Leadership and Family

Leadership and Family

In extreme cases, people who’ve been wounded by ministry want nothing to do with church, God or God’s people. They are bitter and angry by the way their parent or spouse valued and served ministry, often sacrificing the family or marriage to succeed in their ministry.

Tragically, some times the casualty is the minister him or herself. Some great men and women of God have left the faith. 

The battlefield of ministry is littered with casualties.  Those casualties are the wives, husbands and children of preachers, ministers and workers.  These ‘loved ones’ have often become disillusioned with the preacher, ministry, or church, or church people. Sadly, most of those casualties are absolutely unnecessary.

Make no mistake about it. Ministry is a battlefield. The devil “goes about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour.” We are not immune to his evil devices though we are in ministry.

Listen carefully, Don’t put yourself in a place where you will be susceptible to being overcome, deceived or manipulated by the devil or the people he uses. Yes, the devil comes to church! It’s one of his primary targets in the earth. He is determined to destroy the body of Christ.

This could someday become your story. Unless…. Unless you understand a few things. Let’s start at the beginning:  a “call” from God. 

I can’t think of anything more misunderstood that this simple phrase, “the call of God.” It has been misunderstood to mean some mystical thing that is difficult to find, to hear, or to figure out.

God does call people. He always has and He always will. He has called you! If you’ve not heard His call, you’re likely not listening. You would think with all the examples in the Bible and modern life this would be a simple matter and easily understood. Yet it is not!

Many a foolish, unwise act has been blamed on God, His voice and His “call.” Sometimes the call seems unusual- but it’s never foolish. People do foolish things because they misunderstand. But what God says or asks will always make sense at some point.

So let’s sort through this and see what the Bible really teaches about this. And then we’ll talk about how to involve our family, present and future.

The word “call” from the New Testament simply means “an invitation”. It actually means just what it suggests: “You are invited”… to something or somewhere. You can be invited to become a “fisher of men” even though you are not yet ready. When you say yes, God will start or speed up His preparations in your life.

So THE CALL must be responded to. Choice. It’s our choice.

The first way this is used is an invitation to a destination. We are called to repentance. We are called to follow Jesus. We are called to live a certain life style. Keep in mind the meaning of “call”- an invitation. We are invited to repent. We are invited to follow. We are invited to live a certain life. It does have something to do with us. It is not arbitrary and it is not destiny! None of the benefits of the invitation are available without our responding to the invitation. Calling must be accepted and embraced. 

A second way “call” is used is as an invitation to a vocation. Paul said of himself, “Paul, called to be an apostle.” He was invited to accept the good and the bad of being an apostle. He joyfully embraced both. There is no call that does not have a cross. It’s not all roses; there are thorns.

God invites people to serve in different capacities. However, He may not thunder from heaven in a loud booming voice, or send bright lights as he did with the apostle Paul. Sometimes God uses other people to invite you to a vocation. The voice of a man or a woman could very well be the voice of God. Maybe one of your leaders or a coworker just makes a suggestion that you do something or you lead something. And then you discover, “WOW, I love this.”

Some calls we are told about in Scripture are very dramatic, such as Moses and Paul or Isaiah. Imagine a burning bush or a bright light from heaven or seeing a vision of heaven! Nothing vague about these experiences!

Abraham’s call was rather dramatic as well. God told him, “Leave your county and I’ll make a great nation out of you.” Again, it was an invitation. Moses, Paul, Abraham and Isaiah each had to make the choice to respond.

Sometimes a call to ministry or a definite vocation is somewhat vague and comes about by simple, obvious reasons. In the kingdom of God, getting things done is much more important than who does it and how it is done. Its not really about style. It’s about the advancement of the kingdom in whatever way God chooses.

You may have never thought about it much…but if you are bearing fruit in a certain area of Kingdom work, you need to consider that this may be God’s call on your life. Plain old common sense here. You may say, “It can’t be. I never heard a voice from heaven!” Why does it have to be mystical?

Let’s say for example you were asked to work in children’s ministry. You’ve maybe never thought of yourself as a children’s worker, but for some reason you are very good at it! The kids respond to you very well, you seem to be very fruitful, and good things are happening as a result of your involvement. Could this then be God’s call? Quite possibly!

Sometimes you just carry a burden for a people, a place, or a certain aspect of ministry. It never leaves you. It keeps coming back. It could be the call of God. 

Oftentimes what misleads us is that we try to replicate the mechanics of someone else’s life call. Just because you know someone who heard an audible voice from God calling him or her, does not mean you will hear it. Nor does it mean you should hear it.  God’s works differently for each of us.

You will always be the happiest doing what you are truly called to do. You may do many different things, as I do, and all of it for the Lord. It may all be good! But there is no question that doing what you are called to do brings the greatest joy. This does not mean you should stop all the rest; but be aware of the fruitfulness potential of your life and focus as much as possible in that area of life. 

Do not be so foolish and super-spiritual as to turn down God-given opportunities by saying, “I’m not called to do that.” If it needs to be done, and you can find a way do it, and there is nobody else who can do it, then you are called to do it! Bob Gordon says, “God usually gives us a desire for the work after he has called us to do it.”

I want to bring the call of God into this leadership discussion and how that relates to our family. If you are still single, you may decide to stay single as a part of the call of God. You may remain single as a choice for the cause of ministry. On the other hand, you may deeply long find that special one. 

Tragically, some people will give up the call of God for that special person. From my counselling experience, I can tell you that these couples are some of the unhappiest people on earth. If you are single, very early in the courting process you should discuss your call from God. The possible future marriage will be much happier and peaceful if you understand each other’s calls. 

If you become attracted to someone, ask yourself an honest question, “Can I see the call of God on their life and what is God calling them to do?” You may have incompatible calls. This can lead to all kinds of stress at home. For example, perhaps God has called you to be a missionary/evangelist. This person you are attracted to is called to be a local pastor. Are these calls compatible? Maybe, maybe not. That may be the most important topic you ever discuss.

Now let’s look at this another way  and talk about what happens when you already have a wife/husband and children and you sense God calling to ministry. You must have open discussions and prayer with your spouse and children (if they are old enough to understand.)

Bring your family together, spouse and children into the call of God. Make them a part of your team. Involve them in praying for God’s will, God’s direction and God’s time.

Why do I say this? Whatever God calls you to do will affect all the personal relationships of your life. Calling is never an 8 to 5 job!! God merges married persons and families together into the call.

To be successful in any ministry as a leader or worker, your personal life is scrutinized before your ministry peers and leaders. But in the family, how you behave at home determines what the family experiences and feels about your ministry call.

There are people in ministry who are loved, respected, and honoured when they are out with people. They are patient, kind, and understanding of others. But at home, they are a hotheaded, demanding and impatient tyrant! The fruit of the Spirit is absolutely missing in their everyday life.

Don’t demand your family to be what you want them to be. Don’t force them to do ministry they are unwilling to do. Don’t make examples out of them. Don’t guilt trip them. Never say, “You are an embarrassment to me and the ministry.” Those words are a death-blow to your family members. Do you want your family to enhance your reputation or do you want them to know God in their own lives? Will you love them even if they fail and cause embarrassment to you?

