We began this morning with a medly of sorts that combined “When I Survey The Wondrous Cross” with “The Gospel Song.” Mark Dever than dispensed a few thank yous and introduced the final series of books we will receive at this conference. They are Sex, Romance and the Glory of God by C.J. Mahaney, Humility: True Greatness by C.J. Mahaney, Speaking the Truth in Love by David Powlison,Why One Way? by John MacArthur and a hardcover N.A.S.B. MacArthur Study Bible. He then introduced his good friend and this morning’s speaker C.J. Mahaney who will speak on “Watch Your Life and Doctrine.”
C.J. Mahaney began by asking us to lower our expectations from the amazing level of preaching we have experienced this week. He spent a little bit of time poking fun at himself, saying that once a person writes a book on humility he ends up being slotted to preach after John Piper (and before John MacArthur!). He described what he assumes people will be thinking while he speaks this morning: “Well, he’s no John Piper…I can’t wait to get home and make love to my wife.” He then confessed that when he first wrote this sermon he did it to attempt to impress us, but later repented of this and now seeks simply to serve those in attendance.
C.J.’s text will be 1 Timothy 4: “Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.” Paul cares for Timothy as a son in the faith. Beginning in verse six of this chapter Paul begins to address Timothy in a very personal manner. We are able to overhear this fatherly conversation and can be challenged by it as well. God wants to have a very personal word with pastors through this text. He wants to address everyone personally and care for each person’s soul.
This verse has a succinct summation of the job of the pastor. Feel the weight of this verse. Feel the implications of this verse upon your soul. Through God-appointed means, the preservation of yourself and your congregation is at stake in your obedience to this verse. Faithful, pastoral ministry could not be more important and the implications could not be more important—they are eternal.
Watch Your Life - In C.J.’s experience, it is most difficult to watch his life closely. It is easier to study doctrine than to study his heart. Reading and studying are easier than examining his motives. Pastors spend great time in sermon preparation but do they spend as much time in soul examination? All pastors are tempted to devote more time to public ministry than to personal piety. Aware of this temptation, God has given this command: keep a close watch on yourself.
The sobering reality for pastors is that skill and fruitfulness in ministry is not a substitute for personal piety. It is a man’s godly character that is the fundamanetal characteristic of pastoral ministry. The foundational assumption of Scripture is that a man provide a godly (though not perfect) example of character to his congregation. He quoted Spurgeon: “Our characters must be more persuasive than our speech.” The presence or absence of godly characteristics display whether or not a pastor is watching his life in this way. The effect on the pastor, his family and his church can be devastating when this commandment has been neglected.
He provided reflections on what Sovereign Grace has learned in dealing with pastors who have not obeyed this commandment.
1) The limitations of sound doctrine. Knowledge of Scripture is essential, but not sufficient, for we must also be obedient. Merely listening and being moved is not enough. It leaves us vulnerable to deception if we do not have a high view of specific application of truth to our lives. True knowlege is the prelude to action, and it is obedience to the word that counts in the end. The prelude cannot become the pinnacle. Truth must be both proclaimed and applied, preached and practiced, learned and obeyed. John Owen says, “As we learn all to practice, so we learn much by practicing.”
2) The war within never ends. Within each of us is a deadly companion actively opposed to our pursuit of God and godliness. We are commanded to keep a close watch on our lives because of the enemy within. He quoted at length from John Owen, whose writings he considers indispensible when dealing with the issue of sin. “There is no pastoral privilege in relation to sin.” Watching our hearts and lives is an invaluable means of protecting our hearts from the opposition of sin. If you do not watch, you will weaken.
3) We can’t effectively watch ourself by ourself. The limitations of sound doctrine and the presence of sin means that we require others. We need the discerning eyes of our friends on our lives. We simply cannot do it by ourselves. I can too often assume that because I can see your sin so clearly I have no problem discerning my own. But because sin deceives and lies, I need friends to help me discern the sin that is obvious to them but not to me. He quoted Paul Tripp who wrote, “Personal insight is the product of community.” He encouraged those in attendance to find people who we can ask about the sin we may not see in ourselves, beginning with our wives and extending that to pastoral teams and friends. When appropriate, a pastor should even share his sin with his congregation, though it requires wisdom to know when to do this.
Watch Your Doctrine - Because of all that has been said already through this conference he will accent only one aspect of Paul’s admonition: in watching doctrine we must never lose sight of Calvary. There must always been some sighting of Calvary in a sermon and people should experience this sight in each and every sermon that is preached.
What Your Savior Work - At the end of verse 16 is an unexpected promise. Obviously Paul is not teaching self-atonement but is accenting human agency in the experience of salvation. This verse reminds us of the vital importance of godly leadership. If we watch our life and doctrine closely, we can expect God to preserve us and those we serve until that final day. If it were not for the Savior, the burden of this verse would be too much to bear. As we watch our lives and doctrine, we can have confidence that the Savior will work.
We will return very shortly with John MacArthur, the final speaker of the conference.