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The Marks of a True Shepherd - A.W. Pink

How diligently should they scrutinize their motives, who think of entering the ministry; for thousands have abused this Divine institution through love of ease, desire for authority and reputation, or love of money--and brought upon themselves "greater damnation" (James 3:1). Thousands have invaded the pastoral office in an unauthorized manner, to fleece sheep rather than feed them, robbing Christ of His honor and starving His people.

Solemn beyond words is it to observe how sternly our Lord denounced these false shepherds of His day. (Matthew 23) As J. C. Ryle rightly said, "Nothing seemed so offensive to Christ as a false teacher of religion, a false prophet, or a false shepherd. Nothing ought to be so much feared by the Church, be so plainly rebuked, opposed and exposed."

What are the marks of a true shepherd, how are God’s people to identify those called and qualified by Him to minister unto His people?

First, the genuine pastor has the doctrine of Christ on his LIPS. The ministers of the new covenant are described as those who had "renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness." Christendom today is infested with men who are full of deceit and hypocrisy, trimming their sails according to whatever direction the breeze of public opinion is blowing.

"We have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God." (2 Cor. 4:2). The true servant of Christ holds back nothing which is profitable, no matter how unpalatable it may be unto his hearers. He is one who magnifies not himself, nor his denomination, but Christ--His wondrous Person, His atoning blood, His exacting claims.

Second, the genuine pastor has the Spirit of Christ in his HEART. It is the Spirit who opens to him the mysteries of the Gospel, so that he is "the faithful and wise servant" (Matt. 24:45). It is the Spirit of Christ who gives him a love for His sheep, so that it is his greatest delight to lead them into the green pastures of His Word. It is the Spirit of Christ who enables him to use "great boldness of speech" (2 Cor. 3:12), so that he shuns not to declare all the counsel of God. It is the Spirit of Christ who makes him to be "prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage--with great patience and careful instruction" (2 Tim. 4:2). It is the Spirit of Christ who gives efficacy to his ministry, making it fruitful according to the sovereign pleasure of God.

Third, the genuine pastor has the example of Christ in his LIFE, which is a conforming of him to the image of his Master. It is true, sadly true, that there is not one of them who does not fall far short both of the inward and outward image of Christ. Yet there are some faint tracings of His image visible in all His true servants. The image of Christ is seen in their words, spirit, actions; otherwise we have no warrant to receive them as God’s servants.

Find a man (no easy task today!) who has the doctrine of Christ on his lips, the Spirit of Christ in his heart, and the example of Christ in his life--and you find one of His genuine ministers--all others are but "thieves and robbers."

AW Pink
Studies in the Scriptures

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God & Watching TV

“If all other variables are equal, your capacity to know God deeply will probably diminish in direct proportion to how much television you watch. There are several reasons for this. One is that television reflects American culture at its most trivial. And a steady diet of triviality shrinks the soul. You get used to it. It starts to seem normal. Silly becomes funny. And funny becomes pleasing. And pleasing becomes soul-satisfaction. And in the end, the soul that is made for God has shrunk to fit snugly around triteness. This may be unnoticed, because if all you’ve known is American culture, you can’t tell there is anything wrong. If you have only read comic books, it won’t be strange that there are no novels in your house. If you live where there are no seasons, you won’t miss the colors of fall. If you watch fifty TV ads each night, you may forget there is such a thing as wisdom. TV is mostly trivial. It seldom inspires great thoughts or great feelings with glimpses of great Truth. God is the great absolute, all-shaping Reality. If He gets any airtime, He is treated as an opinion. There is no reverence. No trembling. God and all that He thinks about the world is missing. Cut loose from God and everything goes down."