Your family is not your trophy. They are your family. They are your team. Treat them respectfully. I have on many occasions had my children contribute wisdom to my decisions in ministry. They too have the Spirit of God in them. Don’t treat them as just family. 

Remember what PAUL  wrote to Timothy;

1 Timothy 3:2-7 “So a church leader must be a man whose life is above reproach. He must be faithful to his wife. He must exercise self-control, live wisely, and have a good reputation. He must enjoy having guests in his home, and he must be able to teach. He must not be a heavy drinkeror be violent. He must be gentle, not quarrelsome, and not love money. He must manage his own family well, having children who respect and obey him. For if a man cannot manage his own household, how can he take care of God’s church? A church leader must not be a new believer, because he might become proud, and the devil would cause him to fall.Also, people outside the church must speak well of him so that he will not be disgraced and fall into the devil’s trap.”

The picture given here is that the leader, whether an aspiring or functioning leader, must first begin ministry at home by being the husband/ wife/ father/ mother needed as a Christian. 

One of the reasons ministry people can become irritated with their own families is because their hypocrisy is exposed. Your family knows who you really are. They can read you like a book. You may have great success or be famous and admired; people might listen to your every word. But when you come home,  you’re just mom, dad, husband, or wife. After all the praise given to you outside, now you are being reminded of the commitments you have made to those who live under your roof.  You are reminded of  the responsibilities you have perhaps neglected. 

It can be easy to resent the pressure of home life. But to be clear, your home and family is your barometer of true spirituality. The way you are at home is the way you really are!!

Family must be protected by the leader. As a young pastor, I stood up in front of my congregation and told the people. “If you ever see one of my children misbehaving, please bring that to my attention. But do not correct my children. They are my responsibility, not yours.” I let the people know my family was my responsibility and not theirs. There is far too much pressure on ministry families to perform up to the congregation’s expectations.

Once there was a church leadership vacancy and no one would volunteer. Someone said to me, “Well, I guess Denie will have to do that.” I looked at them and said, “No. She is busy enough doing things she is already responsible for.”

It’s also important that you stay connected. Do you know the condition of your flocks? Your family is your first flock. Just because the father is present doesn’t mean he is really “present.” Physically present but emotionally absent is not healthy. 

Do you know what your spouse really thinks about things? If you have children, do you ever talk with them instead of just talking to them? Do their opinions matter to you? Can they ask you anything without getting a lecture? Where are they in life?

Shakespeare wrote, “It is a wise father that knows his own child.” Take time to be with your family. Don’t become so absorbed with ministry that you forget to care for your own flock- your family. 

In our home,  we have some rules. We sit down to eat together. No cell phones at the table. No calls while eating or during planned family times. We read Scripture or a devotional after supper and pray together most evenings. We also set aside times that are purely for our family. I write these family evenings into my calendar, and I am unavailable for anything else. Why? I am their shepherd. I have made a commitment to my family.

Form meaningful family relationships. Form meaningful marriage relationships. Form meaningful  family traditions. These are more important than church work and church relationships.

If you are single, this teaching is important. Pay attention to it. It could save you much grief. If you are already married, with or without children, pay attention to your God-given little flock. They are your first ministry.

The Grasshopper Complex.

Do you ever feel like a Grasshopper?

The Book of Numbers tells us the story of Israel’s discovery of the “promised land.” God instructed Moses to send some men to explore the land of Canaan with this promise in mind. “This is the land I am giving to you,” God said. 

Every promise of God is backed by His integrity, character, abilities, provision and reputation. That should have been enough for the 12 “spies” chosen by Moses to check out the new land! It was promised as “a land flowing with milk and honey,” a metaphor meaning blessing and overflowing abundance. There was fruit for the picking in this land, and the spies carried home bunches of grapes as proof. They tasted the abundance and brought some back to the community. It really was just as the Lord had promised. 

Now we come to the spies’ misunderstanding. “We expected the milk and honey- because we knew our God- but we did not expect potential resistance, fortified cities and intimidating giants!”

For the Israeli spies, paranoia took over at this point.  The problems appeared bigger and the solution got smaller. “These giants were so big we were like grasshoppers!” This is of course ridiculous. Have you ever stood alongside a grasshopper? It’s a tiny insect!! Realistically, the Nephilim giants were probably twice the size of the Israelites. The Israelites were a long way from grasshopper  size, except in their own minds.

The great misunderstanding of God is that His promises are unconditional. But they are not. They come only with our participation. It should have been enough for God to say, “I am giving it to you.” But it wasn’t. You could argue that it would have been better for God to warn them of the possible challenges- but He didn’t.

“I was not expecting all these difficulties,” we cry when the promises of God are hard-won. Realistically we don’t see that there are going to be battles for the promises. We are only human, and unless God opens up the future through revelation, we can’t see what is coming. 

Peter wrote to the believers, “Don’t consider it strange concerning the fiery trials that have come upon you.” 

It’s not unusual to face giants in life even when we are in the center of God’s will. As always, God’s promises are, and should be, enough. God’s presence with us, just as He was with the Israelite army in all their battles for the promised land, is all we really need.

With the promise and presence of God with us, should it matter what seeming impossibilities lay before us? Behind all His promises is His integrity, character ability, provision, and reputation. I think that should be enough.

Winston Churchill once said, “If you are going through hell, keep going.” We may be in a battle for our “promised land,” but let’s keep going. The promises of God are conditional upon our fighting every single battle He has placed in front of us. And we are not grasshoppers. We will win!

You need a Pastor

You Need A Pastor

Many people don’t really understand what the church is all about. Because they don’t have a clear understanding as to the purpose of the church, they usually have no idea why a personal pastor is so important to spiritual health. This is the number one reason why so many believers are unhealthy today. 

Don’t confuse these two things. “Pastor” doesn’t mean “preacher.” Preaching is a skill that can be developed. Pastoring is a gift and a calling that comes from God. There are good pastors who don’t preach very well. There are good preachers who are not good pastors.

Media nowadays has significantly complicated this. Television and internet have made it possible to be entertained by the most gifted preachers on the planet. The tragedy is that some folks are only familiar with  mega-church pastors. These massive congregations have thousands of people, so the belief is that the preaching must be good and the church is spectacularly blessed.

But the size of the crowd does not necessarily mean  God has His special blessing on the church. Historically, the crowd has often been wrong. Just think how many were in agreement to crucify Jesus!

A pastor has a spiritual gift and a calling. He or she has accepted a mantle that says, “I will be responsible for each person in a certain congregation.” Real pastors submit to Christ and “watch for their souls.” That is seen by their attitude and behaviour. Their heart’s cry is, “I will lead these people. l carry them on my heart. I will feed, protect, care for them and discipline them as my spiritual family.”

There is no room for dictatorial pastors in kingdom work. A pastor is not a CEO. He/she is a servant of God representing the values of God, the mind of God, the will of and purpose of God to the people. A real pastor will be lovingly and firmly honest with you.

God calls pastors to ministry. He expects us as believers to recognize a human pastor as our pastor. In larger churches, the lead pastor is represented in spirit and action by the pastoral staff.

