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True shepherds don't ignore diseased sheep

By Scott Tibbs, September 1, 2010

USA Today blogger Cathy Lynn Grossman quotes someone arguing that an evangelical pastor should say: "Barack Obama says he's a Christian, he's a Christian, end of story."

Any pastor who takes that position about anyone should be removed from the pulpit.

A pastor's job is to be a shepherd for his congregation and watch over their souls. If someone acts in such a way as to create serious questions about whether he is actually a Christian, then the pastor's job is to rebuke and encourage for the sake of the lost soul, not simply ignore evidence of serious spiritual problems.

Let's use the hypothetical example of Bubba, who attends Church X. Bubba has been married three times and is now divorced. He gave his third wife a STD from one of the many, many prostitutes he patronizes on a regular basis. He gets blasted drunk every weekend. He has been known to beat his wife and children. He spent a couple years in prison because he embezzled money from his employer. He is unrepentant about all of it.

Should Bubba's pastor express concern about the state of Bubba's soul? Bubba says that one day in Sunday School when he was 10 years old, he prayed "The Sinner's Prayer."

Bubba says he's a Christian, he's a Christian, end of story?

Hell no. And I mean that literally.

We are encouraged to test ourselves to see of we are in the faith:

Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates? -- 2 Corinthians 13:5

Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall: -- 2 Peter 1:10

Holding on to grievous sins in an unrepentant manner is evidence that the person who claims to be a Christian may have never been a Christian.

Now, does this mean Christians will not sin? Of course not. Christians continue to sin even after we are redeemed. As it has been said, justification is a one time act, but sanctification does not end until death. Any pastor worth his salt will admit from the pulpit that he is a sinner, and continues to sin. But a Christian who struggles with and grieves over his sin is different from the pagan who hangs onto his sin and has no conscience about it.

Jesus warns us that some who claim to be Believers are not Believers at all, and will face a shock at the final judgment:

Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? -- Matthew 7:21-22

Jesus further explains that we will know people by their fruit:

For a good tree bringeth not forth corrupt fruit; neither doth a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. For every tree is known by his own fruit. For of thorns men do not gather figs, nor of a bramble bush gather they grapes. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh. -- Luke 6:43-45

Pastors, who are called by God and set apart by the laying on of hands to teach, reproof, rebuke, counsel, encourage, preach and evangelize, bear a special burden to examine the fruits of their congregation and intervene if necessary to preserve and protect the flock he is called to lead. It is an abandonment of a pastor's sacred calling to dismiss evidence that concern is necessary simply because someone claims to be a Christian.