(by Tim) False shepherds surround us, building their profitable religious corporations by tickling itching ears. But for the purpose of receiving more of the tithes of the souls under their sway, they call these lucrative corporations tax exempt "non-profit" religious organizations. And the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability provides them a seal to use in their money-making letters assuring their supporters that this ministry is run according to the strictest accounting standards of the non-profit world.
These false shepherds' stock-in-trade is the studious neglect of the defense of God's truth and the call to repentance at the gaps in the wall where it's under attack. So we look in vain for today's super-apostles to speak to the consciences of their sheep about sodomy, divorce, fornication, rebellion, child sacrifice to Molech, internet pornography, greed, and pride. AIDS and global warming, yes; but only because they can cop a prophet's posture on these matters and bask in the kudos it will bring them on the op-ed pages of the "New York Times."
Their product is doctrinal indifference, which is the hatred of God's truth. And yet having the "look at the birdie" technique down cold, they drive attention away from their unfaithfulness by speaking of their cowardice as if it were the state of the art in evangelistic zeal and cultural engagement. So then, quite perversely, the very men who specialize in scratching itching ears have a reputation for being missional and prophetic.
The real test of a man's ministry, though, is repentance. This was the response of the crowds on the day of Pentecost, of the souls under the ministry of Jonathan Edwards during the Great Awakening, and of souls cared for by shepherds after God's heart today.
Without exception across salvation history, false shepherds are surrounded by many men saying, "What erudition! What wisdom! How helpful! How reassuring!" But never, "Woe is me for I am standing in the presence of a holy God and I am a sinner without hope in this world or the next! I must repent or His wrath will consume me! I will return to my Father and plead for His mercy by the Blood of His Son."
Now, I could be a good boy and end by reassuring you that you must not misunderstand me to be saying this or that; and that these words don't apply to anyone from my denomination, or any man whose name is in my Now Contact database, or anyone who's reformed--and certainly not to myself.
Instead, I'll leave it as is and end with this wonderful excerpt from Pascal concerning God's precious truth and the proper relationship of truth and peace. What an excellent meditation for shepherds who lecture instead of preaching, who speak in a carefully modulated voice meticulously choosing each word to make the maximum impact on their quite-sophisticated urban audience:
Just as the only object of peace within states is to safeguard people’s property, so the only object of peace within the Church is to safeguard the truth, which is its property and the treasure wherein lies its heart. And, just as it would be contrary to the purpose of peace to allow foreigners into a state to pillage it without resistance, for fear of disturbing the peace (because, as peace is only just and useful for the safeguarding of property, it becomes unjust and pernicious when it permits it to be lost and war, which can defend it, becomes both just and necessary), likewise, in the Church, when truth is injured by enemies of the faith, when attempts are made to uproot it from the hearts of the faithful, and make error reign in its stead, would it be serving or betraying the Church to remain at peace? And is it not obvious that, just as it is a crime to disturb the peace when truth reigns, it is also a crime to remain at peace when the truth is being destroyed? There is therefore a time when peace is just and a time when it is unjust. It is written: “There is time for war and a time for peace,” and it is the interests of the truth which distinguish between them. But there is not a time for truth and a time for error, and it is written, on the contrary: “The truth of the Lord endureth for ever,” and that is why Jesus Christ, who said that he had come to bring peace, said also that he had come to bring war; but he did not say that he had come to bring both truth and falsehood. Truth is therefore the first rule and ultimate purpose of things.
-Blaise Pascal, Pensées #974
(Thank you, Steve Baarendse.)