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It is not the work of the pastor to say whatever seems relevant or whatever seems noncontroversial or whatever is especially interesting to itching ears. Our responsibility, before God and for the sake of God’s people, is to declare the whole counsel of God (Acts 10:27).

The teachers of the church must disclose all of the glorious parts in Scripture and all the hard parts, all the promises and all the warnings, all the blessings and all the curses, all the parts that make us smile and all the parts that make us wince.

While we do not like to upset people and we do not wish to be thought uncouth, we answer to a higher authority. It is the solemn task of the preacher–weak and failing though he may be–to stand fast as a watchman on the walls. We cannot shrink back from the uncomfortable bits in the Bible (Acts 20: 20-21, 25-32). If we see the sword coming upon the land and refuse to blow the trumpet, the blood of the perishing will be upon our hands (Ezekiel 33:1-6).

It should make us shudder to think about some churches and pastors and what sort of judgment they might fall under when all they did was give people what they wanted to hear, instead of speaking to them of righteousness, self-control, and the coming judgment (Acts 24:25).

“Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” is what the Good Shepherd and most loving man who ever lived once said (Luke 13:3).

People may not want to hear hellfire and brimstone sermons. But as a pastor, I don’t want to face hellfire and brimstone for failing to preach as a dying man to dying men.

For the watchman on the walls must give a warning; he must speak of this judgment which is to come; he must herald the glorious salvation found in Christ alone; he must share the glad tidings of peace on earth and good will toward men; he must tell the hard news that we need a Savior, the unpopular news that there is only one Savior, and the unimaginably good news that there is one who actually saves.

O shepherds, may it never be that someone sitting under your preaching or someone subject to your elder care could stand before God on the Day of Judgment and say, “No one ever told me I needed a Savior.”


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21 thoughts on “A Watchman on the Walls”

  1. Joan says:

    Thanking the Lord for your vigilance and devotion to Him and to those you’ve been called to serve. Praying for you.

  2. Claire says:

    Thanks, Kevin. Thinking of all these things after reading Malachi yesterday…”Then once more you shall see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve him. Also, Joshua….”And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” Keep on it :)

  3. David Axberg says:

    Amen Kevin but I would go further than you did. This is for every believer especially Husbands/Fathers. We often times read posts like this and can be lolled to sleep believing this is what the Pastor/Elder is for when in reality it is what we are all called to. To worship the King is to live to all His commandments. We as fathers are called to raise our children by teaching and admonishing them in the ways of our Lord. This can get harder as they get older and closer to the time to leave, for they are having to formulate what they believe. We Earthly fathers tend to give them a bunch of baggage they need to sort through. God Bless Now!

  4. Kevin DeYoung says:

    Thank you for the kind encouragement and prayers. They are appreciated!

  5. curt says:

    If I’m going to face hellfire for failing in preaching then I’m in BIG trouble. And so are you Kevin. And so are all preachers.
    I’m thankful that Jesus (God’s Word) is bigger than my success in the pulpit. And I’m thankful for the Sacraments. They never fail, even if the minister administering them is a failure.

  6. Jonathan Kroeker says:

    I totally agree with the heart of this post, but It sounds like you are saying that pastors who don’t preach boldly enough about hell are in danger of going there. I assume you’re referring to pastors who repeatedly and intentionally neglect to preach about hell (and might prove themselves to be unregenerate in the end), not pastors who do preach about hell but may fail at times to do it as often or as boldly as they should. Otherwise, as Curt said, we are all in big trouble.

  7. anaquaduck says:

    The sufficiency of Scripture & the ministry of the Spirit is no ordinary walk. I would be surprised if a people grounded in Scripture would not know of the need of a Saviour. Yet looking at the Corinthian church (or others for that matter) it’s not too hard to see how things can get out of whack.

    What a church preaches matters, also what it practices. Scripture as much as it is about grace is also about accountability.

    I am weak, but thou art mighty.

  8. Drew says:

    You are right to call all of us to pronounce judgment with courage. I just pray that I do so in way that reflects the tradition of the Prophets rather than that of the Pharisees.

  9. Leon Venter says:

    I think this is a youtube link to a song I wrote http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FCXznflXtzg that called I’m just a beggar telling beggars where to find bread and one of the verses goes like this. “There are nations and whole generations within the sound of my word, who will point at me and say,” “you never shared with me God’s word” and it takes courage and understanding to share salvation and damnation.

  10. Curt Day says:

    We should consider something different here, sometimes watchmen come in strange packages. As the words of one song went, “the words of the prophets are written on the subway walls, and tenement halls.”

