For a bishop [Gr.: “overseer”] must be blameless, as a steward of God… Titus 1.7
The Kingdom of God is righteousness, Paul wrote (Rom. 14.17, 18). Righteousness defines the character of our Lord Jesus Christ, and it is thus to be expected that the character of His Kingdom, and of all its citizens, should be righteousness as well.
But righteousness does not come to us as a lump sum. And it doesn’t just happen. We must work out our salvation in fear and trembling (Phil. 2.12), that we may increase in righteousness by laying aside everything contrary to righteousness, and learning and putting on the Lord Jesus Christ (Eph. 4.17-24; Rom. 13.12-14).
Columbanus (d. 615) insisted on this for those who came to his community: “Then, lest perhaps we should labour without fruit, let us take pains to be freed from our vices by God’s help, that thereafter we can be adorned with virtues.” He knew, however, that his monks would have to work hard at this. He expected them to take charge of their own sanctification: “Thus let us cleanse ourselves as far as we are able from every taint of vices, from pride first, from ill-will, from anger, from blasphemy, from injustice, from spite, from melancholy, from vain glory, from covetousness, from malice, from all bitterness; that we may be possessed by lowliness, gentleness, kindness, courtesy, sobriety, mercy justice, joy, and love” (Sermon II). Only then would they be able to teach and lead others in the paths of righteousness.
The essential discipline for advancing in righteousness is repentance. Repentance is not a teaching much in vogue from pulpits today. Consequently, repentance is seldom practiced by the people of God. Does this suggest that preachers don’t believe the people they serve need to repent of their sins? Or that they themselves should not practice repentance?
Inattention to repentance will breed complacency toward sin, and the presence of sin in any life or congregation can only obstruct the bearing of spiritual fruit and the practice of spiritual living (cf. Ps. 66.18).
We must recover the discipline of repentance, beginning with ourselves. Those entrusted with the Word of God must cleanse themselves and strive to bring holiness to completion in the fear of God (2 Cor. 1.11). As we experience growth in the Lord Jesus Christ, we will be in a better position to urge daily cleansing from sin by all those in our care. And as we together increase in righteousness, our churches will be more the Body of Christ He intends us to be.
Resources for shepherds
In every age, the Church is in danger of falling captive to cultural diversions, just-off-target views, and outright lies. In our book, The Church Captive, we explore some ways this has happened in the past and raise the question as to whether we have become captive in our own day to something other than the mind and will of Christ. Learn more about The Church Captive and order your free copy by clicking here.
From the Celtic Revival
Here’s an excerpt from Crosfigell, our twice-weekly teaching letter featuring insights from the writers of the Celtic Revival:
At the prayer of the holy bishop the woman bare (sic) a son without pain or travail; and he was baptized, and the name Abban was given to him. And he was sent to be fostered, and to be instructed in feats of strength and valour with a view to succeeding his father in the kingdom; but it was of no avail. Whatever was recited to him of the words of God he would recite, and he remembered the Scripture without any trouble or committing to memory. The grace of God rested manifestly on him…
- Life of Abban (16th century, from an earlier manuscript)
Those who became pastors and leaders in the Celtic Revival (ca. 430-800 AD) were prepared for such roles from their youth. Like Abban, they were often fostered out to a pastor and his spiritual community, where they would learn – by example, lessons, and work – how to grow in Christ and acquire the gifts and skill for ministry.
Our book, Fan into Flame, provides an overview of the work of pastors, together with a series of assessment tools to help you discover your strengths and weaknesses in ministry. We can’t improve in this calling if we don’t know where we are at present. Learn more and order your free copy of Fan into Flame by clicking here.
Check out our Celtic Legacy podcast and the other resources available on our dedicated Celtic Revival home page.
T. M. Moore.
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
 Charles Plummer, Lives of Irish Saints