As a believer, you choose to submit to the leadership and authority of a pastor as you would submit to Christ. When you cease to submit, you really no longer have a pastor. You can watch the internet and enjoy multiple “preachers”- but they are not pastoring you. Without a pastor and local church that your life is entwined with, you have no spiritual covering. That covering comes only through submission to spiritual authority. Even when the pastor makes mistakes, it’s a principle that still works.

This submissive spirit is not stupidity on your part. It is not ignorance of human failings. It is intelligent recognition of a man or woman of God as your pastor. Something supernatural happens when you submit. You come under the protection of the Holy Spirit. I’ve been a pastor for almost 50 years; I’ve been in the church my whole life. I’ve observed that submissive believers have the least troubles in life.

If you are not a part of a local church, find one today. It is for your own good and your prosperity. The first voice you listen to, after the Holy Spirit, is your shepherd, your pastor. All others are secondary. This one thing alone will change your life and bring you to peace and order.

Ministerial Ethics

I have something urgent to say to pastors, future pastors, ministry leaders, and church workers that could spare us a lot of grief in life. 

I could tell many stories of men and women who are no longer in ministry because they messed up, gave up, got sidetracked, did something not quite right, or otherwise made serious mistakes- and could not find their way back.  

Most of these people were sincere. Some were naïve; others were misinformed. But behind every ministry failure, there is a root cause. Pride.

Pride always goes before a fall. Pride in ministry is the serpent’s greatest tool. It will lead to failure and disqualification for ministry.

Ministry is not a sprint. It’s a marathon, not in the sense of a long endurance test, but rather in being a lifelong calling. For me personally,  I want to still be doing  ministry when I’m old. 

The writer of Hebrews tells us, “Lay aside the weight and the sin that so easily gets hold of us and slows us down.” Two things: sin, and weight. 

We are all aware of “Sin.” But let’s talk about the “weights” that over time will wear us down and prevent us from making it to our finish line.

At the beginning of ministry there is a honeymoon period when we don’t listen too well. “I’m in love with Jesus and I’m called to ministry. People love me. I’m having great results. I’m not worried about being weighted down. What could possibly go wrong?”

But again, ministry is a marathon, not a sprint. Weights will have to be laid down.  Get enough weights and it gets to difficult to keep running. 

Ethics is defined as “the study of “standards of right and wrong” dealing with moral conduct, duty and judgment.” It also is defined as “formal and professional rules of right and wrong- a system of conduct or behavior.”

Most professions have a code of conduct or ethics that defines the standards or guidelines the public can expect from that profession. The pastoral role and any church ministry are no exceptions. The difference is this: our ethics are not based on what the public expects. Our ethics and moral standards are based on the Bible. What can fellow ministers, workers, church members, denominational leaders and others in the body of Christ expect from us who represent CHRIST?

Every compromise with Scripture is a weight. (It can also be a sin.) As called ministers of God, we must choose to lay aside these weights of compromise with Scripture. We must set boundaries around our lives that align us with God’s word and help us to run the race God has set before us.

Some ethical questions for ministry:

  • What are your boundaries in handling money
  • What behavioral parameters do you have for counseling? 
  • What are your ministry limits when dealing with the opposite sex?
  • What can other pastors/ministry leaders expect from you? How do you speak about them?
  • When someone comes to you from another church and wants counseling, what will you do?
  • How should you behave if you leave a church or a ministry and are no longer the leader? 
  • Should you visit or minister to members of other churches?
  • Should you disciple other pastor’s members?

Ethics in ministry essentially is a heart issue. What is your code of conduct in ministry? Who keeps you in line? Who or what is your ethics standard? Who or what activates and encourages your conscience? 

If your ethical standards are not going to be a matter of your heart, then your ethics are only valid when someone else holds you accountable. A real ethical person needs no reminding and no watching. The ethics of his/her life are personal and he/she holds him/her/self to that standard. That is truly an ethical person. When no one is looking, he/she is the same.

All professions have codes of conduct and ethics. In most cases you can be expelled, disbarred or merely suspended from your work for breaking the ethical code of that particular discipline.

Violating ministerial ethics can happen without anyone’s knowledge. You can actually get away with a lot in ministry because so much of your work is one on one and in private. There is a certain amount of respect and authority that goes with ministry, and you are trusted to have good ethical practices. But that trust can be betrayed.

Ethical failures among spiritual leaders are often unchecked for the simple reason that people love and respect them so much they say nothing about perceived or real failure. Recently there was a huge scandal over an international religious leader who sinned secretly and violated ethics for years. Many of his organization knew what was going on and said little or nothing. Finally the house came down, the sin was revealed, and after many investigations and public apologies, the ministry was shut down. 

You are the only one who can hold yourself to an ethical standard. God will always deal with you if your heart does not get proud. When He does, far better to be rebuked or disciplined by God than a board  or a council or fellow leaders. God’s dealings when we sin are necessary but done in love. When human institutions discipline, deep woundings and much pain are a result.

Money Ethics

Money issues, more than anything else, corrupt and seduce more ministers than anything else.

Listen to Paul’s instructions to his young protégé, Timothy. 

1 Timothy 6:6 “Yet true religion with contentment is great wealth. After all, we didn’t bring anything with us when we came into the world, and we certainly cannot carry anything with us when we die. So if we have enough food and clothing, let us be content. But people who long to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many foolish and harmful desires that plunge them into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is at the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows. But you, Timothy, belong to God; so run from all these evil things, and follow what is right and good. Pursue a godly life, along with faith, love, perseverance, and gentleness.

Paul’s instructions contain key words. The first is contentment.

Contentment is a frame of mind that is completely independent of outward things. It is the real secret of happiness. Contentment never comes from the possession of external things. There is only  one way to gain contentment: regulate your wants. If you strive to increase your possessions- there is no end. In reality the more you get does not satisfy the discontent.

The desire for money cannot be satisfied. You never have enough. It makes you selfish and it fixes your eyes upon yourself. Contentment is not a vow of poverty, nor is poverty a sign of spirituality. 1 Timothy 6: 5 says, “Godliness is not a means to financial gain.” 

A second key phrase is this: “people who long to be rich.”

Longing to be rich creates a thirst that can never be satisfied. It’s based upon an illusion of what security is. Longing for riches makes you selfish. It creates anxiety. It leads a person to dishonesty. Sometimes when you minister to people’s needs, they throw money at you. So what do you do? Receiving money is not a sin, nor is it generally even wrong. The heart attitude of “longing for it” though will lead to sin.

The third key phrase is this: “man of God.”

Man of God” means “belonging to God.” It’s a great Old Testament title. It was the title of prophets such as Moses and Samuel. We too are called to be the man of God or the woman of God. 

Notice Paul’s requirements for “elders”- which are pastors or spiritual leaders.

1 Timothy 3:3 “He must not be a heavy drinker or be violent. He must be gentle, peace loving, and not one who loves money.”

In other words, this man of God does not do any ministry for profit or for money’s sake. He does not consider ministry opportunities based on the finances involved. When money comes into the church, the preacher must be careful not to be affected by inappropriate attitudes or behaviour towards money. 

