Why Pastors Must Continually Be Killing Sin - Radical

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Why Pastors Must Continually Be Killing Sin

During seminary, I worked part-time as a security guard. The 11-story building I worked in was owned by an insurance group called “Anthem.” It was a good job for a seminarian. I often had opportunities to talk to co-workers about my faith. And I had ample time to work on my seminary homework while manning the phones.

One late night when I was alone in the office, I opened the file cabinet where I knew some of the other guys kept a stash of magazines. Up to that point, I had avoided that cabinet like the plague.  I didn’t know exactly what was in there, but I had my suspicions. But that night I succumbed to the deceitful promises of sin, and I left off my studies of biblical Hebrew to lust after the images in those magazines. How ashamed I felt, and still feel. What regret!

The result of that dark night was an intense time of soul-searching, confession, and prayer. I was shaken by the power and unpredictability of my sinful desires. I thought I had been doing so well in the fight against lust, but I had become complacent.

Walking in Confession

I confessed my sin to the Lord. I confessed my sin to my wife, which was painful. It hurt her deeply, and it took time for me to regain her trust. I confessed my sin to a godly friend who would hold me accountable. The next time I went into work, I told my boss that the magazines in the cabinet were not appropriate for the workplace. He told me, “Get rid of them if you want to.” So I packed them in a bag and threw them all in the dumpster.

Within a couple days of that sad incident, I received a newsletter in the mail from Bethlehem Baptist Church, where John Piper was the pastor. I was not surprised to receive this newsletter. We had been members at Bethlehem before moving to seminary and were still on the mailing list. I was very surprised, though, when I looked at the article by Pastor John. It was entitled, “ANTHEM: Strategies for Fighting Lust.” I felt like God was speaking directly to me. Anthem was the name of the building where I worked, and where I had stumbled. Now I could use that very name in my fight against lust

That was 20 years ago and these strategies and others have been useful over these many years, and I’m grateful for God’s help to remain vigilant in the fight for purity and holiness.

You and I Must Continually Be Killing Sin

Brothers, whether you’ve been in pastoral ministry for decades, or are just now training to become a pastor, here are a few key motivators for us to keep fighting, day by day, against our own personal sins. Not just lust, but pride, selfishness, jealousy, anger, impatience, and any other sin that is lurking in the shadows of your mind.

Fight Sin For Your Soul

“For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live” (Romans 8:13).

Ordination as a pastor is no guarantee that a person is a genuine believer. We can’t hide behind a title and think that we’re a different class of Christian. We can never ignore the danger of making a shipwreck of our faith (1 Timothy 1:18–20). The Puritan writer, John Owen, warned us to “Be killing sin or it will be killing you.”

Fight Sin For Your Joy

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8).

Sin will take us to dark and dismal places. God, on the other hand, will lead us into the ever-expanding joys of delighting in his greatness. We know this, but we’re so prone to forget. May this be one of today’s reminders. Let’s build into our routines and disciplines as many reminders as possible. 

Fight Sin For Your Wife

“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:25–27).

Brothers, we can only do this as we’re personally putting to death our own sins. Love your wife and pray for her holiness as you diligently pursue your own holiness. 

Fight Sin For Your Kids

“One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts” (Psalm 145:4).

Fellow pastor, your kids need to see that you’re the real deal. If you sin against them with harsh words, an outburst of anger, or selfish annoyance, confess those sins to them and ask for their forgiveness. Let them know God is still working on you, and that you’re still working to grow in Christ-likeness.

Fight Sin For Your Church

“Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money” (1 Timothy 3:2–3).

To remain qualified for the pastorate, and to remain above reproach, we must be killing sin continually. We must not let sexual temptation, food or drink, anger, or money dominate us. God intends for us to teach his people through our words and by our lives.

“Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers” (1 Timothy 4:16).

The sermon we proclaim in our personal battle against sin will have more of an impact, for good or ill, than any sermon we preach from a pulpit.

This is the gravity of our calling, brothers. Sound doctrine is essential, but not sufficient. Life and doctrine are intertwined, which means we’re preaching not only in the words we speak from the pulpit, but also in the actions and attitudes we display in our lives. The sermon we proclaim in our personal battle against sin will have more of an impact, for good or ill, than any sermon we preach from a pulpit.

Fight Sin For the Reputation of Christ and the Glory of God

The world relishes a juicy story of hypocrisy and scandal. When pastors fail to kill their own sin, but rather indulge in the very sins they preach against, it creates a prime opportunity for the world to make fun of Christianity. 

In this way, pastors who fall into sin bring reproach not only upon their own name, but also the name of Christ. That’s the stick, the warning. The carrot, or positive motivator, is that we want to enhance the reputation of Christ. Most importantly, we want to call attention to the glory of God.

“In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).

Recall the purpose clauses of Titus 2. These are directed toward various groups of individuals, but we can apply all of them to our role as pastors and our need to pursue unceasingly the godly attributes God has called us to embody.

“. . . that the word of God may not be reviled” (Titus 2:5).

“ . . . so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us” (Titus 2:8).

“ . . . so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior” (Titus 2:10). 

Empowered by the Holy Spirit

Brothers, we have so many good and weighty reasons to fight sin. With God’s help, by the power of his indwelling Spirit, we can and must continually kill sin.

Ben Reaoch is the pastor of Three Rivers Grace Church in Pittsburgh and the author of Women, Slaves, and the Gender Debate (P&R, 2012).

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