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FINISHING MY COURSE WITH JOY

[The Need For Pastors to Keep Pure]

Missionary David C. Bennett, D. Min.

June 8, 2006

The Apostle in speaking to the elders of the church of Ephesus, said that "Önone of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God" Acts 20: 24.

Paulís desire was to finish the course of life and ministry set out for him by the Lord Jesus Christ! It is assumed all preachers have the same desire but the reality is that it doesnít always happen. Why is this so? In the beginning of our ministry did we not heed 2Timithy 2:22 to "Flee also youthful lustsÖ" Sadly this seems to be the case of one such man. The story of his fall recently came across my desk in an email.

After reading the email I did a search on the Internet and read the following news story. I have edited the story. http://www.news4jax.com/news/9248761/detail.html May 20, 2006 RETIRED PASTOR ARRESTED ON CHILD SEX CHARGES "A retired pastor and college president was arrested Friday evening, accused of molesting two girls in his church office decades ago." This pastor was an influential man in the Fundamental Independent Baptist movement for many years. "According to the arrest report, the two women said Gray touched them inappropriately inside his church office when they were of early elementary-school age." The "Police said other women have come forward accusing" the now 80 year old man "of sexual abuse." The police report said the former pastor "admitted to 'French kissing' several girls in his office at school years ago."

I remember reading this manís sermons in the Sword of the Lord years ago. This is a very sad situation whether the allegations are not true or not. However, if the report above is true concerning the matter of his French kissing girls in his office years ago, one is more likely to believe the allegations made now are also true. It is said this French kissing incident was known by those in authority at that time but nothing was done. This man moved on and became a well known pastor and college president.

Sadly, this is not an unusual situation for an independent Baptist preacher to be found. Two men I graduated with from College both committed adultery in their first church but went on to another pastorate. In that pastorate they again committed adultery. Then there was the well known pastor in a "fundamental" fellowship of churches that would preach on Sunday with people walking the aisles but then he would prowl the bars during the week and pick up women. He was found out and resigned the pastorate and moved locations. It was not long until he was on staff of another prominent church. Later he moved to the West Coast where he pastored a church until he had to again resign due to adultery. Then there was the well known independent Baptist pastor who committed suicide due to the fact that it was found out that he had "dirty" sexual telephone conversations with various women. Then there is the Bible College vice-president who was caught in a police prostitution sting. Then there was the medical missionary who had to resign due to an adulterous affair on the field. These are only a few stories but the list could go on for several pages of those in the ministry who have fallen into sin. For this 80 year old retired Baptist preacher his final days will not be pleasant ones. He will not finish his course with joy.

It has often been said the two things that will ruin a preacher are, women and money. Why is it that so many preachers have fallen into these sins? Do we prepare sermons for the people without searching our own hearts? Allow me to share a few verses from Godís Word with you.

Acts 20:24 "...neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God." Most if not all independent Baptist preachers desire to finish their course with joy. But, let me ask you, do you want to finish your course with joy? Remember, from the beginning of your ministry to the end of your ministry, each day, every hour, each minute, is important! What you do with these will determine whether you finish your course with joy or not! There needs to be a daily living of Psalm 139:23 "Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts."

1Timothy 5:22 "Lay hands suddenly on no man, neither be partaker of other men's sins: keep thyself pure." I believe that often times men are put into the ministry by other men before God is ready for them. 1Timothy 3:6 "Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil." There are some young men who show great promise and they rapidly rise within the ranks. They are sought after to sit on various school and mission boards. They are sought after for speaking engagements. But something happens along the way. Perhaps it is pride, I do not know, but whatever has taken place in the heart results in a fall.

1Corinthians 7:1-3 "Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman. Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband. Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband." I remember being in a church for several days when on deputation. I was billeted at the pastorís house with the pastor, his wife and three children. This pastor would leave soon after the evening meal and be gone until the early hours of the morning. One night I was in the church parking lot, next door to the parsonage, and a deacon asked me where the pastor went and stayed so long each night. I told him I didnít know. Years later I learned that the pastor was no longer in the ministry and his marriage had ended. I had my suspicions he was into homosexual activity but that was only a suspicion but whatever he was into finished his ministry and marriage. Preachers of all people should take Godís Word seriously!

1 Peter 1: 15, 16 "But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy." An unholy life is noticeable sooner or later. We might think we are getting by with it but sooner or later "your sin will find you out."

Lastly but not least are the qualifications outlined in 1 Timothy 3: verses 1- 7 which say that "This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work. A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous; One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?) Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil."

Allegations could be made against any one of us if someone has an agenda against us personally or against what we preach. Experience tells us the reality of 1Peter 5:8 is alive and well today. Any independent Baptist preacher who has attended Bible College or Seminary has been told how to protect himself. One way is to have the study door open or a window in the study door if counselling is done. Counselling a woman has been the destruction of more preachers than probably anything else. Personally, I believe there should be no counselling a woman or doing visitation alone. Men will defend almost any action they take. I have even heard men defend their being seen alone with a woman, not their wife, saying they were seeking to lead her to the Lord. Are we so blind we cannot discern the hands of Jacob?

In closing let me stress the fact that the preacher cannot be too careful in his relationship with the opposite sex or the handling of money. No matter what age we are we must seek with all diligence to keep ourselves above reproach as Godís Word says in the 1 Timothy 3 passage. We need not only to rule our own house well but our own heart and mind. We must obey God and "keep thyself pure." We are not to be passive concerning this but ACTIVE. It is we who must actively keep a daily time in which we are alone with God. It is during this time we ask the Lord to search our hearts and if and when sin is found we must "confess our sins" for "he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." It is we who must actively keep our minds on "the ministry, which" we "have received of the Lord Jesus". The grace of God saved us and it is our finishing the course given us by the Lord Jesus Christ that testifies to "the gospel of the grace of God"! "Abstain from all appearance of evil" is applicable for preacher as well as people!

May you who read this, finish your course with joy, and finish the ministry, which you have received not of men but of the Lord Jesus. It is your finishing the course, which testifies before others to the gospel of the grace of God!
 

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