A TALE OF TWO PASTORS
by Michael McPherson
The first pastor
Pastor David Wilkerson would receive hundreds of letters from believers and supporters every month. In this one particular message he related the story of a young woman who wrote about her father, a former pastor in southern California. Pastor Dave said he had heard of her father for he was known for giving hard, fiery sermons about sin.
The woman said as a child they moved often, from town to town and she never knew why. As she got older she learned of rumors that her father was sexually abusing young children and when confronted he would pack up the family and move to a new town.
As an adult she eventually married and had a child. One day she asked her father to watch her son. When she picked up her son she later found reason to believe her father, his grandfather, had molested him. When she confronted her father he vehemently denied it. Two days later the man shot and killed his wife, her mother, and then shot and killed himself.
I was in Nashville, TN a few years ago and picked up a local paper. In it was a story about the U.S. Army’s first Buddhist Chaplain. As I read I learned the man was formerly a Southern Baptist pastor of a church. He had attended seminary and his wife and children were of the Christian faith. However, over time he said he did not gain the peace of spirit he thought he would find from Christianity. He later found peace of mind and spirit, he said, with Buddhism.
Our next story is of a pastor, a married man who committed affairs with 19 women and had a child outside of his marriage. He did this all while preaching regularly in the pulpit and had an affair with at least one woman in the congregation.
He appeared on a reality TV program at the behest of his wife to get counseling. He confessed his actions and admitted he needed help. He laid blame on the fact he had been molested as a child and therefore his rampant promiscuity was a result of acting out unresolved issues. And after confessing his transgression he still continued to preach.
In all three stories above, each pastor had no peace in their spirit and realized there was a problem. Each man would say they prayed to the Lord to find peace. Each man would state the Lord never answered their prayers and thus they continued in their ways, following the compulsion and reasoning of their hearts.
One would go the way of murder; one would become a priest of another god and the other continued as a serial adulterer.
Were these men saved? Were these men children of God who lost their way? What is the lesson to be learned here? These three stories comprise the tale of the “first pastor.” Let’s go to the tale of the “second pastor.”
The second pastor
Charo Washer is the wife of Brother Paul Washer, a man well known in evangelical preaching and teaching circles as well for his Heart Cry Missionary Society. Charo grew up in a Christian home, believed in the Lord all her life, was baptized and became a missionary in Peru. She preached and taught the Gospel in the jungles and streets of Peru, feeding the spirit as well as the physical needs of the people.
Then one day she said her work became like a chore, an obligation, a job, something she was supposed to do as a Christian. She began to wonder to herself “Am I really a Christian?” And then in her own words she says, “The devil came to me and said of course you are a Christian!”
However, her mind continued to be troubled. Then one day as they were having a tent meeting, a prostitute came into the assembly who looked to be in bad shape. Then Charo says the voice of the Lord came to her and said, as she looked at this woman, “The only difference between you and that prostitute are the clothes you have on.”
At that moment Charo became deeply convicted of her sins. And that night she said she “wrestled with the Lord.” What she did was plead for mercy, as she saw she was still an unconverted sinner before God. Then the Lord was merciful and before dawn broke the Lord reached down and touched her heart and she was born anew. She had become a born again child of God. And the Lord witnessed to her that her sins were forgiven.
When asked how was it possible for her to bring people to Christ when she was never a child of God, Charo said, “Even a sinner can preach the Gospel.”
The other story I tell is of a man in California who as a youth was homeless and was taken in by a group of people, I do not want to call them a gang, but they became mother, father and family to him. He received love from the group that he never received from parents. It was also a group in which he indulged in a lifestyle filled with drug use.
It became so bad and his brain was so “fried” that his speech began to slur. Then one day he found himself in the back of a church and a Christian couple eventually took him in. Through this couple he says he came to know the Lord as Savior. However, his drug use did not stop.
He prayed to the Lord but no change happened. Then one day the Lord came to him and said, the friends he loved, the friends who took him in and cared for him when no one else would, those friends who were his family, who were also part of his drug lifestyle, that family he must forsake for the Lord. Those closest to him he must cut off.
Obedient to the call of the Lord he separated from those he loved and then the Lord healed him not only of his addiction, taking all desire away but also healed his brain and slurred speech. That man eventually became a pastor of a thriving church in California.
Brother Paris Reidhead relates the third story and I quote from his original text.
“I went down to Ashville, North Carolina to our Alliance Church. First night I was there, the invitation was given. Several came to the altar and knelt in front of the platform. The pastor said to me, “There is Mr. Brooks, one of my most faithful elders; you better see what he wants.” So I went right down and said, “Mr. Brooks, what is it?” He said, “Brother Reidhead for the last several months, I’ve been troubled I believe by the Lord as to the superficiality of my relationship to Christ.” “I think it's all in my head. I would like to talk with you and pray with you.”
“So we made an appointment and then another and then a third during those two weeks. Here was a man twenty-three years an elder in that church. He knew the plan of salvation. He knew scripture verses. But God had been troubling him, I hadn’t. It wasn’t my preaching the first night. It was not even pertinent to the subject, actually. And then I left and I looked over the heads in the crowds, “How is it Brother Brooks?” He shook his head.”
“I didn’t see him for several months, and then down at a camp meeting in Hendersonville, North Carolina, I saw him, so different. He came up to me after the service and I said, “What happened, how is it with you?” He said, “Well you see, I was counting on you. I’d gone to others in years past when I didn’t have assurance and they’d given it to me. And you hadn’t done it. So when you left, I didn’t know what to do. I did what I should have done all the time...I turned to the Lord.”