The challenge is that money is almost always involved in ministry. There is not much you can do without money. It is a real need. “If I had more money I could do more!” That is usually true. That may be legitimate. However, there is a danger point almost unawares where you cross a line between trusting God and chasing money and monied people rather than chasing ministry opportunities.

Here are some ways to be ethical in handling money.

Do not accept large personal gifts.

I’ve had a number of gifts given to me that were not reasonable for the circumstance. I have turned these in to the church treasurer for the good of the church. I always turn down gifts from people after I’ve prayed for them. Prayer is free. If they want to give, let it be given to the church. Personal gifts of any size are dangerous ground.

When you do receive money for ministerial duties,  report it to your leadership as a way of keeping yourself honest. Again, it’s not wrong to receive small amounts of money as a “love gift”- but that is never our objective nor expectation.

If you are short of finances in your ministry, get some advice and prayer from your leadership. this will prevent temptation from working in your heart.

Use Good Judgment in Financial Matters

I have a friend who agreed, foolishly, to let the church’s money be kept in his own personal account. He accidentally spent some of the church’s money because it got mixed up. He was accused of stealing, put under disciplinary action, and eventually lost his church. No one believed him that it was a mistake. Do not handle the church’s finances personally. 

Be Honest in Finances

A staff pastor in Manila was asked to buy some seat covers for the church van. He bought them from a church member. The member asked him how much to put on the receipt, and the pastor said, “Whatever you want.” Well, the seat covers  cost only 400P, but the receipt was made out for 1,500P. The pastor’s heart succumbed to the temptation and he submitted the receipt and kept the 1,100P. The church bookkeeper caught the lie, confronted the pastor,  and he lost his ministry.

Don’t take advantage of your position by taking advantage of the church or people.

Bad Debts

Don’t borrow money from church members under any circumstances. Pastor “J” borrowed money from his members and could not repay it according to the agreed terms. The members began to talk about the pastor who was not paying his debts. Eventually he lost his ministry over that incident.

When you’re given money, always ask the question, “Is this for me or for the church?” If it is for the church, turn it in immediately and have a receipt given to the donor. Always reply with thank you notes and letters for donations and gifts. 

  • Pastors should never be the church bookkeeper
  • Never let your wife/husband or family member be the church treasurer
  • Do not favor people in your church who have money
  • Do not make the wealthy people in your church the leaders, unless they qualify according to Scripture

Bottom Line: Always handle the church’s money honestly, appropriately, openly and correctly. 

Consequences of Violating Financial Ethics

If I mismanage money:

  • I will damage the credibility of the church and tarnish the name of Christ.
  • People will lose confidence in my leadership because they will view me as corrupt and they may question my judgment in other matters
  • My personal reputation will be tarnished by financial scandal.
  • If I favour wealthy church members, I will be vulnerable to their influence. I will find myself making decisions based upon their reactions.
  • I will ultimately lose my leadership in the church due to unethical financial dealings.
  • I will hurt the reputation of all pastors in my community.

May I suggest that each minister of the Gospel of Christ and each church worker in any position of responsibility should write a personal ethical statement regarding finances.

Ethical Pastoring

We need to remember that the church was founded by Jesus Christ as His representative body on the earth. We do not own the church; it does not belong to us. It does not serve us. We serve the church- the people-  because it is the beloved body of our Lord here on earth, and it is our privilege to serve in any capacity within it. 

Matthew 16:18 “And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.”

All ministry has a purpose. Our role in ministry is to build and nurture the body of Christ. To build maturity. To establish people in the faith. To speak the truth to them. To get others involved in ministry. 

John 10:2 “The man who enters by the gate is the shepherd of his sheep. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice.”

Pastors develop relationship with the people. If we are really in ministry for the love of Christ and the love of people, we must actually care about the people we work with. We stick with them, protect them and care for them. 

We must follow the model of Christ and lay our lives down for the sheep. I have had to give up many things over the years because of my responsibility to the people of God. I’m not suggesting a 24/7/365 work schedule. That is not balance. That is destructive. But there is a commitment to be there for them.

All ministry involves some form of shepherding. We must be an example as we lead. We must serve the Lord and people willingly and cheerfully. But remember that the Chief Shepherd of the sheep is Jesus Christ. Yes, we are shepherds, but more than that, we are “under-shepherds” who points people to the Chief Shepherd. The people- the church- belong to Jesus.

I am the founding pastor of a local church, but I regularly remind myself and tell God that this is His church and I will faithfully serve Him in this church as long as He wants me to.

Pastoral Work Ethic

Peter 5:1 “To the elders (pastors) among you, I appeal as a fellow elder, a witness of Christ’s sufferings and one who also will share in the glory to be revealed: Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers– not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.”

This passage was addressed to elders/pastors. It was based upon an Old Testament concept of eldership. An elder had to be willing to accept the call and he or she held an appointed position of honour. 

This passage instructs us that an elder/pastor must be:

  • willing to accept the call and give his/her life to the church
  • not greedy for money- honourable and wise in financial matters
  • eager to serve the people and the ministry by a good example
  • not lording it over the flock- not a bad-tempered tyrant or a dictator

Pastoral/ministry Work Ethics

  • Work regular hours. Be dependable. Make yourself report to your church office or your home office just as if you held a regular job. 
  • Keep track of what you do.  I write in a journal/diary almost every day recording my daily activities.
  • Organize your time. Have some goals for each day, week and month and year. Develop a system to your work, especially if its routine. If you do this, you will have less guilt for what you have not done and greater satisfaction for what you have accomplished.
  • Develop a vision for the  people you lead. Prayer your people. Evaluate your people, plan to train them, implement the plan,  and  work towards something.
  • Act responsibly to your people. Be a responsible shepherd. Demonstrate care.
  • Focus on doing the work of pastor rather than having the title of pastor. This is true of any position you’re in or function you perform.
  • Don’t run at the first sign of trouble. Don’t leave the “sheep” unattended. I don’t take months of leave and hope my people survive. I am their shepherd. I am committed to them because that is God’s will for me right now.

Consequences of a poor work ethic in ministry

  • No work = no growth
  • No study = No fruit of ministry
  • No prayer = no anointing
  • No vision = the people under you are spiritually starving and eventually will leave you
  • No responsibility = nothing changes

3. Ministry Ethics Upon Change of Pastors

If you resign from your church, are removed for any reason, or are transferred somewhere else, keep in mind that ethically you are no longer the pastor/leader/minister. You no longer have any rights over those people. 

Authority is given to pastoral leaders and when we cease to function in that relationship, we must leave the people alone. That applies to any function you are assigned to. There is, in a sense, a professional relationship. 

This is the flock- not the “barkada.” If I am no longer in charge for whatever reason, these people must move on to bond with their new leader.  I should not manipulate the sheep by complaining about the transition, no matter what transpired. If I do that, I will turn the people against the new leadership. They will become embittered. 

What should you do when you resign or are replaced? Should you leave the area? Should you still contact members even when you are no longer their pastor? 

If you have a overseer/pastoral leader yourself, ask them what your relationship should be after you have been replaced.  If you are the one leading a local church and you step down, normally you should leave the church so that there will be no divided loyalties between you and the new leader. 