    I think it is a mistake to think that we have a monopoly on God’s Word. Sometimes our cultural loyalties and ideological allegiances blind us from parts of God’s Word so that it is difficult for any one person or even group to preach the whole counsel of God. We do what we can and ask for much forgiveness and mercy for where we have failed. But we also must direct people to number and variety of sources to hear God’s whole counsel.

    On Thursday, I was with a bunch of watchmen. They definitely were not preaching the whole counsel of God but they did have a glimpse. And they certainly weren’t perfect watchmen, they weren’t the kind whom we would invite to speak at our churches. But they did have something to say which all need to hear. We were walking through the streets of NYC for the rights of those who work for poverty wages and for immigrants as well. See, our country doesn’t treat those people very well and that is due to visions of material goods or profits dancing in our heads. Perhaps if the Church would address these moral points as much as it addresses our personal moral issues, more people would be sitting in the pews listening to the rest of the whole counsel of God.

    So even if we preach through the Bible in a year, we shouldn’t assume that we have preached the whole counsel of God. That is because we all read the Scriptures with blinders and so we need to constantly preach what we can as well as point people to other sources, even if those sources are of the unexpected kind. We should note that if God could use a donkey to speak God’s Word, He could use any person as well.

  11. LWesterlund says:

    Kevin, your blog caused me to email our pastor: “Reading this blog of Kevin DeYoung’s called me to renewed thankfulness to God for your faithful preaching of “the whole counsel of God.” On this score, you pass muster. I am profoundly thankful, as there are so many churches who tell people what they want to hear! May God bless and sustain you in your calling!

    There are churches who call themselves, “evangelical,” but preach only a God of Love. (How do they manage to ignore the bulk of God’s Revelation–the horrific, heaped-up, repeated, repugnant images of what judgment looks like in the major and minor prophets?) In this preaching, sin is that which messes up our lives, not a serious offense to a Holy God–so serious it requires the sacrifice of his dear Son to propitiate the wrath of a holy God. In this university town, the pews are filled with young adults who hear a call to do good and reform the world, but do not hear of their eternal peril.

    Thank you.

  12. I am always amazed at the nit-picking by people posting comments on a blog…yes, like a couple above. In church life we have what I call “Professional Sermon Critics” who will always point out what you didn’t say or should have said after each sermon. There is no way a pastor or a blogger can cover every angle or say everything the Bible says about a particular topic. Let’s take Kevin’s post at face value, understand his heart, discern what is the point he is trying to make within the context of what he actually posted. And then, those that need to, repent from being critical when it was not needed.

  13. A. Amos Love says:

    Kevin

    You write – Talking about pastors…
    “Our responsibility, before God and for the sake of God’s people,
    is to declare the whole counsel of God.”

    “The teachers of the church must disclose all of the glorious parts in Scripture and all “the hard parts,” all the promises and all “the warnings,” all the blessings and all the curses, all the parts that make us smile and all the parts “that make us wince.”

    Was wondering…
    And this could be for some, some of “the hard parts,” “the warnings,” “that make us wince.”

    Is it possible, in your 501 (c) 3, non-profit, Tax $ Deductible, Religious $ Corporations, that the IRS calls church? The folks who are Hired, the folks you pay, to shepherd, to lead, are taking the Name of the Lord thy God? And taking that Name in Vain?

    Ex 20:7 KJV
    Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain;
    for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.

    Hasn’t anyone ever wondered? Why? In the Bible? In Scripture?
    NOT one elder, NOT one of His Disciples, called themself – shepherd/leader/reverend?
    NOT one elder, NOT one of His Disciples, called another Disciple – shepherd/leader/reverend?
    NOT one elder, NOT one of His Disciples, had the “Title/Position” – shepherd/leader/reverend?
    NOT one elder, NOT one Disciple of Jesus, was Hired, or Fired, as a – shepherd/leader/reverend?

    Is it possible? His Disciples? Did NOT want to take? The Name of the Lord thy God? In Vain?

    Seems, in the Bible, the only “ONE” who called Himself, had the “Title,” or, was referred to as…

    Shepherd/Leader/Reverend… IS…

    {{{{{{ Jesus }}}}}}

  14. Mike Gantt says:

    Kevin,

    This is a true word you have written here, though there is nothing in it inconsistent with the fact that everyone is going to heaven.

    May God have His way with His people!

  15. keijo leppioja says:

    I am so thankful the walls our life and needs protecting and our a temple inside so often the devol will enter in destoy and wen must always be in watcmans possess in today again and be fild of the Holy Spirit to win and be strong against sin and all the wicked life around us ,thanks and bless and win,keijo sweden

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Kevin DeYoung


Kevin DeYoung is senior pastor of University Reformed Church (PCA) in East Lansing, Michigan, near Michigan State University. He and his wife Trisha have six young children. You can follow him on Twitter.

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