A Puritan Pastor (Part 2)

Okay, so again my desire here is to speak of pastoral ministry … the kind of ministry and pastor I am and want.  I don’t hold the Puritans up as “Perfect” … we only had one perfect human and that won’t be repeated again, but they are great men.  And when we find great men, women, movements in Church History that share the same loves we share, we ought to want to learn from them.  I want to learn from the successes, failures, teachings, and experiences of Gospel-men.  These pastors were just that – in love with the Word that unfolds the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  So, on to the next two characteristics of a Puritan pastor, characteristics which highlight how they approached the Word and the sought to live in the Spirit —

2. Expositors of the Scripture & Educators of the Mind

They had no higher book than the inspired Scriptures and they labored under its teaching.  This being the case they studied diligently to mine the riches of the doctrines contained in the Book.  Verse by verse, chapter by chapter, book by book developing a theology that was thoroughly God-saturated.  They were simple in their preaching and writing.  They would state the doctrine and then apply it to the conscience.  For them, truth left “hanging” was as dangerous as error.  The Word was given for our teaching, reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16) and that means we need to KNOW it, so we can APPLY it, so it can TRANSFORM us.  Truth must be felt!  I love that.  That doesn’t mean we base the Christian life on emotions or experiences, it means that Truth produces strong emotions and transforming experiences.  Truth doesn’t bypass the mind, it is grasp in the mind before faith and obedience become possible.  If Jesus’ answer to the great question of Matthew 22:36 includes loving the Lord your God with all your mind, then we would be well advised to welcome the instruction of the Word to change our thinking so it can change our living.  My friends, I love learning, but I love growing more.  I love a good book, but I love holiness more.  I love listening, but I love obeying more.  If we are a good teaching church, that loves the Word exposited, then we will be an obedient, transformed and transforming church as well.  It is my job to display the glories of Christ in the Gospel, not my own learning.  It is my job (and highest joy) to delight in those glories so you’ll want to also!

3. Men of the Spirit & Men of Sincerity

This is basically to say, “practice what you preach!”  And I certainly intend to.  Paul’s admonition to Timothy to “pay close attention to yourself (1 Timothy 4:16)” is the call to walk in the Spirit.  May it never be that I unsay with my life what I say with my tongue.  The Puritan pastor believed he was a dying man preaching to dying men, and his own digestion of the food of the Spirit was what made it powerful (and appetizing) to those under his care.  These were men of discipline, men who loved walking with God, men who longed to see the Gospel transform them first, their people second, their culture third.  And to that I say a hearty “AMEN!”  I will not call you to do something that I am unwilling to do.  I will not preach a sermon to you that I have not preached first to myself.  I will fight the flesh, to keep in step with the Spirit.  I love John Owens word to pastors here, “If the Word does not dwell with power in us, it will not pass with power from us.  And I love the forthrightness of good ‘ol John Calvin when he said, “It were better for the preacher to break his neck going up into the pulpit, if he does not take pains to be the first to follow God.”  I’ve often prayed that God would take me home before I would do anything to disgrace the name of Christ and disqualify myself from leading His Church.

The Puritans were men, sure they had their faults and misplaced passions, but they were men committed to the Word shaping the mind and transforming the life.  Pastors intent on walking in the Spirit, living dependant and sincere lives before God so they would be of great value to men.  They are heroes of the faith!  And for me, a pastor, their writings and their lives call me to a life lived completely under the Word of God … and that’s why I love them.  I hope you’ll learn to love them as well.

A Dying Man Delivered by Grace,

Pastor Mark

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A Puritan Pastor (Part 1)

I believe the best way to see the Puritans is as those who did for the Church and Christian Life what the Reformation did for the Gospel and Theology.  Between 1550 and 1700 they sought for, as their name indicates, purity in the Church of England and in the hypocritical religiosity of their day.  They engaged their culture for the Gospel and the Gospel for their own life and family.  They were radicals for sure, but first and foremost, in preaching the glory of God to their own souls.  They pursued God in His Word, and they labored to work out Godliness in every area of life … and they wrote more than seems humanly possible during their time.  Some of the notables:  John Owen, Richard Baxter, John Bunyan, Thomas Watson, and Thomas Goodwin.  Their influence crossed the Atlantic and became a major force in the early Americas at the pen and ministry of Jonathan Edwards during the time of the Great Awakening.  These giants were pastors and theologians who cared about the Church and the souls of men.  The Puritan movement, in all its forms, was essentially a movement for church reform, pastoral renewal, evangelism, and revival. Man, who doesn’t want to see all of that! If you’re interested in reading a great survey of the Puritans, check out J.I. Packer’s A Quest for Godliness where I also am drawing the following description of the passions of these men as pastors.

1.  Physicians of the Soul

They trusted the Word of God and its healing power for the souls of men.  “Truth obeyed will heal,” was a clear teaching of the Puritan pastor.  No matter what the age, maturity level, or spiritual condition – the Word of God understood and applied was the remedy.  This is not to paint the Puritans as careless or superficial teachers of the Bible, as though by throwing a Bible verse at someone and telling them to memorize it they will be “better”.  Packer says they were as “humble-minded and warm-hearted as they were clear-headed, as fully oriented to people as they were to Scripture, and as passionate for peace as they were for truth.”  They have coined a phrase that I love in describing pastoral ministry – “the care of souls.”  And in a day were psychology and medications become the primary remedy for the soul, the Puritans do well to remind us that the Word still has power to heal the souls of men.  All that to say, as a pastor, as your pastor, I care about your souls.  I see my role as one who applies the ointment of the Scripture to bring health to our souls, not just knowledge to our minds.  The Church is a hospital, there are no perfect people, and anyone can relapse at any time, therefore we all must grow skillful in examining our own hearts and applying the remedy of Gospel truth for the care of souls.

Healed to Heal,

Pastor Mark