“We went together happily enough in a cab, and I well remember trying to keep close by his side as we mingled with the mass of people thronging up the staircase. But by the time we had reached the landing, he had forgotten my existence; the burden of the message he had to proclaim to that crowd of immortal souls was upon him, and he turned into the small side door where the officials were awaiting him, without for a moment realizing that I was left to struggle as best I could with the rough and eager throng around me. At first, I was utterly bewildered, and then, I am sorry to have to confess, I was angry.”(1) These are the words of Susannah Spurgeon, the wife of one of my favourite pastors from church history, Charles Spurgeon.
Spurgeon’s wife was in the same situation that many of our wives have probably experienced. Oftentimes, we can sacrifice our family life at the altar of ministry. A common answer to this problem has been for pastors to try to hold fastidiously to a to-do list so that both his family and his church are satisfied with his performance. But do we really think that the best answer to this dilemma is to make a to-do list? Do we really think that this is the best answer in light of the revelation that God has given us in his word?
In this series of two articles, I argue that a pastor should be continually thinking about his life from a gospel lens in order to make effective use of his resources to lead his family and church for the glory of God. Part 1 lays the foundation of the gospel lens, and Part 2 will flesh out what this means in the pastor’s family life.
The Gospel Explained
Before we get to the idea of viewing all phases of our lives from a gospel lens, it might be helpful to briefly explain what I mean by the gospel. The components of the good news of Jesus are 1) God, 2) Man, 3) Sin, 4) Salvation, 5) Renewal.
1) God – The gospel, as with everything, begins with God. God created the world, He made everything perfect (Gen. 2:1-25). He revealed His creation account in the Bible. God is holy and perfect (Ps. 25:8).
2) Man – God created man in His own image (Gen. 1:27). Man was supposed to imitate His creator but failed (2). In God’s created order, man would live for God and God would fellowship with man as the vice-regent of all of creation.
3) Sin – Man, however, rebelled against this holy God (Gen. 3:6). Adam, the first man, plunged all of humanity into sin so that every one of his descendants would likewise be born in sin (Ps. 51:5, Rom. 5, Rom. 3:23). The extent of sin was comprehensive, and the consequence of sin was eternal death and separation from your creator God for eternity (Matt. 25:46, Rev. 21:8, Rom. 6:23). The wrath of God was justly upon rebellious human beings and man was rightly left without hope and without God in this world (Eph. 2:12). Man is completely deserving of eternal punishment from God and is unable to save himself from this hopeless plight (Eph. 2:3).
4) Salvation – While it would have been completely right for God to annihilate the entire human race without an inkling of salvation, God in His mercy and grace chose human beings to be saved from this eternal punishment (Eph. 1). To save man, God decreed that his holy wrath against man would be appeased, that his justice would be satisfied, and that the debt of man’s sin would be paid. But how is this possible? In His great love, Jesus died for us while we were continuing in our sinful rebellion (Rom. 5:8). Jesus served as a perfect atoning sacrifice—a sacrifice so sufficient that it never had to be repeated again. On the cross, Jesus satisfied God’s wrath and justice, and displayed God’s love and mercy toward man (2 Cor. 5:21, 1 Jn. 3:5, 1 Pet. 2:24). When we repent and believe in Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we will be saved (Jn. 3:16). Because both repentance and faith are gifts from God (2 Tim. 2:25; Eph. 2:8–9), salvation is completely from God and completely for his glory (Rom. 11:33–36).
5) Renewal – As bad as today is, our great hope is Jesus Christ (1 Pet. 1:3-6). We are waiting for the day when Jesus Christ will come back and reign supremely as the sovereign King with His people willingly submitting to His Lordship for eternity (Revelation 21). Because Jesus raised from the dead, there will be a final resurrection of both the saved and lost, one to life eternal and the other to eternal condemnation (John 5:29; Rev 20:6, 13–15).
So, what does the Gospel have to do with my family life? The connection can be found in how and why we live our lives today.
A Gospel-Dependent Pastor
In light of the gospel, we live as strangers and aliens in this world because our identity and home are in Christ (1 Pet. 2:11). Therefore, when we live our lives on earth, we must be aware that our thoughts, feelings, and actions should be conforming us to the image of Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:29). This means that there is no real estate or domain here on earth that is occupied by a Christian which can be devoid of thoughts and actions are driven by the gospel (1 Cor. 10:31). The humility that we exercised as a result of the new heart that God gave us while we were yet sinners needs to continue in all of our lives. The dependence on God that we exercised for our salvation needs to continue throughout our lives. Even in our sanctification, Paul tells us, “ Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose” (Phil. 2:12–13).
Based on our position in Christ, we are now free from the power of sin while continuing to feel the effects of the presence of sin. The goal of every Christian on earth until the coming of Christ is to be conformed to His image (Jn. 13:10, 1 Thes. 5:23). This means that when we consider our family life as pastors, all of our thoughts, actions, and desires need to be Christlike. That’s why a new heart is necessary to lead your family in a way that honours God.
I realize that I’m writing to pastors, but I would be remiss if I didn’t appeal to you to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ for your salvation. Any and all efforts that you make to have a peaceful, joyful, and Christ honouring family life is null and void without having Christ in your life. You need to be born again to find the meaning and motivation for good family life.
As believers, we constantly fight sin in our lives (Rom. 7). Present sanctification is the progressive elimination of sin in the believer’s life and gradual conformity to Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit through the means of the Word of God and prayer (Jn. 17:17), faith (Rom. 6:11), obedience (Rom. 12:1, 2), self-denial (Col.3:5), and active resistance against sin and Satan (1 Jn. 3:3) (3). This is called progressive sanctification. There is a day when we will be completely free from the presence of sin, however, today is not that day.
What does all this mean for the different family relationships that a pastor has? We will turn to that in Part 2 of this series.
To read Part 2 of this series of articles (The Pastor and His Family Life – Part 2), click here.
1. Susannah Spurgeon, The Autobiography of Charles Spurgeon
2. Rolland McCune, A Systematic Theology of Biblical Christianity: The Doctrines of Man, Sin, Christ, and the Holy Spirit, vol. 2 (Allen Park, MI: Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary, 2009), 25.
3. Accessed on September 21, 2020 https://dbts.edu/statement-of-faith/.