On Sunday a retired pastor told me a story about a time when he was rebuked by a member of his congregation for being a “painfully bad preacher.” The retired pastor then scheduled a meeting with the Holy Spirit who used this traumatic confrontation to expose his idolatrous lust for man’s empty praise. The Holy Spirit pointed out that AWE of Jesus Christ – as He is revealed in the inerrant and inspired Word of God – had long since ceased to be the main goal of his teaching and preaching, and the primary goal had instead become the approval and applause of fickle men. And (according to this retired clergyman) there’s nothing more dangerous than a people-pleaser in the pulpit. This pastor had become a chronically defensive person with a hairline hypersensitivity. This retired pastor spoke with rueful pangs of conscience, and a contrite personal protest against himself. He said, “Defensiveness is of the devil! …It is a cancer to Christ-like character.” The retired pastor spoke with a gravity that only comes with scores and decades of life experience. He said, “Satan will tell you what your itching ears want to hear …Satan will fill your mind with fantasies of what YOU can do; and in this way he will persuade you to: (1) expect, and feel entitled to, things that God never promised, (2) control people and situations you can’t even predict let alone control, and (3) become a human doing instead of a human being. This path is taken by those who forsake their stable fortress in Christ in order to wander off for a romp in the oppressive wastelands of comparison. And comparison will rob you of your joy, and replace it with contempt.” It is the pernicious procedure of pride. As Clive says, “Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, but only out of having more of it than the next man.” Comparison is the drug of the proud man …a man pursuing the fleeting ” ‘pleasure’ of being ‘above’ the rest.”
Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working of His power. To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God, who created all things, so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was according to the eternal purpose that He has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in Him. – Excerpt from Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus.