I am about to visit Southern Seminary Thursday night through Saturday afternoon with my family for the seminary’s Preview Conference. This is a long time coming, and even as it is only a day away, I feel more unprepared than ever. For I feel weak and inadequate, not ready for seminary and not capable to do His work effectively–a sinner whose disobedience has left a crimson stain on his hands. And yet at the same time, I feel strong and ready to face the seminary & ministry challenges ahead because of Christ’s Spirit that is at work in me, the Holy Ghost empowering me to do His work–a servant of God whose sinful heart Christ has washed white as snow.I was graciously reminded by a friend during a recent conversation that the most important quality of a pastor/preacher (or any Christian for that matter) should be integrity of character. What’s interesting to note is that I am hearing this at a time when I’ve been listening to a lot of sermons from many Reformed pastors (most of whom are my theological heroes)–men of God who have a great skill of making me feel guilty (almost to the point of tears) for the sin in my life and un-impassioned disciple I seem to be. Their skill at expounding the power of God in His Word draws me to grow in my own ministry skills, increasing a desire to convict my listeners of sin and to convince them of grace.However, as much of an importance I put on the words themselves, this reminder exhorts me to be continually conscious of the consistent Christian life that I need to live–in public but especially in private. In today’s postmodern culture, both secular and “Christian”, the society refuses to divorce itself from the world; too often Christians and non-Christians look the same and you cannot tell them apart. I want others to be able to tell me apart. I want to shine like the stars for God in this broken world, but this requires not just a Friday night + Sunday morning Christian behavior–it requires me to burn with the fire of God daily.According to the American Heritage Dictionary, integrity is:
- Steadfast adherence to a strict moral or ethical code.
- The state of being unimpaired; soundness.
- The quality or condition of being whole or undivided; completeness
I have made many mistakes in the past while doing ministry. Like Mark Driscoll, I have said things in emails and on blog posts that I have repented of and wish I had tamed my tongue earlier. But nevertheless, I still have an earnest desire and aspiration to grow in writing and in public speaking, especially in the exposition of His word and convicting myself & others in its life altering, mind transforming, heart changing power. There is no greater affect I can have with my words than through a consistent lifestyle of holiness, one that is disciplined not by works but by grace. That means living a cross centered life that is evident through my interaction with people, a humble, missional orthodoxy in which friends and acquaintances can taste and see that I am a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ.I am humbled by my friend’s ever timely exhortation, and thankful to the Father in Heaven for the work of His word in my heart by the illumination of His Spirit. Things have definitely been much less dramatic this past year, and in retrospect I can now see that God Himself was building me up towards this new attitude. For He reminds me again of the cross before me that I must take up:
Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness, and their talk will spread like gangrene.(2 Timothy 2:15-17)
I don’t ever want to be a worker that isn’t approved by God or has to be ashamed of failing to handle His Word rightly. In this, I covet your prayers that I may be an unashamed worker who is consistent in faithfulness and integrity of character.