“That was terrible. I totally blew that sermon. Nobody was paying attention. Heck, I almost fell asleep..and I was the one preaching.”
There I was wailing and moaning and discouraged by a sermon that didn’t go the way that I thought it should have.
Then my sweet wife lovingly rebuked me. I don’t think she meant to really rebuke me, but she did. She quietly said, “Mike, I wish you wouldn’t speak that way after a sermon. Because when you do it makes me not believe what you just preached. Nor do I think you really believe what you just said.”
She was right. I had probably been preaching on the sufficiency of Jesus, the benefits of the gospel, the power of the risen Christ, etc. etc. and I left the pulpit not believing a one of them—at least not applying them.
It’s not always that way. Sometimes I exit the pulpit floating on cloud nine. I know that I knocked it out of the park. Everything that I wanted to say, I said eloquently. No slip ups. I preached passionately. I did it the way that you are supposed to. (Minus the pride of course). Totally faithful to the text. Centered on Christ (except for that pride thing again).
For some reason fewer people seem to have been impacted—but it’s probably because they are just soaking up my awesome sermon.
Both of those episodes betray a heart of unbelief. A foolish heart of unbelief. And I could replace preaching with counseling, planning, living, leading, loving, and a host of other things and it would be the same. We pastors (we disciples) vacillate between moments of pride convinced of our awesomeness and moments of despair convinced of our complete unworthiness.
Enter the Pastor’s Justification
This is why a book like The Pastor’s Justification is so helpful. Jared Wilson is a good writer. One of the things that sets this book apart from the others is that Jared can just flat out write. But more than anything Wilson keeps the gospel front and center. That is important—no, that is vital.
It is vital because the same gospel that strengthens and encourages the discouraged pastor is the same gospel that rebukes and humbles the puffed up pastor. Both need the gospel. In both of these foolish responses we need the sufficient Christ to remind us of who we actually are—not awesome and not scum. We are His. The gospel brings the lofty low and exalts the humble—bringing both to the place of Christ.
Wilson writes as a pastor. This means that he is not afraid to speak in a prophetic voice, as when he speaks to younger pastors:
Young men, be teachable. You do not know everything. And your theology and your position are never licenses for authoritarianism. If you don’t want others to look down on your youth, don’t look down on their age.
Yet, Wilson also speaks with pastoral tenderness and encouragement. After listing a myriad of questions that bring to light our sinfulness, he writes this:
You and I both know that you have transgressed over and over and over again. And you’re going to stand before a holy God to be judged by these things, according to a stricter standard than all other because you are a pastor, and he will ask you to give an account. And looking back over the failures of your life and ministry, you will grasp at straws. What do you think he will say to you?
In this book Jared does what a good pastor does, he points to Jesus at every corner. He uses the glaring holiness of Jesus to expose our pride, sinfulness, and foolish ways that we pastor. And He uses the wide mercy of Christ to comfort weary pastors.
The Pastor’s Justification is a book that every pastor would do well to purchase. It has some of the same benefits as Paul Tripp’s, Dangerous Calling, and reads like Eswine’s Sensing Jesus. Those were two books that really benefited me in 2012. This book stands toe to toe with those immensely helpful books. But Jared’s writing has a tendency to stick in my brain and rattle around in my soul better than many other books on pastoral ministry.
You can buy it here. And you probably should.