The exception to this would be if you became an attendee at the church without any formal function in the body and everyone approved this. I actually did this for a number of years when my role changed and I was no longer the lead pastor. My family and I attended when I wasn’t traveling and supported our local church.

Without permission of the new leadership, no members should be contacted. This demonstrates your recognition of the new pastor’s/leaders authority.

Your highest value and purpose must be to see that congregation/ministry move forward, even if you are not there. You must point them to Christ and to the new pastoral/ministry leader. This demonstrates your recognition of the new pastor’s/leaders authority.

As a former pastor or leader, you should not remain available to listen to the people’s complaints or frustrations with the new leader. When the people say, “We miss you!” that feeds our ego. We all want to be needed and when people call us we feel needed. They value us and that’s nice, but it is unethical and may be rebellion on their part.

Don’t ever get sucked in to leading a rebellion against the new leadership simply because your feelings are hurt. That only shows that you never really had a shepherd’s heart. A shepherd cares much more about those sheep that his or her own personal feelings.

But you say- “They are my friends!” No, they’re not. Show me a place in the Bible where the shepherd is referred to as “the friend” of the sheep. You are their leader, their pastor. You cannot be their friend without compromising your authority over them in the Lord.

You can have a “friendly” relationship with your kids, but they are not your friends. They are your children. That will never change. The relationship has parameters and boundaries that go beyond mere friendship. The moment you accept the call of God and serve in leadership, the standards change.

Consequences of Interfering in Another’s Ministry;

  • You prevent the new pastor from establishing his own leadership.
  • You damage your own reputation by being a troublemaker.
  • You cause church division- which hurts the reputation of the church.
  • You confuse the people.
  • You force them to decide between you and the new leader.
  • By dividing the people’s loyalty, you make it impossible for the church to move ahead.
  • You reap what you sow and you will reap your own church problems in the future.
  • You hurt the people because they do not want to hurt you.
  • You do not glorify Jesus Christ the Great Shepherd, because you allow your personal feelings to interfere with good pastoral ethics.

I suggest you write a personal ethics statement regarding relationships in ministry.

2. Counseling Ethics

Counseling demands confidence. Not even your spouse should know a conversation that is private. My wife is a counsellor of many years and has held in confidence many secrets that involve the personal lives of people. She does not betray their trust and confidence.

Never share confidential information. The only exception to this is if you believe that this person is planning self-harm or may be contemplating suicide. Then you will need to take some action. If you learn of abuse or child abuse, you also must take some action. This is for their protection. But personal problems are not to be discussed outside the walls of the counselling office.

I knew a Christian man who had visited a pastor for personal counselling. A few weeks later, one of the board members of that church talked to him about this personal problem that he had shared only with the pastor. He was so hurt by the pastor’s breach of confidence that he has never trusted a pastor since then and that was many years ago.

If the information you receive through counselling contains threats of violence towards themselves or others, you do not discuss it with others but you do ask if you can elevate the problem to a higher level of leadership. If anyone is in danger, action must be taken. 

If the counselee is struggling with a sin issue that affects the church, you may also need to elevate it to another pastoral leader. In any case, deal with it lovingly but firmly. The well-being of the church body must be considered in this type of situation.

Never EVER meet someone of the opposite sex alone in a restaurant or anywhere else for counseling. Never ride alone in the car with the opposite sex. Pastora Ana and I have had to do that a couple of times, and I always sit in the back seat.

Never be in a room with the opposite sex with the door closed. If you are doing counseling, leave the door slightly open. Better yet, have a third person present. I have many times asked a secretary or another pastor to sit with me in a counseling with the opposite sex. They must be extremely trustworthy and also are asked to keep everything confidential.

Never touch someone of the opposite sex while in private counseling. Touching communicates things that can be misinterpreted by a troubled and emotional person. It can potentially mislead the counselee of your intentions. If I as a male pastor have a woman in for counseling that is very moved or broken and I see that she needs comforting, I do not touch her. I will sometimes get a female pastora or a female secretary to hold or hug her. 

Ethical Biblical principals dictate that you cannot meet alone with someone of the opposite sex in a private room or home; in fact, alone anywhere!  That might lead someone to think you have other motives. Avoid the very appearance of evil. Never make a visit to a home where only someone of the opposite sex is present.

For office counseling, always have unblinded windows in rooms or leave the door open. I have placed large windows in all our pastor’s offices and windows in the doors so that while they are counseling anyone can look into the room and see what is happening. 

I always sit across the desk from my counselees. I am sure to put physical boundaries that are clear. The desk between us makes a statement that we are physically separated.

In some counseling situations, women have been attracted to me.  A strong, caring pastoral figure can be an attraction to a troubled woman. If I sense it, and I have, I immediately make arrangements for someone else to counsel them going forward. I am there for spiritual reasons only. 

I have been warned about certain women by my wife and sometimes by my female staff members. I take that seriously. Listen to the people in your life who care about your reputation and the church’s reputation. It’s not worth bringing shame to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

I strongly suggest that you write a personal counseling ethics statement .

  • Relationship With Other Ministers

Almost all the references to “church” in the New Testament  are speaking about the local church. The local church is built by evangelism, which is multiplication. There is another kind of growth- “transfer” growth. The difference between transfer growth and multiplication is that transfer growth is adding members from other churches. Multiplication is based on winning people to Jesus. 

1 Corinthians 3:3 “You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere men? For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not mere men?  What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe– as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.”

The only real church growth is winning pre-Christians to Christ. If that is your primary objective, it changes the spiritual competition. Winning people indicates that we are competing with the devil for the souls of men. As Reinhard Bonkke put it, “Plundering hell and populating heaven!”

“Pirating” members from other church means we are competing with other kingdom workers. To be clear, there will always be some transfer growth. We love those people and we welcome people (unless they are in rebellion to their former pastor, ) but that is not our goal or objective.  That is not the Great Commission. 

There is too much competition in the body of Christ. Many church leaders are fighting over the same people. Other ministers must be viewed as co-workers and brothers, and their “sheep” must be viewed not as potential targets for church growth, but as members belonging to another respected part of the Body of Christ. Respect other pastors as you would like to be respected. Respect other pastor’s members as you would like your members respected.

When someone comes from another church, we should remind ourselves that they are not coming to us personally. They are probably running from someone else. We should observe closely. We need to ask ourselves, “Why are they here? Why did they leave the other church?” If possible, we should contact the pastor of the other church and learn what we can about the situation.

One of our branch churches is in Pililla, Rizal. We planted this church with new people after a very successful crusade. Our pastor there heard a rumour that some of the other pastors in the area were calling  it a cult. He very wisely went to each pastor in town and made friends. He told them, “We are not here to get your members; we will win our own.”   And that is what is happening in that church!

Some good ethics for ministry relationships:

  • Develop peaceful and friendly relationships with other pastors. Be at peace with them.
  • Do not speak evil of other churches, including the Catholic church. Often this is a result of immaturity on the part of the pastor. He/she believes they can get ahead by stepping on other ministers.
  • Speak well of your denomination or else get out of it. To continually speak against your covering  authority in church leadership is an act of disrespect or even rebellion.

