It was my joy, privilege, and honor to be able to lead a service of organization for New Presbyterian Church last year. To be able to come, now, and give you, Jim, the charge, as you are being installed as the senior pastor of this congregation is an equal pleasure. Jim, when I preached the organizational service of this church, I reminded the congregation, several times, of the words of Scripture, in Revelation, of how Jesus Christ calls His local church a “golden lampstand.” Our goal before was to acknowledge that Jesus Christ was establishing a golden lampstand—His congregation—, New Presbyterian Church. It is now my sacred obligation and honor to be able to call all of us to remember that not only does Jesus Christ describe the church as a golden lampstand, but he calls the messenger to the church—in the Greek word is on angellos— a star. Now before you get to thinking this means star, as in “celebrity,” let’s look at the text and consider its meaning for us today.
Let me explain and give you this charge as we hear the word of God from Revelation 1:20:
“As for the mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand, and the seven golden lampstands, the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches” (Revelation 1.20 ESV).
Jim, as you know, there are many commentators, even some of your former professors at Reformed Theological Seminary, who teach that when Jesus Christ was speaking of the seven golden lamp stands and identifies those lampstands is the seven churches and then speaks of seven stars that he held in his right hand, and then says the “Angels” of the seven churches, Jesus Christ was actually speaking of the pastors of those churches. The word, as you know, means, “messenger.” Whether this word is referring to the pastor, the messenger, of the local church or referring to some concept of a guardian angel, as it were, of a local church, there can be no doubt that God has placed you here as a messenger. And my charge to you, anchored in this passage, informed by the compendium of pastoral theology in the Word of God, also includes the very charge of St. Paul as he told pastor Timothy:
“I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.” (2 Timothy 4.1–2 ESV)
Jim, I therefore charge you in the presence of God in these witnesses to be a faithful messenger of Jesus Christ to this golden lampstand where Christ has planted you. To fulfill this charge, you will need the power of the Holy Spirit, the supporting encouragement of your wife, Terri, your children, this congregation, and all of the saints who will lift you up in prayer, as well is your own remembrance of the grace of God in your life. To be a faithful messenger of Jesus Christ and to stand guard, in the name of Jesus, over the life and work of this congregation, I call you to focus on three necessary components of faithfulness in your calling:
Number One: To be a faithful messenger of Jesus Christ you’re going to have to be faithful to the message. As the apostle Paul called Timothy to remember that all Scripture is inspired, as he called Timothy to remember to preach the word in season and out of season; so, also, you, Jim, must be faithful to the message in order to be a faithful messenger. This is going to require something of you as well as something of the congregation: for you, Jim, it’s going to require that you be so immersed in the word of God—both the written Scriptures and the living Word, the Lord Jesus Christ, as he comes to you through the power and presence of the Holy Spirit—that your life is consumed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year with this sacred message. As Spurgeon said, you should be so saturated with Scripture that if you were cut, your blood would run “Bibline!” Jim, your vocation as a minister of the Gospel, a student of the Word of God, and a man who discerns the expository truth from that Word and adorns your people with the jewels that you find as you dive for the treasures in the Word of God each and every week, is going to become your sanctification. Watch carefully then that you are faithful to the message by not only studying the message, but embracing it, living it, and sharing it publically and from house to house. This is going to require something of the congregation: for they are going to have to understand that oftentimes you will be withdrawn, not because you don’t love them, but because you do. You must be like Jesus, after he was healing in Capernaum, went off early in the morning to find time with His Father. Peter even admonished the Lord that he should return so that more could be healed. Jesus knew that the power of his ministry resided in a reservoir filled with the presence of his father. That only comes through time in the study of the Word and time in prayer with the Word. The people of God are going to have to understand that you are going to need regular periods of such holy withdrawal in order to be more fully with them when you are with them (and you should be with them often). Jim, I say to you again a faithful messenger of Christ must be faithful to the message. Avoid novelty. Avoid controversies and useless disputing of words. Focus on the living Word—Jesus the Savior—and you will be faithful to the message.
Number Two: To be a faithful messenger of Jesus Christ is going to have to be faithful to the Master. Jim, my dear friend, remember how God saved you. Remember the sacred encounter that you had with Jesus Christ in your own life. Jim, remember how the Lord was merciful to you. Remember how God was kind to you. Remember how the Lord was patient with you. As you recall your sacred encounter, and stir up the faith that is within you, through prayer and time in the word in your own diligent use of the means of grace, drawing near to Jesus and he will draw near to you. Magnify the Master in the presence of these people and in the presence of this world. Jim, you know as we all do, that the world is longing for meaning, for hope, for freedom from fear. And you know, as I do, that we possess within our own experience of the Master and within our own faith in the Master, and within the inerrant and infallible word of the living God, the answer to those needs. Jesus, your Master, is the “star,” if you will, of this church (as He fills you with Himself and you speak what He calls you to speak and you guard as He empowers—one cannot separate the messenger from the Master; they must be one). He is the Angel, if you will, of this church. He is, the Pastor, of this flock. You are the under-shepherd. You reflect his light. You reflect his heart. Stay close to Jesus so that you can represent him well to these people, for to be a faithful messenger of Jesus Christ requires that you be faithful to the master.
Number Three: To be a faithful messenger of Jesus Christ is going to require that you remain faithful to the mission. The mission of Jesus Christ is clearly laid out. We are to make disciples of all men, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and of the Holy Spirit. We are to teach them all things that he commanded. This mission not only entails a global mission, which you must lead by making it your own passion, but it involves a local mission, a very personal mission, to teach these people, these children, these families, these single people, these widows and widowers, these God-fearers, these believers; and to involve them in the great mission of the church right here. Equip them. Raise the standard of the Mission of Christ in every message and in all you do. The legacy of this congregation is the Great Commission. Embrace that legacy and build on it so that future generations will be saved.
That leads me to this thought:
Jim, the glorious result of all of this is named by the apostle Paul in 1 Thessalonians 2:19–20. There the apostle Paul wrote,
“For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? For you are our glory and joy” (1 Thessalonians 2.19–20 ESV).
Therefore, Jim, I remind you that the great glory and joy of a pastor, that messenger placed by God at a Golden Lampstand—the local church—will be to see souls safe in the arms of Jesus.
It is my charge—it is my heart’s deepest prayer—that you will know that glory and that joy on that Day. May Jesus Christ, Himself, grant you all that you need in every way to be a faithful messenger of Jesus Christ: faithful to the message, faithful to the master, and faithful to his mission.
Jim, I am so thankful to be able to bring this charge to you with love and prayer for its fulfillment in the Lord.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
This charge was given to The Reverend James Carter by Michael A. Milton, PhD, Chancellor and Chief Executive Officer–elect, The James M. Baird, Jr. Professor of Pastoral Theology, Reformed Theological Seminary.
- 1 Timothy 4-6 (mybiblereadingplan.wordpress.com)
- 2 Timothy (mybiblereadingplan.wordpress.com)
- Are You a Faithful Witness? – John 1.19-51 (michaelmilton.org)
- Sifting Through the Ruble: A Sermon Preached after the 9/11/01 Attack on America (Isaiah 61:1-4) (michaelmilton.org)
- Let’s Take a Walk (michaelmilton.org)
- David as Warrior – 1 Samuel 17: A Message Delivered to the Annual ARP Family Conference (michaelmilton.org)
- The New Gospel of Today (thirdmill.org)
- David as Shepherd – Psalm 23, A Message Delivered at the Annual ARP Family Conference (michaelmilton.org)
- United to Christ (thirdmill.org)
- May We be a Place of Praise: Welcome & Welcome Back to Seminary (michaelmilton.org)