Piper, Pierced by the Word, 77

Limited Atonement


The doctrine of limited atonement seems to be one of the most difficult to explain succinctly. John Piper did an excellent job in a footnote of Contending for Our All (p. 78). I can't think of any other explanation  so thorough and so clear with so few words:

The claim of this doctrine [of limited atonement] is commonly misunderstood. It doe snot mean that not all who come to Christ can be saved. They can. Nor does it mean that John 3:16 isn't true - that "God so loved that world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life." Indeed the giving of the Son and his death have purchased a bona fide offer of salvation for all people. Whoever believes will not perish but have eternal life. This universal offer of the gosple purchased by the blood of Christ is not denied by the doctrine of particular redemption (limited atonement). Rather this doctrine asserts that, and more. It goes beyond these truths to make another biblical truth clear, namely that in the death of Christ, God really paid the debt for all the sins of all the elect (all who would believe on him). Christ really and effectively absorbed all the wrath that was owing to his bride. He did not absorb all hte wrath that would one day be poured out on those who do not believe. No sin is punished twice, one in Jesus and once in hell. The punishment of sin in the cross was "definite" or "particular." That is, it was the particular, definite, effective punishment owing to the elect - those who would believe. The blood of Christ purchased the new coveant promises (Luke 22:20). And these promises are not simply offers of salvation. They are effective causes of salvation: "I will put the fear of me in their hearts that they may not trun from me" (Jeremiah 32:40). The power and efficacy of the atonement is great than most Christians have seriously considered. It does not just offer slavation to all. It does that and accomplishes the propitiation of God's elect. To know yourself loved by the Christ of Calvary in a saving way is not merely to know the love of one who offers you life and watches to see what you will do with it, but rather one who purchases you particularly, pursues you particularly, conquers you, wakens your faith, and gives you life with him forever. This is what he bought at Calvary, not just the possibility for you to pursue him. If you want the best statement on this doctrine go to Owen himself, The Death of Death in the Death of Christ.

Keywords: Piper,Limited,Atonement

The Great Sin of Legalism

Legalism is seeking to achieve forgiveness from God and justification before God through obedience to God...

The subtle and serious error of legalism is a sinful fruit from sinful roots.

Thomas Shreiner writes that "legalism has its origin in self-worship. If people are justified through their obedience to the law, then they merit praise, honor, and glory. Legalism in other words, means the glory goes to people rather than God."

That's how serious legalism is. The implications are staggering, because legalism claims in essence that the death of Jesus on the cross was either unnecessary or insufficient. It says to God, in effect, "Your plan didn't work. The cross wasn't enough and I need to ad my good works to it to be saved."

Of course, no Christian would dare utter such terrible words. But that's the message we send...and it represents the height of arrogance in light of God's holiness and my sinfulness.

Legalism is essentially self-atonement for the purpose of self-glorifcation and ultimately for self-worship. It is the pinnacle of pride for me to assume that by my good works I could ever morally obligate God to forgive me, justify me, or accept me.

Mahaney, Living the Cross Centered Life , 112-113.

Keywords: legalism

Augustus Toplady, "A Foundation That Cannot Fail"

I have stolen this excellent quote from Reformation Theology. If anybody knows the original citation, please post it in the comments:

Augustus Toplady, was the author of the hymn "Rock of Ages"

"Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in thee!
Foul, I to the fountain fly:
Wash me, Saviour, or I die."

In his farewell sermon at Blagdon he said:

If God were to justify and save only those who are pure and upright, heaven would be empty of inhabitants. I say not this to encourage sin; but to encourage those who are grieved for their sins; who fly to the blood of the Cross for pardon, and whose prayer is that they may henceforward be renewed in the spirit of their mind and bring forth acceptable fruit unto God. Let not such be afraid to meet Him: let not such say, "How shall I stand when He appears?" For such have a Foundation to stand upon, a Foundation that cannot fail, even Jesus, the Mediator and Surety of the covenant, Christ, the Rock of Ages. He died for such. Their sins which lay like an unsurmountable impediment, or stood like a vast partition wall, and blocked up the passage to eternal life; I say He took the sins of His penitent people out of the way, nailing them to His Cross.