Consequences of violating ethics with other ministers:

  • You will eventually reap what you sow
  • You will bring disunity to the body of Christ
  • You will encourages rebellion in believers
  • It hurts the name of Christ in the community
  • It prevents revival from coming to your church
  • It creates a negative image of other believers
  1. Relationship with my community

How important is it to have a good reputation with our community?

1 Timothy 3:6 “He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap. Deacons, likewise, are to be men worthy of respect, sincere, not indulging in much wine, and not pursuing dishonest gain.”

Good reputation is a powerful testimony for our communities. What do people say about us? What do they think about the way we conduct business? Are we known as cheapskates or hagglers? Are we known for our hot tempers, unreasonable bargaining, and being late on payments? Are we viewed as pleasant and honest? The way we handle ourselves in the public market reflects on the Lord we serve.

I have a wood stove in my garage. Last winter in very cold weather, I burned wood and also coal to heat my garage. My neighbor complained to me about the coal smell. I care about my reputation with the neighbor! So at my own expense I removed my coal stove and now I burn only wood. Why? I want to have a peaceful relationship with my neighbor.

A Christian business man in the men’s clothing business sold clothes to ministry brothers at a 50% discount because he wanted to bless them. He made no profit. Often the pastors would say, “I’ll send you payment,” so he would extend them credit. But many of them never paid, or were many months late. He was too embarrassed to call them and ask for payment. Is that a good reputation for pastors?

Don’t expect people to give you a discount because you are a minister. Rather, believe God for the money to buy what you need and don’t put people under obligation to give you things. 

When I personally am buying for the kingdom of God, I bargain hard! But for myself I pay a reasonable price. I don’t expect anything for nothing. Pastors can be some of the worst beggars in the community. They act poor and often expect even the community to give to them because they are a pastor.

On top of that, they dare to call it “faith.” How is begging having faith? If you are using faith to get a new barong, why not use faith to get the money so that you can pay for it? 

Maintaining a good witness in the community is our #1 challenge.

Consequences of a bad reputation

  • People speak of our church in negative terms
  • When people have needs, they are hesitant to visit us
  • We can cause bitterness in the community toward Christians
  • We offend the very people we are trying to win
  • We embarrass our own members
  • We give the name of Christ a negative image in the community

Write a personal ethics statement for your ministry regarding your community.

  1. Relationship to Morality

In 1850, Nathaniel Hawthorne published The Scarlet Letter, a powerful novel centered around the adulterous relationship of Hester Prynne and a highly respected minister, Reverend Mr. Arthur Dimmesdale. The fallen pastor, remorseful but not ready to face the consequences, asks the question, “What can a ruined soul, like mine, effect towards the redemption of other souls? Or a polluted soul, towards their purification?” 

He describes the misery of standing in his pulpit and seeing the admiration of his people, and having to “then look inward, and discern the black reality of what they idolize.” Finally he says, “I have laughed, in bitterness and agony of heart, at the contrast between what I seem and what I am! And Satan laughs at it!” 

Most seasoned, experienced ministers know that sexual immorality is one of the major downfalls of ministers, men and women alike. Some years ago I was consulted about a lady pastor in the province who was found to be sleeping with one of the members because she was lonely. It happens. It’s wrong.

Consequences of Moral Failure 

  • Grieving the Lord by disobedience to His Word.
  • Dragging Christ’s sacred reputation into the mud.
  • Loss of reward or commendation from God.
  • Having to one day look Jesus in the face at the judgment seat and give an account of why I sinned.
  • Forcing God to discipline me in various ways. 
  • Following in the footsteps of men and women whose immorality forfeited their ministries. 
  • Causing the suffering of innocent people around me who are affected by my actions.
  • Untold hurt to my wife and children. Loss of my family’s respect and trust. Loss of credibility with my children.
  • If my sin should continue or my family be unable to forgive, I could lose my wife and my children forever. 
  • Shame to my family (“Why isn’t Daddy a pastor anymore?”) and the cruel comments of others who would invariably find out. 
  • Shame to my church family.
  • Shame and hurt to my fellow pastors and elders. 
  • Shame and hurt to my friends, and especially to those I’ve led to Christ and discipled. 
  • Guilt that is hard to shake- even though God would forgive me, could I forgive myself? 
  • Memories and flashbacks that could hinder future intimacy with my spouse.
  • Disqualifying myself after having preached to others. 
  • Loss of the things I am called to and love to do: teach, preach, write and minister to others.
  • Forfeiting forever opportunities to serve God.
  • Years of training and experience in ministry wasted for a long period of time, maybe permanently.
  • Being haunted by my sin as I look in the eyes of others, and having reminders of it wherever I go and whatever I do. 
  • Undermining the hard work and prayers of others by saying to our community, “This person is a hypocrite- who can take seriously anything he/she and his/her church have said and done?” 
  • Laughter, rejoicing and blasphemous smugness by those who disrespect God and the church (2 Samuel 12:14)
  • Bringing great pleasure to satan, the Enemy of God. 
  • Heaping judgment and endless problems on the person I  have committed sin with.
  • Possible venereal diseases and possible pregnancy, with its personal and financial implications, including a lifelong reminder of sin to me and my family.
  • Loss of self-respect, discrediting my own name, and invoking shame and lifelong embarrassment upon myself.

How does a minister prevent ethics violations, particularly with sexual matters?

  • Determine beforehand what is acceptable and right before God. 
  • Do not violate your own standards for any reason. 
  • Have your own written personal code of ethics in relationships. 
  • Don’t start a relationship that is questionable, and then there will be nothing to stop. 
  • Keep every relationship professional with no intimacy or emotions. Those are reserved for your spouse and family.

General Wisdom to Protect You from Violating Ethics

Do not give any special attention to any woman other than your wife. 

Speak well of your spouse from the pulpit and privately.

Show in public your affection and care for your spouse. Don’t be ashamed to hold his or her hand. Be kind to him/her in public.

Set limits of attention, time and contact with those of the opposite sex who are not in your family.

Avoid all physical contact with people other than your spouse and family. Laying hands on a personto pray should never be done alone.

George Stormount, a famous British preacher, once told me, “I have never placed my hand on my secretary. I do not want any hint of affection between us.”

If there is a person who is a blessing to your ministry, have your spouse give the gift on behalf of both of you.

Never discuss your marriage with a person of the opposite sex. Never complain about your spouse to a church worker or secretary. What does this do? It establishes your spouse publicly as the number one person in your life.

Conclusion

Why should we consider ethics as an integral part of our ministry? 

Remember the definition. Ethics is defined as the study of “standards of right and wrong” dealing with moral conduct, duty and judgment. It also is defined as formal and professional rules of right and wrong- system of conduct or behaviour.

Ministers and preachers are representatives of Jesus Christ. We do not represent a church or movement. That is secondary. A true servant of God and a true Bible preacher is a representative of Jesus Christ.

We must be better than the rest. We must hold higher standards than doctors, attorneys, or the Lions Club. We are preachers of the gospel!

