This Sunday I received what I thought to be a wonderful compliment. A parishioner said, "Pastor, thank you for preaching the Gospel. I'd been worrying, and I needed to hear it." (for accuracy's sake, the phrase "I'd been worrying" might have been slightly expanded, but that was the gist) To this I replied, "I understand, I needed to hear it too."
This ties into something that I end up thinking about quite often. One cannot preach the Gospel unless one knows the burden of the Law - and not Law that you keep, but Law that you violate. Not Law that you think is a nice curb or even a lovely trellis to grow on - I'm not talking 1st or 3rd use - I'm talking full bore, hammer on your head 2nd use of the Law, "Thou art the man" sort of Law.
This dovetails with a line wrote that I had simply included in a previous post - "Indeed, it's only when you use your freedom in Christ do you begin to see and understand that everything you do still falls short of the Glory of God in every way." To flesh that out, it's only when you see the limitless opportunities in which there are to show love - when you understand that "doing" the Law is more than doing 10 simple rules - when you see this, love it -- but also realize that there is always more to do -- and indeed, that the things that you have done still never measure up to perfection - that there is no hypocrisy in viewing your actions. . . then you see the weight of your sin.
The Gospel is the cure to sin. If you do not know your own sin as a Pastor, you will never preach the Gospel. You will preach advice. You will admonish people to better behavior. You will tell them that Jesus died for them, even though they are jerks who aren't as good as they ought to be, because they ought to be holy and doing ______, especially since Jesus died for them, after all. You will, in other words, be a preacher of the law - a preacher of the acts of man instead of one proclaiming the acts of the God-Man, Christ Jesus, which he performed for us sinners.
Instead you will encourage, exhort, admonish folks to be better. You will show a fine example of "right" living yourself. You will lament the world and it's sin - all of which is true -- but none of which is the Gospel.
If you think you are a little sinner, you will only see a little Savior.
If a pastor thinks he is but a little sinner, he will only preach a weakened, semi-Gospel.
If you know that you are the chief of sinners - you will preach like Paul, for you will preach to your people the same words of life and salvation by which you live.