One of the more difficult things for me as an online student is the prospect of cheating on a test. For some people, this may not be an ethical dilemma at all. I wish I didn’t have that temptation whatsoever, but truth be told, I do. Not on every test – but tonight was one of those nights I sat behind my computer with no eyes upon me, taking my Greek quiz, and feeling a little less than comfortable on a few questions.
I study and work really hard to do well for a few different reasons, one of them being I have the personal goal of maintaining straight A’s through my seminary education. That is where the idol can easily be left crouching at my door, begging to be let in. My own sin and desire for excellence can swiftly tarnish the purpose of seminary, yet more so, tarnish the pulpit I wish to fill in the future (if the Lord wills).
Image Source: Project 365 #310: 061113 No Pressure Then by Pete
It would have been easy to prop open my book or another window on the web panel – but seminary is not about having the best grades. If anything, theological education should prove to be a profoundly moral exercise along with the abundant stretching of my mind. It is never only about memorizing the facts so we can ace the test. It is fully about developing the tools to feed His flock – and feed it well. Seminary students are being trained to dive to the recesses of this vast theological well we call the mind of God to draw out living waters, and we are ill equipped for the job at the outset.
The Reformers plainly acknowledged the notion that theological study not only involves the logical faculties, but also has tremendous impact upon our moral compass. In other words, the pursuit of theological study should not only refine our thoughts of God in making Him lovelier to us, but also actually change our hearts to prove this to be true. Our character should develop along with our academic prowess, lest we be venal, whitewashed bodies of truth holding knowledge about God without knowing the God of those truths.
The bottom line: the quicker we realize we are ill equipped for this job and that apart from the Spirit bearing truth upon our feeble minds, as well as moving in the hearts of the hearers, we shall realize we are literally powerless to feed His sheep. We may entertain the goats – but to Hell with that. Literally, to Hell with that; we are judged more strictly than any other man and for every careless word, which springs forth from our mouth. There is a plain reason why Paul admonishes Timothy in this calling, telling him to guard the gift entrusted to him so that he may save himself and his hearers.
What does all this have to do with the opening paragraph? I have realized long ago that God is more than pleased with an ethical “B” than the wicked “A.” I have fully realized that even if another man does not see my folly, the Lord always does – and He will lay this bare. I have realized throughout my seminary career, and any potential career filling the pulpit thereafter, I will continually have to check my motives and my heart. All Christians have to do this, yet I particularly so, because the scriptures have called me to a slightly different standard.
This is never to say that I will be any “more worthy,” but simply that I am desiring to enter into a calling that demands my all, all of the time, with no sympathy, rest, laziness, or lack of temptation. There will constantly be something seeking to destroy the fame of God’s name and tarnish the proclamation of the Word in His church. There will always be sin knocking at my door, eagerly waiting to make the bride into a whore, rather than keep her remaining spotless for the Bridegroom.
I am especially thankful to the men in my life right now who see this as the priority it truly is – and have not budged in respect to what it means to be qualified to fill the pulpit. When it comes to protecting the sheep, it becomes immensely purposeful and personal, because this is the very bride of Christ we are speaking of. There is no room for tomfoolery or unqualified men to fill that position. This is, unfortunately, one of the burdens left unfulfilled in the broader American church.