Jack Hayford is one of the greatest pastors in our time. He made the following statement in his book “Pastors of Promise:”

There are three things I never do. I never fornicate, I never fail to give tithes and offerings, and I never lie.”

What a great standard! Lets represent Jesus Christ well so that we can stand before Him one day and hear Him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant!”

Choose to be Happy.

Helen Keller, blind and deaf from childhood,  said, “Your success and happiness lie in you. Resolve to keep happy, and your joy and you shall form an invincible host against difficulties.”

Robert Louis Stevenson, author of Treasure Island,  wrote, “There is no duty we undertake so much as the duty of being happy.”

Happiness is a choice, and it begins with you. Your situation does not really matter. Years ago I remember learning that people who are happy when they are single are also happy when married.

Inner sunshine shines all the time. Anyone can be cheerful when it seems like everything is going well. But happiness is rarely the result of good fortune.

Have you noticed that happy people come in all stripes? They are happy in all walks of life, all jobs, and all situations. Some people really have a rough life but they are still happy. I’ve been surprised in talking with some folks; their faces and their cheerful voices indicate that life is going really well. But sometimes after conversation, their cheerful face becomes even more amazing once you hear their story.

In my early years as a pastor, I learned how difficult some people’s lives were, and yet the problems and tragedies of their lives did not dictate the joyful state of their minds and hearts. I found that such courage and strength of character to choose to be happy was an amazing thing.

I made a decision back then. I was going to choose to be happy. I have my moments – but I am so thankful for my life, my past and of course my future. No guarantees for the future, but I still choose joy.

If you chose to be happy and joyful, you powerfully affect those around you. Happy people are always well-liked and admired. They communicate sunshine in times of storm. They are positive when surrounded by negativity.

There is strength in choosing to be happy, in choosing to radiate the sunshine of the SON. Nehemiah wrote, “The joy of the Lord is your strength.” We have the Lord – we can be happy!

Holiness-Remember who you are!

This teaching will help us to remember who we are!

One of the first impressions we get from reading about holiness in the Bible is that God requires holiness of us. The interesting thing is that the word for “holiness” in these following Scriptures is “hagiasmos,” but this concept was not found in Greek culture. It’s a God thing- not a cultural thing.

1 Peter 1:15-16 “But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” (Lev 11:44)

2 Corinthians 7:1 “Therefore, since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting (bringing to completion) holiness out of reverence for God.” 

Hebrews 12:14 “Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.”

Paul said in Ephesians 1,  “…from the very foundation of the world God had chosen us – his people – to be holy and blameless in his sight.”

It is clear from these and other Scriptures that it has always been God’s intention that we would be holy and live holy lives. Believers are actually called “saints,”which means “holy ones”. We as Christ followers can legitimately put the word “saint” in front of our names! 

To be holy is God’s standard and expectation for His people. 

But exactly what does it mean to be “holy?” 

What does a “holy” person look like? 

Do you carry a halo on top of your head? Do you have a special aura? Do you have an unusual ability to do miracles?

What does a holy person think like? Act like? 

What is a saint? Does it mean someone who is self sacrificing or makes some significant contribution in life or ministry? Is it someone who performs miracles?  Is that what holiness is all about?

This is a topic that most of us know very little about, even though the words “holy” and “holiness” are found in the Bible 900 times. 

So what really is holiness?

“How little people know, who think that holiness is dull. When one meets the real thing, it is irresistible. If even ten percent of the world’s population had it, would not the whole world be converted and happy before the year’s end?”- C.S. Lewis

Before you think being holy would be boring, just remember without it you will not see God.

Holiness has been misrepresented more than anything else. Let me take you back a generation or two. What I am about to describe is still believed and practiced in some faith groups.

For many churches of the last century, holiness was defined almost entirely by outward appearance.  Holiness was almost exclusively about clothing, hair, and adornment. Women got the worst of it, although men also had strict rules. 

  • no pants for women and no “short pants” for men
  • short hair for men and long hair (uncut) for women
  • no jewelry for either men or women, even wedding rings
  • no make-up for women
  • no hair adornments for women, even hair clips
  • no bright coloured clothing for either men or women
  • no “worldly” activities such as organized sports, swimming, watching television, movies, dancing, playing cards or playing pool 
  • no smoking or drinking or drugs

This was the short list of “DON’TS”! 

There was a rule list also for things that must be done. Many of these are actually good disciplines for Christian life, but because they were required, it seemed like merely a list of “DO’S.”

  • be in church every time the doors are open
  • read your Bible and pray
  • pay your tithes
  • obey the church leadership in every detail of your life

If you did the DO’S and didn’t do the DON’TS, you were holy.

I was visiting an area a few years back and the church had such a distorted view of holiness that they rejected people who did not look “holy.” That particular Sunday, a lady came to church as a guest. She was wearing golden earrings. When one of the elders saw her, he asked her to please go outside and remove the earrings, and only then she could return to the worship service. Can you imagine such foolishness?

St Augustine found out too late that he did not have to castrate himself to be holy!

Distorted views of holiness have plagued the church through the centuries. Let me say that many of these misguided brothers and sisters have been completely sincere in their enforcement of rules and regulations. 

But, as we will see, holiness cannot be enforced, it must be chosen. No human can make you holy. You can’t make yourself holy. 

So what is holiness?

First of all,  it is a characteristic of God. “Be holy as I am holy.”

Holiness when applied to God signifies the moral perfection of his character. God is also holy in that he is utterly distinct from his creation and exercises sovereign majesty and power over it. He is called “the holy one of Israel” or “the holy one.”

He is separate from all that is evil and defiled. His holy character is the standard of absolute moral perfection That is God’s holiness. He is absolutely great and absolutely pure, free of all corruption found on this earth and in human lives. God makes no mistakes.

Think about this. God has nothing in common with us. Outside of Christ, we have nothing in common with God.

This is the picture of the absolute majesty and purity of God- the holy one of Israel. He is the all knowing, all powerful, unchangeable, ever-present God. 

When He commands and instructs us to be holy as he is holy, He is not expecting us to become all knowing, all powerful, and unchanging as He is. He is calling us to become like Him in only one aspect: in purity and in righteousness. That is only possible through Jesus Christ.

The thing that makes us “unholy” is sin. We are born in sin. We are filled with it. It saturates our human mind, fills our emotions, colours our hearts, and expresses itself in behaviours that are absolutely abhorrent to God. Human behaviour outside of “the new creation” is absolutely disgusting to God.

For God to really look at humankind in our sinful condition is nearly unbearable to Him. Let me give you some perspective on this. This is a very poor illustration but picture this. It would be like you having been raised in the best of palaces in the world, surrounded by beauty and perfection. Then you make a visit to one of our dreadful garbage dumps, our ‘Smoky Mountain,” and you are asked to walk around it and inspect it. The stench, the squalor, the overcrowding, the filthy people digging through the refuse; it would be extremely repulsive to you. I’ve taken visiting mission teams to Smoky Mountain, and they became physically ill. When they returned to their place, they got in the shower and washed and washed. but felt like they could not get the smell off of their skin. This in some small way describes God’s view of us when we are in sin.

