but I don’t think anyone notices. My wife has some friends, but she’s very careful about what she says. If I just stopped a meeting and began to confess what is really going on with me, I don’t think my leaders could deal with it. Paul, if I come clean, if I let people in, I’m done. I don’t know how to go home and face this stuff.”
Does Darrel’s situation sound extreme to you? It doesn’t to me, because I’ve heard his cry again and again. No, it hasn’t always reached this level of desperation, but there are way too many pastors out there who have lost their joy, who are cranking it out. There are way too many bitter and angry people in ministry who are carrying around a self-protective list of previously experienced wrongs. There are way too many pastors living in isolation who are in trouble, and they don’t know it. There are way too many congregations and leadership boards that have a distorted, unrealistic, idealized image of their pastor. There are way too many ministry families that are unprotected because they are not being properly pastored. There are way too many pastors in survival mode. There are way too many pastors’ wives who fantasize about what it would be like to be out of the ministry. There are way too many children who bear the daily brunt of the ministry father’s bitterness and anger. There simply is way too much functional anonymity in the pulpits of our churches.
The third of our passages specifically defines the nature of the essential private ministry of the Word that is the calling of the body of Christ. In this way Colossians 3:15–17 is very helpful:

And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Paul envisions a well-prepared body of Christ with the Word of God dwelling in their hearts, now ready to do what God has designed the body of Christ to do. And what is that? Again, Paul is very specific: teach and admonish. Now, let’s be honest. In most contexts, what Paul is describing would be quite radical, maybe even unsettling. He is actually proposing that every believer is designed to have a teaching function in the life of every believer. It really is an “all-of-God’s-people-all-of-the-time” paradigm. This means that it’s unhealthy for any church and its pastor if, in that church, the pastor is the only teacher. It is assumed here that every teacher, no matter where God has placed him or her in the body, needs to be taught, and all the people being taught need also to teach.
Now, notice again the two descriptive words that Paul uses: teach and admonish. To put the most basic definitions on these terms is to say that teaching enables you to see life God’s way. It is embedding the story of life in the larger story of redemption. Admonishing is helping you to see yourself God’s way. It is standing you before the perfect mirror of God’s Word so that you are confronted with the reality of who you really are. There is not a day when every member of the body of Christ does not need to be taught, helped to identify those remaining artifacts of an ungospelized worldview. There is also not a day when we don’t need to be admonished, confronted with the fact that we still look into the world’s carnival mirrors and carry around distorted opinions of who we are.
Pastor, you too need to be surrounded by well-trained teachers and faithful, loving admonishers. And you are in danger if anonymity allows you to be the only regular teacher you hear and to live void of a protective circle of grace-motivated admonishers.

THE CYCLE OF DANGER

1) UNHELPFUL ASSUMPTIONS

In many cases the cycle of isolation and danger begins when the church that calls the pastor makes incorrect and unhelpful assumptions about the person they have called. Sadly, in many cases the person being called has not lived in protective and productive redemptive community for years. Having separated from the nurture of his home church, where his gifts were recognized, he goes off to a place where the faith has been academized and compartmentalized, being taught by professors who do not presume to function as the pastors of their students. In many cases, because he is working as well as engaging in the rigors of theological education, he has little remaining time to have but a cursory relationship to a local church. This probably also means he’s been a bit of a distracted husband and absentee dad. Meanwhile his own relationship to Scripture has been more about completing assignments than a devotional nurturing of his soul.
But the church that has called him tends to assume that because his gifts and some level of maturity have been recognized and because he is now a biblical scholar, trained for the pastorate, he is spiritually healthy and able to live without the normal protections and encouragements that they would want for any other believer. So a culture of untoward assumptions and functional pastoral isolation is often set up from the moment of the first interview.

2) UNREALISTIC EXPECTATIONS

It should be obvious that the unhelpful assumptions made as the pastor is coming to lead the church would be fruit in a whole set of unrealistic expectations. The biggest is that many churches simply don’t expect their pastor to struggle with sin. But he is not sin-free! Since he is still being sanctified, sin still remains and is being progressively eradicated. They don’t expect him to get discouraged in the middle of the war for the gospel. They don’t expect him to be tempted toward bitterness or envy. They expect him to be a model husband and father. They don’t expect him to be lazy or to settle for mediocrity. They don’t expect that in moments of self-protection he will be tempted to be antisocial and controlling. They expect that he will be able to joyfully carry an unrealistic job description that would overwhelm anyone this side of Jesus’s return. They expect that he will be content with significantly less pay than most people with his level of education. They expect that his wife is so fully committed to ministry herself that his coming to the church is actually a two-for-one deal. They don’t expect that there will be moments when he is tempted to doubt the goodness of God. They don’t expect that in a meeting or in the pulpit, fear of man will keep him from doing or saying the things that God calls him to do and say. They don’t expect to hire a flawed man who is still desperately in need of the very grace that he is called to offer and exegete for others.

3) RETICENCE TO SPEAK WITH CANDOR

In most situations the local-church pastoral culture (the nature and character of the relationship of a pastor to his leaders and congregation) is set in the early days of his ministry in that particular church. If the leaders that called him have sought to know the man behind the gifts, experience, and skills, and if they have alerted him to the fact that he is entering an intentionally intrusive, Christ-centered, grace-driven redemptive community, then what follows will be requirements that he participate in and be a recipient of the ministry of the body of Christ and the promise of those who seek to build relationship with him as instruments of seeing in his life. If the calling process has failed to go after the heart of the potential pastor, and if in the early days it hasn’t been clear that the church fully intends to pastor their pastor—not just to hold him accountable but to minister the gospel of Jesus Christ to his soul—then he will probably conduct most of his ministry in the context of personal isolation coupled with a large network of terminally casual relationships. Both the body and the leaders will be reticent to speak to him with biblical candor tempered with love, and he will be reticent to make confession to people who aren’t used to having that kind of relationship with their pastor. There will probably be more talking about him than talking to him, and he will probably do more hiding than confessing. It simply is far from what God designed this community of grace, called “the church,” to be and to do.

4) ABSENCE OF TIMELY INTERVENTION

The “exhort one another daily” command of Hebrews 3:13 tells us that because of remaining sin, our capacity for self-deception is so great that we need regular, even daily intervention. We all need this ministry of intervention, where someone interrupts our private conversation and helps us to see ourselves with greater biblical accuracy, until sin is no more. But when a local church makes wrong assumptions about their pastor, does not invite him into a culture of loving candor, and allows him to live in functional separation from the body of Christ, he will not be the recipient of the kind of Christ-centered, heart-rescuing intervention that every pastor needs.

5) LOSS OF RESPECT IN THE FACE OF PERSONAL REVELATIONS

What then happens is that the pastor will tend to live in a continual state of spiritual hiding with a growing separation between his private and public life and will make confession to his fellow leaders and perhaps to the wider body only when struggles have progressed to a point where they cannot be hidden any more. No, it’s not as if he is participating in a huge spiritual cover-up; it is simply that this is the way a culture of assumptions, silence, and separation operates. When he finally makes confession, he comes crashing down from the unrealistic and unbiblical pedestal that he has been standing on. The community surrounding him is shocked and dismayed and suffers a huge loss of respect for him and is therefore unable to minister the grace of the gospel to him in the way that he has done and so desperately needs himself.

6) DYSFUNCTIONAL SYSTEMS OF RESTORATION

In the face of this shock and loss of respect, the local church is tempted to just want to move beyond the ministry of this man and replace him with someone they can once again respect and follow. So the church gets rid of its problem and moves beyond its leadership crisis, but the pastor and his family are the casualty. The heart issues of the man have not been dealt with biblically, he has no greater personal spiritual insight, he has not received the transforming grace of the gospel, the leaders he leaves behind are tempted to be a little more cynical, the weaknesses in their leadership culture are unaddressed, and he is tempted to take on the bitterness of a victim. Is this too dark of a picture? I wish I could say it is, but I have personally witnessed this sad progression.

7) LACK OF DISCERNABLE PASTORAL REPENTANCE AND GROWTH

We should care about, pray for, and do all we can to work toward the constant, progressive spiritual growth of our pastors. We should not assume that it is taking place. We should want them in a thoroughly gospelized community that takes this seriously and invites them into loving, honest relationships where this kind of growth thrives. It is a very sad thing when a pastor moves from place of ministry to place of ministry and does not grow as the result of the things that a God of grace has exposed. Know this: if your eyes ever see or your ears ever hear the sin, weakness, or failure of your pastor, it should never be viewed as a hassle or an interruption; it is always grace. God loves that man and will expose his needs to you so that you can be part of his instrumentality of change and growth.

8) CARRYING PROBLEMS TO THE NEXT SITE OF MINISTRY

In the way that divorce often aborts the growth of a husband or a wife, the dissolving of a pastor’s relationship to his church and the move to a new place of ministry often obstructs or inhibits his growth. There is often so much misunderstanding, back-and-forth accusation, and hurt that accompany this separation that it is very hard for the pastor to look at himself with the kind of objectivity and accuracy that is necessary for sightedness, conviction, and repentance. In fact, it is often worse than this. Often the pastor leaves convinced that his problem is not that he struggled with areas of sin but that he was naive enough to confess, and he silently determines he’ll never put himself in this situation and do that again. I got push-back at an event, when I was doing this material, by a longtime pastor who was convinced that the only way for a pastor to survive is to live in silence and separation.

9) DISHONOR TO CHRIST’S NAME

This whole sad process denies the transforming power of the gospel, devalues the gifts Christ gives to his church, weakens the preaching of the gospel, diminishes the ministry of the church, and ultimately dishonors the name of Christ.

Should we not work to build local-church cultures that encourage, require, and help pastors to be living examples of the heart-and life-transforming power of the gospel of Jesus Christ? Shouldn’t we assume that the presence and power of remaining sin lives inside of every pastor? Should we not conclude, then, that it is dangerous for the pastor to live outside of the essential ministry of the body of Christ, which is there to guard, protect, confront, encourage, grow, and, if needed, restore him? Should we all not step back and ask heart-searching questions? If you are a pastor, do you live above or outside of the body of Christ? Do you seek out the insight-giving eyes and wisdom of others? Are there those who know you—I mean, really know you—at the level of the heart? Pastor, do you have a hunger to be pastored? If you are not a pastor, does your church do everything it can do to help your pastor benefit from the ministry of the body of Christ? Is he living in a gospel-centered culture of candor and love? Are you pastoring your pastor?

CHAPTER SEVEN

WAR ZONES

I guess it was the class I never took in seminary, but I had no concept of the battles I would face in ministry. Sure, I knew there would be battles for the gospel or battles for a biblical philosophy of ministry. I knew there would be skirmishes with fellow leaders or tugs of war between competing ministry interests. I knew that there would be an inevitable ebb and flow of ministry, that we would go through both bright and dark passages. I knew that people don’t always hunger for or treasure the gospel of Jesus Christ as they should. I knew that not everyone to whom I was called to minister would have a natural affection for or connection to me. I knew I would be compared to the pastors who had preceded me. I knew that I would be called to minister in moments of meager resources of both help and money. I knew I would be called to battle for the gospel in people’s lives in very hard moments. I knew that there would be times when people were angry with God and therefore not all that excited with me. I knew all of that, but what I didn’t know or anticipate were the battles that would rage inside of me, battles that are unique to or intensified by pastoral ministry.
It’s this inner war that I want to introduce in this chapter and that will make up the content of the rest of the book. As a pastor, you’d better be ready to fight for the gospel, but you’d better also be ready to war for your own soul. You’d better be committed to being honest about the battles that are going on in your own heart. You’d better be prepared to preach the gospel to yourself. You’d better arm yourself for the inner conflict that greets anyone in ministry.

MINISTRY IS WAR

Why do so many pastors report being overburdened and overstressed? Why do so many pastors report tension between family life and ministry life? Why does pastoral ministry often seem more of a trial than a joy? Why is there often disharmony between the private life of the pastor and his public ministry persona? Why are there often dysfunctional relationships between the pastor and his ministry leaders or staff? Why is the ministry life of many pastors shockingly short?
Perhaps we have forgotten that pastoral ministry is war and that you will never live successfully in the pastorate if you live with a peacetime mentality. Permit me to explain. The fundamental battle of pastoral ministry is not with the shifting values of the surrounding culture. It is not the struggle with resistant people who don’t seem to esteem the gospel. It is not the fight for the success of the ministries of the church. And it is not the constant struggle of resources and personnel to accomplish the mission. No, the war of the pastorate is a deeply personal war. It is fought on the ground of the pastor’s heart. It is a war of values, allegiances, and motivations. It is about subtle desires and foundational dreams. This war is the greatest threat to every pastor. Yet it is a war that we often naively ignore or quickly forget in the busyness of local-church ministry.

THE WAR FOR YOUR HEART

First, pastoral ministry is always shaped by a war between the kingdom of self and the kingdom of God, which is fought on the field of your heart. The reason this war is so dangerous and deceptive is that you build both kingdoms in ministry by doing ministry! Perhaps some theological background would be helpful here. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:15 that Jesus came so that those who live would no longer “live for themselves.” Paul is arguing something significant here, something that every pastor should remember. He is arguing that the DNA of sin is selfishness. Sin inserts me into the middle of my universe, the one place reserved for God and God alone. Sin reduces my field of concern down to my wants, my needs, and my feelings. Sin really does make it all about me.
Because the inertia of sin leads away from God’s purpose and glory toward my purpose and glory, as long as sin is inside of me there will be temptation to exchange God’s glory for my own. In ways that are subtle and not so subtle, I begin to pursue the accoutrements of human glory. Things like appreciation, reputation, success, power, comfort, and control become all too important. Because they are too important to me, they begin to shape the way I think about ministry, the things I want out of my ministry, and the things I do in ministry. Remember, a pastor’s ministry is not shaped just by his knowledge, gifts, skill, and experience but also by the condition of his heart. Could it be that much of the tension and despondency that pastors experience is the result of seeking to get things out of ministry that we should not be seeking?

WAR FOR THE GOSPEL

This leads us to a second battleground in the war that is pastoral ministry: the war for the gospel. Not only should we actively battle for the gospel as the fundamental paradigm for every ministry of the church, but we must also fight for the gospel to be the resting place of our hearts. Pastor, no one is more influential in your life than you are, because no one else talks to you more. The things you say to yourself about God, you, ministry, and others are profoundly important, shaping your participation in and experience of ministry. My experience with hundreds of pastors is that many sadly function in a regular state of gospel amnesia. They forget to preach privately to themselves the gospel that they declare publicly to others.
When you forget the gospel, you begin to seek from the situations, locations, and relationships of ministry what you have already been given in Christ. You begin to look to ministry for identity, security, hope, well-being, meaning, and purpose. These are things you will only ever find vertically. They are already yours in Christ. So you have to fight to give the gospel presence in your heart. Also, when you live out of the grace of the gospel, you quit fearing failure, you quit avoiding being known, and you quit hiding your struggles and your sin. The gospel declares that there is nothing that could ever be uncovered about you and me that hasn’t already been covered by the grace of Jesus. The gospel is the only thing that can free a pastor from the guilt, shame, and drivenness of the hide (“never let your weakness show”) and seek (asking ministry to do what Christ has already done) lifestyle that makes ministry burdensome to so many pastors.
So, in the war of pastoral ministry, are you a good soldier? Remember that the Holy Spirit lives inside of you, and he battles on your behalf even when you don’t have the sense to. Remember too that in Christ you have already been given everything you need to be what you’re supposed to be and to do what you’re supposed to do in the place where God has positioned you. And remember that since Emmanuel is with you, it is impossible to ever be alone in the moment-by-moment war that is pastoral ministry.

TWO COMPETING KINGDOMS

It took God’s employing pastoral hardship to get me to embrace the inescapable reality that everything I did in ministry was done in allegiance to and in pursuit of either the kingdom of self or the kingdom of God. This truth is best exegeted for us in Matthew 6:19–34. (Please grab your Bible and read the passage). I’m convinced that this passage is an elaborate unpacking of the thoughts, desires, and actions of the kingdom of self. Notice the turn in the passage in verse 33, where Jesus says, “But seek first the kingdom of God.” The word “But” tells us this verse is the transition point of the passage. Everything before it explains the operation of another kingdom, the kingdom of self. This makes the passage a very helpful lens on the struggle between these two kingdoms that somehow, some way, battle in the heart of everyone in ministry.
In this chapter I want to examine from this passage four ministry treasure principles that I find helpful as I seek to examine the motivations of my own heart in ministry.

1) YOU WILL BE TREASURE ORIENTED IN YOUR MINISTRY

We’ve been designed by God to be value-oriented, purpose-motivated beings. God gave us this capacity because he designed us for the worship of him. So what you do and say in ministry is always done in pursuit of some kind of treasure. I will explain later how few of the things that we treasure are intrinsically valuable. Most treasures have an assigned value. This side of eternity, here’s what happens to all of us: things begin to rise in importance beyond their true importance and set the agenda for our thoughts, desires, choices, words, and actions. What is the battle of treasure about? It is daily working to keep as important what God says is important in our personal lives and ministries. Pastor, what is important to you in ministry?

2) YOUR MINISTRY TREASURES WILL COMMAND THE ALLEGIANCE OF YOUR HEART

Jesus says, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (v. 21). The heart, being the summary term for the inner man, could be characterized as the causal core of your personhood. What Jesus is saying here is profound. He’s suggesting that there’s a war of treasure being fought at the center of what makes you think what you think, desire what you desire, and do what you do. Whether you are conscious of it or not, your words and actions in ministry are always your attempt to get out of it what’s valuable to you. Pastor, what are the deep heart desires that shape your everyday words and actions?

3) WHAT CAPTURES THE ALLEGIANCE OF YOUR HEART WILL SHAPE YOUR MINISTRY ACTIONS, REACTIONS, AND RESPONSES

Remember that, by God’s design, we’re worshipers. Worship isn’t first an activity; worship is first our identity. That means everything you and I do and say is the product of worship. So the treasures (things that have risen to levels of importance in our hearts) that rule the thoughts and desires of our hearts will then control the things that we do. The war between these two kingdoms in ministry is not first a war of behavior; it’s a war for the functional, street-level rulership of our hearts. If we lose this deeper war, we’ll never gain ground in the arena of our words and actions. Pastor, what do your words and actions reveal about what’s truly important to you?

4) YOUR FUNCTIONAL TREASURES ARE ALWAYS ATTACHED TO EITHER THE KINGDOM OF SELF OR THE KINGDOM OF GOD

Christ really does give us only two options. We attach our identity, meaning, purpose, and inner sense of well-being either to the earthbound treasures of the kingdom of self or to the heavenly treasures of the kingdom of God. This is an incredibly helpful diagnostic for pastoral ministry. Consider these questions: The absence of what causes us to want to give up and quit? The pursuit of what leads us to feeling overburdened and overwhelmed? The fear of what makes us tentative and timid rather than courageous and hopeful? The craving for what makes us burn the candle at both ends until we have little left? The “need” for what robs ministry of its beauty and joy? The desire for what sets up tensions between ministry and family?

Could it be that many of the stresses of ministry are the result of our seeking to get things out of ministry that it will never deliver? Could it be that we’re asking ministry to do for us what only the Messiah can do? Could it be that in our ministries we’re seeking horizontally what we’ve already been given in Christ? Could it be that this kingdom conflict is propelled and empowered by functional, personal gospel amnesia? When we forget what we’ve been given in Christ, we tend to seek those things from the situations, locations, and relationships of our ministry. Pastor, in what ways are you tempted to seek from your ministry what you’ve already been given in Christ?
You see, the biggest protection against the kingdom of self is not a set of self-reformative defensive strategies. It’s a heart that’s so blown away by the right-here, right-now glories of the grace of Jesus Christ that we’re not easily seduced by the lesser temporary glories of that claustrophobic kingdom of one, the kingdom of self. The problem is that no matter how committed we are to the big kingdom, we are always grappling with the dynamic of shifting treasure. Permit me to explain.

THE PROBLEM OF SHIFTING TREASURE

Let’s begin by unpacking the concept of treasure that Christ uses. Treasure is a provocative word. Imagine I am holding a twenty-dollar bill in front of you. Why is it worth twenty dollars? It’s not because it is made from twenty dollars’ worth of paper. That would entail a stack of paper. It’s not because it is made up of twenty dollars’ worth of ink. That would entail a pail of ink. You see, the value of the twenty-dollar bill isn’t intrinsic value but assigned value. Our government has assigned to that bill the value of two thousand pennies. Thus it is with most of the things that we treasure. Few of them have intrinsic value. No, most of them have assigned value. What does that mean? It means they have value because we have named them as valuable.
This is something you do all the time. You are constantly value-rating the things in your life. That’s why the old proverb says, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” You are constantly naming things as important and other things as not so important. You are always attaching your inner hope and contentment to something, and when you do, those things take on life-shaping value.
Let’s return to our twenty-dollar bill and see how it will shape our lives once that value has been assigned to it. Once my bill has the value of twenty dollars, the number of those you offer me will determine whether I will take that job or not. The number of those I have will determine the size of my house, the neighborhood I live in, the kind of car I drive, the quality of clothes I wear, the cuisine I eat, the level of health care I have, the vacations I take, and my hopes for retirement, and it may sadly even determine the kind of people I want to hang out with. Once something is our treasure, it will command our desires and shape our behavior.
So there are two practical conclusions that immediately flow from Christ’s teaching on treasure. I want to state each conclusion in the context of pastoral ministry. First, in pastoral ministry it is very hard to keep what God says is important, important in your heart. What always happens to each one of us is that things in ministry rise in importance way beyond their true importance, and when they do, they begin to command our desires and shape our behavior. Also, it is critical to understand that your ministry will always be either propelled by or victimized by what you treasure. When you treasure what God says is truly valuable, your ministry will be protected and enhanced by the treasure commitments of your heart. But when you treasure things that God doesn’t say are important, you find yourself in the way of, rather than part of, what God is doing in your ministry at that moment. Who in pastoral ministry cannot relate to the following example?
After the Sunday morning service he asked if he could make an appointment with me. I thought he had been touched by my sermon and wanted help in applying the truths to the details of his everyday life. What he actually wanted to do was tell me how bad—“painful” is what he actually said—my sermons were. He also said he was speaking for others who felt the same way. I was hurt, of course, but I went about preparing as I had the week before.
The next Sunday when I got up to preach and looked out at the listeners, everyone in the congregation had a normal-sized head except for this guy! His head seemed huge, with the eyes of the Mona Lisa that seemed to be staring at me from every angle. In ways I had been previously unaware, there had been a subtle shift in the motivation of my heart. Sure, I wanted to be faithful to the text and clearly explain the gospel, but I also wanted something else. I was determined to win this man. I was determined that he would come to me and say, “Paul, I was wrong; you really are a terrific preacher.” I both prepared and communicated with him in mind.
The encroachment of the kingdom of self in ministry is really a matter of shifting treasure. Called to have everything I say and do ruled by the Christ-centered, grace-driven treasures of heaven, instead my ministry begins to be shaped by a catalog of earthbound treasures. My ministry begins to be shaped by subtle but formative shifts in the kind of treasure that rules my heart and, therefore, shapes my words and behavior. When things begin to control the thoughts and desires of my heart, they rise way beyond their true importance, and in so doing they shape the way I do ministry. Let me suggest just five of a long list of possible treasure shifts that can easily take place in the heart of any pastor.

1) IDENTITY: MOVING FROM IDENTITY IN CHRIST TO IDENTITY IN MINISTRY

In pastoral ministry, it is very tempting to look horizontally for what you have already been given in Christ. It is possible to be a pastor and a functional identity amnesiac. When I am, I begin to need my worth, inner sense of well-being, meaning, and purpose affirmed by the people and programs of the church. Rather than the hope and courage that come from resting in my identity in Christ, my ministry becomes captured and shaped by the treasure of a series of temporary horizontal affirmations of my value and worth. This robs me of ministry boldness and makes me all too focused on how those in the circle of my ministry are responding to me.

2) MATURITY: DEFINING SPIRITUAL WELL-BEING NOT BY THE MIRROR OF THE WORD BUT BY MINISTRY

Biblical literacy is not to be confused with Christian maturity. Homiletic accuracy is not the same as godliness. Theological dexterity is very different from practical holiness. Successful leadership is not the same as a heart for Christ. Growth in influence must not be confused with growth in grace. It is tempting to allow a shift to take place in the way that I evaluate my maturity as a pastor. Rather than living with a deep neediness for the continued operation of grace in my own heart, I begin, because of experience and success in ministry, to view myself as being more mature than I actually am. Because of these feelings of arrival, I don’t sit under my own preaching; I don’t preach out of a winsome, tender, and humble heart; and I don’t seek out the ministry of the body of Christ. This allows my preparation to be less devotional and my view of others to be more judgmental.

3) REPUTATION: SHIFTING FROM A MINISTRY SHAPED BY ZEAL FOR THE REPUTATION OF CHRIST TO A MINISTRY SHAPED BY HUNGER FOR THE PRAISE OF PEOPLE

My ministry should be functionally motivated by the glory of Christ, that his fame would be known by more and more people, and that together we would all know practically what it means to submit to his lordship. Instead, my ministry becomes seduced by the treasure of my own reputation. My heart begins to be captured by the desire to be esteemed by others, the buzz of being needed, the allure of standing out in the crowd, the glory of being in charge, and the power of being right. This makes it hard to admit I am wrong, to submit to the counsel of others, to surrender control, to not have to win the day and prove I am right. It makes it hard to accept blame or to share credit, and it makes me less than excited about ministry as a body-of-Christ collaborative process.

4) ESSENTIALITY: MOVING FROM REST IN THE ESSENTIAL PRESENCE OF JESUS THE MESSIAH TO SEEING ONESELF AS WAY TOO ESSENTIAL TO WHAT GOD IS DOING

Where once I viewed myself as one of many tools in God’s kingdom toolbox, I now begin to see myself as too central, too important to what God is doing in my local setting. Rather than resting in the person and work of the Messiah, I begin to load the burden of the individual and collective growth of God’s people onto my own shoulders. This causes me to devalue the importance of the gifts and ministry of others and tempts me to assign to myself more than I am able to do. In ways that I probably am not aware of, I’ve begun to try to be the Messiah instead of resting in my identity as a tool in his faithful and powerful hands.

5) CONFIDENCE: SHIFTING AWAY FROM A HUMBLE CONFIDENCE IN TRANSFORMING GRACE TO OVERCONFIDENCE IN ONE’S OWN EXPERIENCE AND GIFTS

Longevity and success in ministry are good things, but they can also be dangerous things for the heart of a pastor. We are all capable of becoming all too confident in ourselves. A confidence shift begins to take place from the treasure of humble confidence in the power of rescuing, forgiving, transforming, and delivering grace, to rest in my own knowledge, abilities, gifts, and experience. Because of this, I don’t grieve enough, I don’t pray enough, I don’t prepare enough, I don’t confess enough, and I don’t listen to others enough. I have begun to assign to myself capabilities I don’t have, and because I do, I don’t minister out of my own sense of need for Christ’s grace, and I don’t seek out the help of others.

In each area it is tempting for my ministry to be shaped by a shift from confidence in the treasure of the relentless grace of Jesus, the redeemer, to hope in earthbound treasures, which he reminds us (Matt. 6:19–34) are temporary by nature and have no capacity to deliver what we are seeking. Could it be that these treasure shifts lead to so many of the familiar institutional problems and relational breakdowns in ministry? Could it be that these shifts are what cause ministry to become a burden rather than the joy that it actually is? Your ministry will live at the dangerous intersection between the difficulties and temptations of this fallen world and the kingdom battle that is still going on in your heart. This crucial intersection will be the focus of the rest of this book.
The treasures of the kingdom of self become all the more seductive and powerful when I, as pastor, lose sight of the glories of what I’ve been given in Christ. When I do this, I begin to think of myself as poor when grace has made me rich, and I seek riches in places where they simply cannot be found. But I need not run away in shame or give way to panic, because the grace of the cross has covered this struggle as well and will work again today to rescue me from me.

WHAT TO REMEMBER

In the face of all of this, what are the things that we must remember? Let’s approach the question this way. The experts say that there are only three things to consider when buying a piece of property: location, location, location. The same could be said about life. When you understand location, you live and minister in a radically different way. Confused? Let me point you to four ways in which location matters.

1) YOU LIVE IN A DRAMATICALLY FALLEN WORLD

You have to be prepared. You have to live with realistic expectations. You simply must bring a biblical understanding to the place where you now live and minister, or you will be constantly unprepared and disappointed. You and I live in a very broken world where there is trouble on every side. Your body and mind are affected by the fall and don’t always work as they should. Your family and friendships will not work as they were designed. The government over you does not function as it was created to function. The church you serve is filled with flawed people yet in need of redemption. The broken physical environment suffers under the weight of the fall. The apostle Paul says it very well in Romans 8: “The whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (vv. 22–24).
There’s no escaping it: you are located in a place where trouble of some kind will greet you every day. Much of that trouble will live inside you. You live and minister in a place where somehow, some way, temptation will greet you every day. When you face this harsh reality, you will live prepared for the troubles that come your way.

2) THE BIG BATTLE IS FOUGHT IN YOUR HEART

In acknowledging the brokenness of the world where you live and minister, you do not want to give way to spiritual environmentalism in which you blame all of your struggles on things outside of you. That was the mistake of the medieval monastery, walled communities separated from the evil world and intended to foster righteous living. As it turned out, these communities tended to repeat all the ills of the surrounding world from which they had separated.
Monasteries were a failure because they neglected one very significant biblical truth: the biggest danger to every human being, even those in ministry, is located inside of him, not outside of him. There is something dark and deceitful that still lurks in the heart of every one of God’s children who has not yet been fully glorified: sin. It is only ever the sin inside of you that draws and hooks you to the sin outside of you. Every day there is a war fought for control of your heart. But your jealous Savior, with the zeal of gorgeous redemptive love, will not share your heart. He will not rest until your heart is ruled by him and him alone.

3) YOU WILL RUN SOMEWHERE FOR REFUGE

In the middle of trouble, when you are in the heat of the battle, you will run somewhere for refuge. You will run somewhere for rest, comfort, peace, encouragement, wisdom, healing, and strength. There is only one place to run where true protection, rest, and strength can be found. You and I must learn, in life and ministry, to make the Lord our refuge.
Perhaps in trouble you run to other people, hoping that they can be your personal messiah. Perhaps you run to entertainment, hoping to numb your troubles away. Maybe you run to a substance, trying your best to turn off the pain. Maybe you are tempted to run to food or sex, fighting pain with pleasure. Since none of these things can provide the refuge that you seek, putting your hope there tends only to add disappointment to the trouble you’re already experiencing.
God really is your refuge and strength. Only he rules every location where your trouble exists. Only he controls all the relationships in which disappointment will rear its head. Only he has the power to rescue and deliver you. Only he has the grace you need to face what you are facing. Only he holds the wisdom that, in trouble, you so desperately need. Only he is in, with, and for you at all times. He is the refuge of refuges. Do you run to him?

4) WHERE YOU ARE HEADING, TROUBLE WILL BE NO MORE

You could argue that the biblical story is about three locations. The garden in Genesis was a location of perfection and beauty but became a place of sin and trouble. The hill of Calvary was a place of both horrible suffering and transforming grace. And the New Jerusalem, that place of peace and refuge lit by the brightness of the Son, will be our final refuge forever. Because of the cross of Jesus Christ, your story will not end with daily trouble and temporary refuge. No, your final location will be utterly unlike anything you have ever experienced, even on your best and brightest ministry day. You are headed for the New Jerusalem, where the final tear will be dried and trouble will be no more.

Today, in life and ministry, you will face trouble of some kind. Today you will run somewhere for refuge. Today there is hope and help to be found. May God be your refuge, and as you run to him, may you remember that he has promised you that there will be a day when your trouble is no more. But you live between the already and the not yet, and the battle still rages. The question for you, pastor, is, are you an aware, wise, and prepared soldier who runs again and again to the Captain of your soul for rescuing, forgiving, transforming, empowering, and delivering grace?

PART 2

THE DANGER OF LOSING YOUR AWE
(FORGETTING WHO GOD IS)

CHAPTER EIGHT

FAMILIARITY

He said it rather matter-of-factly, probably not understanding the significance of what he was saying, but I couldn’t get his words out of my head. He was the head of a national ministry. We were in a meeting, talking about ministry partnership. I was sharing my excitement about what I saw happening in the church around the world, and he said, “I don’t think anything excites me anymore.” It wasn’t my place to respond to what he said, but I immediately thought, You’d better be excited. You are leading a ministry, and if you can’t get your excitement back, maybe you shouldn’t be doing what you’re doing. He had lost his excitement, and he was left with a duty to do the business of ministry in repetitive, day-after-day, joyless obligation. What a sad and dangerous place to be!
Perhaps it begins in seminary with the up-close examination of every element of the faith. Perhaps there is a moment when the glory of God just doesn’t seem all that glorious anymore. Perhaps living in the middle of a theological community begins to dull my excitement and numb my amazement. Perhaps the Bible gets reduced to little more than a theological manual to be exegeted and responded to. Perhaps even God himself becomes more a divine being to study and theologically understand than the Lord of glory that he is.
Perhaps it is all about the dynamic of familiarity. The great Princeton professor and theologian B. B. Warfield wrote this to his students:

We are frequently told, indeed, that the great danger of the theological student lies precisely in his constant contact with divine things. They may come to seem common to him because they are customary. As the average man breathes the air and basks in the sunshine without ever a thought that it is God in his goodness who makes his sun to rise on him, though he is evil, and sends rain to him, though he is unjust; so you may come to handle even the furniture of the sanctuary with never a thought above the gross earthly materials of which it is made. The words which tell you of God’s terrible majesty or of his glorious goodness may come to be mere words to you—Hebrew and Greek words, with etymologies, inflections and connections in sentences. The reasonings which establish to you the mysteries of his saving activities may come to be to you mere logical paradigms, with premises and conclusions, fitly framed, no doubt, and triumphantly cogent, but with no further significance to you than their formal logical conclusiveness. God’s stately steppings in his redemptive processes may become to you a mere series of facts of history, curiously interplaying to the production of social and religious conditions and pointing mayhap to an issue which we may shrewdly conjecture: but much like other facts occurring in time and space which may come to your notice. It is your great danger. But it is your great danger only because it is your great privilege. Think of what your privilege is when your greatest danger is that the great things of religion may become common to you! Other men, oppressed by the hard conditions of life, sunk in the daily struggle for bread perhaps, distracted at any rate by the dreadful drag of the world upon them and the awful rush of the world’s work, find it hard to get time and opportunity so much as to pause and consider whether there be such things as God, and religion, and salvation from the sin that compasses them about and holds them captive. The very atmosphere of your life is these things; you breathe them in at every pore: they surround you, encompass you, press in upon you from every side. It is all in danger of becoming common to you! God forgive you, you are in danger of becoming weary of God!

What powerful words of warning to everyone in ministry of any type: “The great danger … lies precisely in his constant contact with divine things.” What is the danger? It is that familiarity with the things of God will cause you to lose your awe. You’ve spent so much time in Scripture that its grand redemptive narrative, with its expansive wisdom, doesn’t excite you anymore. You’ve spent so much time exegeting the atonement that you can stand at the foot of the cross with little weeping and scant rejoicing. You’ve spent so much time discipling others that you are no longer amazed at the reality of having been chosen to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. You’ve spent so much time unpacking the theology of Scripture that you’ve forgotten that its end game is personal holiness. You’ve spent so much time in strategic, local-church ministry planning that you’ve lost your wonder at the sovereign Planner that guides your every moment. You’ve spent so much time meditating on what it means to lead others in worship, but you have little private awe. It’s all become so regular and normal that it fails to move you anymore; in fact, there are sad moments when the wonder of grace can barely get your attention in the midst of your busy ministry schedule.
Artists talk of the dynamic of visual lethargy, which means that the more you see something, the less you actually see it. On that drive to work the first day, you are conscious of all the sights and sounds. You notice that beautiful grove of ancient trees and that cool modern duplex on the corner. But by your twentieth trip, you’ve quit noticing, and you’re wishing the traffic would move faster so you could get to work, for Pete’s sake! Something has happened to you that seems inevitable but is not good. You have quit seeing, and in your failure to see, you have quit being moved and thankful. The beauty that once attracted you is still there to see, but you don’t see it, and you cannot celebrate what you fail to see. Could there be a greater danger in ministry than that the one leading the ministry would lose his awe? Let me explain.
Perhaps the place to begin is with one of the Bible’s awe passages, Psalm 145.

I will extol you, my God and King,
and bless your name forever and ever.
Every day I will bless you
and praise your name forever and ever.
Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised,
and his greatness is unsearchable.

One generation shall commend your works to another,
and shall declare your mighty acts.
On the glorious splendor of your majesty,
and on your wondrous works, I will meditate.
They shall speak of the might of your awesome deeds,
and I will declare your greatness.
They shall pour forth the fame of your abundant goodness
and shall sing aloud of your righteousness.

The LORD is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
The LORD is good to all,
and his mercy is over all that he has made.

All your works shall give thanks to you, O LORD,
and all your saints shall bless you!
They shall speak of the glory of your kingdom
and tell of your power,
to make known to the children of man your mighty deeds,
and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.
Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
and your dominion endures throughout all generations.

The LORD is faithful in all his words
and kind in all his works.
The LORD upholds all who are falling
and raises up all who are bowed down.
The eyes of all look to you,
and you give them their food in due season.
You open your hand;
you satisfy the desire of every living thing.
The LORD is righteous in all his ways
and kind in all his works.
The LORD is near to all who call on him,
to all who call on him in truth.
He fulfills the desire of those who fear him;
he also hears their cry and saves them.
The LORD preserves all who love him,
but all the wicked he will destroy.

My mouth will speak the praise of the LORD,
and let all flesh bless his holy name forever and ever.

What is the overriding worldview of this psalm? It is that every human being has been hardwired by God to live in daily awe of him. This means the deepest, most life-shaping, practical daily motivation of every human being was designed to be the awe of God. This is the calling of every person. This is the umbrella of protection over every person. This is the reality that is to define and give shape to every other reality in a person’s life. What does this functionally look like?
Well, it should be the thing that in some way motivates everything I do and say. Awe of God should be the reason I do what I do with my thoughts. It should be the reason I desire what I desire. Awe of God should be the reason I treat my wife the way I do and parent my children in the manner I do. It should be the reason I function the way I do at my job or handle my finances the way I do. It should structure the way I think about physical possession and personal position and power. Awe of God should shape and motivate my relationship with my extended family and neighbors. Awe of God should give direction to the way I live as a citizen of the wider community. It should form the way that I think about myself and my expectations of others. Awe of God should lift me out of my darkest moments of discouragement and be the source of my most exuberant celebrations. Awe of God should make me more self-aware and more mournful of my sin while it makes me more patient with and tender toward the weakness of others. It should give me courage I would have no other way and wisdom to know when I am out of my league. Awe of God is meant to rule every domain of my existence.
But there is more. Awe of God must dominate my ministry, because one of the central missional gifts of the gospel of Jesus Christ is to give people back their awe of God. A human being who is not living in a functional awe of God is a profoundly disadvantaged human being. He is off the rails, trying to propel the train of his life in a meadow, and he may not even know it. The spiritual danger here is that when awe of God is absent, it is quickly replaced by our awe of ourselves. If you are not living for God, the only alternative is to live for yourself. So a central ministry of the church must be to do anything it can to be used of God to turn people back to the one thing for which they were created: to live in a sturdy, joyful, faithful awe of God.
This means that every sermon should be prepared by a person whose study is marked by awe of God. The sermon must be delivered in awe and have as its purpose to motivate awe in those who hear. Children’s ministry must have as its goal to ignite in young children a life-shaping awe of God. The youth ministry of the church must move beyond Bible entertainment and do all it can to help teens to see God’s glory and name it as the thing for which they will live. Women’s ministry must do more than give women a place to fellowship with one another and do crafts. Women need to be rescued from themselves and a myriad of self-interests that nip at their hearts, and awe of God provides that rescue. Men’s ministries need to recognize the coldness in the heart of so many men to the things of God and confront and stimulate men with their identity as those created to live and lead out of a humble zeal for God’s glory rather than their own. Missions and evangelism must be awe-driven. Remember, Paul argues that this is the reason for the cross. He says that Jesus came so that “those who live may no longer live for themselves, but for him who loved them and gave himself for them” (see 2 Cor. 5:15).
Awe of God is one of the things that will keep a church from running off its rails and being diverted by the many agendas that can sidetrack any congregation. Awe of God puts theology in its place. Theology is vitally important, but whatever awe of theology we have is dangerous if it doesn’t produce in us a practical awe of God. Awe of God puts the ministry strategies of the church in their proper place. We don’t put our trust in our strategies but in the God of awesome glory, who is the head of the church we are endeavoring to lead well. Awe of God puts ministry gifts and experience in their proper place. We cannot grow arrogant and smug about our gifts, because unless those gifts are empowered by the glorious grace of the God we serve, they have no power to rescue or change anyone. Awe of God puts our music and liturgy in its proper place. Yes, we should want to lead people in worship that is both biblical and engaging, but we have no power to really engage the heart of people without the awesome presence of the Holy Spirit, who propels and applies all we seek to do. Awe of God puts our buildings and property in their proper place. How a building is constructed, maintained, and used is a very important issue, but buildings have never called or justified anyone; only a God of awesome sovereign grace is able to do so. Awe of God puts our history and traditions in their proper place. Yes, we should be thankful for the ways God has worked in our past, and we should seek to retain the things that are a proper expression of what he says is important, but we don’t rest in our history; we rest in the God of glory, who is the same yesterday, today, and forever!
We must be committed to do anything we can to be that generation that commends God’s works, his glory, to the next generation so that they may be rescued and motivated by a glory bigger than the typical catalog of glories they would choose for themselves.
Now, it’s very hard to preach and shape the ministry of the church this way if familiarity has produced a blindness that has effectively robbed you of your awe of God. It is very difficult in ministry to give away what you do not possess yourself (a major theme of this book). In ways of which you are not always aware, your ministry is always shaped by what is in functional control of your heart. If you are more motivated by the awe-inspiring experience of having the esteem and respect of the people around you, you will do ministry in a way that is structured to get that respect, even though you probably aren’t aware of it. If your heart is ruled by the awesome power that comes from controlling the people and situations around you, you will work in your ministry to be in control. If your heart is more ruled by fear of man than by fear of God, you will build a ministry that erects walls of protection around you and builds a moat between your public persona and your private life. If your heart is more moved by the awe-stimulating experience of being theologically right than by an awe of God, who lives at the center of all that theology, you will be a theological gatekeeper who does not pastor messy people well. If your heart is ruled more by envy over the awe-inspiring ministry of another than by an awe of the God who has called and gifted you, you will minister out of a debilitating dissatisfaction with the situation and location of your calling.
Remember again that the ministry you are doing is never just shaped by your gifts, knowledge, skill, and experience. It is always also shaped by the true condition of your heart. This is why it is important to acknowledge that local church ministry is one big glory war. In every situation, location, and relationship of your ministry there is a war going on for what glory will magnetize your heart and, therefore, shape your ministry. There is a war going on between the awe of God and all of the awe-inspiring things that are around you that God created. Awe of God will capture you and your ministry, or you will be captured by some kind of created awe. Remember, any glorious thing in creation was given that glory by God so it would function as a finger pointing you to the one glory that should rule your heart—him.
The fact of the matter is that many pastors become awe numb or awe confused, or they get awe kidnapped. Many pastors look at glory and don’t see glory anymore. Many pastors are just cranking out because they don’t know what else to do. Many pastors preach a boring, uninspiring gospel that makes you wonder why more people aren’t sleeping their way through it. Many pastors are better at arguing fine points of doctrine than at stimulating divine wonder. Many pastors seem more stimulated by the next ministry vision or the next step in the strategic plan than by the stunning glory of the grand intervention of grace into sin-broken hearts. The glories of being right, successful, in control, esteemed, and secure often become more influential in the way that ministry is done than the awesome realities of the presence, sovereignty, power, and love of God. Many pastors have lost their awe and either don’t know it or don’t know how to get it back.

THE PRACTICAL MINISTRY FRUIT OF THE AWE OF GOD

What things does the awe of God produce in the heart of a pastor that are vital for an effective, God-honoring, and productive ministry? Below is your list.

1) HUMILITY

There is nothing that will put you in your place, nothing that will correct your distorted view of yourself, nothing that will yank you out of your functional arrogance, or nothing that will take the winds out of the sails of your self-righteousness like standing, without defense, before the awesome glory of God.
In the face of his glory I am left naked with no glory whatsoever to hold before myself or anyone else. As long as I am comparing myself to others, I can always find someone whose existence seems to be an argument for how righteous I am. But if I compare the filthy rags of my righteousness to the pure and forever unstained linen of God’s righteousness, I want to run and hide in heartbreaking shame.
This is exactly what happened to Isaiah, recorded in Isaiah 6. He stands before the awesome throne of God’s glory and says, “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” (v. 5). Isaiah is not speaking in formal religious hyperbole here. He is not trying to ingratiate himself with God by being oh so humble. No, it is only in light of the awesome glory and holiness of God that you come to have an accurate view of yourself and the depth of your need for the rescue that only a God of glorious grace can provide.
Somewhere along the way in ministry, too many pastors have forgotten who they are. They have a bloated, distorted, grandiose view of themselves that renders them largely unapproachable and allows them to justify things they think, desire, say, and do that simply are not biblically justifiable. I have been there and at times fall into being there again, and when I am there, I need to be rescued from me. When you are too much in awe of you, you set up to be a self-righteous, controlling, overconfident, judgmental, unfalteringly opinionated, ecclesiastical autocrat, unwittingly building a kingdom whose throne will be inhabited by you, no matter how much you are able to convince yourself that you do it all for the glory of God.

2) TENDERNESS

The humility that awe of God is alone able to produce in my heart—that is, an awareness of my sin and desperate need for grace—then produces pastoral tenderness toward the people around me, who give empirical evidence that they are in need of the same grace. No one gives grace better than a person who is deeply persuaded that he needs it himself and is being given it in Christ. This tenderness causes me to be gracious, gentle, patient, understanding, and hopeful in the face of the sin of others, while never compromising God’s holy call. It protects me from deadly assessments like, “I can’t believe you would do such a thing,” or, “I would never have thought of …,” that are me telling me that I am essentially different from the people to whom I minister. It’s hard to bring the gospel to people I am looking down my nose at or neither like nor respect. In the face of the sin of others, awe-inspired tenderness frees me from being an agent of condemnation or from asking the law to do what only grace can accomplish and motivates me to be a tool of that grace.

3) PASSION

No matter what is or isn’t working in my ministry, no matter what difficulties or battles I am facing, the expansive glory of God gives me reason to get up in the morning and do what I have been gifted and called to do with enthusiasm, courage, and confidence. My joy isn’t handcuffed to the surrounding circumstances or relationships; I don’t have to have my heart yanked wherever they go. I have reason for joy because I am a chosen child and a conscripted servant of the King of kings and Lord of lords, the great Creator, the Savior, the sovereign, the victor, the one who does reign and will reign forever. He is my Father, my Savior, and my boss. He is ever near and ever faithful. My passion for ministry is not about how I am being received; it flows out of the reality that I have been received by him. My enthusiasm is not because people like me, but because he has accepted and sent me. My passion is not the result of my ministry being as glorious as I thought it could be, but because he is eternally and unchangeably glorious. So I preach, teach, counsel, lead, and serve with a gospel passion that inspires and ignites the same in the people around me.

4) CONFIDENCE

The confidence, that inner sense of well-being and capability in ministry, is not untoward self-confidence but comes from a knowledge of whom I serve. He is my confidence and ability. He will not call me to a task without enabling me to do it. He has more zeal for the health of his church than I ever will. No one has more interest in the use of my gifts than the one who gave them. No one has more zeal for his glory than he does. He is ever-present and ever-willing. He is all-powerful and all-knowing. He is boundless in love and glorious in grace. He does not change, and he is faithful forever. His word will not cease to be true. His power to save will never be exhausted. His rule will not run out. He will never be conquered by one greater than he. I can do what I have been called to do with confidence, not because of who I am but because he is my Father, and he is glorious in every way.

5) DISCIPLINE

There are inglorious times in everyone’s ministry. There are times when the naive expectations you have had of what it all would be like have proven to be just that—naive. There are passages of time when it’s going to take more than ministry success and the appreciation of the people around you to pull you out of bed to do with discipline the things you have been called to do. There will be times when there seems to be little fruit as the result of your labors and little hope of that changing anytime soon. There are times when you will think you have been betrayed and you feel alone. So it is vital that your discipline is rooted in something deeper than a horizontal assessment of how things are going. I am more and more persuaded in my own life that sturdy self-discipline, the kind that is essential in pastoral ministry, is rooted in worship. It is the awesome glory of God’s existence, character, plan, presence, promises, and grace that gives me reason to work hard and not give up, no matter whether we are in a “good” season or one that is stormy.

6) REST

Finally, as I face my own weaknesses and the messiness of the local church, what gives me rest of heart? It is glory that gives me rest. It is the knowledge that there is nothing too hard for the God whom I serve. It is the surety that all things are possible with him. It is knowing, with Abraham, that the One who made all those promises on which I base my ministry is faithful. There may seem to be many horizontal reasons to be anxious, but I will not let my heart be captured by worry or fear, because the God of inestimable glory who sent me has made this promise: “I will be with you.” I don’t have to play games with myself. I don’t have to deny or minimize reality in order to feel okay, because he has invaded my existence with his glory, and I can rest, even in the brokenness between the already and the not yet.

GETTING YOUR AWE BACK

I don’t have a set of strategies for you here. My counsel is to run now, run quickly, to your Father of awesome glory. Confess the offense of your boredom. Plead for eyes that are open to the 360-degree, 24/7 display of glory to which you have been blind. Determine to spend a certain portion of every day in meditating on his glory. Cry out for the help of others. And remind yourself to be thankful for Jesus, who offers you his grace even at those moments when that grace isn’t nearly as valuable to you as it should be.

CHAPTER NINE

DIRTY SECRETS

He got used to the bad habits of unfaith. “They’re just my way of unwinding,” he’d tell himself. He reasoned that they didn’t get in the way of what he had been called to do. He kept telling himself that he was working hard and doing well, but he wasn’t doing well. He had more sleepless nights than he was ready to admit. He had gained thirty pounds over the last several years. He numbed his brain every night with hours upon hours of vacuous TV or Internet pop culture. He had incurred more debt than ever before in his life. His wife would have said that he had become increasingly irritable and distant. At home he often came across as a rather joyless, overburdened man. His kids would say that even when he was there, he was often “not there.” He dreaded meetings and found himself easily distracted when he needed focus in order to prepare his next sermon. The door to his office was shut more now than it had been, and he delegated more of his duties to his executive pastor.
Yet no one in the congregation had a clue. He did all his public duties, and from the perspective of the person in the pew, he seemed to do them rather well. He led the meetings that he was appointed to lead and did his best to do the follow-up work that landed on his desk. The problem was that he was not doing well. There was a growing disparity between the public persona and the private man. There was a growing disconnect between the faith statements he made from up front and the thinking that ruled his heart most of the time. He carried around with him the dirty secret that many pastors carry, the one that is so hard for a “man of faith” to admit. The dirty secret was that much of what he did was not done out of faith but out of fear.
Perhaps this is a not-too-often-shared secret of pastoral ministry; that is, how much of it is driven not by faith in the truths of the gospel and in the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ but by fear. It is very tempting for the pastor to load the welfare of the church on his shoulders, and when he does, he ends up being burdened and motivated by an endless and ever-changing catalog of “what ifs.” This never leads to a restful and joyful life of ministry but rather to a ministry debilitated by unrealistic and unmet goals, a personal sense of failure, and the dread that results.
How many pastors are living in a constant state of spiritual unrest? How many of us are haunted by personal insecurity? How many of us secretly wonder where God is and what in the world he is doing? How many of us are living self-protectively, saying, “I was taken once; it won’t happen to me again”? How many of us are afraid to admit failure? How many of us share with no one the struggles of faith that haunt us? How many of us fail to be candid and decisive because we are afraid of what will happen if we do? How many of us have found ways of escape, ways of coping that do not include preaching the gospel to ourselves? How many of us wish for easier places of ministry? How many of us carry our burdens home, rendering our parenting less than gracious and productive? How many of us have become quite skilled at hiding so that not even the people closest to us have any sense of what is going on at the level of our hearts? How many of us have moments of compromise fueled by the fear of man? How many of us have given particular people too much power of influence over us? How many of us have let fear cause us to be too opinionated, too domineering, and too controlling? How many of us let fear keep us silent when we ought to speak or drive us to speak when we ought to be silent? How many of us regularly work to recast as acts of faith things that we have actually done out of fear? How many of us would have to confess that there are moments when we are more ruled by fear of __________ than fear of God? How many of us have moments when we care more about being accepted or having our leadership validated than we do about being biblical? How many of us are weakened or paralyzed by fear of rejection? How many of us are too fearful to entrust vital pieces of the ministry of our churches to others? How many of us are afraid to examine how much fear engages and motivates us? How many of us?

LET’S TALK ABOUT FEAR

1) IN A FALLEN WORLD THERE ARE REASONS TO BE AFRAID

We live in a fallen, sin-broken world that does not operate as God intended. Whether it’s the weeds that tangle your garden, the violence that makes the inner city dangerous, the corruption of the city politician, or the death of a loved one, there are plenty of reminders all around you that the world in which we live is broken. Because of this, we all live and minister in an unpredictable and dangerous place where unforeseen, difficult things do happen. Your salvation and your call to ministry do not automatically give you a ticket out of the fallenness of your surroundings. Your life and your ministry will be touched and in some way shaped by the brokenness of your world. Whether it’s the downturn of the economy, the adultery of an elder, unexpected physical sickness, or some other trial, you will face hardship.
Because of this, it is silly to live in a fallen world and not be afraid in the responsible sense of what that means. Biblical faith does not require you to deny reality, so there are things that should concern and sober you. There are things that should cause you grief. There are things that you will be called to deal with quickly and decisively because of their potential danger. There are moments when fear of what could be is a spiritually healthy thing, but what you must guard against is being ruled by fear. The directive of Psalm 37:8 is very helpful here: “Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.” If you allow yourself to be ruled by fear, you will trouble your own trouble. You will end up making bad things worse. The decisions we make in the panic of fear are the ones we end up regretting.

2) IN RELATIONSHIPS WITH FLAWED PEOPLE, THERE ARE REASONS TO BE AFRAID

Everyone you minister with and to is a flawed human being still in need of redemption. No one around you has a completely pure heart. No one is totally free of sinful thoughts, desires, cravings, or motives. No one always says the right thing. No one always makes the right choices. No one is always noble in his intentions. No one is free from acts of selfishness or self-aggrandizement. No one is completely loyal. No one always has your back. Because of this, relationships in the body of Christ are messy and unpredictable. They are the places where we experience some of our most gratifying joys and heart-wrenching pains. It is godly and responsible to be afraid of how sin can create power struggles, divisive ally groups, critical and judgmental attitudes, self-centered complaining, disloyalty, and ultimately division.

3) FEAR CAN BE A VERY GOOD AND GODLY THING

There is fear that causes you to be watchful and to protect the people in your ministry from the dangers of the real evil that exists both inside and outside of them. Eyes-wide-open, gospel-driven, sin-warring fear that at the same time rests in the grace of Jesus is a very good way to live in a world that itself is still groaning, waiting for redemption.

4) FEAR CAN BE AN UNGODLY AND DANGEROUS THING

Fear can overwhelm your senses. It can distort your thinking. It can kidnap your desires. It can capture your meditation so that you spend more time worrying about what others think than about what God has called you to be. Fear can cause you to make bad decisions quickly and fail to make good decisions in the long run. Fear can cause you to forget what you know and to lose sight of who you are. Fear can make you wish for control that you will never have. It can cause you to distrust people you have reason to trust. It can cause you to be demanding rather than serving. It can cause you to run when you should stay and to stay when you really should run. Fear can make God look small and your circumstance loom large. Fear can make you seek from people what you will only get from the Lord. Fear can be the soil of your deepest questions and your biggest doubts. Your heart was wired to fear, because you were designed to have a life that is shaped by fear of God. But horizontal fear cannot be allowed to rule your heart, because if it does, it will destroy you and your ministry.

5) FEAR IS ONLY EVER CONQUERED BY FEAR

Awe of God really is the solution here. It is only fear of God that has the spiritual power to overwhelm all the horizontal fears that can capture your heart. These relational-situational-location fears are only ever put in their proper place and given their appropriate size by a greater fear—fear of the Lord. Perhaps this is a good portion of what is being said in Proverbs when it declares that “fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (9:10). Allowing yourself to be twisted and turned by whatever fear has you at the moment is an unwise, unstable, and unproductive way of living. Living just to alleviate fear never leads to being fear free. It simply makes you more fearful of fear, more fear alert, and ultimately more fearful. It is only when God looms larger than anything you are facing that you can be protected and practically freed from the fear that either paralyzes you or causes you to make foolish decisions. Wise, stable, and fear-free living doesn’t require you to deny what you’re facing, but rather looks at whatever you are facing from the perspective of a gloriously freeing and motivating fear of the One who rules all the things that you would otherwise be afraid of. A functional awe of God really is the key to your heart’s not being ruled by fear.

FOUR DEBILITATING PASTORAL FEARS

1) FEAR OF ME

There are few things that will reveal to you the full range of your sin, immaturity, weakness, and failure like ministry will. There are few things that will expose your weaknesses to others as consistently as ministry does. There are few endeavors that will put you under public expectancy and scrutiny like ministry does. There are few things that are as personally humbling as ministry is. There are few endeavors that have the power to produce in you such deep feelings of inadequacy as ministry does. There are few things that can be such a vat of self-doubt as ministry is. In your ministry there is a great temptation to be sidetracked and harmed by your fear of you.
God finds Gideon threshing wheat in a winepress, because he was afraid of the Midianites, and greets this fearful man with one of the most ironic greetings in the Bible: “The Lord is with you, O mighty man of valor” (Judg. 6:12). Gideon essentially replies, “Well, if you’re with us, why is all this bad stuff happening?” God says, “I have chosen you to save Israel from the Midianites.” Gideon says, “You have to have the wrong address. I am from the weakest clan in Israel and I am the weakest person in my father’s house. You can’t really mean me.” And God says, “I will be with you.”
God’s response to Gideon’s fear of Gideon is very helpful here. He didn’t work to pump up his self-confidence. He didn’t work to help Gideon see that he brought more to the table than he thought he did. He didn’t do that, because Gideon’s problem was not first that he feared his inadequacies. No, his problem was an awe problem. Gideon failed to fear God in the “God is with me and he is able” sense of what that means. So Gideon was terrified at the thought of leading Israel anywhere.
My pastorate in Scranton, Pennsylvania, had been successful in exposing the full range of my immaturity and weakness, and in ways that had been very painful these were often on public display. I had thought I was so ready. I had done very well in seminary, and I was ready to take on the world. But God had called me to a very broken, very difficult place and had used this place to yank me out of my pride and self-righteousness so that I would find my hope in him. I was hurt, disappointed, tired, overwhelmed, angry, and a bit bitter. I felt God had set me up and people had treated me unkindly, and all I wanted to do was run. I had an education degree and thought I would move somewhere far away and run a Christian school. I had announced my plan to resign to my board. They pleaded with me not to go, but I was determined. So the next Sunday I made my announcement and had a momentary sense of relief. Well, my little congregation was not relieved, so I had many conversations after the service. Much later than usual I made my way out the door, only to be greeted by the oldest man in our church.
He approached me and asked if we could talk. “Paul,” he said, “we know that you’re a bit immature and need to grow up. We know you are a man with weaknesses, but where is the church going to get mature pastors if immature pastors leave?” I felt as if God had just nailed my shoes to the porch. I knew he was right, and I knew I couldn’t leave. In the next several months I began to learn what it means to minister in weakness but with a security-giving, courage-producing awe of God. I am still learning what it means to be in such awe of him that I am no longer afraid of me.

2) FEAR OF OTHERS

Most of the people you serve will love and appreciate you and will encourage you as they are able, but not all of them. Some will love you and have a wonderful plan for your life! Some will assign themselves to be the critics of your preaching and/or leadership. Some will be loyal and supportive, and some will do things that undermine your pastoral leadership. Some will give themselves to the ministry in sacrificial acts of service, and some will complain about the way they are being served. Some will approach you with loving candor, and some will give way to the temptation to talk behind your back. Some will jump in and get involved, while others will always relate to the church with a consumer’s mentality. Some you will connect with easily, and with others you will find relationships much more difficult.
Because your ministry will always be done with people and for people, it is vital that people are in the right place in your heart. You cannot allow fear of people to close you off to others’ perspectives or make you unwilling to delegate ministry tasks, nor can you allow fear to let others set the agenda so that they wrongly control the direction of the ministry to which God has called you. You cannot allow yourself to minister with a closed door, and you cannot be so sensitive to the opinions of others that you are unable to lead.
Because all the people you minister with and to are still dealing with indwelling sin, relationships and ministry with them will be messy. People will hurt you and damage your ministry. People will demand of you what they should not demand and will respond to you in ways they should not respond. In the middle of all of this, particular people, those who are influential and vocal, will loom larger than they should in your thoughts and motives. They will be afforded more power to influence you and the way you do ministry than they should. Rather than working for the glory of God, you will be tempted to work for their approval. Or, rather than working for the glory of God, you will work to disarm or expose them. In both cases your ministry is being corrupted by an ancient human fear—the fear of man.
The power that fear of man has to divert or delude ministry is powerfully portrayed in Galatians 2:11–14. Peter not only compromised, but he forsook the ministry to the Gentiles to which God had called him (see Acts 10) because he was afraid of “the circumcision party.” Paul’s critique was that Peter’s conduct “was not in step with the truth of the gospel,” so he confronted Peter. How much ministry is diverted by actions, reactions, and responses that are rooted not in fear of God but in fear of man? How often does this compromise the work of the gospel? How often does this cause people to stumble? How often are we tempted to act in a way that does not accord with what we say we believe? How much is fear of man setting the agenda in our churches? With openness and humility we need to keep asking these questions.
I wish I could say I am free of this fear, but I’m not. What about you? There have been times when I’ve found myself thinking, as I was preparing a sermon, that a particular point would finally win over one of my detractors. In that moment my preaching was about to be shaped not by my zeal for God’s glory but by my hope that what I said would cause someone to finally see my glory. I understand that this is an ongoing war for the rule of my heart for which I have been given powerful, ever-present grace.

3) FEAR OF CIRCUMSTANCES

Since you don’t author your own story, and since you haven’t penned the script of your own ministry, there is a constant unpredictability to life and ministry. In this world of the unexpected, you are always living in the tension between who God is and what he’s promised and the unexpected things that are on your plate. In the intersection between promise and reality, you have to be very careful to guard your meditation. You have to be very disciplined when it comes to what you do with your mind. Permit me to explain.
Abraham had been told by God that his descendants would be like the sand on the seashore, and he had staked his life on this promise. Now, the normal expectation would be that his wife, Sarah, would give birth early and often. But that did not happen. All throughout Sarah’s childbearing years she was unable to conceive. Now both she and Abraham were old, way too old to seriously think that they would be blessed with the promised son. Old Abraham was now living in the tension between God’s promise and the facts of his circumstance. When you’re in the intersection between the promises of God and the details of your situation, what you do with your mind is very important. In this intersection, God will never ask you to deny reality. Abraham did not deny reality. Romans 4 says that he “considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb” (v. 19). Faith doesn’t deny reality. No, it is a God-focused way of considering reality.
But the passage tells you more. It tells you what Abraham did with his meditation. He didn’t invest himself in turning his circumstances inside out and over and over. No, he considered his circumstances, but he meditated on God. And as he meditated on God, he actually grew stronger in faith even though nothing in his circumstances had changed yet. For many people in ministry, waiting becomes a chronicle of ever-weakening faith because meditating on the circumstances will leave you in awe of the circumstances. They will appear to grow larger, you will feel smaller, and your vision of God will be clouded. But if you meditate on the Lord, you will be in greater awe of his presence, power, faithfulness, and grace. The situation will seem smaller, and you will live with greater confidence even though nothing has changed. Have the circumstances captured your meditation? Are there ways in which you have grown weaker in faith? Or do the eyes of your heart focus on a God who is infinitely greater than anything you will ever face?

4) FEAR OF THE FUTURE

You always live and minister in the hardship of not knowing. In both life and ministry you are called to trust and obey and believe that God will guide and provide. You and I do not know what the next moment will bring, let alone the next month or year. Security is never to be found in our attempt to figure it all out or in trying to divine the secret will of God. His secret will is called his “secret will” because it is secret! Yet in all of this, because you are a rational human being, there is a desire to know, to figure it out ahead of time. The more you concentrate on the future, the more you’ll give way to fear of the future, and the more you’ll be confused and de-motivated in the here and now.
Not knowing is hard. It would be nice to know if that elder is going to succumb to the temptation of being divisive. It would be nice to know if the finances of the church are going to rebound. It would be nice to know how that new preaching series will be received, if those young missionaries will make all the adjustments that they need to make, or if you’ll get the permits to build that needed worship space. The fact of the matter is that we find questions of the future hard to deal with because we find it difficult to trust God. The One that we have said we’ve put our trust in knows everything about the future because he controls every aspect of it. Our fear of the future exposes the struggle we have to trust him and, in trusting him, to rest in his guidance and care, even though we don’t really know what is coming next. Awe of God really is the only way to be free of fear of what is coming next. When my trust in God is greater than my fear of the unknown, I will be able to rest, even though I don’t have a clue what will greet me around the corner. Pastor, do you load the future on your shoulders, with all of its questions and concerns? Or do you give yourself to the work of the present, leaving what is to come in God’s capable hands? How much are you haunted by the “what ifs”? Do you greet the unknown with expectancy or dread? Do God’s presence and promises quiet your unanswerable questions about the future?

SO, WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?

Fear is a daily battle that everyone in ministry is called to fight. Because we all tend at points to suffer from God amnesia, because we live in a fallen world, and because we do not write our own stories, being ruled by fear is always a clear and present danger. There are moments when all of us get captured. There are ways in which all of us get sidetracked. There are times when worry is a more powerful shaper of ministry than faith. There are times that dread is more powerful than trust. There are times when all of us are overwhelmed by our weaknesses or weighed down by the circumstances. There are times when fear causes all of us to be way too controlling. There are times that fear silences us when we need to speak and causes us to speak when we should be silent. There are times when fear causes all of us to do things we should not do or keeps us from doing what we have been called to do. So it is vital to ask, What in the world should we do about fear? Let me suggest four things.

1) HUMBLY OWN YOUR FEARS

Fear is never defeated by denying its existence. I know it’s hard for those called to be people of faith and to lead others into the faith to have to admit that they do things as a direct result of unfaith. Own your fear and run to the only One who is able to defeat it. Confess that you don’t always remember his presence and his glory. Confess those places where you assess situations as if he didn’t exist. Own the fact that you often love your comfort more than you love his glory. Confess that there are moments when you are more in awe of people than you are of him. And as you confess, rest in the surety of his acceptance, forgiveness, empowerment, and deliverance. His grace guarantees a day when fear will be no more.

2) CONFESS THOSE PLACES WHERE FEAR HAS PRODUCED BAD DECISIONS AND WRONG RESPONSES

Admit to those places of duplicity, favoritism, and compromise that resulted from letting horizontal fear replace vertical awe. Confess the places where you have not lived with courage the gospel that you say you believe. Confess to the people whom, in fear, you sinned against by silence, gossip, control, disloyalty, idolatry, etc. And ask God to give you eyes to see the places where you are susceptible to fear and need to grow in faith.

3) PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR MEDITATION

In local church ministry there are so many difficult burdens that could capture your mind. There are so many things you could worry about. There are so many messy relationships, unfinished conversations, unrepentant sins, unfinished agendas, and unknown conclusions. In ministry, in intensely practical ways you are always living between the already and the not yet. So it is vital to always be aware of what is capturing your meditation. What grabs your thoughts when you’re driving or when you have a few quiet moments? Do you live Abraham’s paradigm, not denying the existence of trouble but prohibiting trouble from dominating and controlling your meditation? Does God loom so large in your thoughts that you grow strong in faith, even in the middle of what is unexpected and difficult?

4) PREACH THE GOSPEL TO YOURSELF

Because there will be many times when no one knows what you are thinking and therefore cannot interrupt your private conversation, you need to be committed to preaching the gospel to yourself. You need to preach a gospel that finds its hope not in your understanding and ability but in a God who is grand and glorious in every way and who has invaded your life and ministry by his grace. You need to preach a gospel to yourself that does not find its rest in you getting it right but in the righteousness of Jesus Christ. You need to preach a gospel to yourself that does not get its motivation from human success, respect, and acclaim but from plenteous grace, which you could never have earned. You need to tell yourself again and again that there is no pit of life or ministry so deep that Jesus isn’t deeper. You need to call yourself to rest and faith when no one else knows that private sermon is needed.

May grace cause you to have a ministry that is shaped by living faith and not by the long catalog of fears that greet each of us this side of our final home.

CHAPTER TEN

MEDIOCRITY

He rushed out at the end of the post-conference luncheon meeting with the staff of his church. It was about 2:30 p.m., and he was in a rush to get going because his sermon for the next day was hanging over his head. He told me he had some errands to do, which would be followed by dinner with his family, and then sometime in the evening he would lock himself in his home office and try to put together his message for the next day. No matter what happened the rest of that day, no matter how much time he was actually able to devote to his sermon, and no matter how well his preparation went, no matter how prepared he felt to deal with the text before him, he would get up the next day and say something.
I wondered how many pastors are in the same place and have developed the same ministry habits. I wondered how many throw something together at the last minute and how many sermons are not given the time necessary to communicate what needs to be communicated. I wondered how many congregations around the world are, plainly and simply, being poorly fed by unprepared pastors. I wondered how many sermons end up being boring restatements of favorite commentaries or little more than impersonal, poorly delivered theological lectures.
I don’t need to wonder anymore. Having spoken at literally hundreds of churches around the world, I have experienced this Saturday afternoon sermon scenario over and over again. It has left me both sad and angry. No wonder people lack excitement with the gospel. No wonder they don’t approach Sunday morning with anticipation. No wonder they quit believing that the Bible speaks to the drama of their everyday struggle. No wonder they quit thinking that their pastor can relate to what their life is like or to the questions that tend to haunt them. No wonder so many people in so many pews sit there with minds wandering and hearts disengaged. No wonder they find it hard to push the last week’s problems or the next day’s duties out of their minds as they sit there on Sunday morning.
I am very concerned about the acceptance of Sunday morning mediocrity, and I am persuaded that it is not primarily a schedule or laziness problem. I am convinced it is a theological problem. You see, the standards you set for yourself and your ministry are directly related to your view of God. If you are feeding your soul every day on the grace and glory of God, if you are in worshipful awe of his wisdom and power, if you are spiritually stunned by his faithfulness and love, and if you are daily motivated by his presence and promises, then you want to do everything you can to capture and display that glory to the people God has placed in your care. It is your job as a pastor to pass this glory down to another generation, and it is impossible for you to do that if you are not being awestricken by God’s glory yourself.
Now, the stakes are high here. You could argue that every worship service is little more than a glory war. The great question of the gathering is, will the hearts of this group of people be captured by the one glory that is truly glorious or by the shadow glories of the created world? As a pastor, I want to do everything I can to be used of God to capture the hearts of those gathered by the rescuing glory of God’s grace, by the insight-giving glory of God’s wisdom, by the hope-giving glory of his love, by the empowering glory of his presence, by the rest-giving glory of his sovereignty, and by the saving glory of his Son. But I know that this is a battle. I am speaking to people whose hearts are fickle and easily distracted. I know I am talking to people who are seduced by other glories. I know I am talking to people who live in the light of God’s glory every day and yet are capable of being functionally blind to its splendor.
I know I am addressing the single lady who has set her heart on the affection of a certain young man whom she thinks will deliver to her the happiness she has been craving. Sitting before me is the teenager who can’t think beyond the glories of Facebook, Twitter, and the Portal2 video game. In the congregation is the middle-aged man whose heart is captured by the glory of somehow, someway recapturing his youth. A wife is sitting there wondering if she will ever experience the glory of the kind of marriage that she dreamed about, the kind she knows others have. A man sits in the crowd knowing that he feeds his soul almost daily on the dark and distorted glories of pornography and has become a master at shifting spiritual gears. Some listening are more excited about a new outfit, new home, new car, new shotgun, newly sodded lawn, the opening of a new restaurant, a new vacation site, or that new promotion than they are about the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Of those who have gathered for worship, there are those distracted by grief, anger, discouragement, loneliness, envy, frustration, despair, or hopelessness, because the glories that they have looked to for their meaning, purpose, and inner happiness have failed them once again. These glories have proven to be more temporary than they thought they would ever be. They have been more elusive than they seemed at a distance. They have blown up in their faces or dripped like sand through their fingers. And even when they were wonderful to experience, they didn’t, in fact, leave their hearts satisfied. The buzz was short and the satisfaction elusive. So they sit there empty, hurt, angry, and confused.
They come into worship in the middle of a war that they probably don’t recognize. It is a war for the allegiance, the worship, of their hearts. In ways they probably don’t understand, they have again and again asked the creation to give them what only the Creator can provide. They have looked horizontally again and again for what can only be found vertically. They have asked people, situations, locations, and experiences to be the one thing they will never be: their savior. They have looked to these things to give them life, security, identity, and hope. They have asked these things to heal their broken hearts. They have hoped that these things would make them better people. So a war rages, and wounded soldiers sit before you. It is a glory war, a battle for what glory will rule their hearts and, in so doing, control their choices, words, and behaviors.
Along with this there really is an enemy who will do anything he can with lies, seduction, distraction, and deceit to keep my heart from focusing on the glory for which I was created to live, the glory of God. So it is a high and holy calling to step into the middle of this glory war commissioned to be one of God’s primary tools to recapture the wandering hearts of battle-scarred and battle-weary soldiers.
For others, following this God of glory has seemed to be anything but glorious. They were expecting joy and blessing, and what they got is pain, sadness, and trial. They find it increasingly hard to believe those glorious truths that God is near, that he hears, that he cares, that he is faithful, that he is wise, that he exercises his power for the good of his children, and that he is loving, kind, gracious, and patient. They feel that they’ve been forsaken. They feel they’re being punished. They are being tempted to conclude that what they were taught was true isn’t really true after all. They wonder why they have been singled out for suffering that others don’t seem to be going through. They wonder why they pray and nothing seems to happen. They have quit reading their Bible because it doesn’t seem to help, and they find that the songs on Sunday morning seem to be describing a very different reality from the one they live in. They’ve quit asking for prayer for the same things over and over again in their small group because it just makes them feel like a loser. They feel that the glory that was put before them has eluded them completely, and they don’t know what to do about it. So, without being conscious of it, they have begun to offer their hearts to other glories, hoping that somehow, someway, satisfaction will be found.
Pastor, to these beaten-down ones you have been called as an ambassador of glory. You have been called to rescue those who are awe discouraged and awe confused. You are called to represent the One who is glory, to people who, by means of suffering and disappointment, have become glory cynics. You have been called to be God’s voice to woo them back. You are placed in their lives as a divine means of rescue, healing, and restoration. You have been called to speak into the confusion with gospel clarity and authority. You have been called to give glory-bound hope to those who have become hopeless. You are called to speak liberating truths to those who have become deceived. You have been called to plead with disloyal children to once again be reconciled to their heavenly Father. You have been called to give glorious motivation to those who have given up. You have been called to shine the light of the glory of God into hearts that have been made dark by looking for life in all the wrong places. You have been called to offer the filling glories of grace to those who are empty and malnourished. You have been called to represent a glorious King, who alone is able to rescue, heal, redeem, transform, forgive, deliver, and satisfy. You have been called.

GOD’S GLORY, OUR EXCELLENCE

If your heart is in functional awe of the glory of God, then there will be no place in your heart for poorly prepared, badly delivered, functional pastoral mediocrity. Permit me to explain. I think we should all be shocked at the level of mediocrity that we tolerate in the life and ministry of the local church. No, I’m not talking about giving people room to grow and mature and not crushing them with criticism in the process. I’m talking about those places where our standards are simply too low, places where we could and should do much, much better. And I am convinced that if awe of God doesn’t reign in our hearts, then that awe won’t shape our preparation for and delivery of the things that God has called us to do in ministry.
Mediocrity is not a time, personnel, resource, or location problem. Mediocrity is a heart problem. We have lost our commitment to the highest levels of excellence because we have lost our awe. Awe amnesia is the open door that admits mediocrity. Awe of God is fear-producing, inspiring, motivating, convicting, and commitment-producing. There is no replacement for this in the leadership of the church of Jesus Christ. Awe protects us from us by asking more of us than we would ever ask of ourselves. Awe reminds us that it is not about us and so keeps us from dropping our guard when it might be convenient to do so.
Awe reminds you that God is so glorious that it is impossible for you, as his ambassador, to have ministry standards that are too high. I’m not talking about lavish, expensively furnished buildings. No, I’m talking about a sturdy commitment to do everything you can to display the glory of his presence and grace as powerfully and clearly as you can each time his people are gathered. You are in such awe of, and have been so satisfied by, his grace yourself that you have a zeal to display that grace to those under your care, a zeal you can get no other way. You are never just doing your duty. You are never just cranking it out. You are never just going through the motions. You are never just putting on a front. You are worshiping your way through whatever you are doing at that moment as the ambassador of an expansively glorious King. And you are in reverential fear of doing anything that would dent, diminish, or desecrate that glory in any way. As a pastor, you are a glory-captured tool for the capture of others.
It is here again that we are faced with the fact that our ministries are not shaped just by knowledge, experience, and skill but by the true condition of our hearts. Excellence in ministry flows from a heart that is in holy, reverential, life-rearranging, motivation-capturing awe of the Lord of glory. In fact, it is even deeper than that. Excellence is, in fact, a relationship. There is only one who is truly and perfectly excellent. He alone is the sum and definition of what excellence is and does. So the One who is excellence, in his grace, came to you when you were in a state of anything but excellence and, by grace, offered you the promise of actually becoming a partaker of his divine nature. He then connects you to purposes and goals way higher, way grander and more glorious, than you would ever have sought for yourself. By grace he causes you to think what you wouldn’t have thought and to desire what you had never before wanted. He opens your eyes to his glory. He opens the door to his kingdom. Your hope of ever being excellent in his eyes and doing what is excellent in his sight is found in your relationship to him and in his grace that not only forgives and accepts but radically transforms. And he calls and empowers you to display his excellency and the excellency of his grace. It is only this excellency that has the power to free us from the false excellency of human pride and the mediocrity that results when we are okay with ourselves and our world just the way they are.
It is when I am in awe at the reality that I have, by grace alone, been attached to what is truly excellent in every way that I want to be an ambassador of that excellence. I want others to experience the excellent grace that is freeing me from me and can free them as well. When this is true, I become committed to displaying the glory of that excellence in every way that is possible in the scope of my ministry. This means I will be sobered as I consider my calling to be the ambassador of the God of such glory, and I will be in awe of being called to put his grace on display. So I will have high standards for every aspect of the ministry that is under my care. Whether it is children’s or youths’ ministries, men’s or women’s ministries, small groups or outreach, whether it is leadership training or short-term missions, public worship or preaching, I will want each ministry of the church to be done in excellence so that they will faithfully display the excellence of the One who calls out of darkness into his marvelous light.
This means we will be committed to the disciplines that cause these ministries to be as free from chaos and mediocrity as is possible between the already and the not yet. First, we must be committed to preaching the gospel to ourselves, reminding ourselves of our ongoing need to be rescued from us and the low standards to which sin attracts us. We constantly remind ourselves of how we are tempted to value what is expedient and comfortable rather than what is excellent in the eyes of God. And we tell ourselves again and again that for these battles we have been given bountiful, right-here, right-now grace.
This also means that we will do everything to maintain relationships of unity, understanding, and love between us. We know we are sinners. We know we will sin against one another. We know there are moments when we will be disappointed and hurt. We know we will be misunderstood and wrongly judged. We know we will be selfish and controlling, self-righteous and demanding. We know we will ask one another to give what we have already been given in Christ. So we determine to give ourselves the humility of approachability and the courage of loving honesty. We will commit ourselves to regular patterns of confession and forgiveness. And we will celebrate together the grace that enables sinners to live and minister alongside sinners in a community of unity and love.
And we will be committed to the discipline of adequate preparation that enables us to do well what we have been called to do. You cannot have a ministry that is committed to ambassadorial excellence if these things (disciplines) are not a regular part of your community. If you forget who you are, your ministry will be shaped by a smugness that is more about displaying how great you are than about how glorious the Savior is, the Savior who is still meeting you in your weakness. If you are not committed to loving gospel community, you will minister out of frustration and discouragement, displaying God’s glory in an abstract form but not in its living, life-changing vitality. And if you are not committed to the discipline of preparation, you will offer sloppy leadership to poorly sighted people that will become more of a distraction from, rather than an enhancement of, their ability to see God for who is he and place their hope in him.

PREACHING AND THE GOD WHO IS EXCELLENT

I want to examine one place where I think there is entirely too much mediocrity in the church of Jesus Christ—preaching. I want to talk about preaching. Because of what God has called me to do, I get to be in churches around the world. For about forty weekends each year, I am with some body of Christ somewhere in the world. Often I am not able to return home on Saturday, so I will attend the service of the local congregation (when I am not scheduled to preach). What I am about to say will probably get me into trouble, but I am convinced it needs to be said. I am saddened and distressed to say it, but I am tired of hearing boring, inadequately prepared theological lectures read as manuscripts that will inspire no one by uninspired preachers—all done in the name of biblical preaching. There is a way in which, if you examine the whole process, it is neither biblical nor preaching! I am not surprised in these moments that people’s minds wander. I am not surprised that people are struggling to keep attentive and awake. I am surprised that more aren’t. They are being taught by one who has not brought the proper weapons into the pulpit to fight for them and with them the spiritual war that every moment of preaching actually is.
Preaching is more than the regurgitation of your favorite exegetical commentary, or a rather transparent recast of the sermons of your favorite preachers, or a reshaping of notes from one of your favorite seminary classes. It is bringing the transforming truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ from a passage that has been properly understood, cogently and practically applied, and delivered with the engaging tenderness and passion of a person who has been broken and restored by the very truths he stands up to communicate. You simply cannot do this without proper preparation, meditation, confession, and worship.
There simply is no way that you can begin to think about a passage for the first time on Saturday afternoon or evening and give it the kind of attention that it needs so that you understand and have been personally impacted by it and are prepared to give it to others in a way that is understandable and consumable and contributes to their ongoing transformation. As pastors, we have to fight for the sanctity of preaching, or no one else will. We have to demand that we are afforded the time in our job descriptions that is necessary to prepare well. We have to carve out time in our schedules to do whatever is necessary for each of us, given our gifts and maturity, to be ready to be a spokesman for our Savior king. We cannot become comfortable with patterns that denigrate preaching and degrade our ability to represent well a glorious God of glorious grace. We cannot allow ourselves to be too busy and too distracted. We cannot set low standards for ourselves and those we serve. We cannot be self-excusing and self-accommodating. We cannot allow ourselves to try to squeeze a thousand dollars’ worth of preparation into dime moments. We must determine to do everything we can to enter each moment of preaching well prepared. We must not lose sight of the excellent One and the excellent grace we have been called to represent. We cannot, because we are unprepared, let his splendor appear boring and his amazing grace appear run-of-the-mill.
The culture and discipline that surround our preaching always reveal the true character of our own hearts. This is exactly where confession and repentance need to take place. We cannot allow ourselves to blame our job descriptions or our busyness. We cannot allow ourselves to point the finger at the unexpected things that show up on the schedule of every pastor. We cannot allow ourselves to blame the demands of family. We have to humbly confess that our preaching is mediocre, not rising to the standard to which we have been called, and then that the problem is us. The problem is that we have lost our awe, and in losing our awe we are all too comfortable with representing God’s excellence in a way that is anything but excellent. Ministry mediocrity in any form is always an issue of the heart. If this describes you, then run in humble confession to your Savior and embrace the grace that has the power to rescue you from you and, in so doing, to give you back your awe.
It is important to understand the two essential parts of effective preaching and how each requires its own discipline of preparation. First, there is the content part of preaching. Preaching is all about accurately exegeting and understanding the truths of the gospel as they are unfolded in a particular passage of Scripture. I cannot rush this aspect of my preparation. I cannot leave the discipline of content until I have understood the purpose for and gospel content of the passage before me. And I must understand that if I am unable to practically apply the truths of the passage to my life and to those to whom I will preach, then I haven’t yet fully understood the passage. The exegetical process doesn’t end with understanding; it ends with application. Preaching is not just about “this is what this means”; it is also about “this is what it means to live in light of what this means.”
It is my experience that exegesis that ends with the pastor’s ability to apply what he has learned from the passage before him isn’t an event, but a process. It is necessary for me to live with a passage, to carry it around with me and to marinate my soul with its nourishing and thirst-quenching waters. I simply can’t do this in a couple hours. I need meditative time with the passage so that the Spirit can work through it in me and through me to the people under my ministry. I’m about to make some of you mad, but I’m going to say it. If you are developing original content late on a Saturday evening, you have no business preaching it on Sunday. It’s unlikely that you will have understood the full range of the radical gospel glories of the passage, it’s doubtful that they have had any time whatsoever to confront your own heart, and it’s unlikely that you have developed much readiness to communicate them winsomely and practically to your listeners.
At that late hour you will settle for a surface scan of the passage and call it a sermon; you will pirate the work of others even if you don’t know you’re doing it, and you will have little ability to portray well the radical confrontation and encouragement of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Because you have not taken the time necessary, you will preach theological stuff, depersonalized doctrinal bits and pieces that are disassociated from the gospel of grace. You will communicate ideas, but you will not powerfully preach a glorious Christ, who is powerfully present in every passage you will ever be called to preach. You will default to offering people a system of redemption (theology and rules), but you will not help them to find their hope and help in a redeemer. So your people will think they’re growing in maturity because they are growing in theological understanding, but your preaching will not bring them to the end of themselves and to the cross of Jesus Christ. We must always, always, remember that the theology of the Word of God is not an end in itself but a means to an end, and that end is a radically grace-transformed life.
But there is a second essential aspect to preaching. Preaching is not just a craft of content; it is also a craft of communication. You must meditate, pray, labor, wrestle, and work on how to communicate the truths that you have come to understand to the particular people who are in your care. I am persuaded that we have devalued the communication aspect of powerful, effective, life-changing gospel preaching. I am not talking about your trying to be a John Piper or a Tim Keller. No, I’m talking about your commitment to do everything you can to winsomely and cogently explain and apply the glorious truths that you exegeted as you undertook the necessary discipline of content. You have no time whatsoever to develop the communication aspect of your sermon—to think of a helpful turn of phrase, an illuminating personal illustration, or a practical point of gospel application—if the process hasn’t begun until Saturday. You’re just relieved that you got the content down, that you actually have something to say when it comes time to stand up and preach. But you won’t say things well, you won’t develop insight-giving word pictures, you won’t have that tender moment of self-disclosing honesty, you won’t make specific application to the culture that your people live in, you won’t show your people that every truth revealed in the passage is a finger that points to Christ, and you won’t leave people hungering for more. You have entered the pulpit with a bag of content, but it hasn’t yet been formed into a sermon.
I think of the relationship between these two aspects of preaching much the way I think about cooking. I love to cook, so I am the one in our family who cooks the Thanksgiving and Christmas feasts. Now, if you have purposed to feed your family a wonderful, memorable meal, it all starts with gathering fine ingredients. If you don’t take the time to hunt for the best ingredients available, you will never have that good meal of your dreams. The gathering of the best ingredients is analogous to the content part of preaching. Good preaching is rooted in the gathering of fine gospel ingredients out of the passage before you. But on Thanksgiving Day, I don’t put ingredients on the table. Ingredients are the substance of a meal, but they are not a meal. They must be formed into attractive, tasty, nutritious, and consumable elements that together form a meal. A hunk of butter and a mouthful of flour followed by a spoon of cornmeal is not very appetizing or digestible, but cornbread is a wonderful thing. The finest of turkeys placed raw on a table would be neither appealing nor edible. The forming of the fine ingredients collected into a beautiful meal is analogous to the communication aspect of preaching.
I am afraid that many preachers out there are in the sad habit of putting ingredients on the table. They may be fine ingredients, but, regrettably, they have not been formed into a meal, so they are neither attractive nor consumable. If everyone I feed were a chef, I would be able to put ingredients on the table so that they could form it into a meal; but they aren’t. And if everyone to whom you are preaching were a preacher/pastor, you could put gospel ingredients on the table so they could form them into a meal; but they are not. No, I am not discounting the Holy Spirit’s power to capture, convict, and change people through his Word. There is not a moment in preaching where we are not utterly dependent on him, and we are never called to do his work. But the Holy Spirit has commissioned us to be his instruments, and our job is to do everything we can to be sharp instruments in his redemptive hands.
I will tell you what this means for me. It means that I can’t have a fresh encounter with the truths I am to communicate from a particular portion of Scripture on the week that they are to be preached. A week does not give me enough content and communication time. I work ahead to prepare to preach wherever I am called. This means that when I prepare the content of a message, it is the message that I’ll be preaching in three or four weeks. This gives time for truths to marinate in my own heart and become more deeply and practically understood. On the week that the sermon is to be preached, I preach it aloud to myself some fifteen or twenty times. As I do this, both my understanding of the passage and the creative ways it can be communicated deepen and develop.
Now, I’m not suggesting that this regimen of preparation is the right one for you, but I am suggesting that we cannot be satisfied with poorly prepared exegetical meanderings delivered by a pastor who doesn’t see his own mediocrity because his heart needs to be recaptured by the awe of God’s glory and grace. God’s presence in our preaching and his grace that meets us in our weakness assure us that we can do better.
Pastor, are you suffering from an awe amnesia that allows you to set standards way lower than required if you are going to take your ambassadorial calling seriously? Has awe amnesia allowed you to be comfortable with mediocrity in ministry, which is a functional contradiction of the glories you celebrate? If so, don’t wallow in shame; don’t hide in guilt. Run to your Redeemer. Bask in his glorious grace. Seek the forgiveness and empowerment that only he can give. And commit yourself, by his grace, to the disciplines of excellence that will only ever happen as he recues you from you and gives you back your awe once again.

CHAPTER ELEVEN

BETWEEN THE ALREADY AND THE NOT YET

I wasn’t consciously proud. Maybe most proud people aren’t conscious of how proud they really are. But I felt that I had arrived. In ways that now shock and embarrass me, I thought of myself as a grace graduate. I didn’t minister out of my own need. I had done very well in seminary. I had planted a church in a very hard place. I had founded a Christian school that was growing rapidly. (Both the church and the school I had founded along with others, but I didn’t look at it that way.) I was getting invitations all over the place to speak. In ways that are hard for me to imagine now, I thought I had spiritually arrived. I had a scary self-assurance. I often looked at the people I was ministering to with a self-congratulatory pity, assuming, of course, that they were essentially different from me. No, I didn’t make fun of people, and I didn’t spend my time bragging about my accomplishments, but an attitude of arrival did shape my ministry.
I was incredibly impatient and often quietly irritated. I found it hard to delegate ministry to others. I wanted more control than was actually necessary and productive. I gave my opinion way too often. I treated the ministries God had called me to as if they belonged to me. I wanted people to quickly sign on to support my brainstorms. My sermons were rather arrogant lectures—you know, the final word on the topic or the passage. I once preached what I thought was the ultimate sermon on pride that was actually a living example of the same! My preaching and teaching was more law than gospel. This is typical of a person who thinks he is a law keeper.
As a pastor, I was making a dangerous self-assessment mistake. I had bought into a fallacious, distorted view of my spiritual maturity. This view is both very tempting and very comfortable for people in ministry, and when we buy into this view, it sets us up for a catalog of temptations. Rather than looking at myself in the accurate mirror of the Word of God—the only place where you will get both an accurate definition of spiritual maturity and a reliable read on your own spiritual condition—I looked elsewhere. I looked to excellent grades and student prizes in seminary to tell me how mature I was. It is a dangerous intellectual and knowledge-based method of assessing your spiritual condition. I looked to ministry skill to tell me how spiritually mature I was, forgetting that God gives gifts to whomever he wills. I looked to my ministry experience; the years of labor made me feel spiritually seasoned and mature.
Rather than humbly standing before the honest assessment of the mirror of the Bible to see myself as I really was, I looked into carnival mirrors. Now, the problem with the carnival mirror is that it really does show you you, but with distortion. You don’t actually have a 20-inch-high neck and a 6-inch torso; yes, it’s you in that concave mirror, but it’s not showing you the way you actually look. The danger of assessments of arrival greets everyone in ministry. The danger that you would quit thinking of yourself as weak and needy is always near. The danger that you would see yourself as being in a different category from those to whom you minister is right around the corner. This danger greets you every day because there are carnival mirrors all around that have the power to give you a distorted view of you. And when you think you’ve arrived, when you quit being convicted of and broken by your own weakness, failures, and sins, you will begin to make bad personal and ministry choices. The reality and confession of personal spiritual weakness is not a grave danger to your ministry. God has chosen to build his church through the instrumentality of bent and broken tools. It is your delusions of strength that will get you in trouble and cause you to form a ministry that is less than Christ-centered and gospel-driven.
When I hear a sermon that is essentially law-driven, that is, asking the law to do what only the grace of Jesus Christ can accomplish, I am immediately concerned about the preacher. I immediately wonder about his view of himself, because if he had any self-consciousness about his own weakness and sin, he would find little hope and comfort for himself and his hearers in that kind of sermon. You see this dynamic in the Pharisees. Because they thought of themselves as righteous, perfect law givers, they had no problem laying unbearable law burdens on others. Their misuse of the law had its roots not only in bad theology but also in ugly human pride. They saw law keeping as possible, because they thought they were keeping it. And they thought that others should get up and keep it as well as they did. They were the religious leaders of their day, but they were arrogant, insensitive, uncompassionate, and judgmental. They were not part of what God was doing at the moment; no, they were in the way of it.
I am afraid that there is a whole lot of pride in the modern pulpit. There is a whole lot of pride in the seminary classroom. There is a whole lot of pride in the church staff. It is one of the reasons for all the relational conflict that takes place in the church. It is why we are often better theological gatekeepers than tender and humble spokesmen for the gospel. It is why pastors often seem unapproachable. It is why we get angry in meetings or defensive when someone disagrees with us or points out a wrong. We are too self-assured. We are too confident. We too quickly assess that we are okay. We too quickly make heroes out of ourselves and others. We too often take credit for what sovereign grace produced. We too often assess that we don’t need the help that the normal believer needs. We are too quick to speak and too slow to listen. We too often take as personal affronts things that are not personal. We quit being students too soon. We don’t see ourselves as needy often enough. We have too little meditative-communion-with-Christ time nailed into our schedules. We confidently assign to ourselves more ministry work than we can do. We live in more isolation than is spiritually healthy. Pastor, there is ample evidence all around us that we tend to forget who we are and that we allow ourselves to be defined by things that should not define us.
Let me say again: if you are a pastor or ministry leader, you are at the same time a person in the middle of your own sanctification. You are not yet free of sin and all its attendant dangers. You still carry around moral susceptibility. You are capable of giving way to disastrous things. You are capable of losing your way. You are capable of ungodly attitudes and dark desires. You have not been completely delivered from pride, greed, lust, anger, and bitterness. There are places where you are an idolater, where the agenda is being set by a desire for some created thing more than it is by worship of your Creator. You do not always minister as an ambassador. There are times when you do your ministry work with the attitude of a king rather than as one called to represent the King. You do not always love God above all else. You do not always love your neighbor as yourself. You are not always kind and compassionate. You are not always patient and forgiving. There are moments when you love your little kingdom of one more than you love God’s kingdom. There are times when you love comfort and pleasure more than you love redemption. There are times when pride renders you unkind and unapproachable. There are times when you want your ministry to be about you. There are times when you’re irritated by the very people you’ve been called to pastor. You are not proud of all your thoughts. You would not want your congregation to hear all your words. You do things in private moments that you would not want seen in public.
These things are true of me as well. And they give evidence to the fact that we who are called to provide and lead ministry are in desperate need of ministry ourselves. We who proclaim the message of grace are deeply in need of grace ourselves. We have not arrived. We have not moved beyond a moment-by-moment need for grace. We are not yet out of danger. We are not yet free from temptation. The war for our hearts still rages. We still fall and fail. We simply have not arrived, but we are tempted to think we have because we buy into false assessments of our spiritual condition.

LOOKING INTO THE CARNIVAL MIRRORS OF MINISTRY

Because we are all tempted to be self-sufficient and to think that we are independently righteous, we are all attracted to overinflated, aggrandized views of ourselves. To use Paul’s words, we think of ourselves “more highly than we ought to think” (see Rom. 12:3). We all tend to want to have our righteousness recognized and confirmed. We all want to be seen as right and mature. We all want to be looked up to and esteemed. So we are attracted to things that seem to define us as Christlike and mature. In a word, we all are susceptible to having our definition of ourselves formed by the carnival mirrors that are in every ministry person’s life. Remember, no mirror that you look into to know yourself will ever show you you with the clarity and accuracy of the mirror of the Word of God. Let me suggest four of those mirrors.

1) THE MIRROR OF MINISTRY KNOWLEDGE

Biblical literacy and theological understanding are very important things; after all, God chose to make his greatest revelation of himself and his plan in a book. It is a book you must determine to know in every way. It’s a book the truth themes of which you must grow to understand as thoroughly as possible. You must see the fabric of truth, that is, how truths are interwoven and connect to one another. You must understand the flow of the plan of redemption. Biblical knowledge is a vital, essential, and irreplaceable thing; but it must not be confused with true faith or personal spiritual maturity. Faith is deeply more than what you do with your brain. Knowledge is an aspect of faith, but it doesn’t define faith. Ultimately, faith is an investment of the heart that leads to a radically new way of living your life. Spiritual maturity is more than maturity of knowledge. You can actually be mature in your understanding of God’s sovereignty but live a life of fear, because in your immaturity you have attached your security more to your control than to God’s wise rule. It is not an oxymoron to say that there are loads of theologically knowledgeable pastors who, in the way that they live and minister, are spiritually immature. Your level of biblical, theological knowledge is not a safe mirror into which to look to assess your spiritual maturity.

2) THE MIRROR OF MINISTRY EXPERIENCE

The longer you’ve been in ministry, the more ministry blocks you’ve been around, and the more ministry knocks you’ve taken, the more it feels like you’ve arrived. You’re no longer wet behind your ministry ears. You’re no longer new to the push and pull of local church ministry. You probably won’t be surprised by what will happen next because you’ve just about seen it all. You have come to know that ministry is war. You know that it is often as disappointing as it is exciting. You know that you’ll have both your detractors and your celebrants. You know the pressures you will face, balancing ministry and family. You know that local-church ministry is seasonal. No, I’m not talking about the weather here. I mean that pastors tend to go through good and bad seasons of ministry. So all of this experience makes you feel that you’re mature; but it can be a dangerous and distorted mirror to look into.
The fact is that there is a critical difference between the street-level wisdom gained from experience and spiritual maturity. You can know what is going to happen next, because you’ve been around the block a few times, but you may not deal well with what is going to happen next, because you lack maturity. If all that was needed to form maturity was a certain amount of experience, not only would there be many more mature people, but Jesus would not have had to come. Experience will teach you some things, but it simply has no power to make you holy. Sadly, when you let experience tell you that you are mature when you’re not, you quit being committed to change because you don’t think it’s needed.

3) THE MIRROR OF MINISTRY SUCCESS

It is very tempting to try to get your identity from your ministry success. But local-church ministry success is the result of things that are profoundly deeper than a leader’s insights, strategic planning, sense of the moments, ability to build a ministry team, and instilling a compelling ministry vision in the congregation. If our human ministry efforts are not propelled by God’s powerful grace and applied by the Holy Spirit, they will be for nothing. It is Christ and Christ alone who builds his church. This is humbling stuff because it requires us to admit that we have no power whatsoever to change anyone. We have no ability to advance God’s kingdom. So ministry success always says more about the Lord we serve than it does about us. Ministry success is not a valid measuring instrument of our maturity. In fact, a God of grace will bless our ministries in spite of us because of his zeal for his church and his commitment to his own glory.

4) THE MIRROR OF MINISTRY CELEBRITY

Pastoral-ministry celebrity is simply a dangerous thing. The people who are exposed only to your public ministry persona, your books or Internet blogs, and your voice when it is in a conference or on a DVD are functionally incapable of giving you an accurate view of yourself. You must take their congratulatory words as well meant but lacking in accuracy and, therefore, spiritual helpfulness. They haven’t seen you in your private domain, they do not know your heart, and they have not interviewed those who live nearest to you. Having said all this, it is still tempting to listen too much to your own press. It is tempting to think you have arrived because people treat you as if you’re something special. It is tempting to forget who you really are. Public acclaim is often the seedbed for spiritual pride. The question of pastoral maturity cannot be answered by people who appreciate you but, frankly, don’t really know you at all.

Pastor, do you examine yourself daily by humbly placing yourself before the one mirror you can trust, the mirror of the Word of God? Or have you fallen into the habit of looking into carnival mirrors that will only ever give you a misshapen view of where you are in your personal spiritual journey?

THE DANGEROUS RESULTS OF THINKING YOU’VE ARRIVED

I didn’t see it at the time, but I enjoyed the ministry celebrity that I experienced during my early days in coal country. I was the center of a little growing church and a rapidly growing Christian school, and I loved it. We were seeing fruit in a place where there hadn’t been much fruit, and people were excited. Thankful people seemed to be everywhere, and they expressed their thanks often. But, in ways I didn’t see then, I took a lot of the credit. I was unaware of how proud I had become until a man asked if he could meet with me. I was sure he had been convicted by one of my glorious sermons and wished to counsel with me. We met over dinner, a meal that neither one of us ended up eating, and it quickly became clear that he didn’t want to talk about himself; he wanted to talk about me. He spent a couple hours giving me example after example of my pride. He said that he thought that I thought my job was to give “the final opinion on everything.”
I was devastated. I thought he had been inaccurate and unkind. But I couldn’t escape his words, so I called my brother Tedd to ask him what I should do. Tedd gave me the best and hardest advice. He simply said, “Listen.” Over the next few weeks I tried my best to stop, look, and listen, and what I saw was a proud man who had begun in subtle and not so subtle ways to take credit for what only grace could produce. I heard a man speaking who had forgotten who he was. I saw a young pastor who had already begun to act as if he had arrived. I wish I could say that I am free of all the self-assessment delusions of my ministry youth, but I am not. There are times when the congratulatory comments of a thankful hearer will morph into self-congratulation. At times I am defensive when someone presumes to question or confront me. There are times when I am too self-aware and not nearly as Christ-aware as I should be. You see, I still struggle because there is still latent self-righteousness in me, and the praise of others tends to confirm the praise for myself that I still carry around in my heart. So I still cry out for help. I still need to be rescued from me. I still have but one hope: the transforming grace of Jesus Christ.
So what are the lifestyle tendencies of a pastor who is living and ministering from a position of arrival? Well, if you think you’ve arrived:

1) YOU WILL THINK THAT YOU DON’T NEED WHAT YOU PREACH

Sinclair Ferguson said in a post-conference question-and-answer session that he had determined to be a man who sat under his own preaching. Even your preparation should be an acknowledgment of ongoing need, a cry for divine help, and a celebration of ever-present, inexhaustible grace. This is the “I am a man of unclean lips and I dwell amongst people of unclean lips” of Isaiah 6:5. If you think you have arrived, you prepare material from above for people who sadly still need what you no longer need. Are you desperately hungry for the truths that you regularly prepare to expound to others?

2) YOU WILL NOT BE OPEN TO THE MINISTRY OF THE BODY OF CHRIST

Arrival tends to produce self-sufficiency. If you think you’re wise, you don’t seek out the wisdom of others. If you think you’re mature, you don’t hunger for the protection of others. If you see yourself as a person of mature faith, you don’t seek the courage-giving encouragement of others. If you don’t see your sin, you won’t see the value of confessing it to those who can counsel and warn you. If you think you’re up to whatever temptation will be thrown at you, you don’t ask for other eyes to watch out for you and other hearts to pray on your behalf. Arrival, whether conscious or not, will always begin to cut you off from the essential protecting and sanctifying ministry of the body of Christ.

3) YOU WILL EXPECT OF OTHERS THE PERFECTION THAT YOU THINK YOU’VE ACHIEVED

Arrival is not the soil in which pastoral grace grows. People who think of themselves as righteous tend to expect and require of others the same righteousness that they think they have achieved. Rather than being the soil in which grace grows, arrival is the soil in which unrealistic expectation, criticism, impatience, and harsh judgments grow. I can’t tell you how many staff members have shared with me that their relationship to their senior pastor (and these are my words) is characterized more by law than by grace. If you think you are keeping the law, then you are comfortable with throwing the law at others. But if you are grieved at the reality that you daily fall woefully short of God’s requirement, that your rest is not in your own righteousness but in the righteousness of Christ, then you will naturally minister to others the same grace that you so desperately need and so graciously receive from God’s hand.

4) YOU WILL FEEL QUALIFIED TO HAVE MORE CONTROL THAN YOU HAVE

If you come to be impressed by your own wisdom and strength, if you mount up evidence for your own righteousness, then it makes sense that you would be self-assured, thinking that you’re more capable, more ready to deal with whatever God puts on your plate, than you actually are. Because you are convinced that you are strong and wise, it is natural to assess that you should be in control. You don’t carry around in you the hunger for wisdom you don’t have or for protection from personal weaknesses. You aren’t concerned that your control could be tainted by sin, that is, that it could degrade into control for self-interest and self-aggrandizement.
Let’s be honest. There are too many power struggles in the local church. Gospel ministry easily becomes politicized. Pride causes you to hunger for power (even though you may not know it); the hunger for power causes you to collect ministry allies, and the desire for control causes you to locate ministry enemies. Somehow, someway, gospel ministry has become a political battleground for human power. This is a form of ministry that has lost its center. Jesus has left the building. A king is being put forward, but not the King. A kingdom is being built, but not the kingdom. If as a pastor you are being pastoral, you are doing it for others, but if as a pastor you have gone political, you are doing it for you.

5) YOU WON’T FEEL THE NEED FOR DAILY MEDITATIVE COMMUNION WITH CHRIST

Personal worship is not first about how many times you have read through your Bible. It is not about once again working yourself through your favorite devotional or commentary. It is not about going back over your sermon notes. All of these things must be seen and used as aids for a more foundational thing. What is this thing? It is the humble, daily, personal, meditative, joyful worship of God. It is beginning or ending your day with communion with Christ. It is the regular habit of “gazing up at the beauty of the Lord” (see Ps. 27:4).
Communion with Christ is fueled by humility. Communion with Christ is fueled by sadness and celebration. Communion with Christ is propelled by an accurate sense of who you are and what you need, and a celebration of the One who gives it. Awareness of sin and the promise of salvation are what daily drive you to Christ, not to rush through a passage in his Word and say a quick prayer but to sit at his feet and grieve your sin and give praise for the grace that meets you in it. Assessments of arrival crush personal worship.

6) YOU WILL TAKE CREDIT FOR SUCCESSES THAT ONLY GRACE CAN PRODUCE

I’ve said it already in this chapter: we take too much credit. We give pastors too much credit for what only powerful, divine, sovereign grace has the power to accomplish. Then having given the instrument too much credit, we run to the conference or buy the book so that we can do what our ministry hero has done. Can we learn from others? Of course. Can ingredients of a healthy ministry be identified? Yes. Should we be thankful for dedicated servants of the Lord and communicate our thanks? It would be wrong not to. But we must reserve our adoration (whether of self or of another) for the Lord. We cannot remind ourselves enough that without his presence, power, and grace, our ministries are nothing. This is the inescapable bottom line.

7) YOU WILL FEEL ENTITLED TO WHAT YOU COULD NEVER EARN OR ACHIEVE

Entitlement always seems to follow pride. If you think you’ve earned _________, then you will think you deserve __________. Then, carrying around not only pride but also entitlement, you will tend to turn blessings into demands and gifts of grace into what is to be expected. We must never forget that we have earned neither our standing with the Lord nor our place in ministry. Each moment that he accepts us and each situation in which he uses us are the result of one thing and one thing alone: grace. We have no right before God or others to self-assuredly stand with our hands out. We are independently entitled to nothing but his anger; it is only grace that entitles us to his accepting love. The smug expectation of blessing will cause you to question not only the appreciation of the people around you but also the goodness of God.

8) YOU WILL BE LESS THAN WATCHFUL AND PROTECTIVE WHEN IT COMES TO TEMPTATION AND SIN

Arrival causes you to be too self-assured; being self-assured causes you to make unwise choices; unwise choices expose you to temptation and sin; pride causes you to think you can handle the exposure—and before long you have fallen. Arrival causes you to forget the daily war that is fought in your heart and to live with a peacetime mentality. Because you think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, you don’t build the precautions into your spiritual lifestyle that need to be there. You begin to lose sight of the fact that you are like everyone else that you know or minister to. You live right smack-dab in the middle of the already and the not yet. In the middle there is temptation all around. In the middle you are still susceptible to its draw. In the middle there is still an enemy lurking around looking for his next meal. In the middle we are capable of self-deceit and personal delusion. In the middle we still need to be rescued from ourselves. In the middle we must always live humble, concerned, and protective lives. In the middle we constantly need grace’s rescue.

9) YOU WILL LOAD MORE ON YOUR MINISTRY THAN YOU CAN RESPONSIBLY HANDLE

Pride causes you to accept more responsibility than you can bear. Arrival allows you to assign more ministry work to yourself than you can realistically accomplish. Self-glory causes you to think that you’re more essential than you actually are and more necessary than you will ever be. It’s pride, not humility, that makes it hard to say no. It’s pride that makes it hard to live within the limits of your true character and strength. I am persuaded that much of the tension between family and ministry is caused by arrival. We know that God won’t call us to keep one command in a way that would cause us to break another. So if, over the long haul, our family has suffered neglect because of our ministry, it is because we are doing things in ministry that we should not be doing because we have wrongly assessed that we can handle more than we are able to handle.

What about you, pastor? Is there evidence of the fruit of arrival in your ministry? Let this chapter generate humble self-assessment. The fact of the matter is that you and I are still a bit of a mess. Yes, by grace we often get it right, but we also often get it completely wrong. There are times when we are the exuberant celebrants of the Lord, and there are others times when we are just full of ourselves. There are times when we are deeply grateful, but there are other times when we feel entitled and are demanding. There are times when we lead with a pastoral heart and other times when we are fearful, self-interested, and political. There are times when, as broken people, we meet people in their brokenness with the gospel; there are other times when in pride we just want people to buck up like we have. There are times when we live and work with God’s kingdom in view; there are other times when we love ourselves and have a wonderful plan for our lives.
All of this is to say that the great spiritual war doesn’t rage only outside of us; there is ample evidence every day that it still rages inside of us. Gospel-driven, Christ-centered ministry, one that gives grace to those who hear, doesn’t start with theological knowledge; no, it starts with a humble heart. It starts with a recognition of your own need and the acknowledgment that you and I are more like than unlike the people to whom God has called us to minister.

PART 3

THE DANGER OF ARRIVAL
(FORGETTING WHO YOU ARE)

CHAPTER TWELVE

SELF-GLORY

Pastoral ministry is always shaped, formed, directed, and driven by worship. Your ministry will be shaped by worship of God or worship of you or, for most of us, a troubling mix of both. Perhaps there is no more powerful, seductive, and deceitful temptation in ministry than self-glory. Perhaps in ministry there is no more potent intoxicant than the praise of men, and there is no more dangerous form of drunkenness than to be drunk with your own glory. It has the power to reduce you to shocking self-righteousness and inapproachability. It will make you someone who is hard to work with, and it will make it nearly impossible for those around you to help you see that you’ve become hard to work with. It will make you look down on people who are more like you than unlike you. It will cause you to surround yourself with people who too often say yes and too frequently are ready to agree. It will leave you spiritually unwise and morally unprotected. And all of this will happen without your notice because you will remain convinced that you are perfectly okay. When confronted, you will remind yourself of your glory. When questioned, you will defend your glory. You will deny your complicity in problems and your participation in failure. You’ll be far too skilled at assigning blame than shouldering blame. You’ll be better at controlling than you are at serving. You’ll resist work that you think is below you and take offense at those who would presume to tell you what to do. You’ll constantly confuse being an ambassador with being a king.
He was a mess, but he didn’t know it. His ministry was breaking under the burden, but he didn’t see it. His marriage was in a state of constant dysfunction, but he didn’t have a clue. He really did live and minister as if he had arrived. In ways to which he seemed blind, he was all too filled with a sense of the glory of his abilities, gifts, insight, experience, and leadership.
When his wife would venture to make even the most mildly critical comment on one of his sermons, he would be highly offended and quickly let her know that she didn’t know what she was talking about. When a fellow leader would question one of his proposed initiatives, he was quicker to defend his ideas than he was to listen to the way those ideas were being understood by others. His administrative assistant learned to avoid those areas where he was easily and quickly irritated. He had no time to participate in a small group. He would say to his wife, who longed for them to participate together, “With all that I have on my plate, I don’t have time to spend listening to someone do a poor job of leading a Bible study.” The guys he once met with he didn’t meet with anymore. Yes, he told his congregation again and again that their walk with God was a community project, but he felt little need for that community himself. His sermons lacked pastoral tenderness. They failed to portray a winsome passion for the gospel. They were more self-assured biblical lectures than they were the practically applied exegesis of a man who himself was being broken and encouraged by the grand redemptive story.
He seemed more self-assured than filled with the courage of faith. He seemed more a local-church-advancement idea factory than someone who really did believe that the hope of the church is Christ. He kept calling meetings, but they weren’t really formed by his being respectful of the gifts of others. These meetings weren’t collaborative; no, they were more gatherings for the purpose of announcements and pronouncements. He would dominate the meeting with his talking and would quickly call his leaders to give support to ideas that were still very fresh in their thinking. He was good at shutting down questions and disarming criticisms, but I must say again, he wouldn’t have seen himself this way at all.
He felt burdened by all that he was assigned to do, but he bore that burden because he had loaded too many things on his plate. And he did that because he found it harder and harder to delegate ministry to others. He was convinced that most of the strategic things that needed to be done would be best done by him. Fewer and fewer people were commissioned to do ministry tasks. No, fellow leaders were more and more tasked with support duties because the larger ministry duties were all done by him.
He saw himself as being way more essential to the health of his church than any human being ever is. Because of this, there were times when he cared too much about what people thought of him. Because he thought of himself as essential, he needed others to see him as essential as well, and when they didn’t, it haunted him. He would then target those people as those he needed to win. Conversely, there were times when he cared too little about what people thought about him. He was so self-assured that he didn’t feel the need to listen well to those whom God had put in his pathway to challenge him personally and to sharpen his ideas and goals. Self-glory will pull you both ways in your ministry relationships.
Because of all this, trust in his ministry began to flag in the hearts of those who worked alongside him. It’s hard to trust someone who is too self-assured, too self-aware, too self-congratulatory, too self-important, and too domineering. It’s hard to trust someone who speaks much but doesn’t listen well. It’s hard to trust someone who is quick to critique but does not receive criticism very well. It’s hard to trust someone who is confrontational and unapproachable at the same time. It’s hard to trust someone who seems to be more comfortable with taking away ministry than delegating it. It’s hard to trust someone who preaches what he appears to think that he doesn’t need. It’s hard to trust someone who leads by fiat and pronouncement rather than by a biblically informed, gift-recognizing consensus. It’s hard to trust someone who has assigned to himself way too much glory. But he did. And the sad thing is, he is not alone. There are way too many pastors who do not understand that their ministries are more shaped by self-glory than by the glory of the risen, ever-present, all-sufficient Christ.
By God’s rescuing grace, his wife came to the end of herself. She had watched it all happen. She had watched the humble young pastor whom she had married become the proud man whom she now lived with. She had experienced how his being domineering, unapproachable, and self-assured at home had changed their marriage. She knew that people at their church were struggling with his style of leadership. She had lived with the pain of dear friends leaving the church. So one evening in desperation she sat down next to him in the den and told him she just couldn’t do it anymore. She told him of the daily pain she felt as she watched what was happening to him and to the church. She told him she didn’t know if it was the right thing to do, but she had come to the point where she was unwilling to stand by and let it continue to happen. She had made an appointment with a well-known local pastor and was going to spill her guts. She said, “Dear, if you don’t recognize your need for help, I’ll recognize it for you and get the help we both need.”
At first he was very angry and felt betrayed, but he eventually said he was willing to go with her for help and counsel. It was at this moment that a process of radical rescue and restoration began.
Pastor, what about you? Where in your ministry is there evidence of self-glory? Where are you more dominant than you should be? Where do you fail to listen when you should? Where do you attempt to control things that you don’t need to control? Where do you find it hard to delegate ministry to others? Where are you tempted to speak more than you should? Where do you fail to recognize and esteem the gifts of others? Where are you unwilling to examine your weaknesses and admit your failures? Where are you tempted to think of yourself as more essential than you actually are? Where do you care too much about people’s respect, esteem, and appreciation? Where do you find it easier to confront than to receive confrontation? Where are you less than thankful for the ministry partners that God has connected you to? Where are you too confident of your own strength and wisdom? Where does self-trust inhibit ministry-forming trust of Christ? Are there ways in which the health of your ministry is being weakened by self-glory?

HUMILITY IN MINISTRY: A CHRISTOLOGICAL MODEL

There is a startling moment in the life of Jesus and the disciples that devastates self-glory and defines the kind of humility that, by grace, should grip the heart of every pastor and form the lifestyle of his ministry.

Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” Jesus said to him, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean, but not every one of you.” For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, “Not all of you are clean.” When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.” (John 13:1–17)

It is one of those moments in the life of Jesus that is so amazing, so counterintuitive, that it is almost impossible to wrap your brain around it, let alone capture it in words. Jesus is in that final moment with his disciples in that rented upper room. It is a holy moment when he declares himself to be the Passover Lamb. Because the room is rented, there is no servant standing by with the requisite pitcher, basin, and towel to wash Jesus’s and the disciples’ feet. Of course, the disciples, being full of themselves, all too concerned with their power and position in the kingdom, were too proud to do the dirty deed.
Now, this debasing but culturally essential task was not assigned to just any servant. It is clear that in New Testament times there were many levels of authority and responsibility in the culture of servanthood. There were servants who managed whole households, and there were servants who lived the menial life of a slave. The job of washing people’s dirty feet before they reclined to eat was reserved for the lowest, most junior, no-account slave. There is no way that the disciples would lower themselves to such a position in front of one another, at least not while they were vying for kingdom greatness.
At the end of the meal, Jesus arises, takes off his outer garments, ties the towel around his waist, and fills the basin with water. He couldn’t be about to do what you think he’s going to do! This is Lord God Almighty. This is the Son of God, the promised king, the creator of all that is. This One is the fulfillment of all the covenant promises. This is the Savior Lamb. He can’t be thinking of doing something so unseemly, so undignified, and so slave-like. But that was exactly his intention. And it is vital to understand that he knew exactly who he was and how this connected to his true identity and mission. John says that Jesus went at this low and dirty task knowing exactly who he was, where he’d come from, and what he was sent to do: “Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose.” This stunning act of humble love resulted not from Jesus’s forgetting who he was but from remembering who he was. This was the holy mission of the Son Savior. He had to be willing to enter the lowest human condition, to do the most debased thing, and to let go of his rights of position in order that we might be redeemed. It was a high and holy calling, and it was the only way. His identity, as the Son of God, didn’t lead him to be arrogant and entitled, unwilling to do what needed to be done to accomplish redemption. His identity didn’t cause him to assess that he was too good for the task. No, his identity motivated and propelled him to do what the disciples were convinced was below them.
When the dirty task had been completed, Jesus looked at his disciples and said, “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.” Christ is saying, “The attitude I have had toward you, you must have toward one another. My sense of calling must become your sense of calling. The willingness that I have exhibited, you must live out in your ministries.” What is that attitude? What is the commitment that must shape the ministry of every pastor?
You and I must not become pastors who are all too aware of our positions. We must not give way to protecting and polishing our power and prominence. We must resist feeling privileged, special, or in a different category. We must not think of ourselves as deserving or entitled. We must not demand to be treated differently or put on some ministry pedestal. We must not minister from above but from alongside.
What is the grand lesson, the grand calling, of this startling moment? Here it is: Jesus says, “If you’re not greater than your master, and he has been willing to do this disgusting thing, you must also be willing. If you are my ambassadors, called to represent my will and way, called to be tools of my redeeming grace, then you must not think that any ministry task is beneath you. You must be willing to do the lowest, most debased thing so that my work and my will be done. You must not refuse. You must not think of yourself as too good. You must be willing to be the lowest of slaves in order that my kingdom may come and my will may be done. You must be willing to do whatever is necessary to position yourself as a tool of redeeming grace. You must not be too proud. You must not be unwilling.”
Let’s be honest, pastors: we are tempted to think of ourselves more highly than we ought to think. At times, we do chafe against things that we think are beneath our pay grade. We are not always willing to do the dirty work of the ministry. I know I’m not always ready and willing. We are too oriented to reputation, position, and power. We do desire to be recognized as prominent. I know I struggle with this. We are not attracted to redemptive servitude. We do want our ministries to be clean and comfortable. I know I do. We do tend to think of ourselves more as movers and shakers than as servants. And all of this is because we don’t get our identity as an ambassador. No, if you and I think there is kingdom work that is beneath us, we think that because we are identity amnesiacs. And there is a short step between forgetting our assigned position and inserting ourselves into God’s position.
The amazing example and commission of Christ should produce grief that leads to confession in all of us. We do lose our way. We do become more masters than servants. And in our heart of hearts we know that we will never become what we have been called to become unless we are rescued by the very same grace we have come to proclaim and live before others. And we don’t have to fear that our silly, delusional, and unearned pride will cause the Father to turn his back on us.
He knows who you are. He knows that you don’t measure up. He knows that you still fall short of his righteous requirement; that’s why he has given you the gift of his Son. You can run to him and admit to embarrassing self-glory and know that he won’t mock you or slap you away, because your standing before him is not based on your performance but on the spotless performance of his Son. Why don’t you right here, right now, make the confession that you need to make? Cry for the help you need. Your Savior is near, and he is both willing and able.

THE MINISTRY-DAMAGING FRUIT OF SELF-GLORY

It is important to recognize the harvest of self-glory in you and in your ministry. May God use the following list to give you diagnostic wisdom. May he use it to expose your heart and to redirect your ministry. Here is the ministry-shaping power of self-glory.

1) SELF-GLORY WILL CAUSE YOU TO PARADE IN PUBLIC WHAT SHOULD BE KEPT IN PRIVATE

The Pharisees live for us as a primary example. Because they saw their lives as glorious, they were quick to parade that glory before the watching eyes of those around them. The more you think you’ve arrived and the less you see yourself as daily needing rescuing grace, the more you will tend to be self-referencing and self-congratulating. Because you are attentive to self-glory, you will work to get greater glory, even when you aren’t aware that you’re doing it. You will tend to tell personal stories that make you more the hero than you actually were. You will find ways, in public settings, of talking about private acts of faith. Because you think you are worthy of acclaim, you will seek the acclaim of others by finding ways to present yourself as “godly.”
Now, I know most of the pastors reading this will think they would never do this, but I am convinced that there is a whole lot more “righteousness parading” in pastoral ministry than we would tend to think. It is one of the reasons that I find pastors’ conferences, presbytery meetings, general assemblies, ministeriums, and church-planting gatherings uncomfortable at times. Around the table after a session, these gatherings can degenerate into a pastoral ministry “spitting contest” where we are at least tempted to be less than honest about what is really going on in our hearts and in our ministries. After celebrating the glory of the grace of the gospel, there is way too much self-congratulatory glory talking by people who seem to need more acclaim than they actually need or deserve.

2) SELF-GLORY WILL CAUSE YOU TO BE WAY TOO SELF-REFERENCING

We all know it, we’ve all seen it, we’ve all been uncomfortable with it, and we’ve all done it. The bottom line is this: proud people tend to talk about themselves a lot. Proud people tend to like their opinions more than the opinions of others. Proud people think their stories are more interesting and engaging than others. Proud people think they know and understand more than others’. Proud people think they’ve earned the right to be heard. Proud people think they have glory to offer. Proud people, because they are basically proud of what they know and of what they’ve done, talk a lot about both. Proud people don’t reference weakness. Proud people don’t talk about failure. Proud people don’t confess sin. So proud people are better at putting the spotlight on themselves than at shining the light of their stories and opinions on God’s glorious and utterly undeserved grace.

3) SELF-GLORY WILL CAUSE YOU TO TALK WHEN YOU SHOULD BE QUIET

When you think you’ve arrived, you are quite confident in and proud of your opinions. You trust your opinions more than you trust others’, so you are not as interested in the opinions of others as you should be, so you will tend to want your thoughts, perspectives, and viewpoints to win the day in any given meeting or conversation. This means you will be way more comfortable than you should be with dominating a gathering with your talk. You will fail to see that in a multitude of counselors there is wisdom. You will fail to see the essentiality of the ministry of the body of Christ in your life. You will fail to recognize your own bias and spiritual blindness. So you won’t come to meetings, formal or informal, with a personal sense of need for what others have to offer, and you will control the talk more than you should.

4) SELF-GLORY WILL CAUSE YOU TO BE QUIET WHEN YOU SHOULD SPEAK

But self-glory can go the other way as well. Leaders who are too self-confident, who unwittingly attribute to themselves what could only have been accomplished by grace, often see meetings as a waste of time. Because they are proud, they are too independent, so meetings tend to be viewed as an irritating and unhelpful interruption of an already-too-busy ministry schedule. Because of this they will either blow off a meeting or tolerate the gathering, attempting to bring it to a close as quickly as possible. So they don’t throw their ideas out for consideration and evaluation because, frankly, they don’t think they need it. And when their ideas are on the table and being debated, they don’t jump into the fray, because they think that what they have opined or proposed simply doesn’t need to be defended. Self-glory really will cause you to speak too much when you should listen and to feel no need to speak when you surely should.

5) SELF-GLORY WILL CAUSE YOU TO CARE TOO MUCH ABOUT WHAT PEOPLE THINK OF YOU

When you have fallen into thinking that you’re something, you want people to recognize the something that you think you are. Again, you see it in the Pharisees; personal assessments of self-glory always lead to glory-seeking behavior of some kind. People who think they’ve arrived can become all too aware of how others are responding to them. Because you’re hypervigilant, watching the way the people in your ministry are responding to your ministry, in ways you are probably not aware of you will begin to shape the things you say and do for the purpose of self-acclaim. You will begin to say and do things in a way that gets you the recognition that you think you deserve. Sadly, you actually begin to fall into ministering the gospel of Jesus Christ not for the glory of Christ or the redemption of the people under your care but for the sake of your own glory. I have done this. I have thought during the preparation for a sermon that a certain point put a certain way would win a detractor, and I have watched certain people’s reactions as I have preached. In these moments, in the preparation and preaching of a sermon, I have forsaken my calling as the ambassador of the eternal glory of another for the purpose of my acquiring the temporary praise of men.

6) SELF-GLORY WILL CAUSE YOU TO CARE TOO LITTLE ABOUT WHAT PEOPLE THINK ABOUT YOU

But this too can go another way. If you think you’ve arrived, you may go the direction of caring way too little about what people think of you. You are so self-assured that you simply don’t think you need to have your thoughts, ideas, actions, words, plans, goals, attitudes, or initiatives evaluated by others. You really don’t think you need help. You don’t think that what you have to offer will be enhanced or sharpened by the contribution of others. So you again and again do alone what should be done in a group process. And if you work with a group, you will tend to surround yourself with people who are all too impressed with you and all too excited to be included by you, and who will find it hard to say anything to you but yes. You have forgotten who you are and what your Savior says you daily need and are: living in a place of both personal and ministry danger.

7) SELF-GLORY WILL CAUSE YOU TO RESIST FACING AND ADMITTING YOUR SINS, WEAKNESSES, AND FAILURES

Why do any of us get upset or tense when confronted? Why do any of us activate our inner lawyer and rise to our own defense? Why do any of us turn the tables and remind the other person that we are not the only sinner in the room? Why do we argue about the facts or dispute the other person’s interpretation? We do all of these things because we are convinced in our hearts that we are more righteous than how we are being portrayed in this moment of confrontation. Proud people don’t welcome loving warning, rebuke, confrontation, question, criticism, or accountability, because they don’t feel the need for it. And when they do fail, they are very good at erecting plausible reasons for what they said or did, given the stresses of the situation or relationship in which it was done.
Pastor, are you quick to admit weakness? Are you ready to own your failures before God and others? Are you ready to face your weaknesses with humility? Remember, pastor, if the eyes or ears of a ministry partner ever see or hear your sin, weakness, or failure, it is never a hassle, it is never a ministry interruption, and it should never be viewed as an affront. It is always grace. God loves you, and he has put you in this community of faith, and he will reveal your personal spiritual needs to those around you so that they may be his tools of conviction, rescue, and transformation.

8) SELF-GLORY WILL CAUSE YOU TO STRUGGLE WITH THE BLESSINGS OF OTHERS

Self-glory is always at the base of envy. You are envious of the blessings of others because you see them as less deserving than you are. And because you see yourself as more deserving, it is hard not to be mad that they got what you deserve, and it is nearly impossible not to crave and covet what they are wrongfully enjoying. In your envious self-glory you are actually charging God with being unjust and unfair. In ways you may not be aware of, you begin to be comfortable with doubting God’s wisdom, justice, and goodness. You don’t think he has been kind to you in the way that you deserve. This begins to rob you of motivation to do what is right, because it doesn’t seem to make any difference.
It is important to recognize that there is a short step between envy and bitterness. That’s why envious Asaph cries in Psalm 73, “All in vain have I kept my heart clean and washed my hands in innocence” (v. 13). He’s saying, “I’ve obeyed, and this is what I get?” Then he writes, “When my soul was embittered, when I was pricked in heart, I was brutish and ignorant; I was like a beast toward you” (vv. 21–22). What a word picture—a bitter beast! I have met many bitter pastors, men who are convinced that they’ve endured hardships that they really didn’t deserve. I have met many bitter pastors, envious of the ministries of others, who have lost their motivation and their joy and are heartlessly cranking out ministry week after week. I have met many pastors who have come to doubt the goodness of God, and, tragically, they don’t tend to run for help in their time of need to someone they’ve come to doubt.

9) SELF-GLORY WILL CAUSE YOU TO BE MORE POSITION ORIENTED THAN SUBMISSION ORIENTED

Self-glory will always make you more oriented to place, power, and position than to how submission to a greater King is worked out in the context of your ministry. You see this in the lives of the disciples. Jesus hadn’t called them to himself to make their little-kingdom purposes come true but to welcome them as recipients and instruments of the work of a better kingdom. Yet, in their pride, they missed the whole point and were all too perseveringly oriented to the question of who would be greatest in the kingdom.
You can never fulfill your ambassadorial calling and at the same time want the power and position of a king. Position orientation will cause you to be political when you should be pastoral. It will cause you to require service when you should be willing to serve. It will cause you to demand of others what you wouldn’t be willing to do yourself. It will cause you to ask for privilege when you should be willing to give up your rights. It will cause you to think too much about how things will affect you rather than about how things will reflect on Christ. It will cause you to want to set the agenda rather than to find joy in submitting to the agenda of Another. Self-glory turns chosen and called ambassadors into self-appointed kings. And when this happens, in ways you and I might not be aware of, we are ministering to promote a person, but that person just doesn’t happen to be Jesus Christ.

10) SELF-GLORY WILL CAUSE YOU TO CONTROL MINISTRY RATHER THAN DELEGATE MINISTRY

You, when you are full of yourself, when you are too self-assured, will tend to think that you’re the most capable person in the circle of your ministry. You will find it hard to recognize and esteem the God-given gifts of others, and because you don’t, you will find it hard to make your ministry a community process. Thinking of yourself more highly than you ought to think always leads to looking down on others in some way. It is personal humility and neediness that will cause you to seek out and esteem the gifts and contributions of others. Pastors who think that they’ve arrived don’t tend to like group process and tend to see delegation as a bit of a waste of time. In their hearts they think, Why should I give to another what I could do better myself? Pastoral pride will crush shared ministry and the essential ministry of the body of Christ.

It is important to say that I have written the above section with personal grief and remorse. In shocking self-glory I have fallen, at some times in my ministry, into all of these traps. I have dominated when I should have listened. I have controlled what I should have given to others. I have been defensive when I desperately needed rebuke. I have resisted help when I should have been crying out for it. I have been too full of my own opinion and too dismissive of the perspective of others. I have paraded my stuff for the approval of others. I am sad as I reflect on my many years of ministry, but I am not depressed. I am not, because in all of my weakness, the God of amazing grace has rescued and restored again and again. He has progressively delivered me from me (a work that is still going on). And in being torn between the kingdom of self and the kingdom of God, he has miraculously used me in the lives of many. In love, he has worked to dent and deface my glory so that his glory would be my delight. He has plundered my kingdom so that his kingdom would be my joy. And he has crushed my crown under his feet so that I would quest to be a good ambassador and not crave to be a king.
In this violent mercy there is hope for every person in ministry. Your Lord is not just after the success of your ministry; he is working to dethrone you as well. It is only when his throne is more important than yours that you will find joy in the hard and humbling task of gospel ministry. And his grace will not relent until our hearts have been fully captured by his glory. Now, that’s good news!

CHAPTER THIRTEEN

ALWAYS PREPARING

I will confess that I am a bit obsessed. It is very hard for me to turn off my mind. I will often pull off the road while driving or stop in the middle of a walk to pull out my phone and take notes because thoughts that I’ve been carrying around with me have suddenly taken shape. My wife, Luella, complains often that even though I am with her physically, it seems that I’m not really there. She can tell by my quietness or by the look on my face that my mind and attention have been kidnapped by the content of something I am working on. I have always found it very hard to escape the rule of “King Preparation.” On my days off I find it very hard to be off and to turn off. I think that I’m incessantly distracted by what God has called me to do. I think that I seldom ever truly step away from ministry into my private life. I may be silent, and I may be in a place of quiet, but the noise of ministry is loud in my head. I think there are ways in which I never stop preparing.
The other day I was very aware of the battle between preparation and personal devotion that takes place in my heart. I was facing a rather significant international conference where I was to speak multiple times. I was in the middle of the preparation of new material and the recasting of material previously prepared. I knew that what I was going to say to the people who would come would offer them a new way of thinking about themselves and what it means to walk with God. It was exciting, and I wanted to get it right. As I got out of bed morning after morning, I was tossing around in my head ways of approaching the topic. My day hadn’t even had a chance to start, and I had already been kidnapped by the burden of preparation. On my exercise bike, my mind would race faster than my legs as it zoomed from concept to concept, from illustration to illustration, and from application to application. Day after day, as I sat down to read and pray for the nurture of my own soul, the things that I was reading would quickly become new points for the talks to come.
Then at one moment it hit me that I was not reading with myself in view but, rather, with my future hearers. I wasn’t being informed, confronted, grieved, or transformed by the passage. In fact, the passage had made minimal impact on me. That morning I was excited about the Scriptures, but not personally, not because I had looked into the mirror of the Word of God and been humbled by what I saw. No, I was excited because I had acquired more content to share with others. There was no personal worship that morning. There was no hunger after God. There was no grief over sin. There was no celebration of grace. There was no movement in my commitment to live by faith. There was no growth in my discipline, perseverance, or hope. There was no awe at the glory of God. There was no deeper sense of his presence and love. There was no deepening of my gratitude for being included in his family. There was no motivating vision of the ultimate defeat of sin. There was no stimulation of my cry for eternity. There was no plea for his kingdom to come and his will to be done.
No, there was no “me” in that moment of personal worship. Maybe it is more correct to say that this moment I have described, even though it took place when I normally have my private time with the Lord, was not a moment of personal worship. There was little about it that was personal or relational. It was not a moment of a child communing with his father. If it was relational in any way, it was more me relating to my future audience than it was me relating to God. I think all preparation to preach or teach should be devotional, but in this instance, preparation crushed devotion. Even though I had the Bible in my hands, my needy and hungry soul was not fed. I walked out of that quiet room personally unchanged, and I realized what had happened only later when I reflected on the morning. Later that day someone asked me what I had been reading in my private time of worship. It was as I answered that I realized I had not had a private time of worship that day; no, just another opportunity to prepare.
I think the struggle I am describing here is a struggle for all of us in ministry. It is very difficult to have the responsibility to preach or teach God’s Word each week and not have this responsibility dominate your mind every time you have the Bible in your hands. The commitment to a regular time of communion with your Lord stimulates the battle in your heart between the essentiality of private worship and the necessity of adequate preparation. In God’s plan these are not mutually exclusive, nor do they compete with one another. As I have said often, God will not call us to a task that would necessitate our disobeying him in another area. Yet it is very difficult to keep these two aspects of your calling in their proper place.
When I talk to a group of pastors about the lack of private personal worship, I am often looking out at a group of men with their heads down. Many of my listeners have confessed that they cannot remember when their devotional time was consistent and vibrant. Many of them have told me that they have just quit trying to fight the battle. They get up, get themselves ready, and jump in the ministry saddle. They’re ready to jump in to serve Jesus; they just have little personal time to spend with him in a life of urgent ministry demands. They live with Jesus like husbands who provide well for their wives but have little time left to participate in a relationship that is remotely intimate. They provide well, but they don’t love well. They work hard but not at the primary relationship of their lives. Many pastors out there are seeking to lead and teach well, but it is simply not fueled or directed by the devotion of their hearts to their Savior. Their Christianity is more an institutional discipline than a personal relationship. They are more drawn to ideas than to Jesus. They are more drawn to ministry success than to personal growth. The next phase of the strategic plan fills their eyes more than the glory of God and the grandeur of his grace. They have lost the center of it all, and their hearts have been kidnapped, and many of them don’t know it.
But there is another thing that comes in play here. The lack of a meditative, Christ-centered devotional life in many pastors is not just the result of the seemingly unending demands of ministry preparation; it is also the product of arrival. I am convinced that when busyness intersects with arrival, one of the first things that goes is private worship. Perhaps it is a combination of fear and gratitude that drives us to our knees and into communion with Christ each morning. It is when we face who we are and the fickleness of our hearts that we feel the need to have our hearts recaptured morning after morning. It is when we reflect on the fact that sin is not always a horror to us but sometimes appears positively attractive that we want to run into the protective arms of our Lord again and again. It is when we consider the dangerous temptation of this fallen world that we will want to get help for the battle day after day. It is fear of our own weaknesses that drives us to the Savior for strength. It is when we fear the power of the foolishness that still remains in us that we are propelled to daily seek the wisdom that can be found only in the pages of Scripture. A humble and holy fear is a major part of what propels a consistent life of daily personal worship.
So when you’ve forgotten who you are, when you assign to yourself more maturity than you actually have, and when you think you are more capable than you really are, you leave yourself little reason to seek the ongoing help of your Savior.
Arrival also crushes the gratitude that fuels personal worship. It bears repeating that when you think you’ve arrived, you congratulate yourself for things in yourself that only grace could produce. When you think you’ve arrived, you tend to take credit for things that only God could have produced. You begin to think that success in ministry has more to do with you than it actually does. You begin to think you’re more essential than you really are. None of this produces the gratitude that fuels worship. Proud people tend not to be thankful, precisely because pride causes them to take more credit than they deserve.
So when ministry skill, experience, and success begin to redefine the way you think about you, what inevitably weakens is your zeal for personal worship. Because you are convinced that you’re well, you feel little real need for the care, comfort, wisdom, and healing of the Great Physician. The humble hunger of fear and the celebratory hunger of gratitude have been crushed by arrival, and worship is what takes the hit.
Perhaps one of the silent scandals of the modern evangelical church is that there are many, many pastors in this place. They are leaders of gospel ministries, but they have little felt need for the gospel in their daily lives. They are not concerned for the healing, nurture, and growth of their own hearts. They are not constantly thankful for rescuing, transforming, and enabling grace. They are functionally more in love with ministry than they are in love with Christ. They are more excited about the ideas of redemption than they are about the Redeemer. Whether they know it or not, they have come to be more impressed with themselves than they are with the One who gives them both physical and spiritual breath. They don’t live with the daily grief of knowing that everything they teach is much easier to teach than to live. They aren’t sad that they often fail to be good ambassadors of the King. They fail to recognize the artifacts of the old way in their hearts—impatience, anger, bitterness, lust, envy, greed, self-righteousness, etc.—and they don’t long for the gracious, character-shaping hands of the Redeemer to be on them. They neglect consistent habits of personal worship not because they are undisciplined or lazy; it’s because they need to prepare for some upcoming ministry responsibility. They’re not motivated to spend time in personal worship and meditation because arrival has crushed the godly fear and the humble gratitude that make it happen.

THE DANGEROUS DICHOTOMY

All of this buys into a dangerous and fallacious dichotomy. It is the belief, whether conscious or not, that my private and ministry lives are not intimately and causally connected. It is beginning to believe that a man who has no personal life of worship can lead people to worship God. It is believing that a person who lacks vertical gratitude can lead others to be thankful. It is believing that a proud person is qualified to lead a congregation to be humble. It is the thought that you can give away in ministry that which you do not have.
But the New Testament has no place for a pastor’s ever beginning to believe that he is two separate people: the private man at home and the public man in the pulpit. Paul would have considered this a very dangerous pastoral-ministry heresy. So when Paul lays out the qualifications for eldership, one of the places he tells you to go and look is the pastor’s home. If an elder cannot manage his home well, how can he lead the local body of believers that is under his care?
You are one person. The boundaries of life and ministry are not separate and defined. You do not become a different person when you step into some kind of ministry function. You and I are each in possession of only one heart, so the condition of our heart is a huge issue in our ministry. I know this seems blatantly obvious, but I’m afraid it is not so functionally obvious in our churches.
Hear Paul’s counsel to young pastor Timothy: “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” (1 Tim. 4:16). There are two crucial assumptions behind Paul’s counsel to Timothy. The first is that Timothy had not arrived. Paul is reminding Timothy that as a pastor he must remember that he is in the middle of his own sanctification. He must remember that his heart is still capable of wandering. He must remember that he needs everything that he would offer to others. He needs warning, encouragement, rebuke, counsel, etc. Timothy, the minister of the gospel, personally needs the gospel as well. So Paul’s advice is for Timothy to keep a close watch on himself. Embedded in this warning to Timothy is a call to nurture his own heart. He cannot allow himself to think that all he needs to do to be useful in ministry is prepare well, and he cannot let personal nurture be crushed by the demands of preparation. Yes, he must prepare and prepare well. He must have a careful eye on his teaching, but that alone is simply not enough.
So, Paul’s first assumption is that because of remaining sin, Timothy is still in danger and must keep a humble eye on his own heart. But Paul follows this with a second assumption that is important not to miss. It is that Timothy’s guarding and nurturing his heart is not only for his own protection and growth but also for the salvation of his hearers. Paul is assuming that the condition of Timothy’s heart will somehow, someway shape the direction and fruitfulness of his ministry.
The private nurture of your own heart as a pastor is not only a humble confession of need and a confession of your love for your Savior; it is also a statement of your love for the people that God has placed in your care. It is in this way that preparation and personal devotion intersect. No, you are not reading that passage in the morning to develop content for a moment of teaching; you’re reading it to feed your own heart. But in so doing, you are preparing your heart to face all the responsibilities, opportunities, and temptations of local-church ministry. What you are doing morning after morning raises the potential that in crucial moments of pastoral ministry you will be part of what God is doing rather than in the way of it.
You see, there are very important moments in local-church ministry when the church is blessed and protected not because the person leading knows all the right things but because that person brings the right heart to the moment. So he is able to deal wisely with accusation, or patiently with those who want to control, or humbly with those who idolize him more than they should. He is not just prepared to teach but also to navigate the land mines of temptation that are at the feet of everyone who ministers to fallen people in this flawed world. If you daily work to guard your heart, you are at the same time making a daily commitment to pastor and protect your people. The two simply cannot be separated. And when arrival weakens your need to guard your own heart, you put the people whom God has called you to pastor in danger as well.

PRIVATE WORSHIP: YOUR DEATH, YOUR LIFE

It really is true: the health and success of your ministry really are a matter of death and life. If you are ever going to be an ambassador in the hands of a God of glorious and powerful grace, you must die. You must die to your plans for your own life. You must die to your self-focused dreams of success. You must die to your demands for comfort and ease. You must die to your individual definition of the good life. You must die to your demands for pleasure, acclaim, prominence, and respect. You must die to your desire to be in control. You must die to your hope for independent righteousness. You must die to your plans for others. You must die to your craving for a certain lifestyle or that particular location. You must die to your own kingship. You must die to the pursuit of your own glory in order to take up the cause of the glory of Another. You must die to your control over your own time. You must die to your maintenance of your reputation. You must die to having the final answer and getting your own way. You must die to your unfaltering confidence in you. You must die.
What does this have to do with your life of private personal worship? Well, here it is. Your private devotional life has the power to kill you like nothing else does. By “kill you,” I mean that it has the power to kill the “me-ism” that is inside you (and me) that will again and again cause you to be in the way of, rather than part of, whatever it is that God is doing at the moment. Private personal worship is an effective tool of grace in the hands of God to kill those things in you that must die in order that you be what you have been called to be and do what you have been appointed to do in your place of ministry. Let me explain.
First, consistent personal worship will result in your having an accurate view of God. One of the great dangers for all of us is this: we have the perverse ability to look around and not see the amazing glory of God. Even though, as Isaiah put it, “the whole earth is full of his glory” (Isa. 6:3), we can be incredibly blind to the display that is everywhere around us. Our view gets clouded by all the other things in the paths of our sight. We see all of those troubled people in desperate need of pastoral care. We see a church budget that doesn’t seem to be working. We see leaders that need to function with greater humility and unity. We see a facility that is beyond its usefulness. We see a children’s ministry that is languishing, devoid of effective leadership. We see places of theological division and controversy. We see the worship leader who is more performer than pastor. We see series of sermons that need to be prepared, missionaries that need to be supported, and leaders that need to be trained. The eyes of our hearts are filled with many important things, but often we don’t see the most important thing.
Daily Bible study, meditation, and prayer have the power and potential to make the glory of God big in our eyes once again. And if we are daily confronted with his grandeur, not only will that give us courage and hope but also it will work to remind us that we are neither grand nor glorious. Personal worship has the power to progressively put us in our place. Because it puts God at the center of the universe, it has the power to kill any hope we have of being in the center. Because worship points us to God’s wonderful kingdom, it has the power to free us from the bondage of establishing our own. Because private worship exposes us again and again to God’s life-altering grace, it frees us from our hope that we can change people. Personal worship is one of the things God uses to free us from any remaining trust we have that we can do what only the Messiah is able to do. But it does more.
A private devotional life also gives you an accurate view of the world. As day after day the pages of Scripture expose you to the blood and guts, smoke and dirt, of this fallen world, you are progressively freed from your hope that your fallen world, flawed people, or church will ever be the ministry paradise it will never be. You begin to die to unrealistic expectations and pastoral pipe dreams. You are progressively freed from envying the ministry of others and wondering why things are so hard at your post. You begin to understand that ministry is war and that you cannot approach it with a peacetime mentality. You begin to understand that this is not meant to be a destination but that all the struggles of life and ministry in the here and now are meant to prepare you and your people for a final destination. Daily personal worship has the power to free you from the naive and romantic views of the local church that, sadly, often are what people get excited about in ministry. The stark and descriptive honesty of the Bible, as it looks at the world in which you and I live and minister, has the power to kill your selfish dream that you will be able to serve your crucified King without suffering yourself. But there is yet even more.
Private, personal worship has the power to kill our often inaccurate view of ourselves. When we daily look into a mirror, we end up with a current and accurate view of ourselves. We would like to think that we know ourselves well. We would like to think that we have a valid estimation of our strengths and weaknesses. We would like to think that we have interpreted our journey appropriately. We would like to think that we have been freed of pointing the finger when we should have taken the blame. We would like to think that we quickly recognize and admit our wrongs, but these things are not always true of us. We often have a very distorted view of ourselves. We often think we are better than we really are. So we desperately need a mirror that will show us ourselves with complete accuracy.
This is important because autonomy, self-reliance, and self-righteousness crush tender, humble, gracious, patient, loving pastoral ministry.
As a pastor you need the hope and courage that only an accurate view of God’s grace can give you. You need to remember that you don’t have to attempt to do in your ministry what only that grace has the power to do. Now, I’m afraid that many pastors lose sight of that grace. I’m afraid they fall into the problem of the army of Israel who compared their potential to the size of themselves and the size of the problem. No wonder they were afraid to face Goliath on the field of battle! They forgot that they were not alone. They forgot that as God’s children, their potential was hugely greater than their wisdom, strength, or experience, because Almighty God had covenantally committed himself to unleash his power in their defense.
In the same way, pastors are tempted to mismeasure their potential because, although they probably don’t realize it, they have a huge gap in the middle of their understanding of the gospel. They neglect to preach the gospel of the right-here, right-now grace of Jesus Christ to themselves. So they are either afraid to face what they think is beyond their ability, or they assign to themselves abilities they do not have. The page-after-page message of grace that the Bible gives you has the power to kill both paralyzing fear and potential puffing pride, and every pastor needs to daily confess his need of that grace, or he is a danger to himself and becomes a danger to others. That message of grace humbles you and gives you hope at the very same time—two indispensible character qualities for any leader in the church of Jesus Christ.
What kills you also gives you life. As personal worship becomes a gracious tool of your death, progressively causing you to die to your self-reliance, self-righteousness, self-sovereignty, and self-focus, you begin to live, really live. Real life is on the other side of your death. Perhaps true righteousness only ever begins when you come to the end of yourself. Remember the words of Christ: “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matt. 16:24–25).
Because daily private worship puts the glory of God in front of me again and again, because it forces me to face the sad condition of my world, because it confronts me with my weaknesses and sin, and because it showers me with God’s amazing grace, it progressively makes me alert and ready for the things that God has called me to do and for the struggles I will face as I do them.
Private worship is one of God’s means of rescuing not just you but also those he has placed in your care. It is a sad and dangerous thing, not just for you but for the church under your care, when assessments of arrival have separated you from the holy fear and humble gratitude that fuel consistent personal worship.

SIGNS THAT YOU’VE FORGOTTEN YOUR DUAL IDENTITY

So, here’s the bottom line for anyone in ministry: you must always be careful to carry a dual identity with you, no matter where you are or what you are doing. No matter how influential you become, no matter how well you are known, and no matter how experienced you are, you must fight to hold onto both identities. You must think of yourself not only as an instrument of the work but also as a recipient. Your work as an instrument does not cancel out your identity as a recipient, and your identity as a recipient doesn’t weaken your work as an instrument. You and I must never approach grace only as instruments of that grace in the lives of others; we must also remember that there is no grace that we offer to others that we don’t at once need ourselves.
When you forget that you still need to receive what you are called to give others, you quit being a seeker after the grace that is your protection, wisdom, hope, and strength. Forgetting that you are still a needy recipient and thinking of yourself only as an instrument will crush your world of personal study of the Word and your worship of your Lord. It will mean that you quit seeing the Word as for you, and because you do, each time you pick up your Bible it will be for the purpose of preparing to teach others and not for the purpose of nurturing your own heart. In reality, you will be always preparing but not personally consuming the nutrient truths that you are preparing to give to others.
It calls to mind the evocative words of Peter: “Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation” (1 Pet. 2:2). I remember the ravenous hunger of our first little boy. He craved the milk that only his mother could provide, and he would not be deterred! But I also remember that after he had satiated his physical hunger, he cried when his mother pulled him away from her chest to put him down. Those tears depicted another hunger. He was also hungry for the intimate connection, communion, and safety of his mother’s arms. This provokes me to question myself. Have I lost my infant-like hunger for the nutrition of God’s Word? Have I lost my hunger for the comfort and safety of intimate communion with my Lord? Has it all become little more than a disciplined commitment to the service of a religious institution? Has it all been reduced to theological ideas and ministry strategies? Has it quit being a personal relationship with a personal calling and become little more than a job, a career? Has a sincere desire to bring the gospel of grace to others morphed into a dangerous and soul-deadening identity amnesia?
Are you so busy feeding others that you are neglecting the need to feed yourself?
Here are some signs that you can look for in your life and ministry that indicate your work as an instrument of grace has caused you to forget or deny your identity as a recipient of that same grace.

1) THE BIBLE HAS CEASED BEING A MIRROR

The first sign is a change in your relationship to the Word of God. The Bible has ceased being a mirror for you and is used only as a tool for ministry to others. It is a dangerous place to be; it puts your heart at risk, but this is the place where many, many pastors work and live. It’s possible for your life of worship to change as well.

2) WORSHIP MORPHS FROM PRIVATE QUEST TO PUBLIC DUTY

Worship morphs from a humble and grateful private quest to something you lead as a public duty. Yes, it is your duty to lead others in worship, as it is your duty to teach them from God’s Word, but how can you winsomely and persuasively lead people to do what is foreign to your daily experience?

3) CHRISTIANITY BECOMES A SYSTEM RATHER THAN A RELATIONSHIP

Your Christianity becomes more about a system of redemption than about a personal relationship and communion with the Redeemer. Perhaps there is more Christless Christianity out there than we think, and perhaps its existence is first a matter of the heart before it’s a weakness in our functional theology.

4) YOUR DESIRE TO MASTER CONTENT IS NOT COUPLED WITH CRAVING

Another sign of the loss of your recipient identity is that your desire to master content of the Word is not coupled with a craving that your heart would be mastered by the God of the Word. One of the dangers of arrival is a subtle bibliolatry where confidence in the God of the Word gets progressively replaced by your confidence in your knowledge and ability to handle the Word. You are more driven to be theologically informed than to have your heart and life radically transformed by God’s Word. Could it be that you have a heart for the Word (a quest for theological expertise and biblical literacy) but not a heart for the God of the Word?