And one night in my room about one thirty all alone, I broke before the Lord.” He said, “Jesus Christ came into my heart and made me a new creature.” And then tears came down his cheeks, he said, “Think of it brother, twenty-three years an elder and not born of God.”
What is the lesson here for us – for you and me? In all the stories told, these six people, professing Christians in pastoral roles came to a stage in their life when they had no peace of mind or spirit. They were troubled about the reality of their walk with Christ.
In the tale of the “first pastor” the three pastors prayed for peace and they would say the Lord did not answer. Were these men saved? As always the Scriptures give us answer to what happened.
Their prayers for peace were not answered and so each came to the conclusion that the Lord had hidden his face from them, the Lord had forgotten them and each said explicitly or implicitly there is no God (Psalm 10). And thus they said in their hearts, if not with their lips, that it was a futile thing for a man to serve God; he got nothing by it; he had no reward for it; it fared no better with him than the wicked (Malachi 3:14).
Then they became hardened in their sins, fixed in their wicked courses, and determined to go on in them, for there was no fear of punishment, no fear of God before them. This was the evidence of great corruption in their hearts (Psalm 36:1-4).
Dear friend, the Lord searches the hearts of those who cry out to him, who seek him. Cain’s worship of the Lord was rejected because the Lord saw the state of his heart, a heart filled with envy and murder (Genesis 4:5). And so he searches the heart of all men. The Lord will never impart himself upon an impenitent or unrepentant heart. No one will ever receive the Spirit of the Lord, the Holy Spirit and become a child of God who has a heart that will never yield to God.
The first three pastors prayed to God for relief of their troubles, but while their face was towards God their backs were to him. When the Lord searched their hearts he saw they were hardened and sought God for what he could do for them but never to serve Him as Lord and master with all their heart, soul, mind and strength. I believe the Lord did speak to all three men and his word was “repent.” But they did not listen. Isaiah 59:1-3 tells us that evil in a man’s heart creates a separation between him and God so that “God does not hear” their pleas.
Thus these pastors succumbed to the beasts of the field, the devil and his demons and the desires of their corrupt hearts. One succumbed to murder, one to gross idolatry of a false god, and one became wholly consumed in his adulterous lifestyle.
My friends these men, though they were pastors and seminary school graduates and professing Christians for many years, were never children of the Lord. The Lord describes them as withered branches fit to be gathered and burned (John 15:6). They were near the true vine (Christ), wrapped around and at the foot of the vine but never grafted into the vine to receive life and thus were as dead branches.
For the Lord said he will never forsake his children and he will accomplish his purpose in all his children bringing them to perfection in Christ Jesus. When we go astray, like a good father, the Lord will bring you back by discipline or deep conviction but he will never, ever forsake you.
But for the unrepentant person, who knows the Word of the Lord, yet refuses to yield to the Lord, the Lord calls that man wicked and their lot is with the infidels in the lake of fire. Only a repentant, meek heart can receive the Spirit of the Lord, be born again and hear the voice of the Lord and yield to the Lord and love the Lord. For such a person the Lord has promised he will not despise.
When your spirit is troubled it is a sign that there is no peace between you and God. The Lord isn’t the problem it is you. There is something not aligned, something you are not agreed on with the Lord. Somewhere, somehow we are “out of alignment.” We serve a God of peace and joy. When there is no peace of mind or spirit then we must understand the Lord is troubling us. The besetting sin or turmoil is just a symptom many times of a greater problem.
We must examine ourselves, as the Apostle states, to see if we are in the faith and Sons of God born by the Holy Spirit, or merely professors of faith. The religious practice an outward-in faith. They are concerned with tasks, duty, and obligations. They will drive themselves to perform “Christian duties” against their inclinations because it is what they are supposed to do. And they feel a certain amount of merit for having done so. Such was the state of the “second pastor.”
My friend this is not Christianity, this is religion and such traits are not the evidence of a child of God.
A child of God has inward-out faith. Their hearts are filled with joy and praise and thanksgiving all to the glory of God. It is the same joy that filled the hearts of early Christians as they were led to the slaughter in the Roman arenas. Glad they had the opportunity to die for their faith and to come into the presence of their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
We have seen our sin and hopelessness and have no faith in works, local church, denomination, pastor or ourselves. Only Jesus is our hope and our glory. It is Christ in me the hope of glory that gives me great joy and peace. And we love him. Sometimes feebly, but we love him and the desire to please him comes from deep within for it is Christ in me, crying out to God Almighty, Abba, Father.
If you are troubled in mind and spirit and are uncertain that you have passed from death to life, then my friend it is a good chance you have never been born again. The new birth is a supernatural miracle that imparts the seed of the living God into a man, making him a new creature in Christ Jesus. And though a professing Christian, if God hasn’t witnessed to you, the only recourse is to get on your knees and wrestle with the living God in prayer and supplication, day and night, until he answers you.
If you have never been convicted of sin and seen yourself as God sees you and come to hate sin in your life; if you have never been possessed by the Spirit of Christ and have a deep love for God Almighty and a desire to please him who has promised to reveal himself to every believer (John 14:21), then you may have good reason for concern. A born again child of the Lord cannot continue in sin for Christ liveth within him. We may fall into sin, but the Lord is faithful to deliver us from evil.
If this is you then you have immediate recourse and that is to get on your knees or prone on your face and plead for mercy, confess what it is you have been convicted of, and lay down your will and life in complete surrender to the living God. He has said a broken and contrite spirit he will not despise and he says again a broken spirit is a pleasing sacrifice.
All praise and amen to our Father in Heaven and our Lord Christ Jesus.
Michael McPherson, LLG Ministries