Behavior alone cannot remove the “smell” of sin. That list of DO’S  and DON’TS won’t work. Mutilating yourself in penance, sacrificing, or flagellating yourself is a total waste of time. One person described to me his life; he was so sure of his coming judgment that he took a match and held it to his finger to  try to prepare for hell fire!

So how do we live something which we are commanded to live when it’s humanly impossible?

In the Old Testament, God set up a pattern of sacrifices so that man could become holy through ceremonies. You could sacrifice an animal on behalf of your sin. But it only covered your sin- it didn’t remove it. 

Yet that covering was never what God really wanted. Setting up certain rules in order to please Him was not His perfect plan. The sinful heart of humanity remained the same. Unless God can touch our hearts, there is nothing we will ever do that will make us acceptable to God.

Hebrews 10:8-10 “First he said, ‘Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not desire, nor were you pleased with them’—though they were offered in accordance with the law. Then he said, ‘Here I am, I have come to do your will.’ He sets aside the first to establish the second. And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.”

If we have been made holy through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, all we can do is accept Him and His sacrifice in order to be holy!

Let’s go back to something here. We humans in our fallen condition are absolutely unacceptable to God. His holiness cannot tolerate our lives which are covered and controlled by sin.

Then God loved us. 

For God so loved the world.” 

His love did not excuse us. His love motivated Him to provide a way out for us. “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” 

Can you see the wonder of this? We weren’t holy, having nothing in common with God- He knew that. He loved the world enough to send Jesus to transform us into His children. You cannot appreciate the Love of God if you do not appreciate the holiness of God.

1 Corinthians 1:30 “It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.”

There is the secret! Jesus has become our holiness. It is in Jesus- it is possible to be holy, fully accepted by God.

When we by faith 

-open our lives to Christ, 

-when we surrender our lives to Him, 

-when we confess our sin, 

-when we actually acknowledge our un-holiness, our wretchedness, our sinfulness,

-when we by faith accept that sacrifice and yield to the  Lordship of Jesus,  with the forgiveness of our sin, 

WE BECOME HOLY!

If you’d like to see 

God’s definition 

of a saint, 

look in the mirror!

We receive a new nature, a transformed nature. We become a new creation in Christ. We are changed. Not by our human effort, but by the spirit of God who comes to live on the inside of us- our spirit comes alive.

At that point, when Holy Spirit births our spirit into God, there is nothing separating us from God, His presence and His life. The holiness of God has transformed the unholiness of our human hearts and changed us.

Sin, however, is not done with us. The battle is still there. Why? Because we still live in a human body with a fallen human nature. That is the struggle- and the Holy Spirit helps us in the war against sin. 

So what then is actual holiness? Fundamentally, holiness is a “cutting off” or separation from what is unclean, and a consecration to what is pure.

At the time of our new spiritual birth, we are made holy in Christ- what do we do now?

The New Testament places great emphasis upon practical holiness- separation from sin- in the Christian’s daily experience. The God who freely declares a person righteous through faith in Christ, commands that the believer continue on in holiness. In God’s plan, a growth in holiness should accompany believing.

Paul urged the Christians at Rome to “yield your members to righteousness for holiness.” The Book of Hebrews urges believers to strive for holiness- “without which no one will see the Lord” (12:14). 

The goal of the Christian life is to become like Christ. Paul  told the  believers at Ephesus to “put on the new nature, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Eph 4:24). God provides us with the spiritual resources to enable us to  “participate in the divine nature.” (2 Pt 1:4). 

I have a new nature.  I need to “yield” or give in to this new nature.  If I literally submit to the Holy Spirit’s power in my life, I can resist the residual sinful part of my nature.  The Holy Spirit will empower me to live a holy life.

Here’s an illustration of our identity as Christ-followers who live in holiness. 

The Duke of Windsor once described how his father had treated him when he was a boy. “My father, King George V, was a strict disciplinarian. Sometimes when I had done something wrong, he would correct me saying, ‘My dear boy, you must always remember who you are. You will become king.’”

That’s a good lesson for us. Remember who you are! Remember that the old “sin nature” has no power over you. Remember you are a child of God. You have a holy destiny. We pursue and practice holiness because we remember who we are. We choose to express Christ.

Here’s an explanation of the process of receiving a new nature through Christ.

Only one Person in history did not have a sin nature: Jesus Christ. His virgin birth allowed Him to enter our world free from Adam’s curse. Jesus lived a sinless life. He was “the Holy and Righteous One” (Acts 3:14) who “had no sin” (2 Corinthians 5:21). Because He was a spotless human being, He qualified to be sacrificed on the cross as our perfect substitute, “a lamb without blemish or defect” (1 Peter 1:19). As John Calvin wrote, “For certainly, Christ is much more powerful to save than Adam was to ruin.”

Through Jesus’ sacrifice, we are born again. “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3:6). When we are born “of Adam,” in other words of human parentage infected with sin, we inherit Adam’s sinful nature. When we are born again in Christ, we inherit a new nature that comes from God. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Unfortunately, we don’t lose our sin nature just because we receive Christ. The Bible tells us that sin remains in us! Our struggle with that old nature goes on as long as we’re on this earth.  Paul struggled immensely with this.  Romans 7:15–25

But we have the assurance of the divine help of the Holy Spirit because He come to live within us. He supplies the power we need to overcome the sin nature within us. “No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God” (1 John 3:9). God want us to be totally successful and victorious over sin. Christ (1 Thessalonians 3:13; 1 John 3:2).

At the cross, Jesus satisfied God’s price for sin. He gave believers victory over their sin nature: “‘He himself bore our sins’ in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness” (1 Peter 2:24). Because of His resurrection, Jesus offers life to everyone bound by corrupt flesh. Those who are born again must do this: “Count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Romans 6:11).

We were saved from our sin so that God in His holiness could fellowship with us. We have been made holy as He is holy. 1 John 1:5-7 “This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.”

If we choose to fellowship with God, His holiness will continually rub off on us. Sin will become undesirable because of our fellowship with God. Romans 8:13-14 “For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live. For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God.”

How do we practice holiness? Not by rules, not by requirements. There is a choice. We choose to walk with God.

1 Peter 2:9 “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”

I stand holy before God through Christ. I have fellowship with God Himself. I am by no means morally perfect, but God does declare me to be guiltless before the bar of His justice. What a glorious situation to be in- guiltless!

Although the Christians at Corinth were plagued with numerous sins, Paul could address his erring friends as those who were “sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints” (1 Cor. 1:2). Despite their problems, the Corinthian believers were “holy ones” in Christ. Despite your problems, you are holy in Christ today. Set your mind and heart on who you are and on God’s purpose for you.

Put your will into this today. Make a choice to express Christ rather than expressing your fallen human nature. Every situation offers a choice; every temptation offers a choice. As the text says, “having been made holy, be like God.”

Holiness is a possibility. Remember who you are. No matter how you struggle, pause a moment and worship the Lord, because in His absolute holiness He has lovingly reached out to us. Not out of sympathy or pity, but out of love- with the intention of lifting us up to be like Him.

Thank you Jesus, for finding me, saving me, changing me, and making me holy like You.