5) YOU HAVE MORE CONCERN FOR THE SIN OF OTHERS THAN FOR YOUR OWN

Forgetting your recipient identity will also result in you having a concern for others that overwhelms grief for yourself. Who of us has not sat in front of a gifted preacher and been listening for someone else? You’re not personally hungry and grateful as you listen. No, you’re very thankful that so-and-so is in the room because he really needs to hear what the preacher is saying. This dynamic is a real and present temptation for anyone in ministry. You are in great danger if the grief you experience over the condition of others is greater than the grief you feel for your own sin.

6) THE PRIDE OF KNOWING REPLACES THE HUMILITY OF BEING KNOWN

One final sign of forgetting your two-sided identity: pride of knowing replaces the humility of being known. Your life and ministry begin to be shaped more by your pride in what you know than by the humility of being completely known yet fully loved by the Savior. So you minister as one who has arrived rather than as one who still celebrates the rescue of grace that, along with others, he continues to need.

Are these signs in your life and ministry? Is there evidence that your call to minister grace has caused you to forget your own need for grace?
One of the sweetest blessings of the cross of Jesus Christ is that the curtain of separation has been torn in two. No longer are the holy places open only to the high priest once a year. No, now each of God’s children has been welcomed to come with confidence into God’s presence, and not just once a year. When the author of Hebrews writes of this welcome, he then turns and says, “Let us then with confidence draw near …” (4:16). We, with all of our sin, weakness, and failures, are welcome to do what should blow our minds. We are not only tolerated by God at a distance; no, we are welcomed into intimate personal communion with the King of kings, the Lord of lords, the creator, the sovereign, the Savior. We, as unholy as we are, are told to go with confidence into his holy presence. The blood of Jesus has made the impossible possible. For the writer of Hebrews there is only one right response to the access we now have to God through Jesus Christ. Here it is: “Draw near.” Perhaps, in forgetting who we are and what we have been given, we have essentially quit drawing near. So convinced that we are okay and so busy preparing, many of us have quit communing with the One who is our life, peace, reconciliation, wisdom, hope, forgiveness, and strength. And because we have, the tenderness, humility, patience, and passion that needy and grateful worship produces in our hearts are absent in our ministries.
You simply cannot be a good ambassador of the grace of the King without recognizing your need for the King in your own life. Public ministry is meant to be fueled and propelled by private devotion. When this is absent, you and your ministry change in ways that are potentially harmful to you and to the people you have been called to serve.
Pastor, have arrival and ministry busyness crushed your life of private, meditative, Christ-communing worship? Or, in the words of Hebrews, are you still drawing near?

CHAPTER FOURTEEN

SEPARATION

It was a funny, uncomfortable, yet helpful moment. My assistant Steve and I were sitting with a group of pastors who had asked to have lunch with us. One of the pastors had asked Steve what had motivated him to leave his insurance business to his son-in-law to operate and to make his daily full-time work Paul Tripp Ministries. Spontaneously Steve said, “Well, I don’t do what I do for the ministry because I idolize Paul, because Paul can be a bit of a jerk. I do it because I believe in Paul’s passion for connecting the transforming power of Jesus Christ to everyday life.” As I listened, my first defensive and unspoken response was, “Yes, Steve, I am a jerk at times, but if it is to be announced to pastors, I would like to do the announcing.” It was an interesting scene. Some of the pastors laughed; some of them had an uncomfortable look on their faces as I pondered if I should respond to the moment.
The fact is that Steve was exactly right. He has seen me in my most embarrassing, easily irritated, oh-poor-me, hard-to-get-along-with moments. You cannot live and work next to someone without seeing the empirical evidence of the remaining artifacts of his depravity, those things in the heart that still need the transforming hand of the Redeemer. Steve has long since forsaken the delusion that I’m a heroic example of the things I teach. If he was doing what he’s doing in ministry for me, by now I would have given him ample reason to quit. I am still a broken man in need of more attention by the restorative hands of grace.
So as we near the end of this book, I want to be brutally honest and ask you to do the same as well. Pastors, we’re all still a bit of a mess. We’re all at times very poor examples of the truths we teach. We all have the dark ability to expound a passage that lauds God’s grace yet be a husband or father of ungrace in the car on the way home. You can lead a men’s ministry discussion on the issue of biblical sexual purity and lust at the women in the grocery store on the way home. You can teach about the self-sacrificing nature of love and be self-centered and unwilling to serve at home. You and I can define biblical humility but be proud of what we know and what we’ve accomplished. You and I have the ability to talk of what it means to invest our gifts and strengths in the work of the kingdom of God and then go home and waste countless hours in front of the flat screen. We talk about the beauty of forgiveness yet harbor bitterness against families or leaders that have opposed us. We are capable of talking about God’s ownership of every area of our lives and then masturbate in the bathroom before we go to bed. We talk of the rest we have in God’s control and then anxiously work politically behind the scenes to ensure that we get our own way. We talk of giving God the glory that is his due, and then we fudge the numbers to make our ministries look more successful in the eyes of others than they actually are. We talk of trusting God’s provision but then get ourselves in debt by spending more than he has provided. We teach people the rest that can be found when you get your identity vertically, but when the rubber meets the road in daily ministry, we care too much about what people think of us. We can teach well what it looks like to be content, but we quickly grumble and complain when the going gets hard. We talk about a heart for ministry, but when we get home all we want is to be left alone. We are all capable of being self-righteous, proud, judgmental, controlling, easily angered, bitter, and demanding. We sometimes act as if we’re entitled to our blessings. We often forget how much we need everything we teach. We give evidence every day that we are people in the middle of our own sanctification, that we still need the moment-by-moment rescue of grace.
There is a way in which all of us have a separation in our lives between our more pristine public ministry persona and the more messy details of our private lives. Aspects of this separation will be with us until the Lord returns.
This separation does not necessarily disqualify you from ministry, but it becomes spiritually debilitating to you and your ministry when you become comfortable with it. It is dangerous when you have learned the craft of making this separation work. It is a pastoral disaster when you have conquered the dark spiritual skill of sectoring your own heart, where it’s as if you are two separate people and the dark side doesn’t haunt you anymore. Remember, this separation exists most frequently in mundane, everyday-life areas. So it is in this context that I must ask, are there areas of clear disharmony or disconnect between your public ministry persona and your private life? And have you become comfortable with the disconnects, even perhaps developing the ability to make them comfortably work?

PREACHING THE GOSPEL TO YOURSELF

It is here that we pastors need to preach the gospel to ourselves. Much of this separation and disharmony is propelled by the fact that in our daily lives we tend to forget the very gospel that we so convincingly preach in public settings to others. Here is the everyday pastoral struggle: not only are we dealing with the reality of our own duplicitous heart, but also there are so many other things that can tug at our heart and in the process begin to shape the things we do and say in ministry.
You can feel the pressure of the expectations for your future in ministry that were placed on you because you did well in seminary. You can feel a weight of responsibility to a denomination that invested in you and in your ministry. You may feel the burden of the vision of long-term and seasoned elders who have had significant impact on the culture and direction of the church. You probably carry the load of your own hopes and dreams for yourself and the vision of what your ministry could be like in the years to come. If you have the heart of a pastor, you feel the weight of the desires, expectations, and spiritual needs of the people God has called you to serve. You feel the responsibility of building the right ministry reputation before the eyes of a watching community. You feel the weight of the obligation to lead a variety of ministries that don’t always work in unison. You carry the load of needs of finances and facilities. You face a variety of voices that comment on your public teaching, preaching, and worship leadership. You are drawn into solving problems you didn’t create but must be solved. You face the burden of opposition and criticism. You have to deal with leaders who want control and are more political than pastoral. You feel the weight of all these things pulling against the enormous responsibility you have as husband and father.
All of these are legitimate concerns, but together they can result in a heart that is seldom at rest and a ministry that lacks focus, careening from one serious concern to another. There is another thing: it is right to carry the responsibility of all these things, but you must not let any of them rule your heart. All of these concerns can become seductive pastoral idolatries, and when they do, you may think that you are serving God, but your heart is ruled by something to which you have attached your pastoral identity and inner sense of well-being. In your ministry you can faithfully call people to submit their lives to the lordship of Jesus Christ, and in that very same ministry surrender your heart to a whole catalog of pastoral idolatries. When this happens, you do ministry in the hopes of getting horizontally what you have already been given vertically. In ways in which you are unaware, you are asking ministry acclaim, success, reputation, etc., to be your own personal messiah. This will never work. It always leads to bad choices and never results in the inner security that you seek. Think about the insanity of this subtle ministry idolatry.
The people in your congregation did not become active participants in your ministry so that collectively they could make you feel better about yourself and more secure with your ministry gifts. God didn’t call you to your particular ministry position so that you could finally cobble together an identity that you could live with. The leadership of the church didn’t call you to be their pastor because they knew that you needed a forum where you could find meaning and purpose. The troubled people in your congregation did not come with their troubles so that you could feel needed, essential, and appreciated. The people who faithfully give don’t give so that you can build a successful ministry and bask in the security of your accomplishments. So you will never find in your ministry the rest of heart that every human being seeks. And when you look there, it only ends in anxiety, frustration, hurt, disappointment, anger, and bitterness and may ultimately lead you to question the goodness of God. I am convinced that what we often call “ministry burnout” (a term I don’t think is particularly helpful) is often the result of pastors’ seeking in their ministry what cannot be found there, and because it can’t be found there they end up weary and discouraged.
So you have the realities of your private spiritual life colliding with all the responsibilities and expectations of public ministry. You have the danger of becoming comfortable with a disharmony between your public ministry persona and your private spiritual life intersecting with the war of worship that is being fought in your heart as you hear all the idol voices that greet every pastor of every church.
I am afraid that in the heat of this war and in weariness of spiritual battle many pastors give themselves permission to become comfortable with ministry duplicity (a separation between the truths they teach and the way they live) and subtle ministry idolatry (letting a quest for __________ begin to rule their heart in ministry). The only defense against this is the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is only when we are living out of the life that grace alone is able to give that we quit seeking life elsewhere. It is only when we are embracing the rest of the forgiveness of grace that we can look at ourselves honestly and grieve without wallowing in debilitating guilt and shame.
Pastor, there is no congregation you need to preach to more than yourself. There is no more important place to exegete and expound grace than in your own heart. There is no more important place to teach what it means to apply that grace to the concrete situations, locations, and relationships than in your own life. There is no more important place to fear the harvest of duplicity than in your own heart. There is no place to be more concerned about functional religiously acceptable idolatry than in your own life. Ministry is a war for the gospel in your own heart. Grace enables you to be a good soldier. You and I cannot and must not allow ourselves to become comfortable with things that God says are wrong. You and I must not learn to make things work that simply aren’t working. You and I must not work to convince ourselves that our idols aren’t really idols. You and I cannot permit ourselves to live a ministry life that lacks consistency and integrity. You and I must understand that we have been called to battle for the gospel of Jesus Christ and that war begins in our hearts.
Let me suggest some vital gospel-in-everyday-life applications that every pastor must preach to himself again and again.

1) I DO NOT HAVE TO BE ANXIOUS THAT I WILL NEVER MEASURE UP, BECAUSE JESUS PERFECTLY MEASURED UP ON MY BEHALF

Only the gospel can free me from the fear of not being found worthy. The fact of the matter is that I am unworthy. I could never do or say anything that would make me worthy of my Father’s acceptance and affection. I could never be so perfectly obedient as to earn his approval. I am not in ministry because, by my own effort, I became a shining example of all that the gospel can produce. I have been freed from the bondage of convincing myself and others that I am worthy. I don’t need to privately argue for my worth or do things in public to prove it. Jesus perfectly measured up; he was perfectly worthy on my behalf. He accomplished what was impossible for me to accomplish so that I would be given standing that I did not or could never earn. I don’t have to live as if I am still on probation, still being evaluated. I have been accepted, and I have been called into ministry. I have earned neither. Both are gifts of grace. I come into ministry with nothing to prove but this: the gospel of Jesus Christ is reliable and true and has the power to both free and transform you and me. As in ministry, I am faced with both the reality of my own sin and weakness and the pressure of the expectations and criticisms of others. I must preach the gospel of this grace to myself day after day after day.

2) BECAUSE GRACE ALLOWS ME TO GET MY IDENTITY AND SECURITY VERTICALLY, I AM FREED FROM BUILDING THEM ON WHAT PEOPLE THINK OF ME

There is a way in which, as a pastor, you should care less about what people think about you. Now, here’s what I mean: you do not look to them to give you courage, hope, peace, rest, and a reason to continue. As a result, you are freed from being all too attentive to how they respond to you and all too fearful of your detractors. You are in trouble as a pastor when you need regular doses of appreciation and respect in order to continue. Yes, you know you need the ministry of the body of Christ, and you want to be open to that ministry, but you are freed from riding the anxiety-driven roller coaster of people’s opinion. Because you have a secure identity as a child of God, you don’t need to seek identity from the success of your ministry or from the appreciation of the people around you. This frees you both to be able to listen to criticism without being devastated by it and to be unwilling to let the opinions of others define you and the direction of your ministry. Your secure identity in Christ also allows you to face your weaknesses with humility and honesty. You can do this because your standing with God is not based on your performance but on the perfect obedience of Christ. You need to preach these truths to yourself daily, because in ministry you either seek to get identity from your ministry or stand firm and secure in the identity you have been given in Christ.

3) I DO NOT HAVE TO BE HAUNTED BY WHAT MAY BE EXPOSED ABOUT ME, BECAUSE EVERYTHING THAT COULD EVER BE EXPOSED HAS ALREADY BEEN COVERED BY THE BLOOD OF JESUS

If you’re haunted by the fear of being known, you will live your life in hiding. You will become a master of nonanswers to personal questions. You will carry with you a catalog of platitudinous biblical responses that communicate to others that you are more spiritual than you actually are. I am persuaded that many pastors fear being known for who they really are and where they really struggle. I have had many pastors tell me they are afraid of their sin being exposed. They say that they can’t be just normal sinners like everyone else. If we have produced a culture where pastors have to deny sin and live in fearful hiding, we have built a pastoral culture that cannot work, because it is a contradiction of the gospel that this culture is called to both proclaim and live.
I must remind myself that the gospel welcomes me out of hiding. It welcomes me to face my darkest parts with hope. It assures me that there is nothing to be known about me that has not already been dealt with in the person and work of the Lord Jesus. So I don’t have to build my ministry on a lie that I am something I’m not. I can live in honesty and humility before others, entrusting my present and future ministry into the hands of my Savior, knowing that no matter how people respond to me, he will never turn his back on me or on the gifts that he has given me.

4) I NEED TO REMEMBER THAT MY WEAKNESSES ARE NOT IN THE WAY OF PRODUCTIVE MINISTRY, BUT MY DELUSIONS OF INDEPENDENT STRENGTH ARE

You could argue that if human weakness was an automatic disqualifier from ministry, none of the disciples would have been called into ministry. The fact of the matter is that there is never a day, pastor, when you don’t demonstrate somehow, someway that you are weak. There is never a day when you don’t reveal that there are still pockets of foolishness in you. In fact, God will use the responsibilities, opportunities, burdens, and temptations of ministry to reveal to you and those who love you how weak you really are. He reveals your weakness to you so that you will continue to seek the help of his grace, and he reveals it to others so that they can be instruments of his grace in your life. Paul didn’t resign his ministry because he became convinced he was the foremost of all sinners. No, you could argue that it is your admission of weakness that protects your ministry from becoming all about human reputation and kingdom building. And it is your weakness that protects you from the dangers of self-righteousness and self-reliance.
It is your delusions of perceived strength and maturity, which you actually lack, that have the potential to derail and ultimately destroy your ministry. This is because when you think you are strong, you think you can live independently of the grace of Jesus and the ministry of others, although you may not know that this is what you’re doing.

5) I CAN REST ASSURED THAT GOD DIDN’T GET A WRONG ADDRESS WHEN HE CALLED ME TO MINISTRY. MY SPIRITUAL NEEDINESS DOESN’T COMPROMISE THE MESSAGE OF THE GOSPEL; RATHER, MY NEED PREACHES IT

Now, let me say that it is obvious that you have to be at a certain level of maturity to qualify for ministry in the local church. What I think we need to address is the view that any weaknesses that are exposed in a pastor compromise or potentially make a mockery of the message he proclaims. If you take this view, you think that you have to present yourself as the perfect portrait of all that the gospel is able to produce or else you will bring shame to the name of Jesus. This leaves no room to admit and seek the help that you will invariably need as a pastor, since you are still right smack-dab in the middle of your own sanctification.
But, pastor, you will never be that perfect portrait; the only one who achieved that perfection was Christ. No, rather than being a perfect portrait that assures people that the gospel is true, you and I are called to be windows through which people look and see the glory of the risen Lord Jesus Christ. It is our weakness that demonstrates both the essentiality and power of the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. Only his ever-present and powerful grace could enable a person, who still needs to be transformed himself, to be used as an instrument of his transforming grace in the lives of others. This frees us from pretending that we are what we are not. It frees us from boasting about what we could never have produced on our own, and it frees the people we serve from putting us on a messianic pedestal that should be reserved for Jesus only. We must preach to ourselves a gospel of ongoing weakness and sufficient grace.

6) THERE IS ONLY ONE MESSIAH, AND I AM DEFINITELY NOT HIM!

There is one thing that pastoral ministry makes very clear about us: we do not have the wisdom, character, and strength of the Messiah. It is okay to admit that we are not perfect in wisdom, that sometimes we are a fool. It is okay to admit that we are not complete in character, that there are moments when we lack the character that is needed. It is okay to admit that we fall short when it comes to strength; ministry will expose our weak places. If ministry has power to do anything in us, it has the power to destroy our naive trust in ourselves and to convince us that there is no solid rock of hope to be found but the rock Christ Jesus.

You see, it is only the hope and surety of the gospel that can rescue you from both the duplicity and the idolatry that tempt every pastor. It is the courage of grace that will cause you to be willing to look at and deal with the places in your life where your message and your living are in disharmony. Only the gospel can free you from your futile attempts to make this separation work. And it is the irrevocable welcome of the gospel that frees you from seeking your identity and rest in things in your ministry that become your objects of functional worship but have no ability whatsoever to deliver what you’re seeking. It is only the surety of God’s boundless love that will free you from looking for comfort and hope in the false messiahs that greet every pastor.
There is a way in which pastoral ministry will make you either sad or delusional. Because ministry will expose your weakness, it has the power to produce in you a wholesome sadness, an abandonment of your own righteousness that will drive you to the cross for forgiveness, healing, and comfort. In gospel amnesia you will work to hide and deny what is being revealed and use the success of your public ministry persona to argue against what is being revealed in your private life. You will pursue and polish the delusion that you are a grace graduate when you are actually a case study of the need for the very things of the gospel that you offer to others. There may be only two roads for your heart to travel in ministry: the road of personal grief or the road of personal grandiosity. The first leads to greater hope in Christ and greater courage in ministry. The other leads to the pride of arrival, unwise choices, and trying to find independently a life that is only ever the result of living in gospel community with others. Grief will cause you to abandon your ministry-kingdom dreams for the purposes of a better King. Grandiosity will cause you to confuse your kingdom purposes with the King you have been called to serve. Grief will cause you to find joy in being an ambassador of the King of grace. Grandiosity will cause you to approach your ministry like a monarch who doesn’t need grace. Pastor, be honest right here, right now—which pathway best describes your ministry?

CLOSING THE SEPARATION GAP

So if there are places in all of our lives as pastors where a separation exists between what we teach others and how we live, what can we do to close the gap? Let me suggest five commitments that should be nailed into each one of our ministry lives.

1) REQUIRE YOURSELF TO SIT UNDER YOUR OWN TEACHING AND PREACHING

Our study for any moment of teaching or preaching must include personal application. We must ask ourselves what the particular passage we’ve been studying reveals about our own hearts. Where does this portion of God’s Word call us to confession and repentance? What does it reveal about God’s character and plan that should reignite our way of living? How should we apply its perspectives, principles, and commands to our daily lives? As we prepare, we need to give our hearts time to grieve our condition and celebrate the gospel. We need to take the time to pray words of confession and commit to concrete steps of repentance. We all need to take advantage of the huge blessing it is to be called by God to spend so much time in his freeing and transforming Word.

2) CONFESS PUBLICLY TO YOUR OWN STRUGGLE

Now, I am not suggesting that you should air all of the stained linen of your heart every time you teach or preach. But I do think it is not only valuable for you but also important for your listeners to hear that you too have not arrived, that the life of faith is yet a struggle for you also. The very fact that you are baring your heart publicly closes the gap between your public persona and your private life. You are refusing to build a two-person existence. You are fighting against becoming comfortable with a disharmony between what you teach and how you live. You are applying your preaching and teaching before the eyes and ears of your congregation. You are inviting them in to pray for, confront, and encourage you, and you are publicly confessing that you are committed to living everything that you teach. You are publicly working to close the gap.

3) PLACE YOURSELF UNDER WISE AND BIBLICAL COUNSEL

Pastor, it is plain and simple: you and I need to be pastored. One of the scandals of hordes of churches is that no one is pastoring their pastor. No one is helping him see what he is not seeing. No one is helping him examine his thoughts, desires, words, and behaviors. No one is regularly calling him to confession. No one is delineating where repentance is appropriate. No one is reaching into his discouragement with the truths of the presence, promises, and provisions of the Savior. No one is confronting his idolatry and pride. No one is alerting him to places of temptation and danger in his life.
Now, you and I don’t have the liberty to just wait and hope that this happens. We need to take the initiative to seek out someone whom we respect and with whom we can build this kind of counseling relationship and commit to for the duration of our ministries. I am positing that it is not enough to do this in moments of personal discouragement and trouble. You and I need to humbly acknowledge that we need this kind of knowledgeable ministry relationship as a regular component of our ministries. In every ministry location I’ve been in, I have sought someone to pastor me. I can’t imagine living my life or doing ministry without the protection, rescue, vision, and growth that this has provided for me. And I will confess that I need to be pastored today as much as I did years ago when I began to realize that, as a pastor, I had not been called or hardwired to go it on my own.

4) BE APPROACHABLE TO YOUR FRIENDS AND FAMILY

There is another commitment that we need to make that has the power to close the separation gap that exists in the lives of way too many people in ministry: request the ministry of your family. Invite your spouse to point out areas of spiritual laziness and inconsistency. Invite your spouse to lovingly confront you when you are activating your inner lawyer and are unwilling to listen. Ask the one living closest to you about when you take out on your family the frustrations you have collected in your ministry. Ask for help in making better choices when it comes to being faithful to the dual calling you have to family and ministry. Invite your children to respectfully appeal to you when you have treated them in ways you would never treat someone in your church. No, we should not be parented by our children, but you and I should be humble and approachable, ready to admit that the way we exercise parental authority is not always a beautiful picture of the authority of God. Regularly ask your spouse or your children to pray for you. In times of family worship, ask for prayer where you are struggling. Commit to confessing your wrongs to the members of your family and seek their forgiveness. The question is this: are we open to the fact that no one has a better window on who we really are than the people we live with? Do we see this as a benefit and a blessing and therefore take personal, spiritual advantage of these relationships? Or are we failing to benefit from the insight of those living closest to us?

5) BUILD A HUMBLY CANDID LEADERSHIP COMMUNITY

The fact is that many pastors are not known by their leaders, and many pastors don’t really know their leaders. The fact is that in most leadership communities there is simply no time invested in forging a knowledgeable, mutually ministering leadership community. I am persuaded that your goal should be that your eldership, deaconate, or whatever other leadership group you have will be the most spiritually rich and helpful small group in your church. It should be that the other small groups would look at the spiritual community that you have forged with your leaders and say, “If only our small group could be like that!” Every time you gather, there should be appropriate confession and prayer. You should have leadership retreats for building those relationships with personal sharing, confession, and prayer. You should take advantage of ministry gatherings to seek prayer for areas where you are struggling or need growth. Remember, the ministries that you direct with your local leadership will never be shaped by the knowledge, skill, experience, and strategic planning of this leadership group. These ministries will be powerfully influenced by the condition of each of the hearts of those who lead. You and I must not let the business of the church destroy any hope that the leaders of the church will function as a vibrant spiritual community.

Yes, there are still places in all of our lives where we are poor examples of what we hold out for others. There are places where we are not living up to the standard of what we teach and preach. This will be true until the Lord returns or takes us home, because God has chosen that our growth be a process, not an event. But here is the issue: have we learned how to be comfortable with the disconnect between ministry and life? Does this functional disharmony no longer bother us? Have we learned how to make our spiritual schizophrenia work? Or are we daily grieved by our inconsistency, and has our grief caused us to live and minister with greater humility and candor? Have we opened our lives to the help that God so graciously provides for all of us in his church? Here’s the bottom line: do we live as though we really do think of ourselves, who have been called to pastor others, as people in need of pastoring? Do we?

CHAPTER FIFTEEN

SO, WHAT NOW?

I will confess that this has been a very hard but very helpful book to write. God has used it to highlight many things in my heart—words and behavior that need attention. He has used it to expose attitudes and actions that are inconsistent with what I so passionately teach others. There have been many times during the writing that I have tried to share with Luella what God is showing me and have broken down in the process. There have been many times when I have had to push myself away from my writing and spend time in prayerful confession or in joyful personal celebration. I have been brought to see myself with greater accuracy and to a deeper gratitude for the unrelenting grace of my Savior. I have been humbled to see again why my standing with my Heavenly Father will never be based on my performance but on Christ’s. And I have become less and less afraid of confessing to others that I am a man who is still in need of the Savior’s rescue that comes to me through the ministry of his people.
So I want to leave you with a passage that is a wonderful summary of all that we have considered. It’s Peter’s counsel to church leaders found in 1 Peter 5:6–11:

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever.

Let me delineate five directives from this passage that are a practical way of living out the call of this book.

1) KNOW YOUR PLACE

It is a grief to me, but I must confess that as I look back on my years of ministry, I haven’t always known my place. There have been moments, even seasons, when I have viewed my ministry as my ministry. It is now clear to me that some of the most significant periods of ministry hardship were God-sent to pry the grip of my hands off my ministry. A letter sent to fellow pastors questioning my orthodoxy, a vote that removed me from the Christian school that I had founded, and an influential local-church leader demeaning my preaching were all much more than the expected struggles of gospel ministry in a fallen world. No, I now know that they were the tools God employed to rescue my ministry and recapture my heart. They were the result not of God turning his back on me but of God turning his face of grace toward me. Perhaps the church had morphed into my little ministry kingdom. Perhaps the school had become my school. Perhaps I carried into the pulpit way too much pride in my preaching. God was not willing to squeeze his church into the tiny confines of my kingdom purposes. He was not willing to forsake his throne so that I could be the royal sovereign of my own ministry. He would not allow me to stand in the pulpit and be a glory thief. So he again and again has used hard ministry moments to reclaim my allegiance to his kingdom and glory.
This is the bottom line. This is the great internal war of ministry. You are called to be a public and influential ambassador of a glorious King, but you must resist the desire to be a king. You are called to trumpet God’s glory, but you must never take that glory for yourself. You are called to a position of leadership, influence, and prominence, but in that position you are called to “humble yourself under the mighty hand of God” (v. 6). Perhaps there is nothing more important in ministry than knowing your place. Perhaps all the fear of man, the pride of knowing, the seduction of acclaim, the quest for control, the depression in the face of hardship, the envy of the ministry of others, the bitterness against detractors, and the anxiety of failure are all about the same thing. Each of these struggles is about the temptation to make your ministry about you. From that first dark moment in the garden, this has been the struggle—to make it all about us.
It is so easy to confuse your kingdom with the Lord’s. It is so easy to tell yourself that you are fighting for the gospel when what you’re really fighting for is your place. It is so easy to tell yourself that you’re simply trying to be a good leader when what you really want is control. It is so easy to tell yourself that you want to build healthy ministry relationships when what you really want is for people to like you. It is so easy to tell yourself that you’re trying to help people understand the details of their theology when what you’re actually working to do is impress them with how much you know. It is so easy to tell yourself that you’re fighting for what is right when what is really going on is that you’re threatened by someone’s rising influence. It’s so easy to tell yourself that you just want what is best when what you really want is a comfortable and predictable ministry life. It is so easy to tell yourself that you want God to get glory when really you enjoy ministry celebrity more than you are willing to admit. It is hard to be in a position of ministry prominence and influence and to know your place. It is very tempting in subtle ways to want God’s place. It is vital to realize that the temptation of the garden still lives in the pulpit, the study, the counseling office, and the ministry boardroom.
Here is the bottom line: wherever you are in ministry, whatever your position is, no matter how many people look up to you, whatever influence your ministry has collected, and no matter how long and successful your ministry has been, your ministry will never be about you because it is about him. God will not abandon his kingdom for yours. He will not offer up his throne to you. He will not give to you the glory that is his due. His kingdom and his glory are the hope of your ministry and the church. And when I forget my place and quest in some way for God’s position, I place my ministry and the church that I have been called to serve in danger.
It is here that I need to be rescued from me. I can change ministry positions and locations, but I cannot escape the thoughts and desires of my own heart. So again this morning I cry out for the rescue of my Redeemer. I pray that he would fight on my behalf, that his grace would cause me to love him more than I love myself. I pray that he would give me such a profound satisfaction in his glory that I would have no interest in seeking my own. And as I pray, I know that I will need to pray this prayer again tomorrow, because tomorrow I will once again be tempted to lose my place and to make my ministry be the one thing it should never be—all about me.
In your ministry, in the location where God has positioned you, is there evidence that you have forgotten your place, or is your ministry shaped and protected by a daily commitment to “humble yourself under the mighty hand of God”? Would the people who serve with you think that you are too oriented toward power and control? Would the people you serve assess that you care too much about what people think about you? Would they say that you care too much about attention and influence? Would they characterize you as a humble servant leader? Would they see you as being tempted to take too much credit, or would they say that you clearly demonstrate that you know the ministry God has called you to is not about you? Would they conclude that you really do know your place?

2) REST IN GOD’S CARE

Rest in God’s care is the result of a functional, ministry-shaping belief that he really does care. There are moments in ministry when you will be tempted to wonder if God is near and if he cares. There will be moments when it will seem as if your prayers have gone unanswered. There will be moments of trial when it will seem as if God is absent. There will be moments when you will feel misunderstood and alone. There will be moments when it will be nearly impossible to figure out what in the world God is doing. There will be moments when you will be tempted to wonder if it’s worth it, when selling iPads doesn’t seem like such a bad idea. There will be moments when the bi-factorial pressure of ministry and family will seem too much to bear. There will be moments when it will feel as though God has given you neither the wisdom nor the strength to do what he’s called you to do. There will be moments when opposition is great and progress is scarce. There will be moments when the temptation to doubt God’s ever-present care will be great.
I have written about this before, but it is important to say it again. Even those of us in ministry get to the place where we are tempted to bring God into the court of our judgment and question his goodness, faithfulness, and love. There are times when you just want to scream, “Where are you?” or, “What in the world are you doing?” There are times when we are tempted to think that we would be a better head of the church than the one who is the Head, or a better sovereign than the Sovereign, or a better savior than the Savior. It is hard to admit, but there may be times when you wonder if God is asleep at the wheel.
The fact of the matter is that we will never figure God out. He will never do all the things that we were expecting. He will never stay on our agenda page. He will never be comfortably predictable. If we rest in God’s care only when we understand just what he’s doing, there will be many times and places where we won’t rest in his care. The danger in all of this is this: we simply do not run for help to someone whom we have come to distrust. It is in the moments of hardship when what God is doing doesn’t make any sense that it is all the more important to preach to ourselves the gospel of his unshakable, unrelenting, ever-present care. He is actively caring for you and me even in those moments when we don’t understand his care and can’t figure out what he is doing.
I will not tell myself that I am alone. I will not allow myself to think that I am poor. I will not give way to ministry panic or paralysis. I will not look for help where help cannot be found. God is with me, and he cares, and that guarantees that I do have and will have everything I need to be what I am called to be and to do what I have been chosen to do in the particular place of ministry to which he has appointed me.
Does your rest in God’s care quiet your ministry anxiety? Does it keep you from feeling alone and overwhelmed? Does it comfort you in times of difficulty? Does your rest give rest and comfort to others? Does your rest in God’s care keep you from feeling the need to escape in some way (food, chemicals, alcohol, sex, TV, Internet, activities, people, etc.)? Does your rest in God’s care result in courage in ministry? Does it help you to deal humbly with opposition? At street level, do you rest in God’s care?

3) TAKE YOUR MINISTRY SERIOUSLY

It’s almost as if Peter is saying, “Have you forgotten the existence of real, personal evil? Have you forgotten that ministry is a constant, moment-by-moment spiritual war? Have you become comfortable with not taking this spiritual war seriously in the context of your daily life and ministry? Have you forgotten that this side of eternity you and your people are under incessant spiritual attack? Is your attitude toward your ministry all too casual? Do you allow yourself to do things you would not do if you thought that you were involved in the most important war that has ever been fought? Are there essential things that you fail to do because you have not taken the spiritual war of ministry seriously?”
It’s sad and dangerous, but it’s true that many of us have taken on a functionally unspiritual view of our ministries. We have a street-level view of the ministry of the local church that is more about staffing, strategic plans, building programs, financial planning, corporate structures, audience demographics, cultural relevance, career advancement, budget maintenance, resourcing initiatives, etc., than about how best to be good soldiers in the great spiritual war that is waged inside and outside of us. Perhaps it is this deeply unspiritual view of ministry that sets up many of us for trouble, because it exposes too many of us to temptation. You would think that the last thing Peter would have to tell leaders in Christ’s church is that they need to be watchful because there really is a Devil, but he does.
Peter knew the trap that many of us have fallen into, that in the midst of ministry we forget who we are, forget the condition of the world we live in, and forget who the people we have been called to serve are, and in forgetting we lose sight of evil on the attack that is the context in which all of us minister. Pastor, your theology won’t prevent you from being spiritually attacked. Your gifts don’t put you in a position of being free from attack. Your experience won’t defend you against attack. Proper staffing and good strategic plans won’t alleviate the spiritual realities that Peter here warns us to attend to. There is a devouring Devil. You need to be serious and watchful.
There have been very few pastors whose ministries have been damaged by poor strategic planning. There are very few pastors whose ministries have been compromised by poor staffing. There are very few pastors who have lost their way in ministry because they didn’t budget well. But there are thousands of pastors who have damaged or destroyed their ministries because they lost sight of what ministry was really about and did not protect themselves against temptation and, sadly, became casualties of the very war that Peter says we should never forget.
If you really do believe what Peter says about everyday ministry in the local church, then there are things you will constantly do. You will look out for the seductive and tempting lies of the enemy. You will never think that you’ve risen to a point where you no longer have to be careful. You will make sure that as a pastor, you are being pastored. You will surround yourself with people to whom you can freely confess your weaknesses, failures, struggles, and sins. You will invite people to confront, warn, challenge, and rebuke you when necessary, and you will not be defensive and self-righteous when they do. You will commit to a daily nurture of your own soul. You will look for evidences of the Devil’s hand in your staff and your leaders. You will set limits for yourself—boundaries that others help you maintain to protect you from you. You will be watchful for inconsistencies between your public ministry persona and your private life. You will go back again and again to 1 Peter 5 with your staff and leaders. You will require that the way you approach ministry, even in the most mundane places, be formed by Peter’s words of warning.

4) RESIST, NO MATTER WHAT

Peter says something here that seems strange at first glance. He exhorts us in ministry to resist the Devil, and then he says, “… knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world” (v. 9). These words reveal that Peter is a wise and insightful pastor himself. After calling those of us in ministry to resist the Devil, that is, to not give way to anything that would give him room to do his devouring work, he then exposes one of the Devil’s most seductive lies. The Devil wants you to think that your ministry is particularly difficult. He wants you to think that you have been singled out for unique suffering. He wants you to begin to believe that your ministry situation, location, and relationships are definitely more difficult than what others face. He wants you to buy into the lie that while you’re suffering, they’re thriving; while you’re being questioned, they’re being respected; and while your work is hard, their work is easy. He wants to get you to begin to carry around the burden that somehow, someway, you’ve been singled out.
And why does the Devil want to get you to think that you have been chosen for particular suffering? He does because he wants you to do the one thing that will weaken you and ultimately destroy your ministry. He wants you to begin to question the presence, goodness, faithfulness, and grace of God. This is his most powerful weapon. It has the power to hurt you and your ministry. You see, if you have come to doubt the goodness of God, in your moment of need you won’t run to him, because you tend not to run for help to someone you have come to doubt. And if you have come to question the goodness of God, it makes it very hard to call others to entrust themselves to his goodness. Harboring fundamental personal questions about the goodness of God will suck the spiritual vitality out of you and your ministry. And it should be noted that you can still be involved in day-by-day ministry and still be holding onto your formal theological confession and yet be a person who, in the recesses of your heart, has come to question the faithfulness of God. There are many angry and bitter pastors who are cranking it out with no thought of resigning but wonder if the God they’ve been called to represent really does care.
There is something else that needs to be observed here. Peter is not surprised that his readers are suffering, and he’s not surprised that their brothers in ministry are suffering, because he knows from firsthand experience that being called to ministry is at once being called to suffer (see 2 Corinthians 1 for Paul’s discussion of this). Just as every soldier in every war suffers in some way, so pastors in the great spiritual war of redemption will suffer in some way. Perhaps the military man doesn’t suffer injury, but he will suffer the suspension of his life, he will suffer separation from his loved ones, he will suffer the fear, tension, and exhaustion of battle, he will suffer the horror of seeing and experiencing things that no human should, and he will be hit with the guilt of being a survivor who wishes he could have done more. In the same way, gospel ministry puts you on the front line and exposes you to the personal and corporate dangers of war. It is impossible to be in ministry and not be affected. So you and I must resist the lie of the enemy that we have been selected to face what others haven’t. We must resist the temptation of thinking that God has forgotten us, neglected us, or turned his back on us. We must refuse to feel that we are victims of abandonment by the One we are called to represent. And we must remember that our suffering is not in the way of God’s plan, but part of it. In our suffering God is not only with us but also is employing it to change us and those to whom we minister.

5) TRUST GOD’S SANCTIFYING GRACE

Peter ends his call to church leaders by reminding them not of what they have been called to but of what they have been given. In so doing, he points them to the only place where they will ever find rest, hope, security, inner peace, and a reason to continue.
When in your ministry you begin to look horizontally for what you have already been given vertically, you place yourself and your ministry in spiritual danger. When you look to your ministry to give you identity instead of ministering out of the identity that you have already been given, you introduce a neediness and anxiety that will weaken and misdirect your ministry. When people’s respect and esteem are what keep you going rather than God’s unrelenting, ever-present grace, you will end up being disappointed and discouraged and wondering if you’ve got what it takes to continue. When you look to your own resources of wisdom and strength, needing to be more righteous than you actually are, you set yourself up for failure because you do not reach out for moment-by-moment grace.
So Peter ends his words of wisdom, warning, and comfort with the bottom line for everyone in ministry. You have one—and only one—place to look for your rest, motivation, and hope. You cannot search for these things in yourself, in the people you serve, in the leaders who serve with you, or in your ministry success. You and I must preach an ancient gospel of grace to ourselves with fresh application and enthusiasm day after ministry day. We must not evaluate ourselves solely on the basis of our gifts and track record. We must not assess our future based on the response we are currently getting.
It is interesting that Peter feels the need to call ministers of the gospel to remember the gospel. You would think this wouldn’t be necessary, but it is. Perhaps this is the only thing that this book you have just read is about. It is a detailed exposition of what happens in the life of a person in ministry when he forgets to preach to himself the same gospel that he gives to others. It is sad, but true, that there are thousands of gospel ministers whose lives and ministries are shaped by a functional gospel amnesia. Because it is, these leaders and the ministries they serve are paying the price that comes when you look for life where it cannot be found.
Peter is not at all hesitant or embarrassed to preach the gospel one more time to ministers of the gospel. He knows that in the ardor, struggle, and suffering of local-church ministry, often the gospel is one of the first casualties. So he starts by reminding his readers that grace guarantees their future. He says, “You have been called to eternal glory in Christ” (see v. 10). Now, it is important to understand why this is not just a distant hope but a motivation for ministry right here, right now. Here’s Peter’s logic. If you and I have been guaranteed a place in eternity with our Savior, then we also have been guaranteed all the grace we need along the way. The promise of future grace always carries with it the promise of present grace. If the end of my story is secure, it means God cannot abandon or lose me along the way. Pastor, your eternal future carries with it the sure promise that you will have all the grace you need to do what you’ve been called to do between the time you came to Christ and the time you will go home to be with him forever.
But Peter says even more. He wants you to know that your Lord isn’t only protecting, providing for, and enabling you, but he is working to change you as well. There is never a moment in ministry when you aren’t being ministered to. The Savior is not just working through you in the lives of others, but he is also working in you as he works through you. He is not just calling you to be an agent of his transforming grace; he is transforming you by the same grace. He is not just committed to the success of your ministry but also to the triumph of his grace in your own heart and life. So, he says, “Christ … will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you” (v. 10). You are never just a vehicle of his amazing grace. No, you are always also a recipient of that grace. In your heart of hearts you know you desperately need everything you tell others that God has committed himself in Christ to give them. Well, Peter wants you to be assured once again that you are still the objects of his redeeming care and that you will continue to be until that care has completed its work. Now, that gives you reason to get up in the morning and continue even when your sin and weaknesses have been exposed and ministry is hard.
But Peter has one final punch line. He is eager to remind you that your Savior has dominion forever and ever. The One you look to for hope has absolute rulership over every ministry situation in which you’ll find yourself. It is impossible to ever be in a ministry situation, location, or relationship that is not ruled by King Christ. Here’s why this is so important: all of his promises to you depend on his sovereignty. He is only able to guarantee the delivery of his promises in the places where he has complete control. And since he has complete control over everything, there is no place in ministry where you will be unable to depend on the delivery of everything he has promised you. Also, the hope for your ministry is not the success of your pastoral control or ingenuity but that a sovereign Savior will complete his plan for his church. So where do we go from here?
In your place of ministry, commit to regularly preach Peter’s gospel to yourself and ask those around you to remind you of it again and again. If you are a seminary, denominational, or ministry leader, work with others to address the places where your ministry training and culture are less than biblical. If you’re in ministry and these pages have exposed your heart, confess what needs to be confessed and seek help. If you’re a pastor and you have come to see how your ministry culture needs change, address those issues with your leaders and make those changes with them.
If you’ve read this book because you love your pastor or ministry leader and are concerned for him, pray daily for him and seek to encourage him in the gospel wherever and whenever it is appropriate to do so. If you’re the spouse of someone in ministry and are concerned for his spiritual welfare, don’t sit by in silence, don’t lash out in discouragement and anger, but confront and encourage him to seek help. And as you do these things, remember these words: “Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen” (Heb. 13:20–21).

GENERAL INDEX

Abraham, 65–66, 133
academized Christianity, 54–56
accountability, 59, 93, 178
anger, 17–21, 74, 154, 162, 187, 203
anxiety, 46, 203, 205, 215, 218, 222

biblical knowledge, 25–27, 51, 63, 155–56
bitterness, 22, 32, 68, 77, 93, 154, 179, 200, 215
brokenness, 64, 108, 124

calling, 22, 38–39, 93–94, 143, 207
children’s ministry, 118, 143
church
corrective discipline in, 86–87
and expectations of pastors, 92–93
formative discipline in, 85–86
leadership community of, 93–94, 131–32, 211–12, 224
unity in, 143–44
church planting, 75–76
communication, 148–49
community, 38, 73, 83–96
confession, 35, 78–79, 94–95, 135–36, 144, 159, 174
confidence, 123

David, 67
delegation, 168–69, 180
depression, 46
devotional life, 23–24, 33–36, 160–61, 183–97
discipline, 123–24, 146
discouragement, 32, 75

Elijah, 67
entitlement, 161–62, 173
envy, 178–79
evangelism, 118
failure, 126, 129, 178–79
faith, 42–43, 65–66, 87, 155
families, 90–91, 211
fear, 32, 38, 126–36
Ferguson, Sinclair, 158–59
forgiveness, 64, 71, 144, 203

Gideon, 129–30
God
finding awe in, 114–18, 129, 141–42
glory of, 49–50, 68, 98–99, 113–20, 138–44, 167–81, 190–91
kingdom of, 98–102, 154, 160, 209, 215–16
Word of, 47–55, 83–86, 91–92, 114–16, 195. See also biblical knowledge
gospel passion, 122–23
gospel transformation, 30, 39, 45, 51, 99–100, 136, 187, 204, 222–23
grace, 12, 33, 49–50, 106–7, 122, 158, 161, 191–95

heart motivations, 46, 51, 61–63, 68, 98–103, 108–9
Holy Spirit, 19, 51, 70, 72, 84, 87
humility, 35, 106–7, 121–22, 135, 161, 171–74, 196

idolatry, 72, 202–3
impatience, 55
isolation, 32, 59, 70–82, 90

Jesus
church as the body of, 70–82, 84, 88–90, 159
communion with, 55, 63–66, 160–61, 195
finding identity in, 64, 101, 104–5, 205
finding rest in, 36, 106, 124, 216–18
humble submission to, 87
person and work of, 30, 171–74, 204
submission to, 179–80
Joseph, 66
justification, 26

law, 151–53
lethargy, 115

marriage, 58–61, 167–68
mediocrity, 137–50
meditation, 136
mentors, 80
ministry life
in the body of Christ, 79–82, 84, 88–90
as defining identity, 21–25, 101–5, 221–22
private vs. public, 189–97, 200–212, 219–20
readiness for, 64
signs of trouble, 32–39, 92–96, 128, 158–63
success in, 61–68, 121–24, 137–50, 156–57
missions, 118, 143
Moses, 66–67

pastoral candidates, 64–65
pastoral counseling, 43–45, 82, 210–11
pastoral responsibilities, 35
pastors’ wives
ministering to, 80–82
and ministry discouragement, 75–79, 90–91, 169–70
pornography, 46
power, 160
preaching
communication skills in, 149–50
content of, 148–49
self-disclosure in, 80–81, 148, 210
See also sermon preparation.
pride, 71–72, 153, 157, 161–62, 176–77, 196

redemption, 108–9, 147, 187
repentance, 71, 95–96
reputation, 105–6, 190, 146, 209–10
restoration, 95
righteousness, 155, 159–60

sanctification, 26, 64, 69, 154, 207, 221–22
security, 133–34
self-glory, 167–81
self-righteousness, 54–55, 73–74, 158–60, 167, 175, 193
self-sufficiency, 159, 206
seminary culture, 53–54
sermon preparation, 118, 137–38, 144–50, 183–87, 194
sexual sin, 46
sin, 26, 34–35, 64, 70–73, 94, 98, 159, 162, 178–79, 196
small groups, 79–80
spiritual blindness, 54, 71–73, 77
spiritual growth, 84, 95
spiritual maturity, 25–27, 64, 87, 105, 152–57
success, 27–28, 61–68. See also ministry life, success in
suffering, 221

temptations, 64, 93, 107, 129, 154, 162, 215, 220–21
theology, 43–44, 118–19

unbelief, 71–72, 124–25

Warfield, B. B., 113–14
wisdom, 26–27, 156, 160
women’s ministry, 118, 143
worship, 35, 50–51, 139, 184–87, 195

SCRIPTURE INDEX

Genesis
39 66

Exodus
3 66
4:13 66

Judges
6:12 130

1 Samuel
17 67

1 Kings
19 67

Psalms
27:4 161
37:8 127
73:13 179
73:21–22 179
145 115–16

Proverbs
9:10 129

Isaiah
6:3 190
6:5 121, 159
55:10–13 49–50

Matthew
6:19–34 100, 107
16:24–25 193

John
13:1–17 171

Acts
10 132

Romans
4 65
4:19 133
8:22–24 108
12:3 155

1 Corinthians
12 83
12:14–25 88–89

2 Corinthians
1 221
5:15 98, 118

Galatians
2:11–14 132

Ephesians
4 83, 87
4:11–16 86

Colossians
3:15–17 91

1 Timothy
4:16 188

Hebrews
3:12–13 70, 83
3:13 94
4:16 197
13:20–21 224

1 Peter
2:2 194
5 219
5:6–11 213–14
5:9 220
5:10 222–23

Tripp, P. D. (2012). Dangerous Calling: Confronting the Unique Challenges of Pastoral Ministry (S. 5–224). Wheaton, IL: Crossway.

THE TREASURY OF SCRIPTURE KNOWLEDGE – GENESIS, via LAD Rosary

THE TREASURY

OF

SCRIPTURE KNOWLEDGE

CONSISTING OF

FIVE-HUNDRED THOUSAND SCRIPTURE REFERENCES AND PARALLEL PASSAGES

FROM

CANNE, BROWNE, BLAYNEY, SCOTT, AND OTHERS,

WITH NUMEROUS ILLUSTRATIVE NOTES.

ARRANGED IN CHAPTER AND VERSE TO SUIT ALL EDITIONS OF THE HOLY SCRIPTURES.

WITH AN INTRODUCTION BY
R. A. TORREY

FOURTEENTH EDITION

Multæ terricolis linguæ, cœlestibus una

LONDON:
SAMUEL BAGSTER AND SONS LIMITED
15 PATERNOSTER ROW.
[All rights reserved.]

INTRODUCTION

ABOUT twenty years ago I saw for the first time “The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge.” I was interested in the book at once, and commenced to use it in my daily study of the Word of God. I went through book after book of the Bible, verse by verse, with the aid of “The Treasury.” I found that it enabled me, better than all the commentaries, to come to a true knowledge of God’s meaning.
There is no other commentary on the Bible so helpful as the Bible itself. There is not a difficult passage in the Bible that is not explained and made clear by other passages of the Bible, and this book is marvellously useful in bringing to light those other parts of the Bible that throw light upon the portion that is being studied. But not only does the book illuminate dark places, it also emphasises the truth by bringing in a multitude of witnesses. It also greatly strengthens faith, for one cannot study his Bible with the aid of “The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge” without getting a deeper conviction of the unity of the entire Book. As he compares Scripture with Scripture and sees how what Paul says fits in to what Jesus said, and John said, and Peter said, and Isaiah said, and the Psalmist said; when he sees how every doctrine of the New Testament regarding Christ, His Divine-human nature, His holy character, His atoning death, and His resurrection, ascension, and coming again is enfolded in the types of the Pentateuch, Prophets, and Psalms, he becomes overwhelmingly convinced that the whole Bible has one real Author behind the many human authors. “The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge” enables one, not only to understand the Word, but to feed upon the Word.
In preparing notes on the Sunday School lessons for publication, and notes on the various books of the Bible, I have found more help in “The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge” than in all other books put together. I have recommended the use of the book to many people, and in after years they have thanked me for calling their attention to this book. Their experiences with it have been similar to mine.
One great advantage of the book is its portability. One who has to travel much cannot take a large number of commentaries with him, but in “The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge” he will find the substance of all that is best in many commentaries.

