Why is the fear of the Lord the beginning of wisdom? Because the end of folly is the love of the praise of men. Or to say the same thing in a different way: there is no sin so prevalent, so insidious, and so deep as the sin of fearing people more than we fear God.
…as I read 1 Kings, I often find myself asking, “was Solomon really a good king?” After all, he begins his reign by arranging the assassination of a number of prominent rivals, and as his power grows he seems to increasingly resemble the kings of Israel’s pagan neighbors, at times even the Pharaohs of old.
Doctrinal prioritization has a strong pedigree. Jesus himself placed priority on the two great commandments: love God and love your neighbor (Matthew 22:36-40). The apostle Paul placed priority on the gospel proclamation of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection—the message he considered to be “of first importance” (1 Corinthians 15:3). And so all theologians must prioritize. Certain doctrines have greater significance than others for the whole of Christian theology. The deity of Christ is more consequential for the Christian faith than the timing of the millennium. The latter is still important, but it is not “of first importance,” to borrow the apostle’s phrase.
But how do we get our doctrinal priorities straight?
The incomparable Tim Keller, himself a pastor in Manhattan, offers some great advice to the young pastor. . . . Keller is touching on something huge here, this “disdain,” which really manifests itself in neglect and discrimination. This is on huge display in a Time Magazine article on the decline of rural churches. The magazine article talks about young pastors reluctant to go to a place where there’s no Starbucks, and even of older pastors and mentors telling these young guys they are too talented or too creative to pastor in small or rural towns. You know, because those places are wastes of time.
I can’t think of sentiments more antithetical to real ministry.