The Christians' Double Aim: Holiness & Love

The Christian really has a double task. He has to practice both God's holiness and God's love. The Christian is to exhibit that God exists as the infinite-personal God; and then he is to exhibit simultaneously God's character of holiness and love. Not His holiness without His love: this is only harshness. Not his love without His holiness: that is only compromise. Anything that an individual Christian or Christian group does that fails to show the simultaneous balance of the holiness of God and the love of God present to a watching world not a demonstration of the God who exists but a caricature of the God who exists. Schaeffer, The Mark of Love, in The Complete Works of Francis Schaeffer , Vol. 4, 193-194
Cited in Piper, Contending for Our All, 164

The Reading of Old Books: Guarding Against the Blindness of the Modern

Our upbringing and whole atmosphere of the world we live in make it certain that our main temptation will be that of yielding to winds of doctrine, not that of ignoring them. We are not at all likely to be hidebound: we are very likely indeed to be the slaves of fashion. If one has to choose between reading the new books and the reading of the old, one must choose the old: not because they are necessarily better but because they contain precisely those truths of which our own age is neglectful. The standard of permanent Christianity must be kept clear in our minds and it is against that standard that we must test all contemporary thought. In fact, we must at all costs not move with the times. We serve One who said, "Heaven and Earth shall move with the times, but my words shall not move with the times" (Matt 24:25, Mark 13:31, Luke 21:33...

Keep reading...

Keywords: books,reading

True Expository Preaching Includes Contextualization in Application

If I have a critique of expository preachers – some of them – it is that they think that once they have unpacked the truth of a text, they have done their work. And sometimes this is reinforced by the belief that the Holy Spirit will accomplish what they haven’t done. God in His grace undoubtedly does do that. But if simply reading the Bible was sufficient, why would God have given to the church teachers and preachers, or teaching preachers? Preachers need to do that additional step; and especially here in America as people are coming out of an increasingly paganized culture, where the Christian memory gets more and more distant, where the people in the pews…bring less and less of a Christian worldview with them, it becomes more and more imperative for preachers to make sure that the truth of their preaching intersects with what’s going on inside peoples’ minds so that the line is drawn so clearly that people in their own lives know whether they are being obedient or not and what they should do with that truth when they’ve heard it. That is contextualization. It goes all the way from people sitting in their pews in America to missionaries who are doing evangelizing in Hindu or Muslims contexts.

David Wells at DesiringGod 2006 Conference Q & A Session

On a related, but slightly different note on contextualization, look at contextualization of presentation at work with Mark Driscoll in this preview video from DesiringGod Conference '06.

John Wesley on the Need to Read

[John Wesley's words to another preacher:] What has exceedingly hurt you in time past, nay, and I fear, to this day, is want of reading. I scarce ever knew a preacher read so little. And perhaps, by neglecting it, you have lost the taste for it. Hence your talent in preaching does not increase. It is just the same as it was seven years ago. It is lively, but not deep: there is little variety; there is no compass of thought. Reading only can supply this, with meditation and the daily prayer. You wrong yourself greatly by omitting this. You can never be a deep preacher without it; anymore than a thorough Christian. Oh begin! Fix some part of every day for private exercises. You may acquire the taste which you have not: what is tedious at first will afterwards be pleasant. Whether you like it or not, read and pray daily. It is for your life: there is no other way: else you will be a trifler all your days, and a pretty superficial preacher. Do justice to your own soul: give it time and means to grow. Do not starve yourself any longer. Take up your cross and be a Christian altogether. Then will all the children of God rejoice [not grieve] over you.


Wesley. (1780). The Arminian Magazine. 449.
Cited in Piper, Pleasures of God, 295.

Luther Discovers Authorial Intent: Changes the World

A single word in [Romans 1:17], "In it the righteousness of God is revealed"...had stood in my way. For I hated that word "righteousness of God," which...I had been taught to understand philosophically regarding teh formal or active righteousness, as they called it, with which God is righteous and punishes the unrighteous sinner...Nevertheless, I beat importunately upon Paul at that place, most ardently desiring to know what St. Paul wanted.

At last, by the mercy of God, meditating day and night, I gave heed to the context of the words...There I began to understand [that] the righteousness of God is that by which the righteous lives by a gift of God, namely faith... "He who through faith is righteous shall live." Here I felt that i was altogether born again and had entered paradise iteself through open gates.

Martin Luther: Selections from His Writings, 11-12
Cited in Piper, Pleasures of God, 294.

Keywords: Bible,Study