R. A. TORREY.

ORDER OF THE BOOKS

OF THE

OLD AND NEW TESTAMENTS

Chaps.
GENESIS 50
Exodus 40
Leviticus 27
Numbers 36
Deuteronomy 34
Joshua 24
Judges 21
Ruth 4
1 Samuel 31
2 Samuel 24
1 Kings 22
2 Kings 25
1 Chronicles 29
2 Chronicles 36
Ezra 10
Nehemiah 13
Esther 10
Job 42
Psalms 150
Proverbs 31
Ecclesiastes 12
Song of Solomon 8
Isaiah 66
Jeremiah 52
Lamentations 5
Ezekiel 48
Daniel 12
Hosea 14
Joel 3
Amos 9
Obadiah 1
Jonah 4
Micah 7
Nahum 3
Habakkuk 3
Zephaniah 3
Haggai 2
Zechariah 14
Malachi 4

MATTHEW 28
Mark 16
Luke 24
John 21
The Acts 28
Epistle to the Romans 16
1 Corinthians 16
2 Corinthians 13
Galatians 6
Ephesians 6
Philippians 4
Colossians 4
1 Thessalonians 5
2 Thessalonians 3
1 Timothy 6
2 Timothy 4
Titus 3
Philemon 1
To the Hebrews 13
Epistle of James 5
1 Peter 5
2 Peter 3
1 John 5
2 John 1
3 John 1
Jude 1
Revelation 22

THE CHRONOLOGICAL ORDER OF THE BOOKS

WITH THE ABBREVIATIONS USED IN THE REFERENCES, AND THE PLACES IN WHICH THE NEW TESTAMENT BOOKS WERE WRITTEN.

B.C.
Abbr. Form
1491
Genesis
Ge.
Job
Job
1491
Exodus
Ex.
1490
Leviticus
Le.
1451
Deuteronomy
De.
1451
Numbers
Nu.
1427
Joshua
Jos.
1406
Judges
Ju.
1312
Ruth
Ru.
1055
1 Samuel
1 Sa.
1018
2 Samuel
2 Sa.
1015
1 Chronicles
1 Ch.
Psalms
Ps.
1013
Song of Solomon
Ca.
1004
1 Kings 1–11
1 Ki.
1004
2 Chronicles 1–11
2 Ch.
1000
Proverbs
Pr.
975
Ecclesiastes
Ec.
897
1 Kings, 12 &c.
1 Ki.
862
Jonah
Jon.
800
Joel
Joel
787
Amos
Am.
750
Micah
Mi.
740
Hosea
Ho.
713
Nahum
Na.
698
Isaiah
Is.
630
Zephaniah
Zep.
626
Habakkuk
Hab.
623
2 Chron. 10. &c.
2 Ch.
590
2 Kings
2 Ki.
588
Jeremiah
Je.
588
Lamentations
La.
587
Obadiah
Ob.
574
Ezekiel
Eze.
534
Daniel
Da.
520
Haggai
Hag.
520
Zechariah
Zec.
509
Esther
Es.
457
Ezra
Ezr.
434
Nehemiah
Ne.
397
Malachi
Mal.

A.D.
Abbr. Form
Where written
38
Matthew
Mat.
Judea
52
Galatians
Gal.
Macedonia, or Corinth
52
1 Thessalonians
1 Thes.
Corinth
52
2 Thessalonians
2 Thes.
Corinth
56
1 Corinthians
1 Co.
Ephesus
57
2 Corinthians
2 Co.
Macedonia
58
Romans
Ro.
Corinth
61
Ephesians
Ep.
Rome
61
James
Ja.
Jerusalem
62
Philippians
Phi.
Rome
62
Colossians
Col.
Rome
62
Philemon
Phile.
Rome
63
Luke
Lu.
Greece
63
Hebrews
He.
Rome
64
Acts
Ac.
Greece
64
1 Timothy
1 Ti.
Macedonia
64
1 Peter
1 Pe.
Rome
64
Titus
Tit.
Macedonia, or Greece
65
Mark
Mar.
Rome
65
2 Timothy
2 Ti.
Rome
65
2 Peter
2 Pe.
Rome
69
1 John
1 Jno.
Judea
69
2 John
2 Jno.
Ephesus
69
3 John
3 Jno.
Ephesus
70
Jude
Jude
Unknown
96
Revelation
Re.
Patmos
97
John
Jno.
Asia Minor

Volume I

The First Book of MOSES, called GENESIS

CHAP. 1

GOD creates heaven and earth, 1; the light, 3; the firmament, 6; separates the dry land, 9; forms the sun, moon, and stars, 14; fishes and fowls, 20; cattle, wild beasts, and creeping things, 24; creates man in his own image, blesses him, 26; grants the fruits of the earth for food, 29.

1 beginning. Pr. 8:22–24; 16:4. Mar. 13:19. Jno. 1:1–3. He. 1:10. 1 Jno. 1:1. God. Ex. 20:11; 31:17. 1 Ch. 16:26. Ne. 9:6. Job 26:13; 38:4. Ps. 8:3; 33:6, 9; 89:11, 12; 96:5; 102:25; 104:24, 30; 115:15; 121:2; 124:8; 134:3; 136:5; 146:6; 148:4, 5. Pr. 3:19; 8:22–30. Ec. 12:1. Is. 37:16; 40:26, 28; 42:5; 44:24; 45:18; 51:13, 16; 65:17. Je. 10:12; 32:17; 51:15. Zec. 12:1. Mat. 11:25. Ac. 4:24; 14:15; 17:24. Ro. 1:19, 20; 11:36. 1 Co. 8:6. Ep. 3:9. Col. 1:16, 17. He. 1:2; 3:4; 11:3. 2 Pe. 3:5. Re. 3:14; 4:11; 10:6; 14:7; 21:6; 22:13.
2 without. Job 26:7. Is. 45:18. Je. 4:23. Na. 2:10. Spirit. Job 26:13. Ps. 33:6; 104:30. Is. 40:12–14.
3 God. Ps. 33:6, 9; 148:5. Mat. 8:3. Jno. 11:43. Let. Job 36:30; 38:19. Ps. 97:11; 104:2; 118:27. Is. 45:7; 60:19. Jno. 1:5, 9; 3:19. 2 Co. 4:6. Ep. 5:8, 14. 1 Ti. 6:16. 1 Jno. 1:5; 2:8.
4 that. ver. 10, 12, 18, 25, 31. Ec. 2:13; 11:7. the light from the darkness. Heb. between the light and between the darkness.
5 Day, and. ch. 8:22. Ps. 19:2; 74:16; 104:20. Is. 45:7. Je. 33:20. 1 Co. 3:13. Ep. 5:13. 1 Th. 5:5. And the evening and the morning were. Heb. And the evening was, and the morning was. ver. 8, 13, 19, 23, 31.
6 Let there. ver. 14, 20; ch. 7:11, 12. Job 26:7, 8, 13; 37:11, 18; 38:22–26. Ps. 19:1; 33:6, 9; 104:2; 136:5, 6; 148:4; 150:1. Ec. 11:3. Je. 10:10, 12, 13; 51:15. Zec. 12:1. firmament. Heb. expansion.
7 divided. Pr. 8:28, 29. above. Job 26:8. Ps. 104:10; 148:4. Ec. 11:3. and it. ver. 9, 11, 15, 24. Mat. 8:27.
8 God. ver. 5, 10; ch. 5:2. evening. ver. 5, 13, 19, 23, 31.
9 Job 26:7, 10; 38:8–11. Ps. 24:1, 2; 33:7; 95:5; 104:3, 5–9; 136:5, 6. Pr. 8:28, 29. Ec. 1:7. Je. 5:22. Jon. 1:9. 2 Pe. 3:5. Re. 10:6.
10 God saw. ver. 4. De. 32:4. Ps. 104:31.
11 Let the. ch. 2:5. Job 28:5. Ps. 104:14–17; 147:8. Mat. 6:30. He. 6:7. grass. Heb. tender grass. fruit. ver. 29; ch. 2:9, 16. Ps. 1:3. Je. 17:8. Mat. 3:10; 7:16–20. Mar. 4:28. Lu. 6:43, 44. Ja. 3:12.
12 earth. Is. 61:11. Mar. 4:28. herb. Is. 55:10, 11. Mat. 13:24–26. Lu. 6:44. 2 Co. 9:10. Gal. 6:7.
14 Let there. De. 4:19. Job 25:3, 5; 38:12–14. Ps. 8:3, 4; 19:1–6; 74:16, 17; 104:19, 20; 119:91; 136:7–9; 148:3, 6. Is. 40:26. Je. 31:35; 33:20, 25. lights. Or, rather, luminaries or light-bearers; being a different word from that rendered light, in ver. 3. the day from the night. between the day and between the night. and let. ch. 8:22; 9:13. Job 3:9; 38:31, 32. Ps. 81:3. Eze. 32:7, 8; 46:1, 6. Joel 2:10, 30, 31; 3:15. Am. 5:8; 8:9. Mat. 2:2; 16:2, 3; 24:29. Mar. 13:24. Lu. 21:25, 26; 23:45. Ac. 2:19, 20. Re. 6:12; 8:12; 9:2.
16 to rule. Heb. for the rule, etc. De. 4:19. Jos. 10:12–14. Job 31:26; 38:7. Ps. 8:3; 19:6; 74:16; 136:7, 8, 9; 148:3, 5. Is. 13:10; 24:23; 45:7. Hab. 3:11. Mat. 24:29; 27:45. 1 Co. 15:41. Re. 16:8, 9; 21:23. he made the stars also. Or, with the stars also.
17 ch. 9:13. Job 38:12. Ps. 8:1, 3. Ac. 13:47.
18 Ps. 19:6. Je. 31:35.
20 Let the waters. ver. 22; ch. 2:19; 8:17. Ps. 104:24, 25; 148:10. Ac. 17:25. moving. or, creeping. 1 Ki. 4:33. life. Heb. a living soul. ver. 30. Ec. 2:21. fowl that may fly. Heb. let fowl fly. This marginal reading is more conformable to the original, and reconciles this passage with ch. 2:19. The word fowl, from the Saxon fleon, to fly, exactly corresponds to the original, which denotes every thing that flies, whether bird or insect. open firmament. Heb. face of the firmament. ver. 7, 14.
21 great. ch. 6:20; 7:14; 8:19. Job 7:12; 26:5. Ps. 104:24–26. Eze. 32:2. Jon. 1:17; 2:10. Mat. 12:40. brought. ch. 8:17; 9:7. Ex. 1:7; 8:3. God saw. ver. 18, 25, 31.
22 ver. 28; ch. 8:17; 9:1; 30:27, 30; 35:11. Le. 26:9. Job 40:15; 42:12. Ps. 107:31, 38; 128:3; 144:13, 14. Pr. 10:22.
24 Let. ch. 6:20; 7:14; 8:19. Job 38:39, 40; 39:1, 5, 9, 19; 40:15. Ps. 50:9, 10; 104:18, 23; 148:10. Cattle, denotes domestic animals living on vegetables;—Beasts of the earth, wild animals; especially such as live on flesh; and—Creeping things, reptiles; or all the different genera of serpents, worms, and such animals as have no feet.
25 ch. 2:19, 20. Job 12:8–10; 26:13.
26 Let us. ch. 3:22; 11:7. Job 35:10. Ps. 100:3; 149:2. Is. 64:8. Jno. 5:17; 14:23. 1 Jno. 5:7. man. In Hebrew, Adam; probably so called either from the red earth of which he was formed, or from the blush or flesh-tint of the human countenance: the name is intended to designate the species. in our. ch. 5:1; 9:6. Ec. 7:29. Ac. 17:26, 28, 29. 1 Co. 11:7. 2 Co. 3:18; 4:4. Ep. 4:24. Col. 1:15; 3:10. Ja. 3:9. have dominion. ch. 9:2, 3, 4. Job 5:23. Ps. 8:4–8; 104:20–24. Ec. 7:29. Je. 27:6. Ac. 17:20, 28, 29. 1 Co. 11:7. 2 Co. 3:18. Ep. 4:24. Col. 3:10. He. 2:6–9. Ja. 3:7, 9.
27 in the image. Ps. 139:14. Is. 43:7. Ep. 2:10; 4:24. Col. 1:15. See ver. 26. male. ch. 2:21–25; 5:2. Mal. 2:15. Mat. 19:4. Mar. 10:6. 1 Co. 11:8, 9.
28 ver. 22; ch. 8:17; 9:1, 7; 17:16, 20; 22:17, 18; 24:60; 26:3, 4, 24; 33:5; 49:25. Le. 26:9. 1 Ch. 4:10; 26:5. Job 42:12. Ps. 107:38; 127:1–5; 128:3, 4. Is. 45:18. 1 Ti. 4:3. moveth. Heb. creepeth. Ps. 69:34, marg.
29 I have. Ps. 24:1; 115:16. Ho. 2:8. Ac. 17:24, 25, 28. 1 Ti. 6:17. bearing. Heb. seeding. to you. ch. 2:16; 9:3. Job 36:31. Ps. 104:14, 15, 27, 28; 111:5; 136:25; 145:15, 16; 146:7; 147:9. Is. 33:16. Mat. 6:11, 25, 26. Ac. 14:17.
30 ch. 9:3. Job 38:39–41; 39:4, 8, 30; 40:15, 20. Ps. 104:14; 145:15, 16; 147:9. life. Heb. a living soul.
31 very good. Job 38:7. Ps. 19:1, 2; 104:24, 31. La. 3:38. 1 Ti. 4:4. and the. ver. 5, 8, 13, 19, 23. ch. 2:2. Ex. 20:11.

CHAP. 2

The first Sabbath, 1–3. Further particulars concerning the manner of creation, 4–7. The planting of the garden of Eden, and its situation, 8–14; man is placed in it; and the tree of knowledge only forbidden, 15–17. The animals are named by Adam, 18. The making of woman, and the institution of marriage, 21.

1 Thus. ver. 4; ch. 1:1, 10. Ex. 20:11; 31:17. 2 Ki. 19:15. 2 Ch. 2:12. Ne. 9:6. Job 12:9. Ps. 89:11–13; 104:2; 136:5–8; 146:6. Is. 42:5; 45:18; 48:13; 55:9; 65:17. Je. 10:12, 16. Zec. 12:1. Ac. 4:24. He. 4:3. host. De. 4:19; 17:3. 2 Ki. 21:3–5. Ps. 33:6, 9. Is. 34:4; 40:26–28; 45:12. Je. 8:2. Lu. 2:13. Ac. 7:42.
2 And on. ch. 1:31. Ex. 20:11; 23:12; 31:17. De. 5:14. Is. 58:13. Jno. 5:17. He. 4:4. seventh day God. The LXX. Syriac, and the Samaritan Text read the SIXTH day, which is probably the true reading; as ו, which stands for six, might easily be changed into ז, which denotes seven. rested. Or, rather, ceased, as the Hebrew word is not opposed to weariness, but to action; as the Divine Being can neither know fatigue, nor stand in need of rest.
3 blessed. Ex. 16:22–30; 20:8–11; 23:12; 31:13–17; 34:21; 35:2, 3. Le. 23:3; 25:2, 3. De. 5:12–14. Ne. 9:14; 13:15–22. Pr. 10:22. Is. 56:2–7; 58:13, 14. Je. 17:21–27. Eze. 20:12. Mar. 2:27. Lu. 23:56. He. 4:4–10. created and made. Heb. created to make.
4 the generations. ch. 1:4; 5:1; 10:1; 11:10; 25:12, 19; 36:1, 9. Ex. 6:16. Job 38:28. Ps. 90:1, 2. Lord. Ex. 15:3. 1 Ki. 18:39. 2 Ch. 20:6. Ps. 18:31; 86:10. Is. 44:6. Re. 1:4, 8; 11:17; 16:5.
5 plant. ch. 1:12. Ps. 104:14. had not. Job 5:10; 38:26–28. Ps. 65:9–11; 135:7. Je. 14:22. Mat. 5:45. He. 6:7. to till. ch. 3:23; 4:2, 12.
6 there went up a mist. or, a mist which went up.
7 formed man. Ps. 100:3; 139:14, 15. Is. 64:8. of the dust. Heb. the dust of, etc. dust. ch. 3:19, 23. Job 4:19; 33:6. Ps. 103:14. Ec. 3:7, 20; 12:7. Is. 64:8. Ro. 9:20. 1 Co. 15:47. 2 Co. 4:7; 5:1. and breathed. Job 27:3; 33:4. Jno. 20:22. Ac. 17:25. nostrils. ch. 7:22; Ec. 3:21. Is. 2:22. a living. Nu. 16:22; 27:16. Pr. 20:27. Zec. 12:1. 1 Co. 15:45. He. 12:9.
8 a garden. ch. 13:10. Eze. 28:13; 31:8, 9. Joel 2:3. eastward. ch. 3:24; 4:16. 2 Ki. 19:12. Eze. 27:23; 31:16, 18. put the. ver. 15.
9 every. Eze. 31:8, 9, 16, 18. tree of life. ch. 3:22. Pr. 3:18; 11:30. Eze. 47:12. Jno. 6:48. Re. 2:7; 22:2, 14. tree of knowledge. ver. 17; ch. 3:3, 22. De. 6:25. Is. 44:25; 47:10. 1 Co. 8:1.
10 a river. Ps. 46:4. Re. 22:1. Eden. Eden denotes pleasure or delight; but was certainly the name of a place, and was, most probably, situated in Armenia, near the sources of the great rivers Euphrates, Tigris, Phasis, and Araxes.
11 Havilah. ch. 10:7, 29; 25:18. 1 Sa. 15:7.
12 Bdellium is a transparent aromatic gum. The onyx is a precious stone, so called from a Greek word signifying a man’s nail, to the colour of which it nearly approaches. Nu. 11:7. onyx. Ex. 28:20; 39:13. Job 28:16. Eze. 28:13.
13 Gihon. The Araxes, which runs into the Caspian sea. Ethiopia. Heb. Cush. The country of the ancient Cussæi. ch. 10:6. Is. 11:11.
14 Hiddekel. Da. 10:4. The Tigris. toward the east of. or, eastward to. ch. 10:11, 22; 25:18. Euphrates. ch. 15:18. De. 1:7; 11:24. Re. 9:14.
15 the man. or, Adam. ver. 2. Job 31:33. put. ver. 8. Ps. 128:2. Ep. 4:28.
16 God. 1 Sa. 15:22. thou mayest freely eat. Heb. eating thou shalt eat. ver. 9; ch. 3:1, 2. 1 Ti. 4:4; 6:17.
17 of the tree. ver. 9; ch. 3:1–3, 11, 17, 19. thou shalt surely die. Heb. dying thou shalt die. surely. ch. 3:3, 4, 19; 20:7. Nu. 26:65. De. 27:26. 1 Sa. 14:39, 44; 20:31; 22:16. 1 Ki. 2:37, 42. Je. 26:8. Eze. 3:18–20; 18:4, 13, 32; 33:8, 14. Ro. 1:32; 5:12–21; 6:16, 23; 7:10–13; 8:2. 1 Co. 15:22, 56. Ga. 3:10. Ep. 2:1–6; 5:14. Col. 2:13. 1 Ti. 5:6. Ja. 1:15. 1 Jno. 5:16. Re. 2:11; 20:6, 14; 21:8.
18 good. ch. 1:31; 3:12. Ru. 3:1. Pr. 18:22. Ec. 4:9–12. 1 Co. 7:36. I will. ch. 3:12. 1 Co. 11:7–12. 1 Ti. 2:11–13. 1 Pe. 3:7. meet for him. Heb. as before him.
19 And out. ch. 1:20–25. brought. ver. 22, 23; ch. 1:26, 28; 6:20; 9:2. Ps. 8:4–8. Adam. or, the man. ver. 15.
20 gave names to. Heb. called. but. ver. 18.
21 ch. 15:12. 1 Sa. 26:12. Job 4:13; 33:15. Pr. 19:15. Da. 8:18.
22 made. Heb. builded. Ps. 127:1. 1 Ti. 2:13. brought. ver. 19. Pr. 18:22; 19:14. Heb. 13:4.
23 bone. ch. 29:14. Ju. 9:2. 2 Sa. 5:1; 19:13. Ep. 5:30. flesh. ver. 24. Woman. Heb. Isha. 1 Co. 11:8, 9. taken. 1 Co. 11:8. Man. Heb. Ish.
24 leave. ch. 24:58, 59; 31:14, 15. Ps. 45:10. cleave. Le. 22:12, 13. De. 4:4; 10:20. Jos. 23:8. Ps. 45:10. Pr. 12:4; 31:10. Ac. 11:23. and they shall be one flesh. The LXX. Vulgate, Syriac, Arabic, and Samaritan read “they TWO;” as is also read in several of the Parallel Passages. Mal. 2:14–16. Mat. 19:3–9. Mar. 10:6–12. Ro. 7:2. 1 Co. 6:16, 17; 7:2–4, 10, 11. Ep. 5:28–31. 1 Ti. 5:14. 1 Pe. 3:1–7.
25 naked. ch. 3:7, 10, 11. ashamed. Ex. 32:25. Ps. 25:3; 31:17. Is. 44:9; 47:3; 54:4. Je. 6:15; 17:13. Eze. 16:61. Joel 2:26. Mar. 8:38. Lu. 9:26. Ro. 10:11.

CHAP. 3

The serpent deceives Eve, 1–5. Both she and Adam transgress the divine command, and fall into sin and misery, 6, 7. God arraigns them, 8–13. The serpent is cursed, 14. The promised seed, 15. The punishment of mankind, 16–20. Their first clothing, 21. Their expulsion from paradise, 22–24.

1 Now. ver. 13–15. Is. 27:1. Mat. 10:16. 2 Co. 11:3, 14. Re. 12:9; 20:2. serpent. The Samaritan Copy, instead of nachash, ‘a serpent,’ reads cachash, ‘a liar or deceiver,’ read Jno. 8:44. he said. Nu. 22:28, 29. Ec. 4:10. 1 Pe. 3:7. Yea, hath Heb. Yea, because, etc. hath. Mat. 4:3, 6, 9.
2 serpent. Ps. 58:4.
3 But. ch. 2:16, 17. touch. ch. 20:6. Ex. 19:12, 13. 1 Ch. 16:22. Job 1:11; 2:5; 19:21. 1 Co. 7:1. 2 Co. 6:17. Col. 2:21.
4 serpent. Jno. 8:44. Ye. ver. 13. De. 29:19. 2 Ki. 1:4, 6, 16; 8:10. Ps. 10:11. 2 Co. 2:11; 11:3. 1 Ti. 2:14.
5 God. Ex. 20:7. 1 Ki. 22:6. Je. 14:13, 14; 28:2, 3. Eze. 13:2–6, 22. 2 Co. 11:3, 13–15. your. ver. 7, 10. Mat. 6:23. Ac. 26:18. as gods. Ex. 5:2. 2 Ch. 32:15. Ps. 12:4. Eze. 28:2, 9; 29:3. Da. 4:30; 6:7. Ac. 12:22, 23. 2 Co. 4:4. 2 Th. 2:4. Re. 13:4, 14. knowing. ver. 22; ch. 2:17.
6 saw. Jos. 7:21. Ju. 16:1, 2. pleasant. Heb. a desire. Eze. 24:16, 21, 25. to the eyes. ch. 6:2; 39:7. Jos. 7:21. 2 Sa. 11:2. Job 31:1. Mat. 5:28. 1 Jno. 2:16. and did. 1 Ti. 2:14. and he did eat. ver. 12, 17. Ho. 6:7, marg. Ro. 5:12–19.
7 And the. ver. 5. De. 28:34. 2 Ki. 6:20. Lu. 16:23. knew. ver. 10, 11; ch. 2:25. and they. Job 9:29–31. Is. 28:20; 59:6. aprons. or, things to gird about.
8 And they. ver. 10. De. 4:33; 5:25. cool of the day. Heb. wind. Job 34:21, 22; 38:1. hid. Job 22:14; 31:33; 34:22. Ps. 139:1–12. Pr. 15:3. Je. 23:24. Am. 9:2, 3. Jon. 1:3, 9, 10. Ro. 2:15. He. 4:13.
9 ch. 4:9; 11:5; 16:8; 18:20, 21. Jos. 7:17–19. Re. 20:12, 13.
10 and I was. ch. 2:25. Ex. 3:6. Job 23:15. Ps. 119:120. Is. 33:14; 57:11. 1 Jno. 3:20. because. ver. 7; ch. 2:25. Ex. 32:25. Is. 47:3. Re. 3:17, 18; 16:15.
11 ch. 4:10. Ps. 50:21. Ro. 3:20.
12 ch. 2:18, 20, 22. Ex. 32:21–24. 1 Sa. 15:20–24. Job 31:33. Pr. 19:3; 28:13. Lu. 10:29. Ro. 10:3. Ja. 1:13–15.
13 What. ch. 4:10–12; 44:15. 1 Sa. 13:11. 2 Sa. 3:24; 12:9–12. Jno. 18:35. The serpent. ver. 4–6. 2 Co. 11:3. 1 Ti. 2:14.
14 thou art. ver. 1; ch. 9:6. Ex. 21:28–32. Le. 20:25. dust. Ps. 72:9. Is. 29:4; 65:25. Mi. 7:17.
15 enmity. Nu. 21:6, 7. Am. 9:3. Mar. 16:18. Lu. 10:19. Ac. 28:3–6. Ro. 3:13. thy seed. Mat. 3:7; 12:34; 13:38; 23:33. Jno. 8:44. Ac. 13:10. 1 Jno. 3:8, 10. her seed. Ps. 132:11. Is. 7:14. Je. 31:22. Mi. 5:3. Mat. 1:23, 25. Lu. 1:31–35, 76. Ga. 4:4. it shall. Ro. 16:20. Ep. 4:8. Col. 2:15. Heb. 2:14, 15. 1 Jno. 3:8; 5:5. Re. 12:7, 8, 17; 20:1–3, 10. thou. ch. 49:17. Is. 53:3, 4, 12. Da. 9:26. Mat. 4:1–10. Lu. 22:39–44, 53. Jno. 12:31–33; 14:30, 31. Heb. 2:18; 5:7. Re. 2:10; 12:9–13; 13:7; 15:1–6; 20:7, 8.
16 in sorrow. ch. 35:16–18. 1 Sa. 4:19–21. Ps. 48:6. Is. 13:8; 21:3; 26:17, 18; 53:11. Je. 4:31; 6:24; 13:21; 22:23; 49:24. Mi. 4:9, 10. Jno. 16:21. 1 Th. 5:3. 1 Ti. 2:15. thy desire. ch. 4:7. to. or, subject to. rule. Nu. 30:7, 8, 13. Es. 1:20. 1 Co. 7:4; 11:3; 14:34. Ep. 5:22–24. Col. 3:18. 1 Ti. 2:11, 12. Tit. 2:5. 1 Pe. 3:1–6.
17 Because. 1 Sa. 15:23, 24. Mat. 22:12; 25:26, 27, 45. Lu. 19:22. Ro. 3:19. and hast. ver. 6, 11; ch. 2:16, 17. Je. 7:23, 24. cursed. ch. 5:29. Ps. 127:2. Ec. 1:2, 3, 13, 14; 2:11, 17. Is. 24:5, 6. Ro. 8:20–22. in sorrow. Job 5:6, 7; 14:1; 21:17. Ps. 90:7–9. Ec. 2:22, 23; 5:17. Jno. 16:33.
18 Thorns. Jos. 23:13. Job 5:5; 31:40. Pr. 22:5; 24:31. Is. 5:6; 7:23; 32:13. Je. 4:3; 12:13. Mat. 13:7. He. 6:8. bring forth. Heb. cause to bud. herb. Job 1:21. Ps. 90:3; 104:2, 14, 15. Ro. 14:2.
19 In. Ec. 1:3, 13. Ep. 4:28. 1 Th. 2:9. 2 Th. 3:10. till. Job 1:21. Ps. 90:3; 104:29. Ec. 5:15. for dust. ch. 2:7; 18:27. and. ch. 23:4. Job 17:13–16; 19:26; 21:26; 34:15. Ps. 22:15, 29; 104:29. Pr. 21:16. Ec. 3:20; 12:7. Da. 12:2. Ro. 5:12–21. 1 Co. 15:21, 22.
20 Adam. ch. 2:20, 23; 5:29; 16:11; 29:32–35; 35:18. Ex. 2:10. 1 Sa. 1:20. Mat. 1:21, 23. Eve. Heb. Chavah; that is, living. of. Ac. 17:26.
21 make. ver. 7. Is. 61:10. Ro. 3:22. 2 Co. 5:2, 3, 21.
22 as one. ver. 5; ch. 1:26; 11:6, 7. Is. 19:12, 13; 47:12, 13. Je. 22:23. tree. ch. 2:9. Pr. 3:18. Re. 2:7; 22:2. eat. Ps. 22:26. Jno. 6:48–58.
23 till. ver. 19; ch. 2:5, 4:2, 12; 9:20. Ec. 5:9.
24 east. ch. 2:8. Cherubims. Ex. 25:2, 20, 22. 1 Sa. 4:4. 1 Ki. 6:25–35. Ps. 80:1; 99:1; 104:4. Eze. 10:2, etc. He. 1:7. a flaming. Nu. 22:23. Jos. 5:13. 1 Ch. 21:16, 17. Heb. 1:7. to keep. Jno. 14:6. He. 10:18–22.

CHAP. 4

The birth, occupation, and offering of Cain and Abel, 1–7. Cain murders his brother Abel, 8–10. The curse of Cain, 11–16. Has a son called Enoch, and builds a city, which he calls after his name, 17. His descendants, with Lamech and his two wives, 18–24. The birth of Seth, 25, and Enos, 26.

1 knew. Nu. 31:17. Cain. That is, gotten or acquired. I have. ver. 25; ch. 3:15; 5:29. 1 Jno. 3:12.
2 Abel. Heb. Hebel. And Abel. ch. 30:29–31; 37:13; 46:32–34; 47:3. Ex. 3:1. Ps. 78:70–72. Am. 7:15. a keeper. Heb. a feeder. ver. 25, 26. Ps. 127:3. Jno. 8:44. 1 Jno. 3:10, 12, 15. tiller. ch. 3:23; 9:20.
3 A.M. 129. B.C. 3875. in process of time. Heb. at the end of days. Either at the end of the year, or of the week, i.e. on the Sabbath. 1 Ki. 17:7. Ne. 13:6. the fruit. Le. 2:1–11. Nu. 18:12.
4 the firstlings. Ex. 13:12. Nu. 18:12, 17. Pr. 3:9. He. 9:22. 1 Pe. 1:19, 20. Re. 13:8. flock. Heb. sheep, or, goats. fat. Le. 3:16, 17. had. ch. 15:17. Le. 9:24. Nu. 16:35. Ju. 6:21. 1 Ki. 18:24, 38. 1 Ch. 21:26. 2 Ch. 7:1. Ps. 20:3, marg. He. 11:4.
5 But. Nu. 16:15. He. 11:4. wroth. ch. 31:2, 5. Job 5:2. Ps. 20:3. Is. 3:10, 11. Mat. 20:15. Lu. 15:28–30. Ac. 13:45.
6 1 Ch. 13:11–13. Job 5:2. Is. 1:18. Je. 2:5, 31. Jno. 4:1–4, 8–11. Mi. 6:3–5. Mat. 20:15. Lu. 15:31, 32.
7 If thou doest well. ch. 19:21. 2 Sa. 24:23. 2 Ki. 8:28. Job 42:8. Pr. 18:5. Ec. 8:12, 13. Is. 3:10, 11. Je. 6:20. Mal. 1:8, 10, 13. Ac. 10:35. Ro. 2:7–10; 12:1; 14:18; 15:16. Ep. 1:6. 1 Ti. 5:4. 1 Pe. 2:5. be accepted. or, have the excellency. Job 29:4. Pr. 21:27. He. 11:4. sin. ver. 8–13. Ro. 7:8, 9. Ja. 1:15. unto thee. or, subject unto thee. ch. 3:16, marg.
8 talked. 2 Sa. 3:27; 13:26–28; 20:9, 10. Ne. 6:2. Ps. 36:3; 55:21. Pr. 26:24–26. Mi. 7:6. Lu. 22:48. Cain rose. 2 Sa. 14:6. Job 11:15. Ps. 24:3–6; 139:19. Mat. 23:35. Lu. 11:51. 1 Jno. 3:12–15. Jude 11.
9 Where is. ch. 3:9–11. Ps. 9:12. I know. ch. 37:32. Job 22:13, 14. Ps. 10:13, 14. Pr. 28:13. Jno. 8:44. Ac. 5:4–9.
10 What. ch. 3:13. Jos. 7:19. Ps. 50:21. blood. Heb. bloods. crieth. ch. 18:20. Ex. 3:7. 2 Ki. 9:26. Job 16:18; 24:12; 31:38, 39. Ps. 9:12; 72:14. Is. 5:7. Ac. 5:3, 9. He. 11:4; 12:24. Ja. 5:4. Re. 6:10.
11 ver. 14; ch. 3:14. De. 27:16–26; 28:15–20; 29:19–21. Ga. 3:10. opened. Job 16:18; 31:38–40. Is. 26:21. Re. 12:16.
12 it. ch. 3:17, 18. Le. 26:20. De. 28:23, 24. Ro. 8:20. a fugitive. ver. 14. Le. 26:36. De. 28:65, 66. Ps. 109:10. Je. 20:3, 4. Ho. 9:17.
13 My punishment is greater than I can bear. or, Mine iniquity is greater than that it may be forgiven. Job 15:22. Re. 16:9, 11, 21.
14 driven. Job 15:20–24. Pr. 14:32; 28:1. Is. 8:22. Ho. 13:3. from thy. ver. 16. Job 21:14, 15. Ps. 51:11–14; 143:7. Mat. 25:41, 46. 2 Th. 1:9. fugitive. De. 28:65. Ps. 109:10. See ver. 12. that. ver. 15; ch. 9:5, 6. Le. 26:17, 36. Nu. 17:12, 13; 35:19, 21, 27; 2 Sa. 14:7; Job 15:20–24. Pr. 28:1.
15 Therefore. 1 Ki. 16:7. Ps. 59:11. Ho. 1:4. Mat. 26, 52. sevenfold. ver. 24. Le. 26:18, 21, 24, 28. Ps. 79:12. Pr. 6:31. set a mark, etc. Or, rather, ‘gave a sign or token to Cain, that those who found him should not kill him.’ Eze. 9:4, 6. Re. 14:9, 11.
16 went. ver. 14; ch. 3:8. Ex. 20:18. 2 Ki. 13:23; 24:20. Job 1:12; 2:7; 20:17. Ps. 51:11; 68:2. Je. 23:39; 52:3. Jno. 1:3, 10. Mat. 18:20. Lu. 13:26. 1 Th. 1:9. Nod. So called from nad, ‘a vagabond,’ which Cain is termed in ver. 12.
17 Enoch. Heb. Chanoch. ch. 5:18, 22. and he. ch. 11:4. Ec. 2:4–11. Da. 4:30. Lu. 17:28, 29. the name. 2 Sa. 18:18. Ps. 49:11.
18 A.M. cir. 194. B.C. cir. 3810. Lamech. Heb. Lemech. ch. 5:21; 36:2.
19 two wives. ch. 2:18, 24. Mat. 19:4–6, 8.
20 the. ver. 21. 1 Ch. 2:50–52; 4:4, 5. Jno. 8:44. Ro. 4:11, 12. father. The inventor or teacher, 1 Sa. 10:12. dwell. ver. 2; ch. 25:27. Je. 35:9, 10. He. 11:9.
21 A.M. cir. 500. B.C. cir. 3504. father. Ro. 4:11, 12. the harp. ch. 31:27. Job 21:12. Is. 5:12. Am. 6:5.
22 instructer. Heb. whetter. brass. Ex. 25:3. Nu. 31:22. De. 8:9; 33:25. 2 Ch. 2:7.
23 hear. Nu. 23:18. Ju. 9:7. I have slain a man to my wounding. or, I would slay a man in my wound, etc. ch. 49:6. to my hurt. or, in my hurt.
24 if. ver. 15. seventy. Mat. 18:22.
25 A.M. 130. B.C. 3874. and called. ch. 5:3, 4. 1 Ch. 1:1. Lu. 3:38. Seth. Heb. Sheth; i.e. appointed, or put. God. ver. 1–3, 8, 10, 11.
26 A.M. 235. B.C. 3769. to him. ver. 6–8. Enos. Heb. Enosh. to call upon the name of the Lord. or, call themselves by the name of the Lord. De. 26:17, 18. 1 Ki. 18:24. Ps. 116:17. Is. 44:5; 48:1; 63:19. Je. 33:16. Joel 2:32. Zeph. 3:9. Ac. 2:21; 11:26. Ro. 10:13. 1 Co. 1:2. Ep. 3:14, 15.

CHAP. 5

Recapitulation of the creation of man, 1, 2. The genealogy, age, and death of the patriarchs from Adam to Noah, 3–31. The godliness and translation of Enoch, 22–24. The birth of Noah, etc., 29–32.

1 book. The original word rendered ‘book,’ signifies a register, account, history, or any kind of writing. ch. 2:4; 6:9; 10:1. 1 Ch. 1:1. Mat. 1:1. Lu. 3:36–38. in the likeness. ch. 1:26, 27. Ec. 7:29; 12:1. 1 Co. 11:7. 2 Co. 3:18. Ep. 4:24. Col. 3:10. He. 1:3; 12:9.
2 Male. ch. 1:27. Mal. 2:15. their. ch. 2:15, 23. marg. Ac. 17:26.
3 A.M. 130. B.C. 3874. hundred. The chronology differs in the Hebrew Text, the Samaritan, the LXX., and Josephus. The LXX. adds 100 years to each of the patriarchs Adam, Seth, Enos, Cainan, Mahalaleel, and Enoch, before the birth of their sons; while they take 20 from the age of Methuselah, and add 6 to that of Lamech. Thus the space from the creation to the deluge is made 2242 years, according to the Vatican copy, but 2262 by the Alexandrine; and the sum total by Josephus is 2265, by the Samaritan 1307, and the Hebrew Text, 1656. The sum total from the Deluge to the 70th year of Terah, according to these authorities, is, Heb. 292; Sam. 942; Sept. Vat. 1172; Alex. 1072, and Josephus 1002. in his. Job 14:4; 15:14–16; 25:4. Ps. 14:2, 3; 51:5. Lu. 1:35. Jno. 3:6. Ro. 5:12. 1 Co. 15:39. Ep. 2:3. called. ch. 4:25.
4 And the. 1 Ch. 1:1–3. Lu. 3:36–38. and he. ver. 7, 10, 13, 19, 22, 26, 30; ch. 1:28; 9:1, 7; 11:12. Ps. 127:3; 144:12.
5 A.M. 930. B.C. 3074. nine. ver. 8, 11, 14, 17, etc. with De. 30:20. Ps. 90:10. and he died. ver. 8, 11:14, etc.; ch. 3:19. 2 Sa. 14:14. Job 30:23. Ps. 49:7–10; 89:48. Ec. 9:5, 8; 12:5, 7. Eze. 18:4. Ro. 5:12–14. 1 Co. 15:21, 22. He. 9:27.
6 A.M. 235. B.C. 3769. begat. ch. 4:26.
8 A.M. 1042. B.C. 2962.
9 A.M. 325. B.C. 3679. Cainan. Heb. Kenar. 1 Ch. 1:2. Lu. 3:37.
10 begat. See ver. 4.
11 A.M. 1140. B.C. 2864. died. See ver. 5.
12 A.M. 395. B.C. 3609. Mahalaleel. Gr. Maleleel. Lu. 3:37.
13 and begat. See ver. 4.
14 A.M. 1235. B.C. 2769. See ver. 5.
15 A.M. 460. B.C. 3544. Jared. Heb. Jered. 1 Ch. 1:2.
16 and begat. See ver. 4.
17 A.M. 1290. B.C. 2714. died. See ver. 5.
18 A.M. 622. B.C. 3382. Enoch. ch. 4:17. 1 Ch. 1:3. Henoch. Lu. 3:37. Jude 14, 15.
19 and begat. See ver. 4.
20 he died. See ver. 5.
21 A.M. 687. B.C. 3317. Methuselah. Gr. Mathusala. Lu. 3:37.
22 ch. 6:9; 17:1; 24:40; 48:15. Ex. 16:4. Le. 26:12. De. 5:33; 13:4; 28:9. 1 Ki. 2:4. 2 Ki. 20:3. Ps. 16:8; 26:11; 56:13; 86:11; 116:9; 128:1. Ca. 1:4. Ho. 14:9. Am. 3:3. Mi. 4:5; 6:8. Mal. 2:6. Lu. 1:6. Ac. 9:31. Ro. 8:1. 1 Co. 7:17. 2 Co. 6:16. Ep. 5:15. Col. 1:10; 4:5. 1 Th. 2:12; 4:1. He. 11:5, 6. 1 Jno. 1:7.
23 A.M. 987. B.C. 3017.
24 walked. See ver. 21. he was not. The same expression occurs, ch. 37:30; 42:36. Je. 31:15. Mat. 2:18. for. 2 Ki. 2:11. Lu. 23:43. He. 11:5, 6. Jude 14, 15.
25 A.M. 874. B.C. 3130. ch. 4:18, marg.
26 begat sons. See ver. 4.
27 A.M. 1656. B.C. 2348. he died. See ver. 5.
28 A.M. 1056. B.C. 2948.
29 he called. ch. 6:8, 9; 7:23; 9:24. Is. 54:9. Eze. 14:14, 20. Mat. 24:37. Lu. 3:36; 17:26, 27. He. 11:7. 1 Pe. 3:20. 2 Pe. 2:5. Noah. Gr. Noe, i.e. rest or comfort. because. ch. 3:17–19; 4:11, 12.
30 begat sons. See ver. 4.
31 A.M. 1651. B.C. 2353. he died. See ver. 5.
32 A.M. 1556. B.C. 2448. Shem. ch. 6:10; 7:13; 9:18, 19, 22–27; 10:1, 21, 32. 1 Ch. 1:4–28. Lu. 3:36.

CHAP. 6

The wickedness of the world, which provoked God’s wrath, and caused the flood, 1–7. Noah finds grace, 8. His generations, etc., 9–13. The order, form, dimensions, and end of the ark, 14–22.

1 A.M. 1556. B.C. 2448. to multiply. ch. 1:28.
2 the sons. ch. 4:26. Ex. 4:22, 23. De. 14:1. Ps. 82:6, 7. Is. 63:16. Mal. 2:11. Jno. 8:41, 42. Ro. 9:7, 8. 2 Co. 6:18. saw. 2 Pe. 2:14. that they. ch. 3:6; 39:6, 7. 2 Sa. 11:2. Job 31:1. 1 Jno. 2:16. and they. ch. 24:3; 27:46. Ex. 34:16. De. 7:3, 4. Jos. 23:12, 13. Ezr. 9:1, 2, 12. Ne. 13:24–27. Mal. 2:15. 1 Co. 7:39. 2 Co. 6:14–16.
3 My. Nu. 11:17. Ne. 9:30. Is. 5:4; 63:10. Je. 11:7, 11. Ac. 7:51. Ga. 5:16, 17. 1 Th. 5:19. 1 Pe. 3:18–20. Jude 14, 15. is. Ps. 78:39. Jno. 3:6. Ro. 8:1–13. Ga. 5:16–24. 1 Pe. 3:20.
4 giants. Nu. 13:33. De. 2:20, 21; 3:11. 1 Sa. 17:4. 2 Sa. 21:15–22. after. ver. 3. men of. ch. 11:4. Nu. 16:2.
5 God. ch. 13:13; 18:20, 21. Ps. 14:1–4; 53:2. Ro. 1:28–31; 3:9–19. every imagination. or, the whole imagination. The Hebrew word signifies not only the imagination, but also the purposes and desires. ch. 8:21. De. 29:19. Job 15:16. Pr. 6:18. Ec. 7:29; 9:3. Je. 17:9. Eze. 8:9, 12. Mat. 15:19. Mar. 7:21–23. Ep. 2:1–3. Tit. 3:3. thoughts. Je. 4:14. continually. Heb. every day.
6 repented. Ex. 32:14. Nu. 23:19. De. 32:36. 1 Sa. 15:11, 29. 2 Sa. 24:16. 1 Ch. 21:15. Ps. 106:45; 110:4. Je. 18:8–10; 26:19. Ho. 11:8. Jon. 3:10. Mal. 3:6. Ro. 11:29. He. 6:17, 18. Ja. 1:17. grieved. De. 5:29; 32:29. Ps. 78:40; 81:13; 95:10; 119:158. Is. 48:18; 63:10. Eze. 33:11. Lu. 19:41, 42. Ep. 4:30. He. 3:10, 17.
7 I will. Ps. 24:1, 2; 37:20. Pr. 10:27; 16:4. both man, and beast. Heb. from man unto beast. Je. 4:22–27; 12:3, 4. Ho. 4:3. Zep. 1:3. Ro. 3:20–22.
8 ch. 19:19. Ex. 33:12–17. Ps. 84:11; 145:20. Pr. 3:4; 8:35; 12:2. Je. 31:2. Lu. 1:30. Ac. 7:46. Ro. 4:4; 11:6. 1 Co. 15:10. Ga. 1:15. 2 Ti. 1:18. Tit. 2:11; 3:7. He. 4:16. 2 Pe. 2:5.
9 These. ch. 2:4; 5:1; 10:1. just. ch. 7:1. Job 12:4. Pr. 4:18. Ec. 7:20. Eze. 14:14, 20. Hab. 2:4. Lu. 2:25; 23:50. Ac. 10:22. Ro. 1:17. Ga. 3:11. He. 11:7. 2 Pe. 2:5. perfect. or, upright. 2 Ch. 15:17; 25:2. Job 1:1, 8. Ps. 37:37. Lu. 1:6. Phi. 3:9–15. and Noah. See on ch. 5:22, 24; 17:1; 48:15. 1 Ki. 3:6. Lu. 1:6. 1 Pe. 2:5.
10 A.M. 1556. B.C. 2448. Shem. ch. 5:32.
11 before. ch. 7:1; 10:9; 13:13. 2 Ch. 34:27. Lu. 1:6. Ro. 2:13; 3:19. filled. Ps. 11:5; 55:9; 140:11. Is. 60:18. Je. 6:7. Eze. 8:17; 28:16. Ho. 4:1, 2. Hab. 1:2; 2:8, 17.
12 God. ver. 8; ch. 18:21. Job 33:27. Ps. 14:2; 33:13, 14; 53:2, 3. Pr. 15:3. for all. ver. 4, 5; ch. 7:1, 21; 9:12, 16, 17. Job 22:15–17. Lu. 3:6. 1 Pe. 3:19, 20. 2 Pe. 2:5.
13 The end. Je. 51:13. Eze. 7:2–6. Am. 8:2. 1 Pe. 4:7. filled. ver. 4, 11, 12; ch. 49:5. Ho. 4:1, 2. and, behold. ver. 17. with. or, from. ch. 7:23. the earth. Je. 4:23–28. He. 11:7. 2 Pe. 3:6, 7, 10–12.
14 A.M. 1536. B.C. 2468. Make. Mat. 24:38. Lu. 17:27. 1 Pe. 3:20. rooms. Heb. nests. shalt pitch. Ex. 2:3.
15 cubits. ch. 7:20. De. 3:11.
16 window. ch. 8:6. 2 Sa. 6:16. 2 Ki. 9:30. the door. ch. 7:16. Lu. 13:25. with. Eze. 41:16; 42:3.
17 behold. ver. 13; ch. 7:4, 21–23; 9:9. Ex. 14, 17. Le. 26:28. De. 32:39. Ps. 29:10. Is. 51:12. Eze. 5:8; 6:3; 34:11, 20. Ho. 5:14. 2 Pe. 2:5. bring. ch. 7:4, 17, 21–23. Job 22:16. Ps. 29:10; 93:3, 4; 107:34. Is. 54:9. Am. 9:6. Mat. 24:39. Lu. 17:27. He. 11:7. 1 Pe. 3:20. is the. ch. 2:7; 7:15. shall die. ver. 7. Ps. 107:34. Ro. 5:12–14, 21; 6:23; 8:20–22.
18 establish. ch. 9:9, 11; 17:4, 7, 21. come. ch. 7:1, 7, 13. Is. 26:20. He. 11:7. 1 Pe. 3:20. 2 Pe. 2:5.
19 The cubit being nearly 22 inches, and the ark being 300 cubits in length, 50 in breadth, and 30 in height, (ver. 15,) its size was equal to 547 feet long, 91 feet broad, and 54 feet high; and it is computed to have been 81,062 tons burthen. These dimensions were sufficient to contain all the persons and animals in it, and food for more than a year. two. ch. 7:2, 3, 8, 9, 15, 16; 8:17. Ps. 36:6.
20 fowls. ch. 1:20–24. Ac. 10:11, 12. two. ch. 1:28; 2:19; 7:8–16. Jno. 5:40.
21 ch. 1:29, 30. Job 38:41; 40:20. Ps. 35:6; 104:27, 28; 136:25; 145:16; 147:9. Mat. 6:26.
22 ch. 7:5, 9, 16; 17:23. Ex. 40:16, 19, 21, 23, 25, 27, 32. De. 12:32. Mat. 7:24–27. Jno. 2:5; 15:14. He. 11:7, 8. 1 Jno. 5:3, 4.

CHAP. 7

Noah, with his family, and the living creatures, enter the ark, and the flood begins, 1–16. The increase and continuance of the flood for forty days, 17–20. All flesh is destroyed by it, 21–23. Its duration, 24.

