Shepherding God’s Flock (22)
“Assuredly, I say to you, among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist...” Matthew 11.11
I have often wondered at these words of Jesus. Greater than Moses? David? Isaiah? His own mother? Jesus regarded John the Baptist, the forerunner to the Kingdom of God, as an example to be emulated. Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) didn’t miss that point, and in his sermon, “The True Excellency of a Gospel Minister”,  he teased out the fine points that make John an example for today’s shepherds of God’s flock.
Beginning with his singular focus on Jesus.
Edwards wrote, “John the Baptist was not only a burning but a shining light: he was so in his doctrine, having more of the gospel in his preaching than the former prophets, or at least the gospel more plainly exhibited with greater light and clearness, more plainly pointing forth the person that was to be the great Redeemer, and declaring His errand into the world, to take away the sin of the world, as a lamb offered in sacrifice to God…”
John was a great preacher in Edwards’ eyes because his preaching turned people to Jesus. He did not attempt to humor people, and he did not condescend to scratch their spiritual itches. He pointed to Jesus and called for repentance. Jesus had come to take away the sins of the world, and in John’s mind, nothing was more important or more needed. John insisted that Jesus must increase and all others—including the one who at that time was greater than all who had yet arisen—must decrease.
Jesus is the theme and focus of all Scripture (Jn. 5.39). In our preaching, teaching, and disciple-making, we must pursue one commanding objective: that Jesus should increase in us and those we serve, individually and as a body of believers. If we see Jesus as John did, we will preach, teach, and exemplify Him as the Baptist did as well. The Lord’s flocks need to see Him if they are going to follow Him, and it is the duty of those who shepherd in His stead to lead the way into His Presence.
Resources for Shepherds
As shepherds, our calling is to lead the Lord’s sheep into His Peweawnxw and to the refreshing waters of His Spirit. How do we do that? What tools or resources are available to us? That’s the subject of our book, Fan into Flame, which provides an overview and assessment tools to help you improve your work as a shepherd. Learn more and order your free copy by clicking here.
We need a growing vision of Jesus, both for our own walk with Him and to help those we serve see Him as He is, that they may be like Him. Our ReVision study, “We Would See Jesus”, is a good resource for individuals or groups. You can download the four installments in this study by clicking here.
We recently considered the sermons of Columbanus, one of the great Irish saints of the Celtic Revival, in these pages. We have recently published Columbanus: A Devotional History to provide a closer and more reflective look at his life and work. You can download a free PDF copy by clicking here.
From the Celtic Revival
One of the most important resources for understanding life under Colum Cille on the Holy Isle of Iona is the treatise, “The Alphabet of Devotion” by Colmán mac Beógnai, a disciple of Colum. Following an introductory section on the importance of holy living, Colmán explains what is of most importance in proclaiming the Gospel:
In what manner should the truth be proclaimed?
With humility, without indulgence;
for the truth is not indulgent.
The humble person, however,
he who is not truly humble is not righteous;
he who is not righteous is not truly wise.
For there is not room for both true wisdom and unrighteousness in a person:
thick is the veil between them.
His righteousness is nearer to encountering wisdom
than his wisdom is to encountering righteousness:
for a person is truly wise when he is righteous.
How should you speak the truth?
Without bitterness, without indulgence,
with patience, with gentleness.
- Colmán mac Beógnai, “The Alphabet of Devotion”
Character, not method, was what mattered most in making God’s Good News known.
We’re continuing our study of the life and work of Colum Cille in Crosfigell, which is posted and emailed every Tuesday and Thursday. Add it to your subscriptions to receive insights and meditations from writings of the Celtic Revival (ca. 430-800). You can add Crosfigell to your subscriptions by clicking here.
For another look at some of the leaders of the Celtic Revival, order our book, Lives of Irish Saints, which is available free in PDF by clicking here.
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.
All quotations from Jonathan Edwards, “The True Excellency of a Gospel Minister,” in Edward Hickman, ed., The World of Jonathan Edwards (Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1834, 1995), Vol. 2, pp. 955 ff.
 Carey, p. 238.