February 7, 2014

The Pastor's Justification; Why You Would Be Dumb Not to Read this Book

So, I’ve discovered Jared C. Wilson quite late. Up until recently, he wasn’t a person who had entered my radar. I then saw his name on a Matt Chandler book (Explicit Gospel, I think) and then one day, completely out of the blue, he emailed me to write one of those thing-a-ma-jigs people write on the sleeves of books. This is for an upcoming book of his on the parables. I was stunned to say the least (I checked him out before agreeing). I read the manuscript, he smashed it (get it when it comes out) and then I picked this up after hearing some good stuff about it.

The tagline alone compelled me to buy the book: “Applying the Work of Christ in Your Life and Ministry”. Basically, I was rushing out of the door to get to the airport and, on a last-minute whim, I threw this bad boy into my hand luggage and hoped I would have the time to read it. Not only did I have time to read it, but I never even made it off the flight across the Atlantic before I had finished it. I remember people wetting themselves about Paul Tripp's book, “Dangerous Calling” a year or so ago (I couldn’t really get in to it) but this book is definitely worth getting excited about. It divides neatly into two parts:

1. The Pastor’s Heart
2. The Pastor’s Glory

Part 1 is basically an explanation and application of 1 Peter 5:1–11 and Part 2 deals with the 5 Solas of the Reformation. You know what, it’s great to read something by a real, live, experienced pastor. Somebody who has been in the field of battle and is still fighting the fight. Somebody who has experienced the highs and lows that pastoral ministry throws at you over the long haul. There’s so much stuff being churned out now by 20-something wannabes and it often lacks the heart and depth that this book brings to the table. I always remember Tim Keller saying that we’re not really ready to start writing books before we’ve hit our 40’s and 50’s. I’m not sure how old Jared is, but I’m willing to bet he’s not a 20-something seminary grad.

What I love about the Pastor’s Justification is that it leaves you feeling like a loser before you get past page 30. I’m not talking about a guilt tripping, accusatory sort of way but, rather, a profoundly challenging pastoral boot to the groin type pain. He challenges us to love the church we have instead of dreaming about what we don’t have when it comes to those God has placed under our pastoral care. Our people don’t need to change, Jared challenges us, we do. At this point (around page 32) I closed the book and sat back in my seat. So what, you may think, but this is a rare thing when I am reading. A book closed on my lap like this means that I am challenged. It means I want to take in the conviction. I want to let it boil around in my soul. My usual practice is to bomb through a book and then move on to the next one. But sometimes I close them on purpose because I want to savour the thoughts. What am I going to do about this? How will I take this to the Lord in order to change my heart?

If the intention of this book was to make us reflect upon our hearts and motives for pastoral ministry, then it succeeded (and then some). It left me questioning what I am building with my own church and the work of 20schemes. A monument to myself? Or a movement that seeks glorify God? Of course, it’s all for God I tell myself. But there’s just a little bit of me (or more than I care to admit) that likes the limelight more than just a little bit. I have to be careful and keep myself accountable to godly men in my life. Sobering stuff.

The questions on pages 97–98 are brutally insightful and should be the staple of any and all pastoral accountability groups. Then just when you think you’ve been spiritually squeezed dry, pages 112–113 punch you hard in the face. Then, just as your heart begins to sink under the weight of all this conviction, one beautiful word comes to your rescue toward the end of p.113—justified. Thank you very much!

“Because of Christ’s perfect work on your behalf, your failure, your daily anxiety, your unwillingness, your stress, your sin, your brokenness, your ineptitude, your ignorance, your awfulness, your regrets, your pride, and your arrogance are no match for the deep and abiding grace of God given to you before time began and now and forevermore.” (p.114)

I gave my copy to a pastoral friend of mine and bought three more for some young men I am training. This has just made it to the 20schemes must read training list. Simple as that.

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