1 A.M. 1656. B.C. 2348. Come. ver. 7, 13. Job 5:19–24. Ps. 91:1–10. Pr. 14:26; 18:10. Is. 26:20, 21. Eze. 9:4–6. Zep. 2:3. Mat. 24:37–39. Lu. 17:26. Ac. 2:39. He. 11:7. 1 Pe. 3:20. 2 Pe. 2:5. thee. See on ch. 6:9. Ps. 33:18, 19. Pr. 10:6, 7, 9; 11:4–8. Is. 3:10, 11. Phi. 2:15, 16. 2 Pe. 2:5–9.
2 every clean. ver. 8; ch. 6:19–21; 8:20. Le. ch. 11. De. 14:1–21. Ac. 10:11–15. sevens. Heb. seven, seven. not. Le. 10:10. Eze. 44:23.
4 For. ver. 10; ch. 2:5; 6:3; 8:10, 12; 29:27, 28. Job 28:25; 36:27–32; 37:11, 12. Am. 4:7. forty days. ver. 12, 17. and every. ver. 21–23; ch. 6:17. destroy. Heb. blot out. ver. 21, 23. ch. 6:7, 13, 17. Ex. 32:32, 33. Job 22:16. Ps. 69:28. Re. 3:5.
5 all that. ch. 6:22. Ex. 39:32, 42, 43; 40:16. Ps. 119:6. Mat. 3:15. Lu. 8:21. Jno. 2:5; 8:28, 29; 13:17. Phi. 2:8. He. 5:8.
6 ch. 5:32; 8:13.
7 ver. 1, 13–15; ch. 6:18. Pr. 22:3. Mat. 24:38. Lu. 17:27. He. 6:18; 11:7. 1 Pe. 3:20. 2 Pe. 2:5.
9 ver. 16; ch. 2:19. Is. 11:6–9; 65:25. Je. 8:7. Ac. 10:11, 12. Ga. 3:28. Col. 3:11.
10 after seven days. or, on the seventh day. ver. 4. waters. ver. 4, 17–20; ch. 6:17. Job 22:16. Mat. 24:38, 39. Lu. 17:27.
11 second month. The first month was Tisri, which answers to the latter end of September and first half of October; the second was Marchesvan, which answers to part of October and part of November. all. ch. 1:7; 6:17; 8:2. Job 28:4; 38:8–11. Ps. 33:7; 74:15. Pr. 8:28, 29. Is. 24:19. Je. 5:22; 51:16. Eze. 26:19. Am. 9:5, 6. Mat. 24:38. 1 Th. 5:3. windows. or, flood-gates. ch. 1:7; 8:2. 2 Ki. 7:2, 19. Ps. 78:23, 24. Mal. 3:10.
12 forty. ver. 4, 17. Ex. 24:18. De. 9:9, 18; 10:10. 1 Ki. 19:8. Mat. 4:2.
13 day. ver. 1, 7–9. ch. 6:18. He. 11:7. 1 Pe. 3:20. 2 Pe. 2:5. and Shem. ch. 5:32; 6:10; 9:18, 19; 10:1, 2, 6, 21. 1 Ch. 1:4–28.
14 They. ver. 2, 3, 8, 9. sort. Heb. wing.
15 ch. 6:20. Is. 11:6.
16 as. ver. 2, 3. the. 2 Ki. 4:4, 5. De. 33:27. Ps. 46:2; 91:1–10. Pr. 3:23. Mat. 25:10. Lu. 13:25. Jno. 10:27–41. 1 Pe. 1:5.
17 ver. 4, 12.
18 waters prevailed. Ex. 14:28. Job 22:16. Ps. 69:15. ark. Ps. 104:26.
19 and all the high hills. At the present day every mountain where search has been made, conspire in one uniform, universal proof that they all had the sea spread over their highest summits; shells, skeletons of fish, etc., having been found there. Job 12:15. Ps. 46:2, 3; 104:6–9. Je. 3:23. 2 Pe. 3:6.
20 and the mountains. Ps. 104:6. Je. 3:23.
21 ver. 4; ch. 6:6, 7, 13, 17. Job 22:15–17. Is. 24:6, 19. Je. 4:22–27; 12:3, 4. Ho. 4:3. Joel 1:17–20; 2:3. Zep. 1:3. Mat. 24:39. Lu. 17:27. Ro. 8:20, 22. 2 Pe. 2:5.
22 breath of life. Heb. breath of the spirit of life. ch. 2:7; 6:17.
23 every living substance. The most incontestable evidence has been afforded of the universality of this fact: the moose deer, a native of America, has been found buried in Ireland; elephants, natives of Asia and Africa, in the midst of England; crocodiles, natives of the Nile, in the heart of Germany; and shell-fish, never known in any but the American seas, with the entire skeletons of whales, in the most inland counties of England. ver. 21, 22. Job 22:15–17. Is. 24:1–8. Mat. 24:37–39. Lu. 17:26, 27. 1 Pe. 3:20. 2 Pe. 2:5. and Noah. Ex. 14:28–30. Job 5:19. Ps. 91:1, 9, 10. Pr. 11:4. Eze. 14:14–20. Mal. 3:17, 18. Mat. 25:46. He. 11:7. 1 Pe. 3:20. 2 Pe. 2:5, 9; 3:6.
24 ch. 8:3, 4. compared with ver. 11 of this chapter. The breaking up of the fountains of the great deep, and the raining forty days and nights, had raised the waters fifteen cubits, or twenty-two feet and a half, above the highest mountain; after which forty days, it appears to have continued at this height one hundred and fifty days more.

CHAP. 8

God remembers Noah, and assuages the waters, 1–3. The ark rests on Ararat, 4, 5. Noah sends forth a raven and then a dove, 6–12. Noah, being commanded, goes forth from the ark, 13–19. He builds an altar, and offers sacrifice, which God accepts, and promises to curse the earth no more, 20–22.

1 God remembered. ch. 19:29; 30:22. Ex. 2:24. 1 Sa. 1:19. Ne. 13:14, 22, 29, 31. Job 14:13. Ps. 106:4; 132:1; 136:23; 137:7. Am. 8:7. Hab. 3:2. Re. 16:19; 18:5. the cattle. Nu. 22:32. Ps. 36:6. Jon. 4:11. Ro. 8:20–22. a wind. Ex. 14:21. Ps. 104:7–9. Pr. 25:23.
2 fountains. ch. 7:11. Pr. 8:28. Jon. 2:3. the rain. Job 37:11–13; 38:37. Mat. 8:9, 26, 27.
3 continually. Heb. in going and returning. hundred. ch. 7:11, 24.
4 the ark. ch. 7:17–19. seventh month. That is, of the year, not of the deluge. Ararat. Ararat is generally understood to be Armenia, as it is rendered elsewhere, in which there is a great chain of mountains, like the Alps or Pyrenees, upon the highest part of which, called by some ‘The Finger Mountain,’ the ark is supposed to have rested. 2 Ki. 19:37. Is. 37:38. Je. 51:27.
5 decreased continually. Heb. were in going and decreasing. the tenth. ch. 7:11.
6 opened the window. ch. 6:16. Da. 6:10.
7 a raven. Le. 11:15. 1 Ki. 17:4, 6. Job 38:41. Ps. 147:9. went forth to and fro. Heb. in going forth and returning.
8 a dove. ver. 10–12. Ca. 1:15; 2:11, 12, 14. Mat. 10:16.
9 found. De. 28:65. Eze. 7:16. Mat. 11:28. Jno. 16:33. and she. Ps. 116:7. Is. 60:8. pulled her. Heb. caused her to come.
10 stayed. Ps. 40:1. Is. 8:17; 26:8. Ro. 8:25. seven. ver. 12; ch. 7:4, 10.
11 an olive. Ne. 8:15. Zec. 4:12–14. Ro. 10:15.
12 And he. Ps. 27:14; 130:5, 6. Is. 8:17; 25:9; 26:8; 30:18. Hab. 2:3. Ja. 5:7, 8. seven. ver. 10; ch. 2:2, 3.
13 A.M. 1657. B.C. 2347. six. ch. 7:11.
14 ch. 7:11, 13, 14. From this, it appears, that Noah was in the ark a complete solar year, or 365 days; for he entered it the 17th day of the 2nd month, in the 600th year of his life, and continued in it till the 27th day of the 2nd month, in the 601st year of his life, as we see above.
16 ch. 7:1, 7, 13. Jos. 3:17; 4:10, 16–18. Ps. 91:11; 121:8. Da. 9:25, 26. Zec. 9:11. Ac. 16:27, 28, 37–39.
17 Bring. ch. 7:14, 15. breed. ch. 1:22; 9:1, 7. Ps. 107:38; 144:13, 14. Je. 31:27, 28.
18 Ps. 121:8.
19 kinds. Heb. families.
20 builded. ch. 4:4; 12:7, 8; 13:4; 22:9; 26:25; 33:20; 35:1, 7. Ex. 20:24, 25; 24:4–8. Ro. 12:1. He. 13:10, 15, 16. 1 Pe. 2:5, 9. clean beast. ch. 7:2. Le. ch. 11. burnt. Le. ch. 1.
21 smelled. Le. 1:9, 13, 17; 26:31. Ca. 4:10, 11. Is. 65:6. Eze. 20:41. Am. 5:21, 22. 2 Co. 2:15. Ep. 5:2. Phi. 4:18. sweet savour. Heb. savour of rost. curse. ch. 3:17; 4:12; 5:29; 6:17. for. or, though. the imagination. ch. 6:5. Job 14:4; 15:14–16. Ps. 51:5; 58:3. Pr. 20:9. Ec. 7:20. Is. 47:12, 15; 48:8; 53:6. Je. 8:6; 17:9; 18:12. Mat. 15:19. Jno. 3:6. Ro. 1:21; 3:23; 8:7, 8. Ep. 2:1–3. Ja. 1:14, 15; 4:1, 2. 1 Jno. 5:19. neither. ch. 9:11–15. Is. 54:9, 10. as I. 2 Pe. 3:6, 7.
22 While the earth remaineth. Heb. as yet all the days of the earth. Is. 54:8. seed-time. Most of the European nations divide the year into four distinct parts, called quarters or seasons; but there are six divisions in the text, which obtained in Palestine among the Hebrews, and exist among the Arabs to the present day. According to this gracious promise, the heavenly bodies have preserved their courses, the seasons their successions, and the earth its increase for the use of man. ch. 45:6. Ex. 34:21. Ps. 74:16, 17. Ca. 2:11, 12. Is. 54:9. Je. 5:24. Ja. 5:7. day. Je. 31:35; 33:20–26.

CHAP. 9

God blesses Noah and his sons, and grants them flesh for food, 1–3. Blood and murder are forbidden, 4–7. God’s covenant, of which the rainbow was constituted a pledge, 8–17. Noah’s family replenish the world, 18, 19. Noah plants a vineyard, 20. Is drunken, and mocked by his son, 21–24. Curses Canaan, 25. Blesses Shem, 26. Prays for Japheth, and dies, 27–29.

1 blessed. ver. 7; ch. 1:22, 28; 2:3; 8:17; 24:60. Ps. 112:1; 128:3, 4. Is. 51:2. Be. ver. 7, 19; ch. 1:28; 8:17; 10:32.
2 ch. 1:28; 2:19; 35:5. Le. 26:6, 22. Job 5:22, 23. Ps. 8:4–8; 104:20–23. Eze. 34:25. Ho. 2:18. Ja. 3:7.
3 Every. Le. ch. 11; 22:8. De. 12:15; 14:3–21. Ac. 10:12–15. 1 Ti. 4:3–5. even. ch. 1:29, 30. Ps. 104:14, 15. Ro. 14:3, 14, 17, 20. 1 Co. 10:23, 25, 26, 31. Col. 2:16, 21, 22. 1 Ti. 4:3, 4.
4 the life. Le. 3:17; 7:26; 17:10–14; 19:26. De. 12:16, 23; 14:21; 15:23. 1 Sa. 14:34. Ac. 15:20, 25, 29. 1 Ti. 4:4.
5 every. Ex. 21:12, 28, 29. and at. ch. 4:9, 10. Le. 19:16. Nu. 35:31–33. De. 21:1–9. Ps. 9:12. Mat. 23:35. brother. Ac. 17:26.
6 by. Ex. 21:12–14; 22:2, 3. Le. 17:4; 24:17. Nu. 35:25. 1 Ki. 2:5, 6, 28–34. Mat. 26:52. Ro. 13:4. Re. 13:10. in. ch. 1:26, 27; 5:1. Ps. 51:4. Ja. 3:9.
7 ver. 1, 19; ch. 1:28; 8:17.
9 ver. 11, 17; ch. 6:18; 17:7, 8; 22:17. Is. 54:9, 10. Je. 31:35, 36; 33:20. Ro. 1:3.
10 ver. 15, 16; ch. 8:1. Job ch. 38; 41. Ps. 36:5, 6; 145:9. Jon. 4:11.
11 And I. ch. 8:21, 22. Is. 54:9. neither shall all. ch. 7:21–23; 8:21, 22. 2 Pe. 3:7, 11.
12 ch. 17:11. Ex. 12:13; 13:16. Jos. 2:12. Mat. 26:26–28. 1 Co. 11:23–25.
13 Eze. 1:28. Re. 4:3; 10:1.
15 remember. Ex. 28:12. Le. 26:42–45. De. 7:9. 1 Ki. 8:23. Ne. 9:32. Ps. 106:45. Je. 14:21. Eze. 16:60. Lu. 1:72. the waters. Is. 54:8–10.
16 everlasting. ver. 9–11; ch. 8:21, 22; 17:13, 19. 2 Sa. 23:5. Ps. 89:3, 4. Is. 54:8–10; 55:3. Je. 32:40. He. 13:20.
18 Shem. ver. 23; ch. 10:1. 1 Ch. 1:4. Ham. ch. 10:1, 6. Canaan. Heb. Chenaan.
19 These, ch. 5:32. and of. ch. 8:17; 10:2–32. 1 Ch. 1:4–28.
20 an husbandman. ch. 3:18, 19, 23; 4:2; 5:29. Pr. 10:11; 12:11. Ec. 5:9. Is. 28:24–26. planted. De. 20:6; 28:30. Pr. 24:30. Ca. 1:6. 1 Co. 9:7.
21 and was. ch. 6:9; 19:32–36. Pr. 20:1; 23:31, 32. Ec. 7:20. Lu. 22:3, 4. Ro. 13:13. 1 Co. 10:12. Ga. 5:21. Tit. 2:2. and he. Hab. 2:15, 16. Re. 3:18.
22 Ham. ver. 25; ch. 10:6, 15–19. 1 Ch. 1:8, 13–16. told. 2 Sa. 1:19, 20. Ps. 35:20, 21; 40:15; 70:3. Pr. 25:9; 30:17. Ob. 12, 13. Mat. 18:15. 1 Co. 13:6. Ga. 6:1.
23 Ex. 20:12. Le. 19:32. Ro. 13:7. Ga. 6:1. 1 Ti. 5:1, 17, 19. 1 Pe. 2:17; 4:8.
25 Cursed. ver. 22; ch. 3:14; 4:11; 49:7. De. 27:16; 28:18. Mat. 25:41. Jno. 8:34. a servant. The devoted nations, which God destroyed before Israel, were descended from Canaan: and so were the Phœnicians and the Carthaginians, who were at length subjugated with dreadful destruction by the Greeks and Romans. The Africans, who have been bought and sold like beasts, were also his posterity. Jos. 9:23, 27. Ju. 1:28–30. 1 Ki. 9:20, 21. 2 Ch. 8:7, 8. Jno. 8:34.
26 Blessed. De. 33:26. Ps. 144:15. Ro. 9:5. the Lord. ch. 10:10–26; 12:1–3. Lu. 3:23–36. Sem. He. 11:16. his servant. or, servant to them. ch. 27:37, 40.
27 enlarge. or, persuade. Japheth. Japheth denotes enlargement, and how wonderfully have his boundaries been enlarged; for not only Europe, but Asia Minor, part of Armenia, Iberia, the whole of the vast regions of Asia north of Taurus, and probably America, fell to the share of his posterity. he shall dwell. These words may mean either that God or that Japheth shall dwell in the tents of Shem. In either sense the prophecy has been literally fulfilled. dwell. Is. 11:10. Ho. 2:14. Mal. 1:11. Ac. 17:14. Ro. 11:12; 15:12. Ep. 2:13, 14, 19; 3:6, 13. He. 11:9, 10.
29 A.M. 2006. B.C. 1998. nine. ch. 5:5, 20, 27, 32; 11:11–25. Ps. 90:10.

CHAP. 10

The generations of Noah, 1. Japheth, 2–5. Ham, 6, 7. Nimrod the first monarch, and the descendants of Canaan, 8–20. The sons of Shem, 21–32.

1 are the. ch. 2:4; 5:1; 6:9. Mat. 1:1. and unto. ch. 9:1, 7, 19.
2 ver. 21. 1 Ch. 1:5–7. Is. 66:19. Eze. 27:7, 12–14, 19; 38:2, 6, 15; 39:1. Re. 20:8.
4 A.M. 1666. B.C. 2338. Kittim. Nu. 24:24. Is. 23:1, 12. Da. 11:30. Chittim. Dodanim. or, Rodanim.
5 A.M. 1757. B.C. 2247. isles. ver. 25. Ps. 72:10. Is. 24:15; 40:15; 41:5; 42:4, 10; 49:1; 51:5; 59:18; 60:9. Je. 2:10; 25:22. Zep. 2:11. after his. ver. 20; ch. 11:1–9.
6 A.M. 1676. B.C. 2228. And the. ch. 9:22. 1 Ch. 1:8–16; 4:40. Ps. 78:51; 105:23, 27; 106:22. Ham. HAM signifies burnt or black; and this name was peculiarly significant of the regions allotted to his family. To the Cushites, or descendants of Cush, were allotted the hot southern regions of Asia, along the shores of the Persian Gulf, Susiana or Chusistan, etc.; to the sons of Canaan, Palestine and Syria; to the sons of Mizraim, Egypt and Libya, in Africa. Cush. Is. 11:11. Phut. Je. 46:9, marg. Eze. 27:10.
7 Seba. Ps. 72:10. Havilah. ch. 2:11. Sheba. 1 Ki. 10:1. Eze. 27:22. Dedan. Is. 21:13. Eze. 27:15.
8 A.M. 1715. B.C. 2289. Nimrod. Mi. 5:6.
9 a mighty. ch. 6:4; 25:27; 27:30. Je. 16:16. Eze. 13:18. Mi. 7:2. before the Lord. ch. 6:11; 13:13. Even. 2 Ch. 28:22. Ps. 52:7.
10 A.M. 1745. B.C. 2269. And the. Je. 50:21. Mi. 5:6. Babel. Gr. Babylon. ch. 11:9. Is. 39:1. Mi. 4:10. Calneh. Is. 10:9. Am. 6:2. Shinar. ch. 11:2; 14:1. Is. 11:11. Da. 1:2. Zec. 5:11.
11 A.M. 1700. B.C. 2304. went forth Asshur. or, he went out into Assyria. Mi. 5:6. Asshur. Nu. 24:22, 24. Ezr. 4:2. Ps. 83:8. Eze. 27:23; 32:22. Ho. 14:3. Nineveh. 2 Ki. 19:36. Is. 37:37. Jon. 1:2; ch. 3. Na. 1:1; 2:8; 3:7. Zep. 2:13. the city of. or, the streets of the city.
13 Ludim. 1 Ch. 1:11, 12. Je. 46:9. Eze. 30:5.
14 Pathrusim. Is. 11:11. Je. 44:1. Philistim. 1 Ch. 1:12. Je. 47:4. Caphtorim. De. 2:23. Je. 47:4. Am. 9:7.
15 Canaan. 1 Ch. 1:13. Sidon. Heb. Tzidon. ch. 49:13. Jos. 11:8. Is. 23:4. Zidon. Heth. ch. 15:18–21; 28:3–20. Ex. 3:8; 34:11. Nu. 34:2–15. Jos. 12:8–24. 2 Sa. 11:3.
16 Jebusite. Ju. 1:21. 2 Sa. 24:18. Zec. 9:7.
17 Hivite. ch. 34:2.
18 Arvadite. Eze. 27:8. Zemarite. Jos. 18:22. 2 Ch. 13:4. Hamathite. Nu. 34:8. 2 Sa. 8:9. 2 Ki. 17:24, 30. Is. 10:9. Eze. 47:16, 17. Zec. 9:2.
19 And the. ch. 13:12–17; 15:18–21. Nu. 34:2–15. De. 32:8. Jos. 12:7, 8; ch. 14–21. as thou comest. ch. 13:10. Gerar. ch. 20:1; 26:1. Gaza. Heb. Azzah. Ju. 16:1. Je. 25:20. Sodom. ch. 13:10–13; 14:2; 18:20; 19:24, 25. Ho. 11:8.
20 ver. 6; ch. 11:1–9.
21 Shem. SHEM signifies name or renown; and his, indeed, was great both in a temporal and spiritual sense, inasmuch as he was destined to be the lineal ancestor of the promised Seed of the woman, to which Noah might allude in his pious ejaculation, ch. 9:26. the father, ch. 11:10–26. Eber. Nu. 24:24. the brother. ver. 2.
22 children. ch. 9:26. 1 Ch. 1:17–27. Elam. ch. 14:1–9. 2 Ki. 15:19. Job 1:17. Is. 11:11; 21:2; 22:6. Je. 25:25; 49:34–39. Ac. 2:9. Arphaxad. Heb. Arpachshad. Lud. Is. 66:19. Aram. Nu. 23:7.
23 Uz. Job 1:1. Je. 25:20.
24 Salah. Heb. Shelah. ch. 11:12–15.
25 A.M. 1757. B.C. 2247. Eber. ver. 21. 1 Ch. 1:19. the name. ch. 11:16–19. Lu. 3:35, 36. Peleg. i.e. division. in. ver. 32. De. 32:8. Ac. 17:26.
26, 27, 1 Ch. 1:20–28.
28 A.M. cir. 1797. B.C. cir. 2207. ch. 25:3. 1 Ki. 10:1. 1 Ch. 1:20–28.
29 Ophir. 1 Ki. 9:28; 22:48. 1 Ch. 8:18; 9:10, 13. Job 22:24; 28:16. Ps. 45:9. Is. 13:12. Havilah. ch. 2:11; 25:18. 1 Sa. 15:7.
30 mount of the east. Nu. 23:7.
31 ver. 5, 20. Ac. 17:26.
32 are the. ver. 1, 20, 31. ch. 5:29–31. and by. Any man who can barely read his Bible, and has but heard of such people as the Assyrians, Elamites, Lydians, Medes, Ionians, and Thracians, will readily acknowledge that Asshur, Elam, Lud, Madai, Javan, and Tiras, grandsons of Noah, were their respective founders. nations. ver. 25; ch. 9:1, 7, 19. Ac. 17:26.

CHAP. 11

One language in the world, 1. The building of Babel, 2–4. It is interrupted by the confusion of tongues, and the builders dispersed, 5–9. The generations of Shem, 10–26. The generations of Terah, the father of Abram, 27–30. Terah, with Abram and Lot, remove from Ur to Haran, 31, 32.

1 A.M. 1757. B.C. 2247. was. Is. 19:18. Zep. 3:9. Ac. 2:6. language. Heb. lip. speech. Heb. words.
2 from the east. or, eastward. ch. 13:11. Shinar See on ver. 9; ch. 10:10; 14:1. Is. 11:11. Da. 1:2 Zec. 5:11.
3 they said one to another. Heb. a man said to his neighbour. Go to. ver. 4, 7. Ps. 64:5. Pr. 1:11. Ec. 2:1. Is. 5:5; 41:6, 7. Ja. 4:13; 5:1. not as. He. 3:13; 10:24. burn throughly. Heb. burn to a burning. brick. Ex. 1:14; 5:7–18. 2 Sa. 12:31. Is. 9:10; 65:3. Na. 3:14. slime. ch. 14:10. Ex. 2:3.
4 whose. De. 1:28; 9:1. Da. 4:11, 22. and let. 2 Sa. 8:13. Ps. 49:11–13. Pr. 10:7. Da. 4:30. Jno. 5:44. lest. ver. 8, 9. Ps. 92:9. Lu. 1:51.
5 ch. 18:21. Ex. 19:11. Ps. 11:4; 33:13, 14. Je. 23:23, 24. Jno. 3:13. He. 4:13.
6 Behold. ch. 3:22. Ju. 10:14. 1 Ki. 18:27. Ec. 11:9. the people. ver. 1; ch. 9:19. Ac. 17:26. imagined. ch. 6:5; 8:21. Ps. 2:1–4. Lu. 1:51.
7 Go to. The Hebrew word signifies. ‘Come,’ or make preparation,’ as for a journey or the execution of a purpose. let. ver. 5; ch. 1:26; 3:22. Is. 6:8. confound. Job 5:12, 13; 12:20. Ps. 2:4; 33:10. Ac. 2:4–11. may. ch. 10:5, 20, 32; 42:23. De. 28:49. Ps. 55:9. Je. 5:15. 1 Cor. 14:2–11, 23.
8 Lord. ver. 4, 9; ch. 49:7. De. 32:8. Lu. 1:51. upon. ch. 10:25, 32.
9 Babel. that is, Confusion. The tower of Babel, Herodotus informs us, was a furlong, or 660 feet, in length and breadth; and, according to Strabo, it rose to the same altitude. It was of a pyramidical form, consisting of eight square towers, gradually decreasing in breadth, with a winding ascent on the outside, so very broad as to allow horses and carriages to pass each other, and even to turn. This magnificent structure is so completely destroyed that its very site is doubtful; and when supposed to be discovered, in all cases exhibiting a heap of rubbish. ch. 10:5, 10, 20, 31. Is. ch. 13; 14. Je. ch. 50; 51. 1 Co. 14:23. the face. ch. 10:25, 32. Ac. 17:26.
10 A.M. 1658. B.C. 2346. ver. 27; ch. 10:21, 22. 1 Ch. 1:17–27. Lu. 3:34–36.
11 A.M. 2158. B.C. 1846. Shem. ch. 5:4, etc. begat sons. ch. 1:28; 5:4; 9:7. Ps. 127:3, 4; 128:3, 4; 144:12.
12 A.M. 1693. B.C. 2311. begat. Lu. 3:36.
13 A.M. 2096. B.C. 1908.
14 A.M. 1723. B.C. 2281.
15 A.M. 2126. B.C. 1878.
16 A.M. 1757. B.C. 2247. Eber. ch. 10:21, 25. Nu. 24:24. 1 Ch. 1:19. Peleg. Lu. 3:35. Phalec.
17 A.M. 2187. B.C. 1817.
18 A.M. 1787. B.C. 2217. Reu. Lu. 3:35. Ragau.
19 A.M. 1996. B.C. 2008.
20 A.M. 1819. B.C. 2185. Serug. Lu. 3:35. Saruch.
21 A.M. 2026. B.C. 1978.
22 A.M. 1849. B.C. 2155. Nahor. Jos. 24:2. Nachor.
23 A.M. 2049. B.C. 1955.
24 A.M. 1878. B.C. 2126. Terah. Lu. 3:34. Thara.
25 A.M. 1997. B.C. 2007.
26 A.M. 1948. B.C. 2056. Abram. ch. 12:4, 5; 22:20–24; 29:4, 5. Jos. 24:2. 1 Ch. 1:26, 27.
27 A.M. 2008. B.C. 1996. Lot. ver. 31; ch. 12:4; 13:1–11; 14:12; 19:1–29. 2 Pe. 2:7.
28 Ur. ch. 15:7. Ne. 9:7. Ac. 7:2–4.
29 Sarai. ch. 17:15; 20:12. Milcah. ch. 22:20; 24:15. Iscah. Iscah is called the daughter-in-law of Terah, (ver. 31,) as being Abram’s wife; yet Abram afterwards said, “she is the daughter of my father, but not the daughter of my mother.” (ch. 20:12.) Probably Haran was the eldest son of Terah, and Abram his youngest by another wife: and thus Sarai was the daughter, or grand-daughter of Terah, Abram’s father, but not of his mother.
30 barren. ch. 15:2, 3; 16:1, 2; 18:11, 12; 21:1, 2; 25:21; 29:31; 30:1, 2. Ju. 13:2. 1 Sam. 1:2. Ps. 113:9. Lu. 1:7, 36.
31 A.M. 2078. B.C. 1926. took. ver. 26, 27; 12:1. they went. ver. 28; ch. 12:1. Jos. 24:2, 3. Heb. 11:8. Ur. Ur was probably the place called Ouri, in Mesopotamia, two days’ journey from Nisibis, in the way to the river Tigris. Jos. 24:2. Ne. 9:7. Ac. 7:2–4. the land. ch. 10:19; 24:10. B.C. cir. 1923. A.M. cir. 2081. Haran. ver. 32; ch. 12:4; 24:10, 15; 27:43; 29:4, 5. Ac. 7:2–4. Charran.
32 A.M. 2083. B.C. 1921.

CHAP. 12

God calls Abram, and blesses him with a promise of Christ, 1–3. He departs with Lot from Haran, and comes to Canaan, 4, 5. He journeys through Canaan, 6, which is promised him in a vision, 7–9. He is driven by a famine into Egypt, 10. Fear makes him feign his wife to be his sister, 11–13. Pharaoh, having taken her from him, by plagues is compelled to restore her, 14–17. He reproves Abram, whom he dismisses, 18–20.

1 had. ch. 11:31, 32; 15:7. Ne. 9:7. Is. 41:9; 51:2. Eze. 33:24. Get. Jos. 24:2, 3. Ps. 45:10, 11. Lu. 14:26–33. Ac. 7:2–6. 2 Co. 6:17. Heb. 11:8. Re. 18:4.
2 ch. 13:16; 15:5; 17:5, 6; 18:18; 22:17, 18; 24:35; 26:4; 27:29; 28:3, 14; 35:11; 46:3. Ex. 1:7; 32:10. Nu. 14:12; 24:9, 10. De. 26:5. 2 Sa. 7:9. 1 Ki. 3:8, 9. Mic. 7:20. Ro. 4:11. Ga. 3:7. thou shalt. ch. 14:14–16; 18:18; 19:29; 28:4. 1 Ki. 1:47. Gal. 3:14.
3 And I. ch. 27:29. Ex. 23:22. Nu. 24:9. Mat. 25:40, 45. in thee. ch. 18:18; 22:18; 26:4; 28:14; 30:27, 30; 39:5. Ps. 72:17. Ac. 3:25, 26. Ro. 4:11. 1 Co. 1:30. Ga. 3:8, 16, 28. Ep. 1:3. Col. 3:11. Re. 7:9.
4 and Lot. ch. 11:27. departed out. He. 11:8.
5 the souls. ch. 14:14, 21, marg.; 46:5–26. in. ch. 11:31. and into. ch. 10:19. Ac. 7:4. He. 11:8, 9. Canaan. So called from Canaan the son of Ham, lies between the Mediterranean sea on the west, the wilderness of Paran, Idumea, and Egypt on the south, the mountains of Arabia on the east, and the mountains of Lebanon and Phœnicia on the north. Its length, from Dan to Beersheba, is about 200 miles, and its breadth, from the Mediterranean sea to its eastern borders, about 90.
6 passed. He. 11:9. Sichem. ch. 33:18; 34:2; 35:4. Jos. 20:7; 24:32. Ju. 9:1. 1 Ki. 12:1. Shechem. Jno. 4:5. Sychar. Ac. 7:16. Sychem. plain. The word rendered ‘plain’ should be rendered ‘oak,’ or according to CELSIUS, the turpentinetree.’ Moreh. De. 11:30. Ju. 7:1. Canaanite. ch. 10:15, 18, 19; 13:7; 15:18–21.
7 appeared. ch. 17:1; 18:1; 32:30. Unto thy. ch. 13:15; 17:3, 8; 26:3; 28:13. Ex. 33:1. Nu. 32:11. De. 1:8; 6:10; 30:20. Ps. 105:9–12. Ro. 9:8. Ga. 3:16; 4:28. builded. ver. 8; ch. 8:20; 13:4, 18; 26:25; 33:20. He. 11:13.
8 of Beth-el. ch. 28:19; 35:3, 15, 16. Jos. 8:17; 18:22. Ne. 11:31. Hai. Jos. 7:2; 8:3. Ai. Ne. 11:31. Aija. Is. 10:28. Aiath. called. ch. 4:26; 13:4; 21:33. Ps. 116:4. Joel 2:32. Ac. 2:21. Ro. 10:12–14. 1 Co. 1:2.
9 going on still. Heb. in going and journeying. ch. 13:3; 24:62. Ps. 105:13. He. 11:13, 14.
10 A.M. 2084. B.C. 1920. was a. ch. 26:1; 42:5; 43:1; 47:13. Ru. 1:1. 2 Sa. 21:1. 1 Ki. ch. 17; 18. 2 Ki. 4:38; 6:25; ch. 7; 8:1. Ps. 34:19; 107:34. Je. 14:1. Jno. 16:33. Ac. 7:11; 14:22. went. ch. 26:2, 3; 43:1; 46:3, 4. 2 Ki. 8:1, 2. Ps. 105:13.
11 a fair. ver. 14; ch. 26:7; 29:17; 39:6, 7. 2 Sa. 11:2. Pr. 21:30. Ca. 1:14.
12 will kill. ch. 20:11; 26:7. 1 Sa. 27:1. Pr. 29:25. Mat. 10:28. 1 Jno. 1:8–10.
13 Say. Jno. 8:44. Ro. 3:6–8; 6:23. Col. 3:6. thou. ch. 11:29; 20:2, 5, 12, 13; 26:7. Is. 57:11. Mat. 26:69–75. Ga. 2:12, 13. and. Ps. 146:3–5. Je. 17:5–8. Eze. 18:4.
14 beheld. ch. 3:6; 6:2; 39:7. Mat. 5:28.
15 princes. Es. 2:2–16. Pr. 29:12. Ho. 7:4, 5. Pharaoh was a common name of the Egyptian kings, and signified a ‘ruler,’ or ‘king,’ or ‘father of his country.’ ch. 40:2; 41:1. Ex. 2:5, 15. 1 Ki. 3:1. 2 Ki. 18:21. Je. 25:19; 46:17. Eze. 32:2. taken. ch. 20:2. Es. 2:9. Ps. 105:4. Pr. 6:29. He. 13:4.
16 And he. ch. 13:2; 20:14. he had. ch. 24:35; 26:14; 32:5, 13–15. Job. 1:3; 42:12. Ps. 144:13, 14.
17 ch. 20:18. 1 Ch. 16:21; 21:22. Job 34:19. Ps. 105:14, 15. He. 13:4.
18 ch. 3:13; 4:10; 20:9, 10; 26:9–11; 31:26; 44:15. Ex. 32:21. Jos. 7:19. 1 Sa. 14:43. Pr. 21:1.
20 Ex. 18:27. 1 Sa. 29:6–11. Ps. 105:14, 15. Pr. 21:1.

CHAP. 13

Abram and Lot return with great riches out of Egypt, 1–5. Strife arises between Abram’s herdsmen and those of Lot, 6, 7. Abram meekly refers it to Lot to choose his part of the country, 8, 9, and Lot goes to Sodom, 10–13. God renews the promise to Abram, 14–17. He removes to Hebron, and there builds an altar, 18.

1 A.M. 2086. B.C. 1918. the south. The south of Canaan; as in leaving Egypt, it is said he ‘came from the south,’ (ver. 3,) and the southern part of the promised land lay north-east of Egypt. ch. 12:9, etc.; 20:1; 21:33. Jos. 10:40; 18:5. 1 Sa. 27:10; 2 Sa. 24:7.
2 ch. 24:35; 26:12, 13. De. 8:18. 1 Sa. 2:7. Job 1:3, 10; 22:21–25. Ps. 112:1–3. Pr. 3:9, 10; 10:22. Mat. 6:33. 1 Ti. 4:8.
3 from. ch. 12:6, 8, 9. Beth-el and Hai. i.e. The place which was afterwards called Bethel by Jacob, and so called when Moses wrote; for its first name was Luz. (ch. 28:19.)
4 Unto. ver. 18; ch. 12:7, 8; 35:1–3. Ps. 26:8; 42:1, 2; 84:1, 2, 10. called. ch. 4:26. Ps. 65:1, 2; 107:1, 8, 15; 116:2, 17; 145:18. Is. 58:9. Je. 29:12. Zep. 3:9. 1 Co. 1:2. Ep. 6:18, 19.
5 tents. ch. 4:20; 25:27. Je. 49:29.
6 ch. 36:6, 7. Ec. 5:10, 11. Lu. 12:17, 18. 1 Ti. 6:9.
7 a strife. ch. 21:25; 26:20. Ex. 2:17. 1 Co. 3:3. Ga. 5:20. Tit. 3:3. Ja. 3:16; 4:1. Canaanite. ch. 10:19; 12:6; 15:18–21; 34:30. Ne. 5:9. Phi. 2:14, 15. Col. 4:5. 1 Th. 4:12. 1 Pe. 2:12. dwelled. i.e. They were there when Abram and Lot came to pitch their tents in the land.
8 Let. Pr. 15:1. Mat. 5:9. 1 Co. 6:6, 7. Phi. 2:14. He. 12:14. Ja. 3:17, 18. brethren. Heb. men, brethren, ch. 11:27–31; 45:24. Ex. 2:13. Ps. 133:1. Ac. 7:26. Ro. 12:10. Ep. 4:2, 3. 1 Th. 4:9. He. 13:1. 1 Pe. 1:22; 2:17; 3:8; 4:8. 2 Pe. 1:7. 1 Jno. 2:9–11; 3:14–19; 4:7, 20, 21.
9 Is not. ch. 20:15; 34:10. if thou wilt. Ps. 120:7. Ro. 12:18. 1 Co. 6:7. He. 12:14. Ja. 3:13–18. 1 Pe. 3:8–12.
10 and beheld. ch. 3:6; 6:2. Nu. 32:1, etc. 1 Jno. 2:15, 16. the plain. ch. 19:17, 24, 25. De. 34:3. 1 Ki. 7:46. Ps. 107:34. 1 Jno. 2:15. the garden. ch. 2:9, 10. Is. 51:3. Eze. 28:13; 31:8. Joel 2:3. Zoar. ch. 14:2, 8; 19:20, 22–30. De. 34:3. Is. 15:5. Je. 48:34. Instead of ‘Zoar,’ which was situated at the extremity of the plain of Jordan, the Syriac reads ‘Zoan,’ which was situated in the south of Egypt, and in a well-watered country.
11 A.M. 2087. B.C. 1917. chose. ch. 19:17. they. ver. 9, 14. Ps. 16:3; 119:63. Pr. 27:10. He. 10:25. 1 Pe. 2:17.
12 Lot dwelled. ch. 19:29. pitched. ch. 14:12; 19:1. Ps. 26:5. 1 Co. 15:33. 2 Pe. 2:7, 8.
13 But the. ch. 15:16; 18:20; 19:4, etc. 1 Sa. 15:18. Is. 1:9; 3:9. Eze. 16:46–50. Mat. 9:10, 13; 11:23, 24. Jno. 9:24, 31. Ro. 1:27. 2 Pe. 2:6–8, 10. Jude 7. before. ch. 6:11; 10:9; 38:7. 2 Ki. 21:6. Is. 3:8. Je. 23:24. He. 4:13.
14 was. ver. 11. Lift. ver. 10. Is. 49:18; 60:4. northward. ch. 28:14. De. 3:27.
15 ch. 12:7; 15:18; 17:7, 8; 18:18; 24:7; 26:3, 4; 28:4, 13; 35:12; 48:4. Ex. 33:1. Nu. 34:2, 12, etc. De. 26:2–4; 34:4. 2 Ch. 20:7. Ne. 9:7, 8. Ps. 37:22, 29; 105:9–12; 112:1, 2. Is. 63:18. Mat. 5:5. Ac. 7:5.
16 ch. 12:2, 3; 15:5; 17:6, 16, 20; 18:18; 21:13; 22:17; ch. 25; 26:4; 28:3, 14; 32:12; 35:11; ch. 36; 46:3. Ex. 1:7; 32:13. Nu. 23:10. De. 1:10. Ju. 6:3, 5. 1 Ki. 3:8; 4:20. 1 Ch. 21:5; 27:23. 2 Ch. 17:14–18. Is. 48:18, 19. Je. 33:22. Ro. 4:16–18. He. 11:12. Re. 7:9.
18 plain. Heb. plains. Mamre. ch. 14:13; 18:1. Hebron. ch. 23:2; 35:27; 37:14. Nu. 13:22. Jos. 14:13. altar. ver. 4; ch. 8:20; 12:7, 8. Ps. 16:8. 1 Ti. 2:8.

CHAP. 14

The battle of four kings against the king of Sodom and his allies, 1–11. Lot is taken prisoner, 12, 13. Abram rescues him, 14–16. Melchizedek blesses Abram at his return, who gives him tithes, 17–20. The rest of the spoil, his partners having had their portions he restores to the king of Sodom, 21–24.

1 A.M. 2091. B.C. 1913. Shinar. ch. 10:10; 11:2. Is. 11:11. Da. 1:2. Zec. 5:11. Ellasar. Is. 37:12. Elam. ch. 10:22. Is. 21:2; 22:6. Je. 25:25; 49:34–39. Eze. 32:24.
2 Sodom. ch. 10:19; 13:10; 19:24. Is. 1:9, 10. Admah. De. 29:23. Ho. 11:8. Zeboiim. 1 Sa. 13:18. Ne. 11:34. Zoar. ch. 19:20–30. De. 34:3. Is. 15:5. Je. 48:34.
3 salt sea. ch. 19:24. Nu. 34:12. De. 3:17. Jos. 3:16. Ps. 107:34, marg.
4 they served. ch. 9:25, 26. they rebelled. Eze. 17:15.
5 Rephaims. ch. 15:20. De. 3:11, 20, 22. 2 Sa. 5:18, 22; 23:13. 1 Ch. 11:15; 14:9. Is. 17:5. Ashteroth. The same as Ashteroth, a city of Bashan, where Og afterwards reigned. De. 1:4. Jos. 12:4; 13:12, 31. Zuzims. De. 2:20–23. 1 Ch. 4:40. Ps. 78:51; 105:23, 27; 106:22. Emims. De. 2:10, 11. Shaveh Kiriathaim. or, the plains of Kiriathaim; Kiriathaim was beyond Jordan, 10 miles west-ward from Medeba, and afterwards belonged to Sihon, king of Heshbon. Jos. 13:19. Je. 48:1, 23.
6 Horites. ch. 36:8, 20–30. De. 2:12, 22. 1 Ch. 1:38–42. El-paran. or, the plain of Paran. ch. 16:7; 21:21. Nu. 12:16; 13:3. Hab. 3:3.
7 Kadesh. En-mishpat or Kadesh, was about 8 leagues south of Hebron. ch. 16:14; 20:1. Nu. 20:1. De. 1:19, 46. Amalekites. ch. 36:12, 16. Ex. 17:8–16. Nu. 14:43, 45; 24:20. 1 Sa. ch. 15; 27; 30. Hazezontamar. Called by the Chaldee, ‘En-gaddi,’ a town on the western shore of the Dead Sea. Jos. 15:62. 2 Ch. 20:2.
8 same. ver. 2; ch. 13:10; 19:20, 22. in. ver. 3, 10.
9 See ver. 1.
10 slime pits. Places where asphaltus or bitumen sprung out of the ground: this substance, which is properly denoted by the word ‘slime,’ abounds in those parts. ch. 11:3. fell. Jos. 8:24. Ps. 83:10. Is. 24:18. Je. 48:44. the mountain. ch. 19:17, 30.
11 ver. 16, 21; ch. 12:5. De. 28:31, 35, 51.
12 Lot. ch. 11:27; 12:5. who. ch. 13:12, 13. Nu. 16:26. Job 9:23. Je. 2:17–19. 1 Ti. 6:9–11. Re. 3:19; 18:4.
13 one. 1 Sa. 4:12. Job 1:15. the. ch. 39:14; 40:15; 41:12; 43:32. Ex. 2:6, 11. Jon. 1:9. 2 Co. 11:22. Phi. 2:5. dwelt. ch. 13:18. Mamre. ver. 24; ch. 13:18. Amorite. ch. 10:16. Nu. 21:21. and these. 24.
14 his brother. ch. 11:27–31; 13:8. Pr. 17:17; 24:11, 12. Ga. 6:1, 2. 1 Jno. 2:18. armed. or, led forth. Ps. 45:3–5; 68:12. Is. 41:2, 3. trained. or, instructed, born. ch. 12:5, 16; 15:3; 17:12, 27; 18:19; 23:6. Ec. 2:7. Dan. De. 34:1. Ju. 18:29; 20:1.
15 And he. Ps. 112:5. smote. Is. 41:2, 3. Damascus. ch. 15:2. 1 Ki. 15:18. Ac. 9:2.
16 ver. 11, 12; ch. 12:2. 1 Sa. 30:8, 18, 19. Is. 41:2.
17 to. Ju. 11:34. 1 Sa. 18:6. Pr. 14:20; 19:4. after. He. 7:1. king’s. 2 Sa. 18:18.
18 king. Ps. 76:2. He. 7:1, 2. bread. Mat. 26:26–29. Ga. 6:10. the priest. Ps. 110:4. He. 5:6, 10; 6:20; 7:1, 3, 10–22. the most. Ru. 3:10. 2 Sa. 2:5. Ps. 7:17; 50:14; 57:2. Mi. 6:6. Ac. 7:48; 16:17.
19 he blessed. ch. 27:4, 25–29; 47:7, 10; 48:9–16; 49:28. Nu. 6:23–27. Mar. 10:16. He. 7:6, 7. Blessed be. Ru. 3:10. 2 Sa. 2:5. Ep. 1:3, 6. high. Mi. 6:6. Ac. 16:17. possessor. ver. 22; Ps. 24:1; 50:10; 115:16. Mat. 11:25. Lu. 10:21.
20 blessed. ch. 9:26; 24:27. Ps. 68:19; 72:17–19; 144:1. Ep. 1:3. 1 Pe. 1:3, 4. which. Jos. 10:42. Ps. 44:3. tithes. ch. 28:22. Le. 27:30–32. Nu. 28:26. De. 12:17; 14:23, 28. 2 Ch. 31:5, 6, 12. Ne. 10:37; 13:12. Am. 4:4. Mal. 3:8, 10. Lu. 18:12. Ro. 15:16. He. 7:4–9.
21 persons. Heb. souls.
22 lift. Ex. 6:8. De. 32:40. Da. 12:7. Re. 10:5, 6. unto. ch. 21:23–31. Ju. 11:35. the most. ver. 20; ch. 17:1. Ps. 24:1; 83:18. Is. 57:15. Da. 4:34. Hag. 2:8. possessor. ver. 19; ch. 21:33.
23 That I. 1 Ki. 13:8. 2 Ki. 5:16, 20. Es. 9:15, 16. 2 Co. 11:9–11; 12:14. lest. 2 Co. 11:12. He. 13:5.
24 Save. Pr. 3:27. Mat. 7:12. Ro. 13:7, 8. Aner. ver. 13. let. 1 Co. 9:14, 15. 1 Ti. 5:18.

CHAP. 15

God encourages Abram, who complains for want of an heir, 1–3. God promises him a son, and a multiplying of his seed, 4, 5. Abram is justified by faith, 6. Canaan is promised again, and confirmed by a sign, and a vision, prophetic of the condition of his posterity till brought out of Egypt, 7–21.

1 A.M. 2093. B.C. 1911. in. ch. 46:2. Nu. 12:6. 1 Sa. 9:9. Eze. 1:1; 3:4; 11:24. Da. 10:1–16. Ac. 10:10–17, 22. He. 1:1. Fear. ver. 14–16; ch. 26:24; 46:3. Ex. 14:13. De. 31:6. 1 Ch. 28:20. Ps. 27:1. Is. 35:4; 41:10, 14; 43:1, 5; 44:2, 8; 51:12. Da. 10:12. Mat. 8:26; 10:28–31; 28:5. Lu. 1:13, 30; 12:32. Re. 1:17. thy shield. De. 33:29. Ps. 3:3; 5:12; 18:2; 84:9, 11; 91:4; 119:114. Pr. 30:5. and thy. De. 33:26–29. Ru. 2:12. Ps. 16:5, 6; 58:11; 142:5. Pr. 11:18. La. 3:24. 1 Co. 3:22. He. 13:5, 6. Re. 21:3, 4.
2 what. ch. 12:1–3. childless. ch. 25:21; 30:1, 2. 1 Sa. 1:11. Ps. 127:3. Pr. 13:12. Is. 56:5. Ac. 7:5. the. ch. 24:2, 10; 39:4–6, 9; 43:19; 44:1. Pr. 17:2.
3 Behold. ch. 12:2; 13:16. Pr. 13:12. Je. 12:1. He. 10:35, 36. born. ch. 14:14. Pr. 29:21; 30:23. Ec. 2:7.
4 shall come. ch. 17:16; 21:12. 2 Sa. 7:12; 16:11. 2 Ch. 32:21. Phile. 12.
5 tell. De. 1:10. Ps. 147:4. Je. 33:22. Ro. 9:7, 8. So. ch. 12:2; 13:16; 16:10; 22:17; 28:14. Ex. 32:13. De. 1:10; 10:22. 1 Ch. 27:23. Ro. 4:18. He. 11:12.
6 he believed. Ro. 4:3–6, 9, 20–25. Ga. 3:6–14. He. 11:8. Ja. 2:23. he counted. Ps. 106:31. Ro. 4:11, 22. 2 Co. 5:19. Ga. 3:6.
7 brought. ch. 11:28–31; 12:1. Ne. 9:7. Ac. 7:2–4. to give. ch. 12:7; 13:15–17. Ne. 9:8. Ps. 105:11, 42, 44. Ro. 4:13.
8 ch. 24:2–4, 13, 14. Ju. 6:17–24, 36–40. 1 Sa. 14:9, 10. 2 Ki. 20:8. Ps. 86:17. Is. 7:11. Lu. 1:18, 34.
9 ch. 22:13. Le. 1:3, 10, 14; 3:1, 6; 9:2, 4; 12:8; 14:22, 30. Ps. 50:5. Is. 15:5. Lu. 2:24.
10 divided them. Je. 34:18, 19. 2 Ti. 2:15. the birds. Le. 1:17.
11 fowls. Eze. 17:3, 7. Mat. 13:4. Abram. Ps. 119:13.
12 deep. ch. 2:21. 1 Sa. 26:12. Job 4:13, 14; 33:15. Da. 10:8, 9. Ac. 20:9. horror. Ps. 4:3–5. Ac. 9:8, 9.
13 thy. ch. 17:8. Ex. ch. 1; 2; 5; 22:21; 23:9. Le. 19:34. De. 10:19. Ps. 105:11, 12, 23–25. Ac. 7:6, 7. He. 11:8–13. four. Ex. 12:40, 41. Ga. 3:17.
14 that. ch. 46. Ex. 6:5, 6; ch. 7–14. De. 4:20; 6:22; 7:18, 19; 11:2–4. Jos. 24:4–7, 17. 1 Sa. 12:8. Ne. 9:9–11. Ps. 51:4; 78:43–51; 105:27–37; 135:9, 14. with. Ex. 3:21, 22; 12:35, 36. Ps. 105:37.
15 And thou. ch. 25:8. Nu. 20:24; 27:13. Ju. 2:10. Job 5:26. Ec. 12:7. Ac. 13:36. in peace. 2 Ch. 34:28. Ps. 37:37. Is. 57:1, 2. Da. 12:13. Mat. 22:32. He. 6:13–19; 11:13–16. buried. ch. 23:4, 19; 25:8, 9; 35:29; 49:29, 31; 50:13. Ec. 6:3. Je. 8:1, 2. good. ch. 25:7, 8. 1 Ch. 23:1; 29:28. Job 5:26; 42:17.
16 in the. Ex. 12:40. Amorites. 1 Ki. 21:26. 2 Pe. 3:8, 9. not. Da. 8:23. Zec. 5:5–11. Mat. 23:32–35. 1 Th. 2:16.
17 smoking. Ex. 3:2, 3. De. 4:20. Ju. 6:21; 13:20. 1 Ch. 21:26. Is. 62:1. Je. 11:4. a burning lamp. Heb. a lamp of fire. 2 Sa. 22:9. passed. Je. 34:18, 19.
18 made. ch. 9:8–17; ch. 17; 24:7. 2 Sa. 23:5. Is. 55:3. Je. 31:31–34; 32:40; 33:20–26. Ga. 3:15–17. Heb. 13:20. Unto thy. ch. 12:7; 13:15; 17:8; 26:4; 28:4, 13, 14; 35:12; 50:24. Ex. 3:8; 6:4; 23:23, 27–31; 34:11. Nu. 34:3. De. 1:7, 8; 7:1; 11:24; 34:4. Jos. 1:3, 4; ch. 12; 19. 1 Ki. 4:21. 2 Ch. 9:26. Ne. 9:8. Ps. 105:11. from. Nu. 34:5. Jos. 15:4. Is. 27:12. Euphrates. ch. 2:14. 2 Sa. 8:3. 1 Ch. 5:9.
19 Kenites. Nu. 24:21, 22.
20 Rephaims. ch. 14:5. Is. 17:5.
21 Amorites. ch. 10:15–19. Ex. 23:23–28; 33:2; 34:11. De. 7:1. Girgashites. Mat. 8:28.

CHAP. 16

Sarai, being barren, gives Hagar to Abram, 1–3. Hagar, being afflicted for despising her mistress, runs away, 4–6. An angel commands her to return and submit herself, promises her a numerous posterity, and shews their character and condition, 7–12. Hagar names the place, and returns to Sarai, 13, 14. Ishmael is born, 15. The age of Abram, 16.

