As a pastor, I am keenly aware of the sins with which I struggle. It makes me a little more tolerant when those around me struggle in sin. I spend a good amount of time in prayer every Sunday morning, asking that God would somehow use this earthen vessel, with all its blemishes, to bring Him glory and to proclaim His goodness. I beg that my sins won’t come in the way of the Holiness of God. I so identify with Isaiah, standing in the presence of the Almighty God, who said, “Woe is me. For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips.”
Fortunately for me, I struggle with those sins which are more socially acceptable. I don’t struggle with any addiction, I’m not tempted to cheat on my wife, nor have I any plans to commit murder. But do I get angry easily, I hold grudges well, I’m quick to judge and slow to forgive. The longer I deal with these sins, the more I find that while they may be “respectable sins,” they still run deep, they stain every little thing I do, and the “old man” within me will fight tooth and nail to keep them in his arsenal.
At the heart of it all is my pride. It is easy for pastors to grow proud. We have a captive audience every week as we delve into the deep waters of Scripture and speak to the hearts and minds of our congregations. People come to us for counsel. Our opinions are respected because of our position in the community. We accept this calling humbly, knowing that it is God’s work, not ours; we are but sheep-dogs for the Good Shepherd. Humility comes with being a pastor, but a pastor can still take great pride in his own humility. “Look how humble I am! I don’t need your praise for all my accomplishments; just knowing you know how humble I am is enough for me.”
So when God goes about curing me of the sin of pride, it is a painful process. Like drawing poison from a deep wound, God draws pride out of my heart, but I find the healing worse than the sickness. Losing my selfish pride means learning to live only for the glory of God; can I live without the praise of man? Losing my selfish pride means learning to live without being in control of my life (as if I ever was); can I trust God with my life? Losing my selfish pride means learning to suffer the same shame and humiliation as my Savior; do I love him enough to be so identified with him?
All I know is that I cannot overcome this sin on my own, and I will not overcome it quickly. Even in my pride I recognize the fact that I am too weak to overcome sin on my own, I need and trust in the power of God’s Holy Spirit to strengthen me for this battle. Still, I take comfort in the teaching of the Westminster Confession:
They who are effectually called and regenerated, having a new heart and a new spirit created in them, are further sanctified, really and personally, through the virtue of Christ’s death and resurrection, by his Word and Spirit dwelling in them; the dominion of sin is destroyed, and the several lusts thereof are more and more weakened and mortified, and they more and more quickened and strengthened, in all saving graces, to the practice of true holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.
This sanctification is throughout the in the whole man, yet imperfect in this life: there abideth still some remnants of corruption in every part, whense ariseth a continual and irreconcilable war, the flesh lusting against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh.
In which war, although the remaining corruption for a time may such prevail, yet, through the continual supply of strength from the sanctifying Spirit of Christ, the regenerate part doth overcome: and so the saints grow in grace, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.
Lord, how I need your Holy Spirit to continue your healing and sanctifying work in my life. May I take up arms in this battle against the sin in my heart, strengthened by your Word and Spirit, so that I may grow in grace, perfecting holiness in the fear of your holy name.