With my combination of passion, intelligence, communication skills, and so on … why don’t I just go to seminary and become a pastor? That is a good question. I don’t have the answer, but I have some thoughts, one of which is a doubt that a good pastor is what the American Church needs right now.
Many people believe that if we honor God well, then God will love us. It is easy for people to conceive of a God who loves pastors. A God who honors those who honor him is not hard to imagine. It is much harder to believe in a God who would condescend to love and care for someone like myself.
I don’t have anything to recommend myself to God. Most people seem to think I’m sinning in some way or other by living the way I do. I’m sure many secretly want me to fail. I’m lazy, I’m wasting my talents, I need an inter-national ministry or at least a mega-church. At very least I ought be the head pastor of a small church. Some might settle for an elder or an assistant pastor but that is the absolute bottom. Do any of these, and then God can provide for you. These things count, but if God really provides for all of his children, why would anyone ever work? This is the unasked but always present question.
In that line of thought, we show that we do not believe that the Bible is true.
I do the same thing. Almost everyday, I find myself justifying my time to myself or to someone else. I can’t bring myself to tell people that I spent the last two days trying (almost ineffectively) to pray and read scriptures. Instead, I tell people about three days ago when I talked to the homeless man. I do this because I believe, as everyone else does, that we need to recommend ourselves to God by good works in order to have his good grace upon us.
But merited grace is no grace at all.
We do not believe that God will provide for his saints everything they need.
We do not believe that God provides provisions for us free from any merit on our part what-so-ever.
We believe that if we work well, then God owes us provisions.
This belief makes God our debtor rather than our gracious patron-provider.
Is this how we treat our own children: “work hard enough and well enough, and I’ll give you dinner, otherwise, you’re on your own.” Obviously not, but this is the way we think of God. This is the way we talk about God. And this is the testimony that our lives give about God. In our thoughts, words, and deeds we witness to the supposed fact that we are much better fathers to our earthly children than God is to his spiritual children and we commit this blaspheme daily. How long will God let us mock him in this way?
Who will show that this is wrong? Who will teach with their lives, words, and thoughts that this is absolutely not true? Here I am, send me.
To be despised both within and without of the church so that men can see that God loves without thought to merit is to me a very glorious thought. It challenges my belief of free grace to think that God might love me enough to use me in such a way as this, even I who am so unworthy of such an honor.