1 A.M. 2092. B.C. 1912. bare. ch. 15:2, 3; 21:10, 12; 25:21. Ju. 13:2. Lu. 1:7, 36. Egyptian. ch. 12:16; 21:9, 21. name. Ga. 4:24. Agar.
2 the Lord. ch. 17:16; 18:10; 20:18; 25:21; 30:2, 3, 9, 22. Ps. 127:3. obtain children. Heb. be builded. ch. 30:3, 6. Ex. 21:4. Ru. 4:11. hearkened. ch. 3:1–6, 12, 17.
3 A.M. 2093. B.C. 1911. had. ch. 12:4, 5. gave. ver. 5; ch. 30:4, 9. his. ch. 25:6; 28:9; 32:22; 35:22. Ju. 19:1–4. 2 Sa. 5:13. 1 Ki. 11:3. Ga. 4:25.
4 her mistress. 1 Sa. 1:6–8. 2 Sa. 6:16. Pr. 30:20, 21, 23. 1 Co. 4:6; 13:4, 5.
5 My wrong. Lu. 10:40, 41. the Lord. ch. 31:53. Ex. 5:21. 1 Sa. 24:12–15. 2 Ch. 24:22. Ps. 7:8; 35:23; 43:1.
6 Abram. ch. 13:8, 9. Pr. 14:29; 15:1, 17, 18. 1 Pe. 3:7. in. ch. 24:10. Job. 2:6. Ps. 106:41, 42. Je. 38:5. as it pleaseth thee. Heb. that which is good in thine eyes. dealt hardly with her. Heb. afflicted her. Pr. 29:19. fled. Ex. 2:15. Pr. 27:8. Ec. 10:4.
7 found. Pr. 15:3. the fountain. ch. 25:18. Ex. 15:22. 1 Sa. 15:7. Shur. The desert of Shur being between the south of Canaan, where Hebron was situated, and Egypt, it is likely that Hagar was returning to her own country.
8 Sarai’s maid. ver. 1, 4. Ep. 6:5–8. 1 Ti. 6:1, 2. whence. ch. 3:9; 4:10. Ec. 10:4. Je. 2:17, 18. I flee. 1 Sa. 26:19.
9 submit. Ec. 10:4. Ep. 5:21; 6:5, 6. Ti. 2:9. 1 Pe. 2:18–25; 5:5, 6.
10 the angel. ch. 22:15–18; 31:11–13; 32:24–30; 48:15, 16. Ex. 3:2–6. Ju. 2:1–3; 6:11, 16, 21–24; 13:16–22. Is. 63:9. Ho. 12:3–5. Zec. 2:3, 9. Mal. 3:1. Jno. 1:18. Ac. 7:30–38. 1 Ti. 6:16. I will. ch. 17:20; 21:13, 16; 25:12–18. Ps. 83:6, 7.
11 shalt. ch. 17:19; 29:32–35. Is. 7:14. Mat. 1:21–23. Lu. 1:13, 31, 63. Ishmael. i.e. God shall hear. because. ch. 41:51, 52. 1 Sa. 1:20. hath. ch. 29:32, 33. Ex. 2:23, 24; 3:7. Job 38:41. Ps. 22:24.
12 be a. ch. 21:20. Job 11:12; 39:5–8. wild. The word rendered ‘wild’ also denotes the ‘wild ass;’ the description of which animal in Job 39:5–8, affords the very best representation of the wandering, lawless, freebooting life of the Bedouin and other Arabs, the descendants of Ishmael. his hand. ch. 27:40. he shall. ch. 25:18.
13 called. ver. 7, 9, 10; 22:14; 28:17, 19; 32:30. Ju. 6:24. Thou. ch. 32:30. Ex. 33:18–23; 34:5–7. Ps. 139:1–12. Pr. 5:21; 15:3. him that. ch. 31:42.
14 Beer-lahai-roi. that is, The well of him that liveth and seeth me. ch. 21:31; 24:62; 25:11. Kadesh. Nu. 13:26.
15 A.M. 2094. B.C. 1910. Hagar. ver. 11; ch. 25:12. 1 Ch. 1:28. Ga. 4:22, 23. Ishmael. ch. 17:18, 20, 25, 26; 21:9–21; 25:9, 12; 28:9; 37:27.

CHAP. 17

God renews the covenant with Abram, and changes his name to Abraham, in token of a greater blessing, 1–8. Circumcision is instituted, 9–14. Sarai’s name is changed to Sarah, and she is blessed, 15, 16. Isaac is promised, and the time of his birth fixed, 17–22. Abraham and Ishmael are circumcised, 23–27.

1 A.M. 2107. B.C. 1897. was. ch. 16:16. the Lord. ch. 12:1. Almighty. ch. 18:14; 28:3; 35:11. Ex. 6:3. Nu. 11:23. De. 10:17. Job 11:7. Ps. 115:3. Je. 32:17. Da. 4:35. Mat. 19:26. Ep. 3:20. Phi. 4:13. He. 7:25. walk. ch. 5:22, 24; 6:9; 48:15. 1 Ki. 2:4; 3:6; 8:25. 2 Ki. 20:3. Ps. 116:9. Is. 38:3. Mi. 6:8. Lu. 1:6. Ac. 23:1; 24:16. He. 12:28. perfect. or, upright, or sincere. ch. 6:9. De. 18:13. Job 1:1. Mat. 5:48.
2 And I. ver. 4–6; ch. 9:9; 15:18. Ps. 105:8–11. Ga. 3:17, 18. multiply. ch. 12:2; 13:16; 22:17.
3 ver. 17. Ex. 3:6. Le. 9:23, 24. Nu. 14:5; 16:22, 45. Jos. 5:14. Ju. 13:20. 1 Ki. 18:39. Eze. 1:28; 3:23; 9:8. Da. 8:17, 18; 10:9. Mat. 17:6. Re. 1:17.
4 a father. ch. 12:2; 13:16; 16:10; 22:17; 25:1–18; 32:12; 35:11; ch. 36. Nu. ch. 1; 26. Ro. 4:11–18. Ga. 3:28, 29. many nations. Heb. multitude of nations.
5 but thy name. ver. 15; ch. 32:28. Nu. 13:16. 2 Sa. 12:25. Ne. 9:7. Is. 62:2–4; 65:15. Je. 20:3; 23:6. Mat. 1:21–23. Jno. 1:42. Re. 2:17. Abraham. i.e. father of a great multitude. for. Ro. 4:17.
6 nations. ver. 4, 20; ch. 35:11. kings. ver. 16; ch. 36:31, etc. Ezr. 4:20. Mat. 1:6, etc.
7 And I. ch. 15:18; 26:24. Ex. 6:4. Ps. 105:8–11. Mi. 7:20. Lu. 1:54, 55, 72–75. Ro. 9:4, 8, 9. Ga. 3:17. Ep. 2:2. God. ch. 26:24; 28:13. Ex. 3:6, 15. Le. 26:12. Ps. 81:10. Eze. 28:26. Mat. 22:32. He. 8:10; 11:16. and to. Ex. 19:5, 6. Mar. 10:14. Ac. 2:39. Ro. 9:7–9.
8 And I. ch. 12:7; 13:15, 17; 15:7–21. Ps. 105:9, 11. wherein thou art a stranger. Heb. of thy sojournings. ch. 23:4; 28:4. everlasting. ch. 48:4. Ex. 21:6; 31:16, 17; 40:15. Le. 16:34. Nu. 25:13. De. 32:8. 2 Sa. 23:5. Ps. 103:17. He. 9:15. their. Ex. 6:7. Le. 26:12. De. 4:37; 14:2; 26:18; 29:13.
9 Ps. 25:10; 103:18. Is. 56:4, 5.
10 Every. ver. 11; ch. 34:15. Ex. 4:25; 12:48. De. 10:16; 30:6. Jos. 5:2, 4. Je. 4:4; 9:25, 26. Ac. 7:8. Ro. 2:28, 29; 3:1, 25, 28, 30; 4:9–11. 1 Co. 7:18, 19. Ga. 3:28; 5:3–6; 6:12. Ep. 2:11. Phi. 3:3. Col. 2:11, 12.
11 the flesh. Ex. 4:25. Jos. 5:3. 1 Sa. 18:25–27. 2 Sa. 3:14. a token. Ac. 7:8. Ro. 4:11.
12 he that is eight days old. Heb. a son of eight days. ch. 21:4. Le. 12:3. Lu. 1:59; 2:21. Jno. 7:22, 23. Ac. 7:8. Ro. 2:28. Phi. 3:5. is born. ver. 23; Ex. 12:48, 49.
13 born. ch. 14:14; 15:3. Ex. 12:44; 21:4. bought. ch. 37:27, 36; 39:1. Ex. 21:2, 16. Ne. 5:5, 8. Mat. 18:25.
14. cut. Ex. 4:24–26; 12:15, 19; 30:33, 38. Le. 7:20, 21, 25, 27; 18:29; 19:8. Nu. 15:30, 31. Jos. 5:2, etc. broken. Ps. 55:20. Is. 24:5; 33:8. Je. 11:10; 31:32. 1 Co. 11:27, 29.
15 As. ver. 5; ch. 32:28. 2 Sa. 12:25. Sarah. i.e. princess.
16 And I. ch. 1:28; 12:2; 24:60. Ro. 9:9. give. ch. 18:10–14. be a mother of nations. Heb. become nations. ch. 35:11. Ga. 4:26–31. 1 Pe. 3:6. kings. ver. 6. Is. 49:23.
17 fell. ver. 3. Le. 9:24. Nu. 14:5; 16:22, 45. De. 9:18, 25. Jos. 5:14; 7:6. Ju. 13:20. 1 Ch. 21:16. Job 1:20. Eze. 1:28. Da. 8:17. Mat. 2:11. Re. 5:8; 11:16. laughed. ch. 18:12; 21:6. Jno. 8:56. Ro. 4:19, 20.
18 O that. Je. 32:39. Ac. 2:39. before. Ge. 4:12, 14. Ps. 4:6; 41:12. Is. 59:2.
19 Sarah. ver. 21; ch. 18:10–14; 21:2, 3, 6. 2 Ki. 4:16, 17. Lu. 1:13–20. Ro. 9:6–9. Ga. 4:28–31. Isaac. Yitzchak, which we change into Isaac, signifies laughter; in allusion to Abraham’s laughing, ver. 17. By this Abraham did not express his unbelief or weakness of faith, but his joy at the prospect of the fulfilment of so glorious a promise; and to this our Lord evidently alludes, Jno. 8:56.
20 I have blessed. ch. 16:10–12. twelve. ch. 25:12–18. and I. ch. 21:13, 18.
21 my. ch. 21:10–12; 26:2–5; 46:1; 48:15. Ex. 2:24; 3:6. Lu. 1:55, 72. Ro. 9:5, 6, 9. Ga. 3:29. He. 11:9. at. ch. 18:10; 21:2, 3. Job 14:13. Ac. 1:7.
22 ver. 3; ch. 18:33; 35:9–15. Ex. 20:22. Nu. 12:6–8. De. 5:4. Ju. 6:21; 13:20. Jno. 1:18; 10:30.
23 circumcised. ver. 10–14, 26, 27; ch. 18:19; 34:24. Jos. 5:2–9. Ps. 119:60. Pr. 27:1. Ec. 9:10. Ac. 16:3. Ro. 2:25–29; 4:9–12. 1 Co. 7:18, 19. Ga. 5:6; 6:15.
24 ver. 1, 17; ch. 12:4. Ro. 4:11, 19, 20.
25 Not only the Jews, but the Arabs, who are the descendants of Ishmael, retain the rite of circumcision to this day; and the latter perform it, as the other Mahometans also do, at the age of thirteen.
26 ch. 12:4; 22:3, 4. Ps. 119:60.
27 circumcised. ch. 18:19.

CHAP. 18

The Lord appears to Abraham, who entertains angels, 1–8. Sarah is reproved for laughing at the promise of a son, 9–15. The destruction of Sodom is revealed to Abraham, 16–22. Abraham makes intercession for the inhabitants, 23–33.

1 appeared. ch. 15:1; 17:1–3, 22; 26:2; 48:3. Ex. 4:1. 2 Ch. 1:7. Ac. 7:2. Mamre. ch. 13:18; 14:13. and he sat. In these verses we have a delightful picture of genuine and primitive hospitality: a venerable father sits at the tent door, not only to enjoy the current of refreshing air, but that if he saw any weary and exhausted travellers, he might invite them to rest and refresh themselves during the heat of the day, and the same custom still continues in the east. It was not the custom, nor was there any necessity, for strangers to knock at the door, or to speak first, but to stand till they were invited.
2 And he. Ju. 13:3, 9. He. 13:2. three. ver. 22; ch. 19:1. He. 13:2. 1 Pe. 4:9. he ran. Ro. 12:13. bowed. ch. 23:7; 33:3–7; 43:26, 28; 44:14. Ru. 2:10. 2 Ki. 2:15.
3 favour. Ge. 32:5.
4 wash your feet. In those ancient times, shoes such as ours, were not in use; and the foot was protected only with sandals or soles, fastened round the foot with straps. It was, therefore, not only necessary from motives of cleanliness, but also a very great refreshment, in so hot a country, to get the feet washed at the end of a day’s journey; and this is the first thing that Abraham proposes. ch. 19:2; 24:32; 43:24. 1 Sa. 25:41. Lu. 7:44. Jno. 13:5–15. 1 Ti. 5:10. tree. Rest in the shade was the second requisite for the refreshment of a weary traveller.
5 And I. Ju. 6:18; 13:15. Mat. 6:11. bread. This was the third requisite, and is introduced in its proper order; as eating immediately after exertion or fatigue is very unwholesome. comfort. Heb. stay. Ju. 19:5. Ps. 104:15. Is. 3:1. are ye come. Heb. ye have passed. ch. 19:8; 33:10.
6 Make ready quickly. Heb. hasten. three. Is. 32:8. Mat. 13:33. Lu. 10:38–40. Ac. 16:15. Ro. 12:13. Ga. 5:18. He. 13:2. 1 Pe. 4:9.
7 ch. 19:3. Ju. 13:15, 16. Am. 6:4. Mal. 1:14. Mat. 22:4. Lu. 15:23, 27, 30.
8 he took. ch. 19:3. De. 32:14. Ju. 5:25. stood. Ne. 12:44. Lu. 12:37; 17:8. Jno. 12:2. Ga. 5:13. Re. 3:20. and they. ch. 19:3. Ju. 13:15. Lu. 24:30, 43. Ac. 10:41.
9 Where. ch. 4:9. in. ch. 24:67; 31:33. Tit. 2:5.
10 he said. ver. 13, 14; ch. 16:10; 22:15, 16. according. ch. 17:21; 21:2. 2 Ki. 4:16, 17. lo, Sarah. ch. 17:16, 19, 21; 21:2. Ju. 13:3–5. Lu. 1:13. Ro. 9:8, 9. Ga. 4:23, 28.
11 old. ch. 17:17, 24. Lu. 1:7, 18, 36. Ro. 4:18–21. He. 11:11, 12, 19. the. ch. 31:35. Le. 15:19.
12 laughed. ver. 13; ch. 17:17; 21:6, 7. Ps. 126:2. Lu. 1:18–20, 34, 35. He. 11:11, 12. my. Ep. 5:33. 1 Pe. 3:6.
13 Wherefore. Jno. 2:25.
14 Is. Nu. 11:23. De. 7:21. 1 Sa. 14:6. 2 Ki. 7:1, 2. Job 36:5; 42:2. Ps. 93:1; 95:3. Je. 32:17. Mi. 7:18. Zec. 8:6. Mat. 3:9; 14:31; 19:26. Mar. 10:27. Lu. 1:13, 37; 8:50. Ep. 3:20. Phi. 3:21; 4:13. He. 11:19. I will. ver. 10; ch. 17:21. De. 30:3. 2 Ki. 4:16. Ps. 90:13. Mi. 7:18. Lu. 1:13, 18.
15 denied. ch. 4:9; 12:13. Job 2:10. Pr. 28:13. Jno. 18:17, 25–27. Ep. 4:23. Col. 3:9. 1 Jno. 1:8. Nay. Ps. 44:21. Pr. 12:19. Mar. 2:8. Jno. 2:25. Ro. 3:19.
16 to bring. Ac. 15:3; 20:38; 21:5. Ro. 15:24. 3 Jno. 6.
17 2 Ki. 4:27. 2 Ch. 20:7. Ps. 25:14. Am. 3:7. Jno. 15:15. Ja. 2:23.
18 become. See on ch. 12:2, 3; 22:17, 18; 26:4. Ps. 72:17. Ac. 3:25, 26. Ga. 3:8, 14. Ep. 1:3.
19 For I. 2 Sa. 7:20. Ps. 1:6; 11:4; 34:15. Jno. 10:14; 21:17. 2 Ti. 2:19. command. ch. 17:23–27. De. 4:9, 10; 6:6, 7; 11:19–21; 32:46. Jos. 24:15. 1 Ch. 28:9. Job 1:5. Ps. 78:2–9. Pr. 6:20–22; 22:6. Is. 38:19. Ep. 6:4. 1 Ti. 3:4, 5, 12. 2 Ti. 1:5; 3:15. that the. 1 Sa. 2:30, 31. Ac. 27:23, 24, 31.
20 the cry. ch. 4:10; 19:13. Is. 3:9; 5:7. Je. 14:7. Ja. 5:4. sin. ch. 13:13.
21 I will go down. This is spoken figuratively; and as the Jewish writers speak, according to the language of men. So eyes, ears, hands, and other members of the body are attributed to God, for effecting those things which men cannot accomplish without these members. ch. 11:5, 7. Ex. 3:8; 33:5. Mi. 1:3. Jno. 6:38. 1 Th. 4:16. see. Job 34:22. Ps. 90:8. Je. 17:1, 10. Zep. 1:12. He. 4:13. I will know. Ex. 33:5. De. 8:2; 13:3. Jos. 22:22. Ps. 139. Lu. 16:15. 2 Co. 11:11.
22 the men. ver. 2; ch. 19:1. stood. The two, whom we suppose to have been created angels, departed at this time; and accordingly two entered Sodom at evening: while the one, called Jehovah throughout the chapter, continued with Abraham, who “stood yet before the Lord.”—SCOTT. ver. 1. Ps. 106:23. Je. 15:1; 18:20. Eze. 22:30. Ac. 7:55. 1 Ti. 2:1.
23 drew. Ps. 73:28. Je. 30:21. He. 10:22. Ja. 5:17. Wilt. ver. 25; ch. 20:4. Nu. 16:22. 2 Sa. 24:17. Job 8:3; 34:17. Ps. 11:4–7. Ro. 3:5, 6.
24 there. ver. 32. Is. 1:9. Je. 5:1. Mat. 7:13, 14. spare. Ac. 27:24.
25 be far. Je. 12:1. that the. Job 8:20; 9:22, 23. Ec. 7:15; 8:12, 13. Is. 3:10, 11; 57:1, 2. Mal. 3:18. Shall. De. 32:4. Job 8:3; 34:17–19. Ps. 11:5–7; 58:11; 94:2; 98:9. Ro. 3:6. Judge. Jno. 5:22–27. 2 Co. 5:10.
26 Is. 6:13; 10:22; 19:24; 65:8. Je. 5:1. Eze. 22:30. Mat. 24:22.
27 I have. ver. 30–32. Ezr. 9:6. Job 42:6–8. Is. 6:5. Lu. 18:1. dust. ch. 2:7; 3:19. Job 4:19. Ps. 8:4; 144:3. Ec. 12:7. Is. 6:5; 64:8. Lu. 5:8. 1 Co. 15:47, 48. 2 Co. 5:1, 2.
28 wilt. Nu. 14:17–19. 1 Ki. 20:32, 33. Job 23:3, 4. If I. ver. 26, 29.
29 Ep. 6:18. He. 4:16.
30 ch. 44:18. Ju. 6:39. Es. 4:11–16. Job 40:4. Ps. 9:12; 10:17; 89:7. Is. 6:5; 55:8, 9. He. 12:28, 29.
31 ver. 27. Mat. 7:7, 11. Lu. 11:8; 18:1. Ep. 6:18. He. 4:16; 10:20–22.
32 Oh. ver. 30. Ju. 6:39. Pr. 15:8. Is. 42:6, 7. Ja. 5:15–17. 1 Jno. 5:15, 16. I will not. Ex. 32:9, 10, 14; 33:13, 14; 34:6, 7, 9, 10. Nu. 14:11–20. Job 33:23. Ps. 86:5. Is. 65:8. Mi. 7:18. Mat. 7:7. Ep. 3:20. Ja. 5:16.
33 And the. ver. 16, 22; ch. 32:26. and Abraham. ch. 31:55.

CHAP. 19

Lot entertains two angels, 1–3. The vicious Sodomites are smitten with blindness, 4–11. Lot is warned, and in vain warns his sons-in-law, 12–14. He is directed to flee with his family to the mountains, but obtains leave to go into Zoar, 15–23. Sodom and Gomorrah are destroyed, 24, 25. Lot’s wife becomes a pillar of salt, 26–28. Lot dwells in a cave, 29, 30. The incestuous origin of Moab and Ammon, 31–38.

1 And there came two angels. Or, rather, ‘the two angels came,’ referring to those mentioned in the preceding chapter, and there called ‘men.’ It seems, (from ch. 18, ver. 22,) that these two angels were sent to Sodom, while the third, who was the Lord or Jehovah, remained with Abraham. ch. 18:1–3, 22. rose. ch. 18:1–5. Job 31:32. He. 13:2. bowed. ch. 18:2.
2 turn. He. 13:2. wash. ch. 18:4. Nay. Instead of lo, nay, some MSS. have lo, to him. ‘And they said unto him, for we lodge in the street;’ where, nevertheless, the negation is understood. Knowing the disposition of the inhabitants, and appearing in the character of mere travellers, they preferred the open street to any house; but not yet willing to make themselves known, as Lot pressed them vehemently, and as they knew him to be a righteous man, they consented to take shelter under his hospitable roof. Ju. 19:17–21. Lu. 24:28, 29. Ac. 16:15.
3 pressed. 2 Ki. 4:8. Lu. 11:8; 14:23; 24:28, 29. 2 Co. 5:14. a feast. ch. 18:6–8; 21:8. Lu. 5:29. Jno. 12:2. He. 13:2. unleavened. ch. 18:6. Ex. 12:15, 39. Ju. 6:19. 1 Sa. 28:24. 1 Co. 5:8.
4 But. Pr. 4:16; 6:18. Mi. 7:3. Ro. 3:15. all. ch. 13:13; 18:20. Ex. 16:2; 23:2. Je. 5:1–6, 31. Mat. 27:20–25.
5 Le. 18:22; 20:13. Ju. 19:22. Is. 1:9; 3:9; Je. 3:3; 6:15. Eze. 16:49, 51. Mat. 11:23, 24. Ro. 1:23, 24, 26, 27. 1 Co. 6:9. 1 Ti. 1:10. 2 Ti. 3:13. Jude 7.
6 Lot. Ju. 19:23. door. Two words are here used for door: the first pethach, which is the door-way, at which Lot went out; the latter, deleth, the leaf of the door, which he shut after him when out.
7 ver. 4. Le. 18:22; 20:13. De. 23:17. Ju. 19:23. 1 Sa. 30:23, 24. Ac. 17:28. Ro. 1:24. 1 Co. 6:9–11. Jude 7.
8 I have. Ex. 32:22. let. ver. 31–38; ch. 42:37. Ju. 19:24. Mar. 9:6. Ro. 3:8. therefore. ch. 18:5. Ju. 9:15. Is. 58:7.
9 Stand. 1 Sa. 17:44; 25:17. Pr. 9:7, 8. Is. 65:5. Je. 3:3; 6:15; 8:12. Mat. 7:6. This. ch. 13:12. Ex. 2:14. Ac. 7:26–28. 2 Pe. 2:7, 8. pressed. ch. 11:6. 1 Sa. 2:16. Pr. 14:16; 17:12; 27:3. Ec. 9:3; 10:13. Da. 3:19–22.
11 with blindness. The word sanverim, rendered ‘blindness,’ and which occurs only here, and in 2 Ki. 6:18, is supposed to denote dazzlings, deceptions, or confusions of sight from excessive light; being derived by SCHULTENS, who is followed by PARKHURST, from the Arabic sana, to pour forth, diffuse, and nor, light. Dr. GEDDES, to the same purpose, thinks it is compounded of the Arabic sana, which signifies a flash, and or, light. The Targums, in both places where it occurs, render it by eruptions, or flashes of light, or as MERCER, in ROBERTSON, explains the Chaldee word, irradiations. 2 Ki. 6:18. Ac. 13:11. that they. Ec. 10:15. Is. 57:10. Je. 2:36.
12 Hast. ch. 7:1. Nu. 16:26. Jos. 6:22, 23. Je. 32:39. 2 Pe. 2:7, 9. son. ver. 14, 17, 22. Re. 18:4.
13 cry. ch. 13:13; 18:20. Ja. 5:4. Lord hath. 1 Ch. 21:15, 16. Ps. 11:5, 6. Is. 3:11; 36:10; 37:36. Eze. 9:5, 6. Mat. 13:41, 42, 49, 50. Ac. 12:23. Ro. 3:8, 9. Jude 7. Re. 16:1–12.
14 which. Mat. 1:18. Up. ver. 17, 22. Nu. 16:21, 26, 45. Je. 51:6. Lu. 9:42. Re. 18:4–8. as one. Ex. 9:21; 12:31. 2 Ch. 30:10; 36:16. Pr. 29:1. Is. 28:22. Je. 5:12–14; 20:7. Eze. 20:49. Mat. 9:24. Lu. 17:28–30; 24:11. Ac. 17:32. 1 Th. 5:3.
15 hastened. ver. 17, 22. Nu. 16:24–27. Pr. 6:4, 5. Lu. 13:24, 25. 2 Co. 6:2. He. 3:7, 8. Re. 18:4. are here. Heb. are found. iniquity. or, punishment.
16 lingered. Ps. 119:60. Jno. 6:44. the Lord. Ex. 34:6. Nu. 14:18. De. 4:31. 1 Ch. 16:34. Ps. 34:12; 86:5, 15; 103:8–10, 13; 106:1, 8; 107:1; 111:4; 118:1; 136:1. Is. 63:9. La. 3:22. Mi. 7:18, 19. Lu. 6:35, 36; 18:13. Ro. 9:15, 16, 18. 2 Co. 1:3. Ep. 2:4, 5. Tit. 3:5. brought. Jos. 6:22. 2 Pe. 2:9.
17 he said. ch. 18:22. Escape. ver. 14, 15, 22. 1 Sa. 19:11. 1 Ki. 19:3. Ps. 121:1. Mat. 3:7; 24:16–18. He. 2:3. look. ver. 26. Lu. 9:62; 17:31, 32. Phi. 3:13, 14.
18 ch. 32:26. 2 Ki. 5:11, 12. Is. 45:11. Jno. 13:6–8. Ac. 9:13; 10:14.
19 and thou. Ps. 18; 40; 103; 106; 107; 116. 1 Ti. 1:14–16. lest some. ch. 12:13. De. 31:17. 1 Sa. 27:1. 1 Ki. 9:9. Ps. 77:7–11; 116:11. Mat. 8:25, 26. Mar. 9:19. Ro. 8:31.
20 this. ver. 30. Pr. 3:5–7. Am. 3:6. and my. ch. 12:13. Ps. 119:175. Is. 55:3.
21 See, I. ch. 4:7. Job 42:8, 9. Ps. 34:15; 102:17; 145:19. Je. 14:10. Mat. 12:20. Lu. 11:8. He. 2:17; 4:15, 16. thee. Heb. thy face. that. ch. 12:2; 18:24.
22 for. ch. 32:25–28. Ex. 32:10. De. 9:14. Ps. 91:1–10. Is. 65:8. Mar. 6:5. 2 Ti. 2:13. Tit. 1:2. called. ch. 13:10; 14:2. Is. 15:5. Je. 48:34. Zoar. i.e. little. ver. 20.
23 risen. Heb. gone forth.
24 the Lord. De. 29:23. Job 18:15. Ps. 11:6. Is. 1:9; 13:19. Je. 20:16; 49:18; 50:40. La. 4:6. Eze. 16:49, 50. Ho. 11:8. Am. 4:11. Zep. 2:9. Mat. 11:23, 24. Lu. 17:28, 29. 2 Pe. 2:6. Jude 7. brimstone. The word rendered ‘brimstone,’ (q. d. brennestone, or brinnestone, id est burning-stone,) is always rendered by the LXX. ‘sulphur,’ and seems to denote a meteorous inflammable matter.
25 ch. 13:10; 14:3. Ps. 107:34.
26 looked. This unhappy woman, says the Rev. T. SCOTT, ‘looked back,’ contrary to God’s express command, perhaps with a hope of returning, which latter supposition is favoured by our Lord’s words, ‘Let him not return back: remember Lot’s wife.’ She was, therefore, instantaneously struck dead and petrified, and thus remained to after ages a visible monument of the Divine displeasure. ver. 17. Pr. 14:14. Lu. 17:31, 32. He. 10:38. and. Nu. 16:38.
27 early. Ps. 5:3. to the. ch. 18:22–33. Eze. 16:49, 50. Hab. 2:1. He. 2:1.
28 Ps. 107:34. 2 Pe. 2:7. Jude 7. Re. 14:10, 11; 18:9, 18; 19:3; 21:8.
29 that God. ch. 8:1; 12:2; 18:23–33; 30:22. De. 9:5. Ne. 13:14, 22. Ps. 25:7; 105:8, 42; 106:4; 136:23; 145:20. Eze. 36:31, 32. Ho. 11:8.
30 Lot. ver. 17–23. for he. ch. 49:4. Je. 2:36, 37. Ja. 1:8. Zoar. ch. 13:10; 14:22. De. 34:3. Is. 15:5. Je. 48:34.
31 not. ver. 28. Mar. 9:6. to come ch. 4:1; 6:4; 16:2, 4; 38:8, 9, 14–30. De. 25:5. Is. 4:1.
32 Come. ch. 11:3. drink. ch. 9:21. Pr. 23:31–33. Hab. 2:15, 16. seed. Le. 18:6, 7. Mar. 12:19.
33 drink. Le. 18:6, 7. Pr. 20:1; 23:29–35. Hab. 2:15, 16.
34 Is. 3:9. Je. 3:3; 5:3; 6:15; 8:12.
35 Ps. 8:4. Pr. 24:16. Ec. 7:26. Lu. 21:34. 1 Co. 10:11, 12. 1 Pe. 4:7.
36 ver. 8. Le. 18:6, 7. Ju. 1:7. 1 Sa. 15:33. Hab. 2:15. Mat. 7:2.
37 A.M. 2108. B.C. 1896. Moab. This name is generally interpreted of the father; from mo, of, and av, a father. Moabites. Nu. 21:29; ch. 22; 24. De. 2:9, 19; 23:3. Ju. ch. 3. Ru. 4:10. 2 Sa. ch. 8. 2 Ki. ch. 3.
38 Ben-ammi. i.e. Son of my people, from ben, a son, and ammi, my people. children. De. 2:9, 19; 23:3. Ju. 10:6–18; ch. 11. 1 Sa. ch. 11. 2 Sa. ch. 10. Ne. 13:1–3, 23–28. Ps. 83:4–8. Is. 11:14. Zep. 2:9.

CHAP. 20

Abraham sojourns at Gerar, 1. Denies his wife, who is taken by Abimelech, 2. Abimelech is reproved for her in a dream, 3–8. He rebukes Abraham, 9–13. Restores Sarah, 14, 15; and reproves her, 16. Abimelech and his family are healed at Abraham’s prayer, 17, 18.

1 A.M. cir. 2107. B.C. cir. 1897. from. ch. 13:1; 18:1; 24:62. Kadesh. ch. 14:7; 16:1, 7, 14. Nu. 13:26; 20:16. De. 1:19; 32:51. 1 Sa. 15:7. Ps. 29:8. Gerar. Gerar was a city of Arabia Petræa, under a king of the Philistines, 25 miles from Eleutheropolis beyond Daroma, in the south of Judah. From ch. 10:19, it appears to have been situated in the angle where the south and west sides of Canaan met, and to have been not far from Gaza. JEROME, in his Hebrew Traditions on Genesis, says, from Gerar to Jerusalem was three days’ journey. There was a wood near Gerar, spoken of by THEODORET; and a brook, (ch. 26:26,) on which was a monastery, noticed by SOZOMEN. ch. 10:19; 26:1, 6, 20, 26. 2 Ch. 14:13, 14.
2 said. ch. 12:11–13; 26:7. 2 Ch. 19:2; 20:37; 32:31. Pr. 24:16. Ec. 7:20. Ga. 2:11, 12. Ep. 4:25. Col. 3:9. Abimelech. ch. 12:15; 26:1, 16.
3 a dream. ch. 28:12; 31:24; 37:5, 9; 40:8; 41:1, etc. Job 4:12, 13; 33:15. Mat. 1:20; 2:12, 13; 27:19. a dead. ver. 7. Ps. 105:14. Eze. 33:14, 15. Jon. 3:4. a man’s wife. Heb. married to an husband.
4 had. ver. 6, 18. wilt. ver. 17, 18; ch. 18:23–25; 19:24. 2 Sa. 4:11. 1 Ch. 21:17.
5 in the integrity. or, simplicity, or sincerity. Jos. 22:22. 1 Ki. 9:4. 2 Ki. 20:3. 1 Ch. 29:17. Ps. 7:8; 25:21; 78:72. Pr. 11:3; 20:7. 2 Co. 1:12. 1 Th. 2:10. 1 Ti. 1:13. and innocency. Job 33:9. Ps. 24:4; 26:6; 73:13. Da. 6:22.
6 withheld. ver. 18; ch. 31:7; 35:5. Ex. 34:24. 1 Sa. 25:26, 34. Ps. 84:11. Pr. 21:1. Ho. 2:6, 7. sinning. ch. 39:9. Le. 6:2. Ps. 51:4; 81:12. 2 Th. 2:7, 11. to touch. ch. 3:3; 26:11. 1 Co. 7:1. 2 Co. 6:17.
7 a prophet. The word navi, rendered a prophet, not only signifies one who fortels future events, but also an intercessor, instructor. See 1 Sa. ch. 10. 1 Ki. ch. 18, and 1 Co. 14:4. The title was also given to men eminent for eloquence and literary abilities: hence Aaron, because he was the spokesman of Moses to the Egyptian king, is called a prophet. Ex. 4:16; 7:1. ch. 12:1–3; 18:17. Ex. 7:1. 1 Ch. 16:22. Ps. 25:14; 105:9–15. He. 1:1. pray. Le. 6:4, 7. 1 Sa. 7:5, 8; 12:19, 23. 2 Sa. 24:17. 1 Ki. 13:6. 2 Ki. 5:11; 19:2–4. Job 42:8. Je. 14:11; 15:1; 27:18. Ja. 5:14–16. 1 Jno. 5:16. Re. 11:5, 6. surely. ver. 18; ch. 2:17; 12:17. Job 34:19. Ps. 105:14. Eze. 3:18; 33:8, 14–16. He. 13:4. all. ch. 12:15. Nu. 16:32, 33. 2 Sa. 24:17.
9 What hast. ch. 12:18; 26:10. Ex. 32:21, 35. Jos. 7:25. 1 Sa. 26:18, 19. Pr. 28:10. a great. ch. 38:24; 39:9. Le. 20:10. 2 Sa. 12:5, 10, 11. Ro. 2:11. He. 13:4. ought. ch. 34:7. 2 Sa. 13:12. Tit. 1:11.
11 Surely. ch. 22:12; 42:18. Ne. 5:15. Job 1:1; 28:28. Ps. 14:4; 36:1–4. Pr. 1:7; 2:5; 8:13; 16:6. Ro. 3:18. slay. ch. 12:12; 26:7.
12 And yet. ch. 11:29; 12:13. 1 Th. 5:22. she is the. EBN BATRIK, in his annals, among other ancient traditions, has preserved the following: ‘Terah first married Yona, by whom he had Abraham; afterwards he married Tehevita, by whom he had Sarah.’
13 God. ch. 12:1, 9, 11, etc. Ac. 7:3–5. He. 11:8. This. 1 Sa. 23:21. Ps. 64:5. Ac. 5:9. say. ch. 12:13.
14 took. ver. 11; ch. 12:16. restored. ver. 2, 7. ch. 12:19, 20.
15 my land. ch. 13:9; 34:10; 47:6. where it pleaseth thee. Heb. as is good in thine eyes.
16 thy. ver. 5. Pr. 27:5. thousand. What these pieces were is not certain; but it is probable they were shekels, as it is so understood by the Targum; and the LXX. render it didrachma, by which the Hebrew shekel is rendered in ch. 23:15, 16. behold. Or, ‘behold IT (the 1000 shekels) is to thee,’ etc. ch. 26:11. a covering. ch. 24:65. thus. 1 Ch. 21:3–6. Pr. 9:8, 9; 12:1; 25:12; 27:5. Jon. 1:6. Re. 3:19.
17 ver. 7; ch. 29:31. 1 Sa. 5:11, 12. Ezr. 6:10. Job 42:9, 10. Pr. 15:8, 29. Is. 45:11. Mat. 7:7; 21:22. Ac. 3:24. Phi. 4:6. 1 Th. 5:25. Ja. 5:16.
18 ver. 7; ch. 12:17; 16:2; 30:2. 1 Sa. 1:6; 5:10.

CHAP. 21

Isaac is born, and circumcised, 1–5. Sarah’s joy, 6, 7. Isaac is weaned, 8. Hagar and Ishmael are cast forth, 9–14. Hagar in distress, 15, 16. The angel relieves and comforts her, 17–21. Abimelech’s covenant with Abraham at Beer-sheba, 22–34.

1 visited. ch. 50:24. Ex. 3:16; 4:31; 20:5. Ru. 1:6. 1 Sa. 2:21. Ps. 106:4. Lu. 1:68; 19:44. Ro. 4:17–20. Sarah as. ch. 17:19; 18:10, 14. Ps. 12:6. Mat. 24:35. Ga. 4:23, 28. Tit. 1:2.
2 conceived. 2 Ki. 4:16, 17. Lu. 1:24, 25, 36. Ac. 7:8. Ga. 4:22. He. 11:11. at the set. ch. 17:19, 21; 18:10, 14. Ro. 9:9.
3 ver. 6, 12; ch. 17:19; 22:2. Jos. 24:3. Mat. 1:2. Ac. 7:8. Ro. 9:7. He. 11:18.
4 ch. 17:10–12. Ex. 12:48. Le. 12:3. De. 12:32. Lu. 1:6, 59; 2:21. Jno. 7:22, 23. Ac. 7:8.
5 ch. 17:1, 17. Ro. 4:19.
6 God. ch. 17:17; 18:12–15. 1 Sa. 1:26–28; 2:1–10. Ps. 113:9; 126:2. Is. 49:15, 21; 54:1. Lu. 1:46–55. Jno. 16:21, 22. Ga. 4:27, 28. He. 11:11. to laugh. Sarah most likely remembered the circumstance mentioned in ch. 18:12; and also the name Isaac, which implies laughter. will laugh. Lu. 1:14, 58. Ro. 12:15.
7 Who. Nu. 23:23. De. 4:32–34. Ps. 86:8, 10. Is. 49:21; 66:8. Ep. 3:10. 2 Th. 1:10. for I. ch. 18:11, 12.
8 A.M. 2111. B.C. 1893. and was. 1 Sa. 1:22. Ps. 131:2. Ho. 1:8. feast. ch. 19:3; 26:30; 29:22; 40:20. Ju. 14:10, 12. 1 Sa. 25:36. 2 Sa. 3:20. 1 Ki. 3:15. Es. 1:3.
9 Sarah. ch. 16:3–6, 15; 17:20. Egyptian. ch. 16:1, 15. mocking. 2 Ki. 2:23, 24. 2 Ch. 30:10; 36:16. Ne. 4:1–5. Job 30:1. Ps. 22:6; 42:10; 44:13, 14. Pr. 20:11. La. 1:7. Ga. 4:22, 29. He. 11:36.
10 Cast out. The word rendered ‘cast out,’ signifies also to divorce. See Le. 21:7. In this latter sense, it may be understood here. ch. 25:6, 19; 17:19, 21; 20:11; 22:10; 36:6, 7. Mat. 8:11, 12; 22:13. Jno. 8:35. Ga. 4:22–31. 1 Jno. 2:19. heir. Jno. 8:35. Ga. 3:18; 4:7. 1 Pe. 1:4. 1 Jno. 2:19.
11 because. ch. 17:18; 22:1, 2. 2 Sa. 18:33, Mat. 10:37. He. 12:11.
12 hearken. 1 Sa. 8:7, 9. Is. 46:10. in Isaac. ch. 17:19, 21. Ro. 9:7, 8. He. 11:18.
13 ver. 18; ch. 16:10; 17:20; 25:12–18.
14 A.M. 2112. B.C. 1892. rose up. ch. 19:27; 22:3; 24:54; 26:31. Ps. 119:60. Pr. 27:14. Ec. 9:10. took. ch. 25:6; 36:6, 7. child. Or, youth, (see ver. 12, 20,) as Ishmael was now 16 or 17 years of age. sent. Jno. 8:35. wandered. ch. 16:7; 37:15. Ps. 107:4. Is. 16:8. Ga. 4:23–25. Beer-sheba. So called when Moses wrote; but not before Abraham’s covenant with Abimelech, ver. 31. Such instances of the figure prolepsis are not unfrequent in the Pentateuch, ver. 33; ch. 22:19; 26:33; 46:1. 1 Ki. 19:3.
15 the water. ver. 14. Ex. 15:22–25; 17:1–3. 2 Ki. 3:9. Ps. 63:1. Is. 44:12. Je. 14:3. and she cast the child. Or, ‘and she sent the lad,’ to screen him from the intensity of the heat.
16 Let. ch. 44:34. 1 Ki. 3:26. Es. 8:6. Is. 49:15. Zec. 12:10. Lu. 15:20. lift. ch. 27:38; 29:11. Ju. 2:4. Ru. 1:9. 1 Sa. 24:16; 30:4.
17 heard. ch. 16:11. Ex. 3:7; 22:23, 27. 2 Ki. 13:4, 23. Ps. 50:15; 65:2; 91:15. Mat. 15:32. the angel. See on ch. 16:9, 11. What. Ju. 18:23. 1 Sa. 11:5. Is. 22:1. fear. ch. 15:1; 46:3. Ex. 14:13. Ps. 107:4–6. Is. 41:10, 13, 14; 43:1, 2. Mar. 5:36.
18 I will. ver. 13; ch. 16:10; 17:20; 25:12–18. 1 Ch. 1:29–31.
19 Nu. 22:31. 2 Ki. 6:17–20. Is. 35:5, 6. Lu. 24:16–31.
20 God. ch. 17:20; 28:15; 39:2, 3, 21. Ju. 6:12; 13:24, 25. Lu. 1:80; 2:40. an archer. ch. 10:9; 16:12; 25:27; 27:3; 49:23, 24.
21 in the. Nu. 10:12; 12:16; 13:3, 26. 1 Sa. 25:1. a wife. ch. 24:3, 4; 26:34, 35; 27:46; 28:1, 2. Ju. 14:2. 1 Co. 7:38.
22 A.M. 2118. B.C. 1886. Abimelech. ch. 20:2; 26:26. God. ch. 20:17; 26:28; 28:15; 30:27; 39:2, 3. Jos. 3:7. 2 Ch. 1:1. Is. 8:10; 45:14. Zec. 8:23. Mat. 1:23. Ro. 8:31. 1 Co. 14:25. He. 13:5. Re. 3:9.
23 swear. ch. 14:22, 23; 24:3; 26:28; 31:44, 53. De. 6:13. Jos. 2:12. 1 Sa. 20:13, 17, 42; 24:21, 22; 30:15. Je. 4:2. 2 Co. 1:23. He. 6:16. that thou wilt not deal falsely with me. Heb. if thou shalt lie unto me. I have. ch. 20:14.
24 ch. 14:13. Ro. 12:18. He. 6:16.
25 reproved. ch. 26:15–22; 29:8. Ex. 2:15–17. Ju. 1:15. Pr. 17:10; 25:9; 27:5. Mat. 18:15. because. Wells of water were of great consequence in those hot countries, especially where the flocks were numerous; because water was scarce, and digging to find it was attended with the expense of much time and labour. servants. ch. 13:7; 26:15–22. Ex. 2:16, 17.
26 I wot. ‘Wot,’ though used for the present, is the past tense of the almost obsolete word ‘to wit,’ from the Saxon witan, to know. ch. 13:7. 2 Ki. 5:20–24.
27 took. ch. 14:22, 23. Pr. 17:8; 18:16, 24; 21:14. Is. 32:8. made. ch. 26:28–31; 31:44. 1 Sa. 18:3. Eze. 17:13. Ro. 1:31. Ga. 3:15.
29 ch. 33:8. Ex. 12:26. 1 Sa. 15:14.
30 a witness. ch. 31:44–48, 52. Jos. 22:27, 28; 24:27.
31 called. ch. 26:33. Beer-sheba. i.e. the well of the oath, or the well of the seven: alluding to the seven ewe lambs. The verb rendered ‘to swear’ is derived from the word translated seven. ver. 14; ch. 26:23. Jos. 15:28. Ju. 20:1. 2 Sa. 17:11. 1 Ki. 4:25.
32 ver. 27; ch. 14:13; 31:53. 1 Sa. 18:3. the Philistines. ch. 10:14; 26:8, 14. Ex. 13:17. Ju. 13:1.
33 grove. or, tree. Am. 8:14. The original word eshel, has been variously translated a grove, a plantation, an orchard, a cultivated field, and an oak; but it may denote a kind of tamarisk, as it is rendered by GESENIUS, the same with the Arabic athl. Beer-sheba. De. 16:21. Ju. 3:7. called. ch. 4:26; 12:8; 26:23, 25, 33. on the name. Dr. SHUCKFORD justly contends, that the expression rendered, ‘he called on the name,’ signifies ‘he invoked IN the name.’ everlasting. De. 33:27. Ps. 90:2. Is. 40:28; 57:15. Je. 10:10. Ro. 1:20; 16:26. 1 Ti. 1:17.
34 ch. 20:1. 1 Ch. 29:15. Ps. 39:12. He. 11:9, 13. 1 Pe. 2:11.

CHAP. 22

Abraham is tempted to offer Isaac, 1, 2. He gives proof of his faith and obedience, 3–10. The angel prevents him, 11, 12. Isaac is exchanged for a ram, 13. The place is called Jehovah-jireh, 14. Abraham is again blessed, 15–19. The generations of Nahor unto Rebekah, 20–24.

1 A.M. 2132. B.C. 1872. Jos. Ant. God. Ex. 15:25, 26; 16:4. De. 8:2; 13:3. Ju. 2:22. 2 Sa. 24:1. 2 Ch. 32:31. Pr. 17:3. 1 Co. 10:13. He. 11:17. Ja. 1:12–14; 2:21. 1 Pe. 1:7. tempt. Or prove, or try, as tempt, from tento, originally signified. Behold, here I am. Heb. Behold me. ver. 7, 11. Ex. 3:4. Is. 6:8.
2 Take. ch. 17:19; 21:12. Jno. 3:16. Ro. 5:8; 8:32. He. 11:17. 1 Jno. 4:9, 10. Moriah. 2 Ch. 3:1. and offer. Ju. 11:31, 39. 2 Ki. 3:27. Mi. 6:7.
3 ch. 17:23; 21:14. Ps. 119:60. Ec. 9:10. Is. 26:3, 4. Mat. 10:37. Mar. 10:28–31. Lu. 14:26. Ga. 1:16. He. 11:8, 17–19.
4 third. Ex. 5:3; 15:22; 19:11, 15. Le. 7:17. Nu. 10:33; 19:12, 19; 31:19. Jos. 1:11. 2 Ki. 20:5. Es. 5:1. Ho. 6:2. Mat. 17:23. Lu. 13:32. 1 Co. 15:4. saw. 1 Sa. 26:13.
5 Abide. He. 12:1. come. He. 11:19.
6 laid it. Is. 53:6. Mat. 8:17. Lu. 24:26, 27. Jno. 19:17. 1 Pe. 2:24.
7 My father. Mat. 26:39, 42. Jno. 18:11. Ro. 8:15. Here am I. Heb. Behold me. ver. 1. but ch. 4:2–4; 8:20. lamb. or, kid. Ex. 12:3.
8 ch. 18:14. 2 Ch. 25:9. Mat. 19:26. Jno. 1:29, 36. 1 Pe. 1:19, 20. Re. 5:6, 12; 7:14; 13:8.
9 place. ver. 2–4. Mat. ch. 21; 26; 27. built. ch. 8:20. bound. Ps. 118:27. Is. 53:4–10. Mat. 27:2. Mar. 15:1. Jno. 10:17, 18. Ac. 8:32. Ga. 3:13. Ep. 5:2. Phi. 2:7, 8. He. 9:28. 1 Pe. 2:24.
10 Is. 53:6–12. He. 11:17–19. Ja. 2:21–23.
11 angel. ver. 12, 16; ch. 16:7, 9, 10; 21:17. Abraham. ver. 1. Ex. 3:4. 1 Sa. 3:10. Ac. 9:4; 26:14.
12 Lay. 1 Sa. 15:22. Job 5:19. Je. 19:5. Mi. 6:6–8. 1 Co. 10:13. 2 Co. 8:12. He. 11:19. now. ch. 20:11; 26:5; 42:18. Ex. 20:20. 1 Sa. 12:24, 25; 15:22. Ne. 5:15. Job 28:28. Ps. 1:6; 2:11; 25:12, 14; 111:10; 112:1; 147:11. Pr. 1:7. Ec. 8:12, 13; 12:13. Je. 32:40. Mal. 4:2. Mat. 5:16; 10:37, 38; 16:24; 19:29. Ac. 9:31. He. 12:28. Ja. 2:18, 21, 22. Re. 19:5. seeing. Jno. 3:16. Ro. 5:8; 8:32. 1 Jno. 4:9, 10.
13 behind. ver. 8. Ps. 40:6–8; 89:19, 20. Is. 30:21. 1 Co. 10:13. 2 Co. 1:9, 10. in the. 1 Co. 5:7, 8. 1 Pe. 1:19, 20.
14 called. ch. 16:13, 14; 28:19; 32:30. Ex. 17:15. Ju. 6:24. 1 Sa. 7:12. Eze. 48:35. Jehovahjireh. i.e. The Lord will see, or provide. ver. 8, 13. Ex. 17:15. In. De. 32:36. Ps. 22:4, 5. Da. 3:17, etc. Mi. 4:10. Jno. 1:14. 2 Co. 1:8–10. 1 Ti. 3:16. it shall be seen. ‘In the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.’ The meaning is, that God, in the greatest difficulties, when all human assistance is vain, will make a suitable provision for the deliverance of those who trust in Him.
15 ver. 11.
16 ch. 12:2. Ps. 105:9. Is. 45:23. Je. 49:13; 51:14. Am. 6:8. Lu. 1:73. Ro. 4:13, 14. He. 6:13, 14.
17 in blessing. ch. 12:2; 27:28, 29; 28:3, 14, etc.; 49:25, 26. De. 28:2–13. Ep. 1:3. I will multiply. See on ch. 13:16; 15:5; 17:6; 26:4. De. 1:10. Je. 33:22. shore. Heb. lip. 1 Ki. 9:26. thy seed. ch. 24:60. Nu. 24:17–19. De. 21:19. Jos. ch. 1–10. 2 Sa. ch. 8; 10. Ps. 2:8, 9; 72:8, 9. Je. 32:22. Da. 2:44, 45. Mi. 1:9. Lu. 1:68–75. 1 Co. 15:57. Re. 11:15.
18 And in. See on ch. 12:3; 18:18; 26:4. Ps. 72:17. Ac. 3:25. Ro. 1:3. Ga. 3:8, 9, 16, 18, 28, 29. Ep. 1:3. obeyed. ver. 3, 10; ch. 26:5. 1 Sa. 2:30. Je. 7:23. He. ch. 11.
19 So Abraham. ver. 5. to Beer-sheba. ch. 21:31. Jos. 15:28. Ju. 20:1.
20 A.M. 2142. B.C. 1862. told. Pr. 25:25. Milcah. ch. 11:29; 24:15, 24. Nahor. ch. 11:26; 24:10, 24; 31:53.
21 Huz. Job 1:1. Uz. Buz. Job 32:2. Kemuel. Kemuel might have given name to the Kamilites, a people of Syria, mentioned by STRABO, to the west of the Euphrates. Aram. Syrians. ch. 24:10. Nu. 23:7. Ps. 60, title.
23 Bethuel. ch. 24:15, 24, 47; 25:20; 28:2, 5. Rebekah. ch. 24:51, 60, 67. Ro. 9:10. Rebecca.
24 concubine. ch. 16:3; 25:6. Pr. 15:25. Maachah. He may be the father of the Macetes, in Arabia Felix: there is a city called Maca towards the straits of Ormus.

