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Thursday, May 17, 2012 | Comments (4)

by John MacArthur

Our society often judges people by what they do, not by their character. When it comes to choosing heroes and leaders, style often outweighs substance. Sordid personal lives and all sorts of off-the-field antics are commonly overlooked—it is performance, not principle, that counts.

Sadly, that pragmatic outlook has even infiltrated the church. Pastors, for example, are too often evaluated by the outward trappings of success—the size of their congregations, their success as fund-raisers, the extent of their radio and TV ministries, how well their books sell, or their influence in the public arena.

But such external criteria (by which many false teachers and cult leaders could be judged successful) do not impress God. Unlike “man [who] looks at the outward appearance, . . . the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).

The seventeenth-century Puritan John Owen said pointedly, “A minister may fill his pews, his communion roll, the mouths of the public, but what that minister is on his knees in secret before God Almighty, that he is and no more” (cited in I.D.E. Thomas in A Puritan Golden Treasury [Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1977], 192).

The noble nineteenth-century Scottish pastor Robert Murray McCheyne reminded a fellow pastor, “It is not great talents God blesses so much as great likeness to Jesus” (Andrew A. Bonar, Memoirs of McCheyne [Reprint; Chicago: Moody, 1978], 95). It is not what a man does that makes him a noble and useful pastor, but what he is.

The apostle Paul had all the external marks of success. He was the greatest missionary the world has even known, used by God to initially spread the gospel and plant churches throughout the Roman world. God also inspired him to write thirteen New Testament books, nine of them to those churches.

The many congregations Paul founded held him in the highest regard as their spiritual father and teacher (1 Corinthians 4:15). He lived a life that was observably above reproach, as his conscience testified (Acts 23:1; 24:16; 2 Timothy 1:3). Yet he knew that the true measure of a man of God is not his external success or reputation but God’s evaluation of his heart. In 1 Corinthians 4:4-5 he wrote,

For I am conscious of nothing against myself, yet I am not by this acquitted; but the one who examines me is the Lord. Therefore do not go on passing judgment before the time, but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts; and then each man’s praise will come to him from God.

John MacArthur

(Adapted from The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: 2 Corinthians)


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#1  Posted by Kevin Corbin  |  Friday, May 18, 2012 at 2:55 PM

Preach it. So many in the church seem to have forgotten this essential truth

#2  Posted by Matthew Aube  |  Friday, May 18, 2012 at 7:39 PM

When we look at the earthly ministry of our LORD, HE was constantly being misunderstood for the words HE spoke and the actions HE took. People often talk of love but it seems as though they don,t have a proper understanding or true meaning of the reality of real love. Our LORD loved with the greatest capacity to love, HE is LOVE, yet HE cleansed the temple or proclaimed condemnation on apostate Judaism. May we as the church choose our leaders by the plumb line of scripture and godly characteristics laid out for us by the HOLY SPIRIT through the apostle Paul in the pastoral epistles. Also let us pray for HIS church and confront those leaders (as fathers) when they blatently reveal their not qualified to lead. Thank YOU LORD

#3  Posted by Eli Jackson  |  Friday, May 18, 2012 at 7:45 PM

Great post. Most of what men measure others by appeals to nothing but pride. All of it is stripped away when a man lives His life before God to His approval.

#4  Posted by Wayne Credle, Sr  |  Sunday, May 20, 2012 at 4:03 AM

Greetings and Blessings to All!,

Conversely, whatever success(es) or seemingly lack of is because the man of God, like Jesus, like the Apostle Paul has long since discarded the trappings so highly regarded by the lovers of this world, has died to self, has truly bridled his tongue to edify the ekklesia, and has become a true ambassador for Christ Jesus.

I agree with John that preaching the Word 'thins down the herd' yet edifies the body of Christ; having attended both large and now a much smaller church, I remind and encourage our Pastor Gene that this body of Christ is not for just anyone. Like a magnet it repels what one of my former acquaintances refers to as 'a false show of piety', yet binds us in true fellowship.

Yes, Let our Circle be unbroken. Lord, may it grow steadily, but most of all, let it remain unbroken, let the baton passed from Jesus to Paul, to others not be dropped by any...

Let our spiritual leader realize that He, not she, is not only far from perfect, yet constantly amazed and even bewildered - like Apostle Paul, that he is forgiven, and is constantly amazed that he is not only forgiven, but even entrusted to deliver HIS Word, and is eternally grateful that he was worth enough, like Peter, Peter and others, to be worthy of even being persecuted, even unto death.

Paul even challenges his tormentors saying 'to die is gain!', what a powerful message to the friends of the world who can only offer death to the people of God; 'do your worst/best. It is already prophesied that this would happen in 2 Tim Chapter 3, why then are we then Not surprised?

"If you murder me in vain hopes of ending my obligation of evangelism and missions, I'll just see Jesus sooner, if you don't, I'll keep testifying in this Philippian prison(the world), now what are YOU going to do? Awesome, Amazing, amen?

Faith and Prayers Always,