The Glory of Pervasive Holiness in the Life of a Pastor
From Gospel Translations
By Thabiti Anyabwile
About Pastoral Ministry
Part of the series 2007 Desiring God Conference for Pastors
[These are notes taken during the session, not the message itself.]
As pastors, we must pursue not just personal holiness, but also corporate holiness. Fit your people for heaven. Be concerned with a pervasive holiness, then we will see the glory of God.
Ezekiel sees God in his glory. Below his waist is fire and above, a hard-to-describe brightness. God's glory is so luminous, bright, compelling that it is reduced to vague descriptions.
This is the vantage of point of Ezekiel in his four various visions:
Ezekiel sees the glory of god in the presence of an idol.
Ezekiel sees 70 elders cloistered in private worshiping all manner of created things. Spurgeon said, "The heart of man is an idol factory." These elders do not behold the glory of god. They feel forsaken by him. We tend to think that god sees what we see--if we feel deserted, he has deserted. We are wrong.
Ezekiel sees weeping women carried away in idolatry.
Ezekiel sees 25 men worshiping the sun, backs turned to God. This is an act of bold defiance suggesting that God is irrelevant.
We see in these scenes that the abominations grow more intense with each scene. God says to Ezekiel now turn, now turn. God is showing him overwhelming, pervasive corruption. The entire religious system of Israel is in shambles--Joe public, elders, women, priests all in universalized, unified ultimate bowing to idols.
The power of this text will be lost if we think this is just an Old testament story or that the problem is merely idolatry. There is a connection between holiness and the glory of God. Where holiness is abandoned, God abandons. There is two-lane traffic--abominations in, glory of God out.
Jesus says, "Without holiness no man shall see God." These are terrifying words, striking words.
10 applications from this passage.
1. Promote holiness to make people fit for heaven.
Like Sproul's description of the Seraphim, so must people be suitable for God's presence. This suitability is holiness.
Preaching must be incisive, searing in intensity. Enough with how-to sermons, unless its how to be holy as God is holy. Be iconoclasts, idol-smashers. In our day, theological syncretism exists just as it does in this passage. It's true--all roads do lead to God--but all but one lead to God as judge.
Idolatry is not a victimless crime. Let our pulpits, therefore, be sober, theologically sound. Let us set before our people the glory of God and his majesty. Christ is the loveliest of all lovely things. Let us fix our and the peoples' eyes on the loveliness of Christ in his glory and smash idols.
2. Choose your leaders wisely.
Ezekiel sat with the elders of Judah, outwardly leaders of men, inwardly idolaters. Make sure your leaders are not just thought of as holy, presuming godliness in public. Probe. Search. Inspect. These men will shape the church body and sometimes through generations. Select holy men to lead.
If you are on a search committee ask specific questions about personal holiness. Ask how he has progressed. Ask how he will help others progress. Get references from believers and non--the nonbelievers will probably be more accurate. Is he watching and cultivating holiness in his life?
3. Take oversight of the people.
Don't ignore the joy of overseeing the lives of your sheep. Think and pray about visitation and small groups. Take full charge of the oversight of God's people. This is how they will be shaped into his likeness.
4. Be clear on the difference between justification and sanctification.
People tend toward two extremes: all commands are legalism or real, tyrannical legalism. Stand in this tension. Help people know there is no justification without sanctification. We are justified by faith alone, but we are not sanctified by faith alone. Help your people apply themselves to climbing the mountain that leads to the glory and holiness of God. Preach the hard words of Christ not as legalism but as the joyful birthright of those born of God. It is the path of joyful, vibrant Christianity.
5. Meditate on the truth that judgement begins in the household of God.
See the exhaustive perfection of God's holy judgement. Even children stand before a holy God. Do not ignore this teaching with any element of your people. Preaching should call to mind the holiness of God in judgement and correction. What salvation is there without a rescue form this wrath? How will people press on if they don't here the call of the Gospel that urges them to press on in holiness.
If someone tells you, "I don't know God's will for my life," you know at least one answer for sure--be sanctified, press on in holiness. There is no room for coddling our pet sins. Disregarding this is a disregard of God.
6. Meditate on the plight of the lost.
God is committed to the purity of his people. There is a sure and certain day of judgement coming, and on that day the lost will stand before a holy God who does not trifle with sin. They will not remain standing.
Do streams of water flow from your eyes, like the psalmist's, because of those who disregard the word of God? When was the last time you wept and imagined the day of judgement unannounced and quick. It will be a day like this one. School, work, coffee, Super Bowl, snow, marriage, then judgement comes. We dwell among people who dangle on a web over the flames of hell. The driftwood of sin that the lost are holding onto does not float in the flood of judgement.
7. Surround yourself with those who sigh and cry over sin.
It is immaturity to be calloused or flippant toward sin. We want to develop people who view sin from the vantage of God, abhorring it and mourning. These are those who are pursuing holiness and who are most likely to kill sin and care about whether you do too. God does not reckon any among his own who do not groan in response to wickedness. If we do not hate sin we have nothing in common with God. Cultivate this in your people.
8. The holiness of God goes together with the glory of his presence.
If we want to see God in our church, we must cultivate holiness so there is a place for him. Labor for the presence of God's glory, holiness, and a regenerate church.
9. Commit yourself to intercession before the judgement comes.
Knowing the terror of the Lord should drive you to your knees. When you see the lost, plead with God for them. Be like Christ--"Forgive them for they know not what they do."
There's grace in knowing how unholy we are: it motivates us to pursue sanctification all the harder. Recovering pharisees like me and you need to be driven to our knees for ourselves and the lost.
10. Pursue holiness in the joy of the gospel promise.
God will give us a new heart and his spirit. Holiness is a gospel promise.