CHAP. 23

The age and death of Sarah, 1, 2. The purchase of the field and cave of Machpelah, 3–18; where Sarah is buried, 19, 20.

1 A.M. 2144. B.C. 1860. Sarah. It is worthy of remark, that Sarah is the only woman whose age, death, and burial are distinctly noted in the Sacred Writings. an. ch. 17:17.
2 Kirjath-arba. ver. 19; ch. 13:18. Nu. 13:22. Jos. 10:39; 14:14, 15; 20:7. Ju. 1:10. 1 Sa. 20:31. 2 Sa. 2:11; 5:3, 5. 1 Ch. 6:57. came. For the convenience of feeding his numerous flocks, Abraham had several places of temporary residence; and it is likely, that while he sojourned at Beer-sheba, as we find he did from ver. 19 of the preceding chapter, Sarah died at Hebron, which was 24 miles distant. mourn. ch. 27:41; 50:10. Nu. 20:29. De. 34:8. 1 Sa. 28:3. 2 Sa. 1:12, 17. 2 Ch. 35:25. Je. 22:10, 18. Eze. 24:16–18. Jno. 11:31, 35. Ac. 8:2.
3 Heth. ver. 5, 7; ch. 10:15; 25:10; 27:46; 49:30. 1 Sa. 26:6. 2 Sa. 23:39.
4 stranger. ch. 17:8; 47:9. Le. 25:23. 1 Ch. 29:15. Ps. 39:12; 105:12, 13; 119:19. He. 11:9, 13–16. 1 Pe. 2:11. buryingplace. ch. 3:19; 49:30; 50:13. Job 30:23. Ec. 6:3; 12:5, 7. Ac. 7:5. bury. ver. 19.
6 my lord. ch. 18:12; 24:18, 35; 31:35; 32:4, 5, 18; 42:10; 44:5, 8. Ex. 32:22. Ru. 2:13. a mighty prince. Heb. a prince of God. ch. 21:22. Is. 45:14. 1 Jno. 3:1, 2. prince. ch. 13:2; 14:14; 24:35.
7 ch. 18:2; 19:1. Pr. 18:24. Ro. 12:17, 18. He. 12:14. 1 Pe. 3:8.
8 intreat. 1 Ki. 2:17. Lu. 7:3, 4. He. 7:26. 1 Jno. 2:1, 2.
9 much money. Heb. full money. Ro. 12:17; 13:8.
10 dwelt. Or, sitting (as the word frequently denotes) among the children of Heth, at the gate of the city, where all public business was transacted. Ephron, though a chief man, might have been personally unknown to Abraham; but now he answers for himself, making a free tender of the field and cave to Abraham, in the presence of all the people, which amounted to a legal conveyance to the Patriarch. audience. Heb. ears. all that. ver. 18; ch. 34:20, 24. Ru. 4:1–4. Job 29:7. Is. 28:6. his. ch. 24:10. Mat. 9:1. Lu. 2:3, 4.
11 my lord. ver. 6. 2 Sa. 24:20–24. 1 Ch. 21:22–24. Is. 32:8. in the. ver. 18. Nu. 35:30. De. 17:6; 19:15. Ru. 4:1, 4, 9, 11. Je. 32:7–12. Lu. 19:24.
12 See ver. 7; ch. 18:2; 19:1.
13 I will. ch. 14:22, 23. 2 Sa. 24:24. Ac. 20:35. Ro. 13:8. Phi. 4:5–8. Col. 4:5. He. 13:5.
15 is worth. Though the words ‘is worth’ are not in the Text, yet they are clearly implied, to adapt the Hebrew to the English idiom. A shekel, according to the general opinion, was equal in value to about 2s. 6d. of our money; but, according to Dr. PRIDEAUX, 3s. English. In those early times, money was given in weight; for it is said, (ver. 16.) that ‘Abraham WEIGHED,’ wayishkal, the silver; and hence, we find that it was a certain weight which afterwards passed as a current coin; for the word shekel is not only used to denote a piece of silver, but also to weigh. shekels. Ex. 30:15. Eze. 45:12.
16 weighed. ch. 43:21. Ezr. 8:25–30. Job 28:15. Je. 32:9. Zec. 11:12. Mat. 7:12. Ro. 13:8. Phi. 4:8. 1 Th. 4:6. four. ver. 15. Ex. 30:13. Eze. 45:12.
17 the field. ver. 20; ch. 25:9; 49:30–32; 50:13. Ac. 7:16. made sure. ver. 20. Ru. 4:7–10. Ps. 112:5. Je. 32:7–14. Mat. 10:16. Ep. 5:15. Col. 4:5.
18 all. ch. 34:20. Ru. 4:1. Je. 32:12.
19 ch. 3:19; 25:9, 10; 35:27–29; 47:30; 49:29–32; 50:13, 25. Job 30:23. Ec. 6:3; 12:5, 7.
20 were. Ru. 4:7–10. 2 Sa. 24:24. Je. 32:10, 11. for a. ch. 25:9; 49:31, 32; 50:5, 13, 24, 25. 2 Ki. 21:18.

CHAP. 24

Abraham swears his servant, 1–9. The servant’s journey, 10, 11. His prayer, 12, 13. His sign, 14. Rebekah meets him, 15–17; fulfils his sign, 18–21; receives jewels, 22; shews her kindred, 23, 24; and invites him home, 25. The servant blesses God, 26, 27. Laban entertains him, 29–33. The servant shews his message, 34–49. Laban and Bethuel approve it, 50–57. Rebekah consents to go, and departs, 58–61. Isaac meets and marries her, 62–67.

1 was old. ch. 18:11; 21:5; 25:20. 1 Ki. 1:1. Lu. 1:7. well stricken in age. Heb. gone into days. blessed. ver. 35; ch. 12:2; 13:2; 49:25. Ps. 112:1–3. Pr. 10:22. Is. 51:2. Mat. 6:33. Ga. 3:9. Ep. 1:3. 1 Ti. 4:8.
2 eldest. ch. 15:2. 1 Ti. 5:17. ruled. ver. 10; ch. 39:4–6, 8, 9; 44:1. Put. ver. 9; ch. 47:29. 1 Ch. 29:24.
3 swear. ch. 21:23; 26:28–31; 31:44–53; 50:25. Ex. 20:7; 22:11; 23:13. Le. 19:12. Nu. 5:21. De. 6:13; 10:20. Jos. 2:12. 1 Sa. 20:17. Ne. 13:25. Is. 45:23; 48:1; 65:16. Je. 4:2; 12:16. Zep. 1:5. He. 6:16. the. ch. 14:22. 2 Ki. 19:15. 2 Ch. 2:12. Ne. 9:6. Ps. 115:15. Je. 10:11. that. ch. 6:2, 4; 26:34, 35; 27:46; 28:1, 2, 8. Ex. 34:16. De. 7:3, 4. 1 Co. 7:39. 2 Co. 6:14–17.
4 to my kindred. ch. 11:25, etc.; 12:1, 7; 22:20–23; 28:2. There does not appear in all this concern the least taint of worldly policy, or any of those motives which usually govern men in the settlement of their children. No mention is made of riches, or honours, or natural accomplishments, but merely of what related to God.—FULLER.
5 Peradventure. ver. 58. Ex. 20:7; 9:2. Pr. 13:16. Je. 4:2.
6 Ga. 5:1. He. 10:39; 11:9, 13–16. 2 Pe. 2:20–22.
7 Lord. Ezr. 1:2. Da. 2:44. Jon. 1:9. Re. 11:13. took. ch. 12:1–7. which spake. ch. 13:15; 15:18; 17:8; 22:16–18; 26:3, 4, 24. Ex. 13:5; 32:13. Nu. 14:16, 30; 32:11. De. 1:8; 34:4. Jos. 1:6. Ju. 2:1. Ac. 7:5. He. 11:9. angel. Ex. 23:20–23; 33:2. Ps. 32:8; 34:7; 73:24; 103:20. Pr. 3:5, 6. Is. 63:9. He. 1:14.
8 clear. Nu. 30:5, 8. Jos. 2:17–20; 9:20. Jno. 8:32. only. ver. 4, 5, 6. Ac. 7:2.
9 ver. 2.
10 for. or, and. all the. ver. 2; ch. 39:4–6, 8, 9, 22, 23. Mesopotamia. De. 23:4. Ju. 3:8–10. 1 Ch. 19:6. Ac. 2:9. city. ch. 11:31; 27:43; 29:1, 4, 5.
11 kneel. ch. 33:13, 14. Pr. 12:10. women go out to draw water. Heb. women which draw water go forth. ver. 13–20. Ex. 2:16. 1 Sa. 9:11. Jno. 4:7.
12 O Lord. ver. 27; ch. 15:1; 17:7, 8; 26:24; 28:13; 31:42; 32:9. Ex. 3:6, 15. 1 Ki. 18:36. 2 Ki. 2:14. Mat. 22:32. I pray. ch. 27:10; 43:14. Ne. 1:11; 2:4. Ps. 37:5; 90:16, 17; 118:25; 122:6; 127:1. Pr. 3:6. Phi. 4:6. 1 Th. 3:10, 11.
13 I stand. ver. 43. Ps. 37:5. Pr. 3:6. daughters. ver. 11; ch. 29:9, 10. Ex. 2:16. Ju. 5:11. 1 Sa. 9:11. Jno. 4:7.
14 And let. Ju. 6:17, 37. 1 Sa. 14:9. she that. ver. 44. Pr. 19:14. thereby. ch. 15:8. Ex. 4:1–9. Ju. 6:17, 37; 7:13–15; 18:5. 1 Sa. 6:7–9; 10:2–10; 14:8, 10; 20:7. 2 Sa. 5:24; 20:9. 2 Ki. 20:8–11. Is. 7:11. Ro. 1:10.
15 before. ver. 45. Ju. 6:36–40. Ps. 34:15; 65:2; 145:18, 19. Is. 58:9; 65:24. Da. 9:20–23. Rebekah. ver. 24; ch. 22:20–23. Milcah. ch. 11:27, 29; 22:23. pitcher. ch. 21:14; 29:9. Ex. 2:16. Ru. 2:2, 17. Pr. 31:27.
16 fair to look upon. Heb. good of countenance. ch. 26:7; 39:6. known. ch. 4:1. Nu. 31:17, 18. Ca. 5:2.
17 Let. 1 Ki. 17:10. Jno. 4:7, 9. water of. ch. 26. Is. 21:14; 30:25; 35:6, 7; 41:17, 18; 49:10.
18 Pr. 31:26. 1 Pe. 3:8; 4:8, 9.
19 ver. 14, 45, 46. 1 Pe. 4:9.
21 wondering at. 2 Sa. 7:18–20. Ps. 34:1–6; 107:1, 8, 15, 43; 116:1–7. Lu. 2:19, 51. to wit. i.e. ‘to know,’ or ‘to learn.’ the Lord. ver. 12, 56.
22 took. ver. 30. Ex. 32:2, 3. Es. 5:1. Je. 2:32. 1 Ti. 2:9, 10. 1 Pe. 3:3, 8. earring. or, jewel for the forehead. Ex. 32:2, 3. Is. 3:19–23. Eze. 16:11, 12. From the word being in the singular number, it is not likely to have been an ear-ring, or a ‘jewel for the forehead,’ but ‘a jewel for the nose, a nose-ring,’ which is in use throughout Arabia and Persia, particularly among young women. It is very properly translated επιρρινον, ‘an ornament for the nose,’ by SYMMACHUS; and Sir JOHN CHARDIN informs us, that ‘it is a custom in almost all the East, for the women to wear rings in their noses, in the left nostril, which is bored low down in the middle. These rings are of gold, and have commonly two pearls and one ruby between, placed in the ring. I never saw a girl or young woman in Arabia or in all Persia, who did not wear a ring after this manner in her nostril.’ of half. ch. 23:15, 16. bracelets. The word rendered ‘bracelet,’ from a root which signifies ‘to join or couple together,’ may imply whatever may clasp round the arms and legs; for rings and ornaments are worn round both by females in India and Persia. The small part of the leg, and the whole arm, from the shoulder to the wrist, are generally decorated in this way. As these were given Rebekah for ‘her hands,’ it sufficiently distinguishes them from similar ornaments for the ankles.
24 ver. 15; ch. 11:29; 22:20, 23.
25 ch. 18:4–8. Ju. 19:19–21. Is. 32:8. 1 Pe. 4:9.
26 ver. 48, 52; ch. 22:5. Ex. 4:31; 12:27; 34:8. 1 Ch. 29:20. 2 Ch. 20:18; 29:30. Ne. 8:6. Ps. 22:29; 66:4; 72:9; 95:6. Mi. 6:6. Phi. 2:10.
27 Blessed. ver. 12; ch. 9:26; 14:20. Ex. 18:10. Ru. 4:14. 1 Sa. 25:32, 39. 2 Sa. 18:28. 1 Ch. 29:10–13. Ps. 68:19; 72:18, 19. Lu. 1:68. Ep. 1:3. 1 Ti. 1:17. of his. ch. 32:10. Ps. 98:3; 100:5. Mi. 7:20. Jno. 1:17. the Lord. ver. 48. Pr. 3:6; 4:11–13; 8:20. of my. ver. 4; ch. 13:8. Ex. 2:11, 13.
28 of. ver. 48, 55, 67; ch. 31:33. her mother’s. Some have conjectured from this, that her father Bethuel was dead; and the person called Bethuel, (ver. 50,) was a younger brother. This is possible; but as Dr. A. CLARKE remarks, the mother’s house might be mentioned were even the father alive; for in Asiatic countries, the women have apartments entirely separate from those of the men, in which their little children and grown-up daughters reside with them. This was probably the case here; though, from the whole narrative, it is very probable that Bethuel was dead, as the whole business appears to be conducted by Rebekah’s brothers.
29 ver. 55, 60; ch. 29:5.
31 thou. ch. 26:29. Ju. 17:2. Ru. 3:10. Ps. 115:15. Pr. 17:8; 18:16. for I. ver. 25.
32 he ungirded. i.e. Laban ungirded. straw. Straw, by the eastern mode of threshing, was cut or shattered, and reduced to a kind of chaff. With this, sometimes mixed with a little barley, the eastern people still feed their labouring beasts, as they anciently did. wash. ch. 18:4; 19:2; 43:24. Ju. 19:21. 1 Sa. 25:41. Lu. 7:44. Jno. 3:4–14. 1 Ti. 5:10.
33 Job 23:12. Ps. 132:3–5. Pr. 22:29. Ec. 9:10. Jno. 4:14, 31–34. Ep. 6:5–8. 1 Ti. 6:2.
34 ver. 2.
35 the Lord. ver. 1; ch. 12:2; 13:2; 25:11; 26:12; 49:25. Ps. 18:35; 112:3. Pr. 10:22; 22:4. 1 Ti. 4:8. flocks. ch. 12:16; 13:2; 26:13, 14. Job 1:3; 42:10–12. Ps. 107:38. Mat. 6:33.
36 Sarah. ch. 11:29, 30; 17:15–19; 18:10–14; 21:1–7. Ro. 4:19. unto. ch. 21:10; 25:5.
37 And my. ver. 2–9; ch. 6:2; 27:46. Ezr. 9:1–3. Canaanites. The Canaanites were infected with gross idolatry; and consequently, not proper persons with whom to form so intimate a connexion; especially as Jehovah had shewn Abraham that they were filling up the measure of their iniquity, and were doomed to destruction.
38 But. ver. 4; ch. 12:1. my father’s. i.e. where the family of Haran his brother had settled; and where he himself had remained some time with his father Terah. Nahor did not dwell at Ur of the Chaldees, but at Haran in Mesopotamia. The true worship of God seems to have been in some measure preserved pure in this family, though afterwards corrupted. See ch. 31:19.
39 ver. 5. Peradventure. We may see, says CALMET, by this and other passages of Scripture, (Jos. 9:18,) what the sentiments of the ancients were relative to an oath. They believed that they were bound precisely by what was spoken, and had no liberty to interpret the intentions of those by whom the oath was made.
40 And he. ver. 7. before. ch. 5:22, 24; 6:9; 17:1; 48:15. 1 Ki. 2:3; 8:23. 2 Ki. 20:3. Ps. 16:8. will. ver. 7. Ex. 23:20; 33:2. Ps. 1:3; 91:11. Da. 3:28. He. 1:14. Re. 22:8, 16.
41 ver. 8. De. 29:12.
42 O Lord. ver. 12–14. Ac. 10:7, 8, 22. prosper. ver. 12, 31; ch. 39:3. Ezr. 8:21. Ne. 1:11. Ps. 37:5; 90:17. Ro. 1:10.
43 ver. 13, 14.
44 Both. Is. 32:8. 1 Ti. 2:10. He. 13:2. 1 Pe. 3:8. the woman. ver. 14; ch. 2:22. Pr. 16:33; 18:22; 19:14. appointed. Those events, which appear to us the effect of choice, contrivance, or chance, are matters of appointment with God; and the persuasion of this does not prevent, but rather encourage, the use of all proper means; at the same time that it confines us to proper means, and delivers the mind from useless anxiety about consequences.
45 before. ver. 15–20. Is. 58:9; 65:24. Da. 9:19, 23. Ac. 4:24–33; 10:30; 12:12–17. Mat. 7:7. speaking. 1 Sa. 1:13–15. 2 Sa. 7:27. Ne. 2:4. Ro. 8:26.
47 I put. ver. 22, 53. Ps. 45:9, 13, 14. Is. 62:3–5. Eze. 16:10–13. Ep. 5:26, 27.
48 bowed. ver. 26, 27, 52. led me. ver. 27; ch. 22:23. Ex. 18:20. Ezr. 8:21. Ps. 32:8; 48:14; 107:7. Pr. 3:5, 6; 4:11. Is. 48:17.
49 now if. ch. 47:29. Jos. 2:14. deal kindly and truly. Heb. do mercy and truth. ch. 32:10. Pr. 3:3. that I. Nu. 20:17. De. 2:27.
50 Laban. These seem both to be brothers, of whom Laban was the eldest and chief: the opinion of JOSEPHUS appears to be very correct, that Bethuel, the father, had been dead some time. See ver. 15, 28, 53, 55, 60. The thing. Ps. 118:23. Mat. 21:42. Mar. 12:11. we. ch. 31:24, 29. 2 Sa. 13:22. Ac. 11:17.
51 Rebekah. ch. 20:15. hath. ver. 15. 2 Sa. 16:10.
52 worshipped. ver. 26, 48. 1 Ch. 29:20. 2 Ch. 20:18. Ps. 34:1, 2; 95:6; 107:21, 22; 116:1, 2. Mat. 2:11. Ac. 10:25, 26.
53 jewels. Heb. vessels. The original word denotes vessels, utensils, instruments, furniture, or dress; and these presented by Abraham’s servant might have been of various kinds. Ex. 3:22; 11:2; 12:35. brother. No mention is made of her father, precious. This term, rendered ‘precious things,’ as may be seen in the parallel texts, is used to express exquisite fruits or delicacies, and precious plants or flowers: but here it may mean gifts in general, though rather of an inferior kind to those mentioned above. De. 33:13–16. 2 Ch. 21:3. Ezr. 1:6. Ca. 4:13. Is. 39:2.
54 Send me. ver. 56, 59; ch. 28:5, 6; 45:24. 2 Sa. 18:19, 27, 28. Pr. 22:29. Ec. 7:10. Lu. 8:38, 39.
55 a few days. or, a full year, or ten months. ch. 4:3. Le. 25:29. Ju. 14:8.
56 Hinder. ch. 45:9–13. Pr. 25:25. prospered. Jos. 1:8. Is. 48:15.
58 Ps. 45:10, 11. Lu. 1:38.
59 their. ver. 50, 53, 60. nurse. ch. 35:8. Nu. 11:12. 1 Th. 2:5.
60 they. ch. 1:28; 9:1; 14:19; 17:16; 28:3; 48:15, 16, 20. Ru. 4:11, 12. be thou the mother. or, ‘be thou for thousands of myriads; ‘a large family being always considered, in ancient times, as a proof of the peculiar blessing and favour of God. thousands. Da. 7:10. thy seed. See on ch. 22:17. Le. 25:46. De. 21:19.
61 they rode. ch. 31:34. 1 Sa. 30:17. Es. 8:10, 14. followed. ch. 2:24. Ps. 45:10.
62 Lahai-roi. ch. 16:14; 25:11. south. ch. 12:9.
63 to meditate. or, to pray. They who acknowledge God in all their ways, will find him present to direct their paths, and make their way prosperous; and when the prayer of faith meets with an immediate answer, the glory ought as speedily to be rendered to God in solemn praise and thanksgiving. Jos. 1:8. Ps. 1:2; 77:11, 12; 104:34; 119:15; 139:17, 18; 143:5, 6.
64 lighted. Jos. 15:18. Ju. 1:14.
65 a vail. ch. 20:16. 1 Co. 11:5, 6, 10. 1 Ti. 2:9.
66 Mar. 6:30.
67 his mother. ch. 18:6, 9, 10. Ca. 8:2. Is. 54:1–5. Sarah’s tent. Sarah being dead, her tent, which, according to the custom of the east, was distinct from that of Abraham, became now appropriated to the use of Rebekah. and took. ch. 2:22–24. 2 Co. 11:1, 2. Ep. 5:22–33. comforted. ch. 37:35; 38:12. 1 Th. 4:13, 15.

CHAP. 25

The sons of Abraham, by Keturah, 1–4. The division of his goods, 5, 6. His age, death, and burial, 7–10. God blesses Isaac, 11. The generations of Ishmael, 12–16. His age and death, 17, 18. Isaac prays for Rebekah, being barren, 19–21. The children strive in her womb, 22, 23. The birth of Esau and Jacob, 24–26. Their different characters and pursuits, 27, 28. Esau sells his birthright, 29–34.

1 A.M. cir. 2151. B.C. cir. 1853; ch. 23:1, 2; 28:1. 1 Ch. 1:32, 33.
2 A.M. cir. 2152. B.C. cir. 1852. she bare. 1 Ch. 1:32, 33. Je. 25:25. Zimri. Midian. ch. 36:35; 37:28, 36. Ex. 2:15, 16; 18:1–4. Nu. 22:4; 25:17, 18; 31:2, 8. Ju. ch. 6–8. Shuah. Job 2:11.
3 A.M. cir. 2180. B.C. cir. 1824. Sheba. 1 Ki. 10:1. Job 6:19. Ps. 72:10. Dedan. Je. 25:23; 49:8. Eze. 25:13; 27:20. Asshurim. 2 Sa. 2:9. Eze. 27:6.
4 A.M. cir. 2200. B.C. cir. 1804. Ephah. Is. 60:6.
5 A.M. cir. 2175. B.C. cir. 1829. ch. 21:10–12; 24:36. Ps. 68:18. Mat. 11:27; 28:18. Jno. 3:35; 17:2. Ro. 8:17, 32; 9:7–9. 1 Co. 3:21–23. Ga. 3:29; 4:28. Col. 1:19. He. 1:2. Isaac typified the Son of God, ‘whom HE hath appointed Heir of all things.’
6 concubines. ver. 1; ch. 16:3; 30:4, 9; 32:22; 35:22. Ju. 19:1, 2, 4. gifts. Ps. 17:14, 15. Mat. 5:45. Lu. 11:11–13. Ac. 14:17. sent. ch. 21:14. east country. Arabia Deserta, which was eastward of Beer-sheba, where Abraham dwelt. Ju. 6:3. Job. 1:1, 3.
7 A.M. 2183. B.C. 1821. ch. 12:4.
8 gave. ver. 17; ch. 35:18; 49:33. Ac. 5:5, 10; 12:23. good. ch. 15:15; 35:28, 29; 47:8, 9; 49:29. Ju. 8:32. 1 Ch. 29:28. Job 5:26; 42:17. Pr. 20:29. Je. 6:11. gathered. ver. 7; ch. 35:29; 49:33. Nu. 20:24; 27:13. Ju. 2:10. Ac. 13:36.
9 Isaac. ch. 21:9, 10; 35:29. in the cave. ch. 23:9–20; 49:29, 30; 50:13.
10 The field. ch. 23:16. there. ch. 49:31.
11 after. ch. 12:2; 17:19; 22:17; 50:24. Lahai-roi. ch. 16:14; 24:62.
12 ch. 16:10–15; 17:20; 21:13. Ps. 83:6.
13 the names. 1 Ch. 1:29–31. Nebajoth. From Nebajoth sprang the Nabatheans, who inhabited Arabia Petræa; from Kedar, the Cedreans, who dwelt near the Nabatheans; and from Jetur, the Itureans, who inhabited a small tract of country east of Jordan, which afterwards belonged to Manasseh. ch. 36:3. Is. 60:7. Kedar. Ps. 120:5. Ca. 1:5. Is. 21:16, 17; 42:11.
14 Dumah. Is. 21:11, 16.
15 Hadar. or, Hadad. More than 300 MSS. and printed editions read Hadad, as in 1 Ch. 1:30. Tema. 1 Ch. 5:19. Job 2:11. Naphish. These are evidently the same people mentioned in 1 Ch. 5:19, who, with the Itureans, assisted the Hagarenes against the Israelites, but were overcome by the two tribes of Reuben and Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh.
16 castles. The word tiroth, rendered ‘castles,’ is supposed by some to denote here ‘towers,’ fortified rocks, or mountain-tops, and fastnesses of various kinds in woods and hilly countries; but it rather means, ‘shepherds’ cots,’ surrounded by sufficient enclosures to prevent the cattle from straying, as the cognate Syriac word teyaro, and Arabic tawar, signify ‘a sheep fold.’ twelve. ch. 17:20, 23.
17 A.M. 2231. B.C. 1773. these are. ver. 7, 8 gathered. ch. 15:15.
18 Havilah. ch. 2:11; 10:7, 29; 20:1; 21:14, 21. as thou. ch. 13:10. toward. 2 Ki. 23:29. Is. 19:23, 24. died. Heb. fell. ch. 14:10. Ps. 78:64. in the. ch. 16:12.
19 A.M. 2108. B.C. 1896. Abraham. 1 Ch. 1:32. Mat. 1:2. Lu. 3:34. Ac. 7:8.
20 A.M. 2148. B.C. 1856. when he. ch. 22:23; 24:67. the Syrian. ch. 24:29; 28:5, 6; 31:18, 20, 24; 35:9. De. 26:5. Lu. 4:27.
21 A.M. 2167. B.C. 1837. intreated. 1 Sa. 1:11, 27. Ps. 50:15; 65:2; 91:15. Is. 45:11; 58:9; 65:24. Lu. 1:13. because. ch. 11:30; 15:2, 3; 16:2; 17:16–19. 1 Sa. 1:2. Lu. 1:7. and the. 1 Ch. 5:20. 2 Ch. 33:13. Ezr. 8:23. Ps. 145:19. Pr. 10:24. and Rebekah. Ro. 9:10–12.
22 A.M. 2168. B.C. 1836. enquire. 1 Sa. 9:9; 10:22; 22:15; 28:6; 30:8. Eze. 20:31; 36:37.
23 Two nations. ch. 17:16; 24:60. two manner. ver. 27; ch. 32:6; 33:3; 36:31. Nu. 20:14. the elder. ch. 27:29, 40. 2 Sa. 8:14. 1 Ki. 22:47. 1 Ch. 18:13. 2 Ch. 25:11, 12. Ps. 60:8, 9; 83:5–15. Is. ch. 34; 63:1–6. Je. 49:7–22. Eze. 25:12–14; ch. 35. Am. 1:11, 12. Ob. 1–16. Mal. 1:2–5. Ro. 9:10–13.
25 Esau. The word Esau has been generally considered to imply made, formed, or perfected; or perfect, robust, etc. But it appears to be a dialectical variation of the Arabic âtha, to be covered with hair; whence athai, hairy, as no doubt the word Esau imports, in allusion to the circumstance of his being covered with red hair or down at his birth. ch. 27:11, 16, 23.
26 And after. ch. 38:28–30. took. Ho. 12:3. Jacob. ch. 27:36. Isaac was. ver. 20.
27 a cunning. ch. 10:9; 21:20; 27:3–5, 40. a plain man. ch. 6:9; 28:10, 11; 31:39–41; 46:34. Job 1:1, 8; 2:3. Ps. 37:37. dwelling. He. 11:9.
28 he did eat of his venison. Heb. venison was in his mouth. ch. 27:4, 19, 25, 31. Rebekah. ch. 27:6.
29 A.M. 2199. B.C. 1805. and he. Ju. 8:4, 5. 1 Sa. 14:28, 31. Pr. 13:25. Is. 40:30, 31.
30 with that same red pottage. Heb. with that red, with that red pottage. This, we are informed, (ver. 34,) was of lentiles, a sort of pulse. Edom. i.e. red. ch. 36:1, 9, 43. Ex. 15:15. Nu. 20:14–21. De. 23:7. 2 Ki. 8:20.
32 at the point to die. Heb. going to die. and what. Job 21:15; 22:17; 34:9. Mal. 3:14. birthright. Ex. 22:9.
33 Swear. ch. 14:22; 24:3. Mar. 6:23. He. 6:16. and he sold. ch. 27:36; 36:6, 7. He. 12:16.
34 eat. Ec. 8:15. Is. 22:13. 1 Co. 15:32. thus Esau. Ps. 106:24. Zec. 11:13. Mat. 22:5; 26:15. Lu. 14:18–20. Ac. 13:41. Phi. 3:18, 19. He. 12:16, 17.

CHAP. 26

Isaac, because of famine, sojourns in Gerar, and the Lord instructs and blesses him, 1–6. He is reproved by Abimelech for denying his wife, 7–11. He grows rich, and the Philistines envy his prosperity, 12–17. He digs Esek, Sitnah, and Rehoboth, 18–22. God appears to him at Beer-sheba, and blesses him; and Abimelech makes a covenant with him, 23–33. Esau’s wives, 34, 35.

1 A.M. 2200. B.C. 1804. the first. ch. 12:10. And Isaac. ch. 25:11. Abimelech. ch. 20:2; 21:22–32.
2 appeared. ch. 12:7; 17:1; 18:1, 10–20. dwell. ch. 12:1. Ps. 37:3.
3 Sojourn. ver. 12, 14; ch. 20:1. Ps. 32:8; 37:1–6; 39:12. He. 11:9, 13–16. I will be. ch. 28:15; 39:2, 21. Is. 43:2, 5. Phi. 4:9. unto thee. ch. 12:1, 7; 13:15, 17; 15:18; 17:8. oath. ch. 22:16, 18. Ps. 105:9. Mi. 7:20. He. 6:17.
4 multiply. ch. 13:16; 15:5, 18; 17:4–8; 18:18; 22:17. He. 11:2. seed shall. ch. 12:2, 3; 22:18. Ps. 72:17. Ac. 3:25. Ga. 3:8, 16.
5 ch. 12:4; 17:23; 18:19; 22:16, 18. Ps. 112:1, 2; 128. Mat. 5:19; 7:24. 1 Co. 15:58. Ga. 5:6. He. 11:8. Ja. 2:21.
6 Gerar. ch. 20:1.
7 She is my sister. ch. 12:13; 20:2, 5, 12, 13. Pr. 29:25. Mat. 10:28. Ep. 5:25. Col. 3:9. fair. ch. 24:16.
8 a window. Ju. 5:28. Pr. 7:6. Ca. 2:9. sporting. Pr. 5:18, 19. Ec. 9:9. Is. 62:5.
10 ch. 12:18, 19; 20:9, 10.
11 toucheth. ch. 20:6. Ps. 105:15. Pr. 6:29. Zec. 2:8.
12 sowed. The author of the “History of the Piratical States of Barbary” observes, (44,) that the Moors of that country are divided into tribes like the Arabians, and like them dwell in tents, formed into itinerant villages; that ‘these wanderers farm lands of the inhabitants of the towns, sow and cultivate them, paying their rent with the produce, such as fruits, corn, wax, etc. They are very skilful in choosing the most advantageous soils for every season, and very careful to avoid the Turkish troops, the violence of the one little suiting the simplicty of the other.’ It is natural to suppose, that Isaac possessed the like sagacity, when he sowed in the land of Gerar, and received that year an hundred-fold. received. Heb. found. an hundredfold. Ps. 67:6; 72:16. Ec. 11:6. Zec. 8:12. Mat. 13:8, 23. Mar. 4:8. 1 Co. 3:6. 2 Co. 9:10, 11. Ga. 6:7, 8. blessed. ver. 3, 29; ch. 24:1, 35; 30:30. Job 42:12.
13 And the man waxed great. Dr. ADAM CLARKE remarks, that there is a strange and observable occurrence of the same term in the original, which is literally, ‘And the man was GREAT, and he went, going on, and was GREAT, until that he was exceeding GREAT.’ How simple is this language, and yet how forcible! waxed great. ch. 24:35. Ps. 112:3. went forward. Heb. went going.
14 had possession. ch. 12:16; 13:2. Job 1:3; 42:12. Ps. 112:3; 144:13, 14. Pr. 10:22. servants. or, husbandry. envied. ch. 37:11. 1 Sa. 18:9. Job 5:2. Ps. 112:10. Pr. 27:4. Ec. 4:4.
15 his father’s. ch. 21:30. had stopped. In those countries, a well of water was a great acquisition, and hence, this mode of injuring new settlers, or revenging themselves on their enemies, is still resorted to among the inhabitants.
16 Go. Dr. A. CLARKE observes, that this is the first instance on record of what was termed among the Greeks, ostracism, i.e. the banishment of a person from the state, of whose power, influence, or riches, the people were jealous. mightier. Ex. 1:9.
18 in the days. HOUBIGANT contends, that instead of bimey, ‘in the days,’ we should read avdey, ‘servants;’ agreeably to the Samaritan, Septuagint, Syriac, and Vulgate: ‘And Isaac digged again the wells of water which the servants of Abraham his father had digged.’ and he. ch. 21:31. Nu. 32:38. Ps. 16:4. Ho. 2:17. Zec. 13:2.
19 springing water. Heb. living. Ca. 4:15. Jno. 4:10, 11; 7:38.
20 did strive. ch. 21:25. Esek. i.e. Contention.
21 Sitnah. i.e. Hatred. Ezr. 4:6.
22 digged. The wells in Arabia are generally dug in the rock: their months are about six feet in diameter, and they are from nineteen to twenty feet in depth. But NIEBUHR informs us, that many wells are from 160 to 170 feet deep. Rehoboth. i.e. Room. the Lord. Ps. 4:1; 18:19; 118:5. be fruitful. ch. 17:6; 28:3; 41:52. Ex. 1:7.
23 Beer-sheba. ch. 21:31; 46:1. Ju. 20:1.
24 I am the. ch. 15:1; 17:7; 24:12; 28:13; 31:5. Ex. 3:6. Mat. 22:32. Ac. 7:32. fear. ver. 3, 4; ch. 13:16; 22:19. Ps. 27:1–3; 46:1, 2. Is. 12:2; 41:10, 13–15; 43:1, 2; 44:2; 51:7, 12. Lu. 12:32. He. 13:6. Re. 1:17.
25 builded. ch. 8:20; 12:7; 13:18; 22:9; 33:20. 35:1. Ex. 17:15. called. Ps. 116:17.
26 Abimelech. ch. 20:3; 21:22–32. Phichol. Phichol, as well as Abimelech, ‘father king,’ seems to have been a name of office or dignity among the Philistines; for it is not probable that they were the same as are mentioned in the days of Abraham (ch. 21:22, 32.)
27 seeing. ver. 14, 16. Ju. 11:7. Ac. 7:9, 14, 27, 35. Re. 3:9. sent me. ver. 16.
28 We saw certainly. Heb. Seeing we saw. was with. ch. 21:22, 23; 39:5. Jos. 3:7. 2 Ch. 1:1. Is. 45:14; 60:14; 61:6, 9. Ro. 8:31. 1 Co. 14:25. He. 13:5. Let there. ch. 21:31, 32; 24:3, 41; 31:49–53. He. 6:16.
29 That thou wilt. Heb. If thou shalt, etc. not. ver. 11, 14, 15. the blessed. ver. 12; ch. 12:2; 21:22; 22:17; 24:31. Ps. 115:15.
30 ch. 19:3; 21:8; 31:54. Ro. 12:18. He. 12:14. 1 Pe. 4:9.
31 betimes. ch. 19:2; 21:14; 22:3; 31:55. sware. ch. 14:22; 21:23, 31, 32; 25:33; 31:44. 1 Sa. 14:24; 20:3, 16, 17; 30:15. He. 6:16.
32 We have. ver. 25. Pr. 2:4, 5; 10:4; 13:4. Mat. 7:7.
33 Shebah. i.e. an oath, therefore. ch. 21:31. Beer-sheba. i.e. the well of the oath. ver. 28. This may have been the same city which was called Beer-sheba a hundred years before this, in the time of Abraham; but as the well, from which it had its name originally, was closed up by the Philistines, the name of the place might have been abolished with the well; when, therefore, Isaac re-opened it, he restored the ancient name of the place.
34 A.M. 2208. B.C. 1796. And Esau. ch. 36:2, 5, 13. the daughter. ch. 24:3. Ex. 34:16. 1 Co. 7:2. He. 12:16. Bashemath. ch. 36:2.
35 Which. ch. 6:2; 27:46; 28:1, 2, 8. grief of mind. Heb. bitterness of spirit.

CHAP. 27

Isaac sends Esau for venison, 1–5. Rebekah instructs Jacob to obtain the blessing, 6–13. Jacob, feigning to be Esau, obtains it, 14–29. Esau brings venison, 30–32. Isaac trembles, 33. Esau complains, and by importunity obtains a blessing, 34–40. He threatens Jacob’s life, 41. Rebekah disappoints him, by sending Jacob away, 42–46.

1 A.M. 2244. B.C. 1760. dim. ch. 48:10. 1 Sa. 3:2. Ec. 12:3. Jno. 9:3. eldest son. ch. 25:23–25.
2 I know not. ch. 48:21. 1 Sa. 20:3. Pr. 27:1. Ec. 9:10. Is. 38:1, 3. Mar. 13:35. Ja. 4:14.
3 take, I. ch. 10:9; 25:27, 28. take me. Heb. hunt. ch. 25:27, 28. 1 Co. 6:12.
4 that I may eat. The blessing, says Dr. A. CLARKE, which Isaac was to confer on his son, was a species of divine right, and must be communicated with appropriate ceremonies. As eating and drinking were used among the Asiatics on almost all religious occasions, and especially in making and confirming covenants, it is reasonable to suppose, that something of this kind was essentially necessary on this occasion; and that Isaac could not convey the right, till he had eaten of the meat provided for the purpose by him who was to receive the blessing, that my. ver. 7, 23, 25, 27; ch. 14:19; 24:60; 28:3; 48:9, 15–20; 49:28. Le. 9:22, 23. De. 33:1, etc. Jos. 14:13; 22:6. Lu. 2:34; 24:51. He. 11:20.
7 before the. De. 33:1. Jos. 6:26. 1 Sa. 24:19.
8 ver. 13; ch. 25:23. Ac. 4:19; 5:29. Ep. 6:1.
9 two. Ju. 13:15. 1 Sa. 16:20. savoury. matammim, from taam, to taste or relish: how dressed is uncertain, but its name declares its nature, ver. 4.
11 hairy man. ch. 25:25.
12 feel. ver. 22. Job 12:16. 2 Co. 6:8. a deceiver. ver. 36; ch. 25:27. 1 Th. 5:22. and I shall. ch. 9:25. De. 27:18. Je. 48:10. Mal. 1:14.
13 Upon. ch. 25:23, 33; 43:9. 1 Sa. 14:24–28, 36–45; 25:24. 2 Sa. 14:9. Mat. 27:25.
14 mother. ver. 4, 7, 9, 17, 31; ch. 25:28. Ps. 141:4. Pr. 23:2, 3. Lu. 21:34.
15 goodly raiment. Heb. desirable, ver. 27. The Septuagint translates it ‘a goodly robe,’ which was a long garment that great men used to wear, (Lu. 20:46; 15:22.) The priest afterwards in the law had ‘holy garments’ to minister in, (Ex. 28:2–4.) Whether the first-born before the law had such to minister in is not certain; for, had they been common garments, why did not Esau himself or his wives keep them? But being, in likelihood, holy robes, received from their ancestors, the mother of the family kept them in sweet chests, from moths and the like; whereupon it is said, (ver. 27,) ‘Isaac smelled the smell of his garments.’
16 skins. Travellers inform us, that the Eastern goats have long, fine, and beautiful hair, of the most delicate silky softness; indeed the animals generally in those hot countries are not covered with so thick a coat of hair as they are in more northerly regions; so that Isaac might easily be deceived, when his eyes were dim, and his feeling no less impared than his sight.
19 I am. ver. 21, 24, 25; ch. 25:25; 29:23–25. 1 Ki. 13:18; 14:2. Is. 28:15. Zec. 13:3, 4. Mat. 26:70–74. that thy. ver. 4.
20 Because. Ex. 20:7. Job 13:7. to me. Heb. before me.
21 Come. Ps. 73:28. Is. 57:19. Ja. 4:8. may feel. ver. 12.
22 The voice. How wonderful, says Mr. SCOTT, is that difference which there is betwixt the faces and the voices of the several individuals of the human species! Scarcely any two of the innumerable millions are exactly alike in either, and yet the difference cannot be defined or described! The power, wisdom, and kindness of our Creator should be admired and adored in this remarkable circumstance; for they are very visible. This description of Jacob is not unaptly accommodated to the character of a hypocrite: his voice, his language, is that of a Christian; his hands, or conduct, that of an ungodly man: but the judgment will proceed from God, the Judge of all, at the last day, as in the present case, not by the voice, but by the hands.
23 his hands. ver. 16. he blessed. Ro. 9:11, 12. He. 11:20.
24 I am. 1 Sa. 21:2, 13; 27:10. 2 Sa. 14:5. Job 13:7, 8; 15:5. Pr. 12:19, 22; 30:8. Zec. 8:16. Ro. 3:7, 8. Ep. 4:25. Col. 3:9.
25 that my. ver. 4.
27 blessed. He. 11:20. the smell of a field. A field where aromatic plants, flowers, fruits, and spices grew in abundance, with which these garments (see ver. 15) of Esau might probably have been perfumed by being laid up with them. Ca. 2:13; 4:11–14; 7:12, 13. Ho. 14:6, 7. which. ch. 26:12. He. 6:7.
28 of the dew. De. 11:11, 12; 32:2; 33:13, 28. 2 Sa. 1:21. 1 Ki. 17:1. Ps. 65:9–13; 133:3. Is. 45:8. Je. 14:22. Ho. 14:5–7. Mi. 5:7. He. 11:20. the fatness. ver. 39; ch. 45:18; 49:20. Nu. 13:20. Ps. 36:8. Ro. 11:17. plenty. De. 7:13; 8:7–9; 33:28. Jos. 5:6. 1 Ki. 5:11. 2 Ch. 2:10. Ps. 65:9, 13; 104:15. Joel 2:19. Zec. 9:17.
29 Let people. ch. 9:25, 26; 22:17, 18; 49:8–10. 2 Sa. ch. 8; 10. 1 Ki. 4:21. Ps. 2:6–9; 72:8. Is. 9:7. Da. 2:44, 45. Re. 19:16. be lord. ver. 37; ch. 25:22, 23, 33. 2 Sa. 8:14. 1 Ki. 11:15, 16; 22:47. 1 Ch. 5:2. 2 Ch. 25:11–14. Ps. 60, title. Is. 63:1–6. Mal. 1:2–5. Ro. 9:12. cursed. ch. 12:3. Nu. 22:11, 12; 23:8; 24:9. Zep. 2:8, 9. Mat. 25:40, 45.
31 eat. ver. 4.
33 trembled very exceedingly. Heb. trembled with a great trembling greatly. Job 21:6; 37:1. Ps. 55:5. taken. Heb. hunted. thou camest. ver. 25. yea. ch. 28:3, 4. Jno. 10:10, 28, 29. Ro. 5:20, 21; 11:29. Ep. 1:3. He. 11:20.
34 he cried. 1 Sa. 30:4. Pr. 1:24–28, 31; 19:3. Lu. 13:24–28. He. 12:17.
35 ver. 19–23. 2 Ki. 10:19. Job 13:7. Mal. 2:10. Ro. 3:7, 8. 2 Co. 4:7. 1 Th. 4:6.
36 Jacob. i.e. a supplanter. ch. 25:26, 31–34; 32:28. Jno. 1:47. he took. ch. 25:26, 33, 34.
37 I have. ver. 29; ch. 25:23. 2 Sa. 8:14. Ro. 9:10–12. with. ver. 28. sustained, or, supported.
38 ver. 34, 36. ch. 49:28. Pr. 1:24–26. Is. 32:10–12; 65:14. He. 12:17.
39 Behold. ch. 36:6–8. Jos. 24:4. He. 11:20. the fatness. or, of the fatness, ver. 28. It is here foretold, says Bp. NEWTON, that as to temporal advantages, the two brothers should be much alike. (See ver. 28.) Esau had cattle, beasts, and substance in abundance, and he went to dwell in Mount Seir of his own accord. When the Israelites desired leave to pass through the territories of Edom, the country abounded with fruitful fields and vineyards. (Nu. 20:17.)
40 thy sword. ch. 32:6. Mat. 10:34. serve. ch. 25:23. 2 Sa. 8:14. 1 Ki. 11:15–17. 2 Ki. 14:7, 10. 1 Ch. 18:11–13. 2 Ch. 25:11, 12. Ps. 60:8. Ob. 17–21. that thou. 2 Ki. 8:20–22. 2 Ch. 21:8, 10; 28:17.
41 hated. ch. 4:2–8; 37:4, 8. Eze. 25:12–15; 35:5. Am. 1:11, 12. Ob. 10–14. 1 Jno. 3:12–15. The days. ch. 35:29; 50:3, 4, 10, 11. De. 34:8. 2 Ch. 35:24. Ps. 35:14. then. ch. 32:6. 2 Sa. 13:28, 29. Ps. 37:12, 13, 16; 140:4, 5; 142:3. Pr. 1:12, 13, 16; 6:14. Ec. 7:9. Ob. 10. Ep. 4:26, 27. Tit. 1:15, 16; 3:3. 1 Jno. 3:12–15.
42 comfort himself. ch. 37:18–20; 42:21, 22. 1 Sa. 30:5. Job 20:12–14. Ps. 64:5. Pr. 2:14; 4:16, 17.
43 obey. ver. 8, 13; ch. 28:7. Pr. 30:17. Je. 35:14. Ac. 5:29. Haran. ch. 11:31; 12:4, 5; 28:10.
44 a few days. ch. 31:38.
45 then I. Pr. 19:21. La. 3:37. Ja. 4:13–15. why. ch. 4:8–16; 9:5, 6. 2 Sa. 14:6, 7. Ac. 28:4.
46 I am. Nu. 11:15. 1 Ki. 19:4. Job 3:20–22; 7:16; 14:13. Jon. 4:3, 9. because. ch. 26:34, 35; 28:8; 34:1, 2. if Jacob. ch. 24:3.

CHAP. 28

Isaac blesses Jacob, and sends him to Padan-aram, 1–5. Esau marries Mahalath the daughter of Ishmael, 6–9. Jacob journeys, and has a vision of a ladder, 10–17. The stone of Beth-el, 18, 19. Jacob’s vow, 20–22.

1 blessed. ver. 3, 4; ch. 27:4, 27–33; 48:15; 49:28. De. 33:1. Jos. 22:7. Thou shalt. ch. 6:2; 24:3, 37; 26:34, 35; 27:46; 34:9, 16. Ex. 34:15, 16. 2 Co. 6:14–16.
2 Arise. Ho. 12:12. Padan-aram. ver. 5; ch. 22:20–23; 24:10, 15–24; 25:20; 29:1; 31:18; 32:10; 35:9; 46:15. Laban. ch. 24:29, 50.
3 God. ch. 17:1–6; 22:17, 18; 35:11; 43:14; 48:3. Ex. 6:3. Ps. 127:1. 2 Co. 6:18. Re. 21:22. and make. ch. 1:28; 9:1; 13:16; 24:60; 41:52. Ps. 127:3–5; 128. a multitude. Heb. an assembly.
4 the blessing. 12:1–3, 7; 15:5–7; 17:6–8; 22:17, 18. Ps. 72:17. Ro. 4:7, 8. Ga. 3:8, 14. Ep. 1:3. wherein thou art a stranger. Heb. of thy so journings. ch. 17:8. which. ch. 12:7; 13:14–17; 15:18–21. Ps. 39:12; 105:6–12. He. 11:9–13.
5 sent away Jacob. Whoever observes Jacob’s life, after he had surreptitiously obtained his father’s blessing, will perceive that he enjoyed very little worldly felicity. His brother purposed to murder him, to avoid which he was forced to flee from his father’s house; his uncle Laban deceived him, as he had deceived his father, and treated him with great rigour; after a servitude of 21 years, he was obliged to leave him in a clandestine manner, not without danger of being brought back, or murdered by his enraged brother; no sooner were these fears over, than he experienced the baseness of his son Reuben, in defiling his bed; he had next to bewail the treachery and cruelty of Simeon and Levi towards the Shechemites; then he had to feel the loss of his beloved wife; he was next imposed upon by his own sons, and had to lament the supposed untimely end of Joseph; and to complete all, he was forced by famine to go into Egypt, and there died, in a strange land. So just; wonderful, and instructive are all the ways of Providence! Padan-aram. See ver. 2.
6 Esau. ch. 27:33. Thou. See ver. 1.
7 ch. 27:43. Ex. 20:12. Le. 19:3. Pr. 1:8; 30:17. Ep. 6:1, 3. Col. 3:20.
8 the daughters. ver. 1; ch. 24:3; 26:34, 35. pleased not. Heb. were evil in