I’ve begun looking at the book of Luke, having finished Proverbs this past Sunday. I was looking into part of the passage regarding the prophesied birth of John the Baptist. As the angel Gabriel is telling Zecheriah about the son that would be born to him, he said this:
“And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.” Luke 1:16-17
I think this passage has definite implications for we who proclaim the Word of God today. John, I think, can be seen as a model for us in church ministry. What is it that we are called to do as pastors and elders? We are to “make ready for the Lord a people prepared”. Paul echoes this sentiment in 2 Corinthians 11:2, expressing his desire to present the Corinthian church to God and a pure virgin bride. In Colossians 1:22 he says that the gracious work Christ has done in us is in order that He might present us holy and blameless to God. Jude (1:24) says that this is the ongoing grace of Christ, that He is able to keep us from stumbling so that we might be presented before the presence of God with great joy.
John was the final shadow of the things to come in Christ. He would turn the hearts of the people of Israel to their Lord and God, but he was not the one who would save them from their sins. Neither are we capable of giving saving mercy to anyone, or doing anything in our own power to bring someone to Christ. However, he has granted us to be under-shepherds, to care for the flock and to keep his people healthy and holy through the preaching of His Word and by godly example.
What a privilege! That God chooses to work out his grace to His people through us. What a burden also! That we bear the responsibility of the spiritual lives of many, which is to say nothing of the evangelistic responsibility we have. Not only do we bear the burden of being responsible for a lost person’s soul when we miss opportunities to evangelize, we also bear the burden of the spiritual health of the church. We keep a close watch on our doctrine, and preach His Word humbly and fervently and faithfully, and live lives of holiness before God…this is how God is pleased to keep His church healthy through us.
The key ideas there are that we preach HIS word, and not our own. We have no authority or wisdom or holiness apart from God’s Word. The moment we begin to depart from it or fail to ground all we say and do in it, in that moment we take up the burden of the heavy judgment that will come on men of this calling, because we no longer are accomplishing God’s ends through God’s means. We begin to attempt to accomplish what we THINK are His ends through our own means, and so heap the blood of condemned, sinful souls onto our hands. Secondly, that we live lives of personal holiness and intense devotion to God should be a given. How are we to keep the church spiritually healthy if we are not? How are we to faithfully lead God’s people if we are not close enough to Him to hear his voice and guidance? The answer is simple: we cannot. If we are not spiritually desperate for our God every day, clinging to Him above all else, growing constantly in wisdom and knowledge and grace…then we are disobedient.
So, we are modern Johns, through whose servanthood God is pleased to keep his church healthy so that we might present the people we shepherd to Him as not only a people prepared for eternity, but as a people holy and blameless – fully reliant on the blood of Christ and fully in service to Him.
Praise God. May we be faithful, fervent, and holy. Praise God.