Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins.
I cannot pray’—is the oft-quoted confession of Bp. Beveridge—‘but I sin. I cannot hear or give an alms, or receive the sacrament, but I sin. I cannot so much as confess my sins, but my very confessions are still aggravations of them. My repentance needs to be repented of; my tears want washing; and the very washing of my tears needs still to be washed over again with the blood of my Redeemer!.’
Child of God! is there no response from your heart? Does not every defect in your fellow-sinner read a fresh lesson of your own helplessness? Can you anticipate the time on earth, when, “if you say that you have no sin, you” will not “deceive yourself?” (1 John, 1:8.) “If thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand?” (Ps. 130:3.) Only he, whose eye is upon the High Priest “bearing the iniquities of the holy things.” (Exod. 28:38. Comp. Rev. 8:3, 4.) There is no peace—no security—against deeper sin, but an instant and continued application to him. ‘Always a sinner’—is the Christian’s name to the end, and therefore with godly Nehemiah we will combine with the consciousness of sincerity the cry for sparing mercy (Chap. 13:22)—with the reverend Hooker in deep prostration we will ‘plead—not our righteousness, but the forgiveness of our unrighteousness.’ With holy Leighton—‘instead of all fine notions, we fly to—Lord, have mercy on me—Christ, have mercy on me.’ The publican’s prayer will suit to the very last breath—nothing better—contrition for sin—confidence in the propitiation.
Charles Bridges, Ecclesiastes.
If anyone must know this truth, it is must be a pastor. No man can care for others if does not know as a bitter matter his own weakness. He must know more than others the need for mercy. Only humility will sue for mercy. A pastor must be one who leads others to seek grace, to seek mercy; thus, he must be humble. It is the High Priest how knows weakness and yet brings mercy (Hebrews 2:17; 4:15-16). The undershepherd’s task is to merely bring others to the Lord — only a man who knows the need for mercy will be not cease until he brings others to seek mercy.
4. Establish limping leaders
From elders on down, don’t establish any leader who has no record of or reputation for humility. You will want to know if the leader has ever been broken, ever had his legs knocked out from under him. Don’t establish leaders who don’t walk with limps, because they often have no empathy for the broken, the hurting, the abused, or the penitent. Don’t empower any leader who has not confronted and wrestled with his own sin, who doesn’t demonstrate an ongoing humility about his sin and a grief over it. Leaders who do not personally know the scandal of grace set a climate in a church of gracelessness.
Here is a strand of Paul’s warning: (1) to watch yourself: there is no protection but in humility; (2) a man without humility will not lead others to seek mercy — and thus, he will leads others after himself:
28 Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.
29 I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock;
30 and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them.