As Pastors we must first preach the gospel to ourselves before we proclaim to the world the necessity of a Savior. How damnable it would be to die of malnutrition while we busily prepare food for others.
Yet, many men in the pastoral ministry lack a true conversion. Young men may enter into ministry as a means to atone for their own sins and they live a religious life of morality so nobody notices their unregenerate spirit. He often reaffirms his own righteousness in an (unsuccessful) attempt to obtain the favor of God.
When we assess men for church planting, we assume nothing—regardless of their heritage, affiliation or great seminary degree. Men can learn the language of the gospel without truly applying the gospel in their own lives. We have no single check box that satisfactorily says, “I am a Christian and I read Tim Keller.” We ask men to explain the gospel including its implications in their own lives. For the sake of the man and the church he seeks to lead, we want to be sure that the work of the saving grace of God be thoroughly formed in his soul.
Martyn Lloyd Jones warned his congregation of “dead orthodoxy” as the greatest danger in the church. That is, ascribing to and generally defending the tenants of the faith without real transformation in their hearts. Pastors can easily spew verses out of their mouths, quote Piper, yell like Driscoll and mimic Mahaney or Chandler without true regeneration.
“Regeneration is a secret act of God in which he imparts new spiritual life to us,” according to Wayne Grudem. This is sometimes called “being born again” (using language from John 3:3-8). Grudem lists 6 results of true regeneration.
Our hearts are opened to the gospel by the grace of God (Acts 16:14; John 6:44, 65; 1 Peter 1:3). We will not go on sinning continually (1 John 3:9; 2:29). We will have Christlike love (1 John 4:7). We will overcome the pressures and temptations of the world and will continue in faith (1 John 5:3-5). We will experience Holy Spirit empowerment to keep us from ultimate spiritual harm by Satan (1 John 4:4; 5:18) Evidences of the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22).
Grudem said, “We should realize that John emphasizes these as necessary results in the lives of those who are born again. If there is genuine regeneration in a person’s life, he or she will believe that Jesus is the Christ, and will refrain from a life pattern of continual sin, and will love his brother, and will overcome the temptations of the world, and will be kept safe from ultimate harm by the evil one. These passages show that it is impossible for a person to be regenerated and not become truly converted.”
Pastors, we must preach the gospel to ourselves for the sake of our eternal soul and the effectual work of the gospel in our church. Only we personally and God know the true conversion of our soul. We must examine our hearts thoroughly before we preach the gospel to anyone else.
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits” (Matthew 7:15-20).
 D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Revival (Wheaton, Ill: Crossway Books, 1987), p. 68-72.