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Forgiveness of Sin, Sermon on 1 John 1:8-2:2

I had the opportunity this past Sunday to preach at First Baptist, Jackson, TN, where my family and I are members. We are currently in a series through 1 John so my text was 1:8-2:2, a beautiful passage which describes the reality of the hope for forgiveness of sins. You can watch the sermon here:


A Godly Pastor is a Grace-filled Pastor

I’m really enjoying Sinclair Ferguson’s book, The Whole Christ. Among other things, it is a very helpful exposition of grace and the free call of the gospel to all people.

In the section below Ferguson is discussing the trouble of legalism and pastoral ministry. I think it is a wonderful portrayal of a pastor.

This will not do in gospel ministry. Rather, pastors need themselves to have been mastered by the unconditional grace of God. From them the vestiges of a self-defensive pharisaism and conditionalism need to be torn. Like the Savior they need to handle bruised reeds without breaking them and dimly burning wicks without quenching them.

What is a godly pastor, after all, but one who is like God, with a heart of grace; someone who sees God bringing prodigals home and runs to embrace them, weeps for joy that they have been brought home, and kisses them—asking no questions—no qualifications or conditions required? (73)

The Ultimate Aim of Pastoral Overisght

In any task one must keep in view the ultimate end or purpose. This is true for pastoral ministry as well. In the final assignment for my pastoral ministry class I always ask students to state the ultimate aim of pastoral ministry. Richard Baxter provides a good answer to this question:

“The ultimate end of our pastoral oversight is … to please and to glorify God. It is also to see the sanctification and holy obedience of the people under our charge. To nurture our people’s unity, order, beauty, strength, preservation, and increase must be our task. It is the right worshipping of God. This means that before a man is capable of being a true pastor of a church, he must have a high esteem of these objectives. He must make them the great and only end of his own life” – Richard Baxter, The Reformed Pastor, 68

importance of confession of sinThe Center for Baptist Renewal, directed by Matt Emerson and Luke Stamps, posted today a brief piece I wrote on the value of having confession of sin as a distinct piece of our corporate worship. You can read the piece here.


Lecture, “Portrait of a Faithful Pastor”

Earlier this month I had the privilege of participating in the lecture series of the School of Christian Ministries at California Baptist University. I titled my address “Portrait of a Faithful Pastor.” Drawing from 2 Timothy 2 and other texts I argued that to be a faithful pastor a man must give himself to God, to God’s word and to God’s people. The video is below.



CBU School of Christian Ministries Lecture Series with – Dr. Ray Van Neste – April 5, 2018 from California Baptist University on Vimeo.


From Good Friday to Easter

Good Friday:
Pause to perceive the pain,
sit with the sorrow,
contemplate the cruelty
of the condemnation of Christ,
the substitute of the sinless Son


Sad Saturday

Saturday, the settled gloom
Speaks only doom
Our Lord sealed in the tomb.
Our hopes were high.
Why did he have to die?
Was it all a lie?
Stumble through Sabbath, weak,
Everything so bleak
What to do at the first of the week?


Easter Morning:
Tears are turned to triumph
Woe to wonder
Sadness to singing
Aching to alleluia
The blues have blossomed to blessing
And darkness is driven away by delight.

He is Risen!


Rehabilitate the Noble Word, “Pastors”

Amen, John Stott:

“In our day, in which there is much confusion about the nature and purpose of the pastoral ministry, and much questioning whether clergy are primarily social workers, psychotherapists, educators, facilitators or administrators, it is important to rehabilitate the noble word ‘pastors’, who are shepherds of Christ’s sheep, called to tend, feed and protect them.”

- The Message of Acts (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 1990), 323.

Leadership in the Church

Today in my Pastoral Ministry class we will be discussing 1 Thess 5:12-13, which is a significant passage on the duties of pastors to congregation and congregation to pastors. Some seek to evade the language of authority in this text, but that is misguided. I think it reveals our discomfort with the idea of authority- which is a problem. Of course, there are examples of abuse of authority, but every good thing God has ordained has been abused somewhere. The way forward is not to reject what God has made but to pursue its proper use.

Greg Beale, in his commentary, speaks to this issue well:

One of the reasons for this predicament is that we too often view church leaders as CEOs of the church “corporation,” whose purpose is to meet our needs.  If the church does not meet our needs in the way we think it should, we find another “church store” to attend.  Another reason for this situation is that the American church has been so permeated with democracy and individualism that these two great American ideals have been taken to an extreme.  Too often churches proclaim that their goal is that every believer become a “minister.”  The implication is that every believer is to be equal with every other believer and that, ideally, there should be no one in an authoritative position over anyone else.  Of course, it is true that everyone in the church is equal in the sense of being in the image of God.  Accordingly, all should grow in their recognition and exercise of the diverse gifts that they have received from God.  But Christians are not equal in the sense that they have functional equality in the church.  Rather, they have different gifts that entail different kinds of functions.  Leadership is among these gifts (Eph 4:11).

We need to be instructed about the important role leaders play in the church and how others who have not been called to be leaders should look upon those in authority over them.[1]


[1] G.K. Beale, 1-2 Thessalonians, The IVP New Testament Commentary Series (Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 2003), 158-59.


“Go, Labor On; Spend, and Be Spent”

I recently came across another hymn by Horatius Bonar, which I have added to my “Poems of Perseverance” file. It is on my office door this week as my Poem of the Week.

 “Go, Labor On; Spend, and Be Spent”

Go, labor on; spend, and be spent;
Thy joy to do the Father’s will;
It is the way the Master went;
Should not the servant tread it still?

Go, labor on: ’tis not for nought;
Thy earthly loss is heav’nly gain;
Men heed thee, love thee, praise thee not;
The Master praises, what are men?

Go, labor on; your hands are weak,
Your knees are faint, your souls cast down;
Yet falter not; the prize you seek
Is near, a kingdom and a crown.

Go, labor on while it is day,
The world’s dark night is hastening on;
Speed, speed thy work, cast sloth away,
It is not thus that souls are won.

Men die in darkness at your side,
Without a hope to cheer the tomb;
Take up the torch and wave it wide,
The torch that lights time’s thickest gloom.

Press on, faint not, keep watch and pray;
Be wise the erring soul to win;
Go forth into the world’s highway,
Compel the wanderer to come in.

Press on, and in thy work rejoice;
For work comes rest, the prize thus won;
Soon shalt thou hear the Master’s voice,
The midnight cry, Behold, I come!
-          Horatius Bonar

Power in the Pulpit

While preparing for an upcoming lecture on pastoral ministry I came back across this helpful quote from the little gem, The Ministry: Addresses to Students of Divinity, by Charles Brown. Where some in the past thought the press had made preachign irrelevant, many today think various forms of media have had the same effect. Brown’s words are a good reminder.

The power of preaching. But we are told that this in our age is gone, the Press having taken its place. If so, assuredly the worse for the age; for the Press, whatever may be its power, can never supply the place of the Pulpit. But I believe that this whole allegation about the power of the Pulpit being gone is baseless. I will tell you what is gone. The power of a neat little manuscript, carried to the pulpit, and prettily read – that is gone. Oh, never attempt, by the reading of a little manuscript book in the pulpit, to compete with the volumes which issue from the press, or you shall be miserably cast in the competition.
But carry to the pulpit a different thing altogether; carry to it well-digested thoughts, with suitable words to express them – written in your inmost soul, and if needful also in your manuscript – thoughts and words wherewith to stir the souls of your hearers to their inmost depths, – wherewith to hold living intercourse with them, and tell them what God has been telling you; and both you and they shall find that the Pulpit still wields a power altogether its own.” (61)