“Take heed to yourselves, because there are many eyes upon you, and there will be many to observe your falls…If other men may sin without observation, so cannot you. And you should thankfully consider how great a mercy this is, that you have so many eyes to watch over you, and so many ready to tell you of your faults; and thus have greater helps than others, at least for restraining you from sin.”- Richard Baxter, The Reformed Pastor, 75-76.
“Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.”- 2 Timothy 4:12
In ministry, we call this the fishbowl. In a clear fishbowl, the fish is visible from every direction, every angle. Its movements are subject to scrutiny and review, and it is often the same with ministry. As we minister, others are looking intently at our lives, at our intentions, at our mistakes, and hanging on our every word, for good or for bad. I have a file called Adventures in Youth Ministry, documenting all the stupid/crazy things i’ve done in youth ministry and the few things the Lord has done effectively through me. None of us are exempt from sins and simple mistakes, but in ministry, others are always looking intently at you, sometimes looking for something to jump on. Here Baxter wants us to know the gravity of our position, and i would offer to you that we all, if we claim the name of Jesus, are in the fishbowl. The world is looking at Christians, scrutinizing and reviewing them, seeing if what we preach is truly how we live. I need to be reminded of this daily. There are eyes everywhere, and we represent the Master. For Timothy, Paul calls him to be an example. In his speech; always edifying and up building but also challenging and truthful. In conduct; blameless and upright. In love; always putting others before himself in servitude and commitment. In faith; holding fast to the truth of Jesus. In purity; not only sexually, but in all things having pure motives. Timothy is in the fishbowl. And so are we.
If i’m honest, i’m more discouraged than encouraged by Baxter’s words, and i’m so intimidated by Paul’s. My life is far from this example. My speech is mixed, my conduct is mixed, my love is mixed, my faith is mixed, which makes me, in the end, not pure in all my faculties. Though there is good within me, there is also evil. And yet the truth stands, i am in the fishbowl. This is all the more reason for me to be on my knees, daily, praying that God would move and be a light through me, would protect those around me from my own sin, and would protect me from my own sin. This is all the reason for us to be on our knees daily. We are to pursue this standard of purity and uprightness relentlessly, but in the end, we are to simply beg that God would do a mighty work. We are absolutely, totally reliant on Him. For all of the bad, though, we Christians must set our sights on something higher, something purer. Of course this is Jesus. But Jesus wasn’t just the example of uprightness for us, he is also the Saviour of all imperfect people who trust in Him. He is our hope for total change.
“For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.”- Romans 8:29
The conforming of believers into the image of Christ is a certainty. We shall be and are being transformed. Let us pursue conformity to Christ’s example with our blood, our sweat, and our tears. And at the end of the day, when the sun goes down, let us beg people to turn their eyes to Him, who is the one true Example of all that is good and also the one, true Saviour of all that is not.