For my third and final systematic theology course our professor had us read Ephesians 1:3-14, Romans 8, and John 15:18-16:15. We were to read these tests three times a week each over six weeks. At the end of this duration we were to record how these passages have shaped our lives and ministries. Below is the first of these three write-ups. It is from my meditating on Ephesians 1:3-14:
Since the summer 2006 I have felt an inward compulsion toward pastoral ministry. When I read 1 Timothy 3:1 (“If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task.”) I say, “Yes! That’s me. I aspire to serve the church in this way. I desire to give my life to overseeing the flock of God.” The Lord has continued to grow that propensity toward the pastorate, and others have been graciously affirming. This aspiration has now lead me to seminary where preparing for pastoral ministry is basically my full time gig. It’s always on my brain. I’m planning for it; dreaming about it; philosophizing and theologizing over it.
With all of this time (rightly) being spent in preparation, my heart takes what is good (pastoral ministry) makes it what is bad (pastoral ministry as my ultimate identity). In the place of my identity as a Christian, I make my chief status as that of pastor (or at least would-be pastor). The office, activities, title, benefits, struggles, and attention of being a pastor begin to define the way I understand who I am and what makes me valuable, unique, and at peace.
Paul’s words in Ephesians 1:3-14 are a sweet and striking blow to my mis-characterization of myself. Again and again, Paul refers to who we are and what we have in Christ. In Christ we are chosen before the foundation of the world (v. 4), adopted (v. 5), redeemed (v. 7), forgiven (v. 7), and sealed by the Holy Spirit (v. 13). In him we have every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places (v. 3) and a guaranteed inheritance (v. 11, 14). And our union with Christ is just one slice of God’s saving work to “unite all things in Christ, things in heaven and things on earth” (v. 10).
Being a pastor is a good thing. But it cannot be my leading label. Paramount in my assessment of myself is that I am amongst the mercifully chosen, infinitely blessed, blood-bought, Spirit-sealed people of God. I am in Christ.