Thursday, December 10, 2015

"The Blessing of a Messy Desk."

Picture of my office with my beloved books and Starbucks
My wife and I often joke about the ideal working desk. As with our home she prefers a perfectly tidy desk with everything organized in its proper place. I on the other hand appreciate the blessing of a messy desk. When I read this article by Michael Kruger a few months ago I laughed out loud and said "AMEN." Enjoy.

"Last week I finished a key portion of one of my research projects. And then I did what I normally do during such times (indeed, it is coming a bit of a tradition)–I cleaned up the colossal mess that I had made.

Before it was all said and done, books were strewn all over my desk, across my computer table, on the floor (on both sides of my desk), and up against the wall.

My wife stopped by the office with the kids and was so aghast at the chaos that she snapped the picture below and sent it out on Twitter.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

The Active Obedience of Christ: "No Hope Without It!" (part 3)

The Theological and Practical Significance of Jesus’ Perfect Life of Obedience:

2) Jesus’ Perfect Life Makes Him the Only Suitable Mediator.

The apostle Paul writes in 1 Timothy 2:5, “For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.”  Jesus Christ is the only suitable mediator between God and men by virtue of His Deity and His sinless humanity. 

Christ was equal to God, yet humbled Himself and became a man.  “We have here, in summary form, the conception of the second Adam, the inaugurator of a new, redeemed humanity, which Paul expounds in Romans 5:12ff.; 1 Cor. 15:21f.; 45 ff.”[1]  Human beings are restored to fellowship with God through Christ and His perfect work on their behalf.  “As the sinless God-man Christ is uniquely qualified to serve as a go-between who can bring sinful people into God’s family.”[2]  Humanity cannot enter God’s holy presence by their own efforts or merit.  We are in need of outside help that only a perfect Mediator/Priest can offer on our behalf.  
Hebrews 9:15 says, “And for this reason He is the mediator of a new covenant, in order that since a death has taken place for the redemption of the transgressions that were committed under the first covenant, those who have been called may receive the promise of eternal inheritance.” 
“The combination of Jesus' full deity and full humanity is what enables Christ to give Himself as the all-sufficient sacrifice that constitutes the very basis of the new covenant.  This Jesus is the mediator of a new and better covenant.”[3]  Human priests and mediators are no longer needed because of the perfect One, who gave Himself up as the final sacrifice.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

The Active Obedience of Christ. No Hope Without It! (part 2)

The Theological and Practical Significance of Jesus’ Perfect Life of Obedience:

1) Jesus’ Perfect Life Verifies His Messianic Pedigree 
and His Salvation Message

Promises of a future Messianic King were prophesized hundreds of years before the Christ-child was ever born (see T. D. Alexander's, The Servant King for an excellent survey of this).  The Old Testament prophets predicted exactly where the Messiah would be born, his royal family lineage, and what He would accomplish, among many things.[1] 

At what point young Jesus fully understood His Deity and Messiahship is not clear,[2] but by age twelve Jesus is already teaching the religious leaders in His “Father’s house.”  Jesus had some understanding of His chief mission even at a young age.
Jesus started His public ministry around the age of thirty years old.[3] “Luke 3:21-22 shows that with Jesus’ baptism comes the divine confirmation that Jesus is the Divine Messiah.  The testimony of heaven is that Jesus is the "beloved Son" of God.[4]  Jesus public ministry was comprised of mainly preaching and miracles (see John 2-11).  During his three and half year ministry Jesus spent much of His time proclaiming the divine message of faith and repentance.[5]

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

The Active Obedience of Christ. No Hope Without It! (part 1)

CONTEXT: During my  time in seminary an intramural debate broke out over the "active obedience of Christ."  As this theological discussion spilled over onto campus a few of my classmates (Marc Wragg and James Dolezal), and one of our local church pastors, (Phil Johnson), became increasingly concerned over some of the writings a (now former) professor produced concerning this subject.  The following is an essay I wrote as a young seminary student in defense of this core doctrine.

SUMMARY: The term "active obedience" refers to the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ.  Christ's "active obedience" is not merely His inherent holiness as the Divine Son of God.  The active obedience of Christ includes His perfect, lifelong obedience to the letter and spirit of God's holy law (note Matthew 3:15; Galatians 4:4-5).  For thirty plus years Jesus lived one perfect life!  The perfect (alien) righteousness of Christ (the second Adam) is imputed to the account of all who receive the Savior in faith (see 2 Corinthians 5:21, Romans 5).  This doctrine touches the heart of the biblical gospel.  To quote the late Dr. Machen, "I'm so thankful for the active obedience of Christ.  No hope without it."

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

How God's Sovereignty Impacts the Pulpit and Preaching.

Few doctrines impact the preacher and the task of expository preaching more than the doctrine of God’s sovereignty. But before presenting the many ways this truth impacts the Word preached one first needs to define this eternal attribute of God.

 In his systematic theology Wayne Grudem identifies sovereignty as “God’s exercise of power over creation.”[1] The Prophet Jeremiah says to God, “nothing is too hard for You” (Jer. 32:17).  The angel Gabriel reminds Mary, “With God nothing is impossible” (Luke 1:37), while Jesus Himself adds, “With God all things are possible” (Matt. 19:26).

Because God is God he can do “whatever He pleases (Ps. 115:3).” And whatever God wills to happen will happen.[2] Or as R.C. Sproul puts it, “God owns what He makes, and He rules what he owns.”[3] In short, God has the right and the authority and the power to do whatever He so desires. He is the sovereign Creator and Lord of heaven and earth (Psalm 146:6; Acts 17:24; Rev. 4:1-11).

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Expository Preaching: the Natural Overflow of Biblical Inerrancy

What is biblical inerrancy and how does this doctrinal conviction impact one’s pulpit ministry? 

An inerrantist is someone who believes that the holy Scriptures are divinely inspired and that the original manuscripts of Scripture are free from error.[1] 

 “Inerrancy is the claim that when all facts are known, the Scriptures in their original autographs and properly interpreted will be shown to be without error in all that they affirm to the degree of precision intended, whether that affirmation relates to doctrine, history, science, geography, geology, etc.”[2]

Because the ultimate author of Scripture is the Spirit of truth (see John 16:12-15) we can have complete confidence that God’s Word is pure and perfect (see Psalms 19; 119).  The apostle Peter put it like this, “And so we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts. But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one's own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God” (2 Peter 1:19-21).  A perfect God could only produce a perfect revelation.

Monday, November 23, 2015

"Peace if Possible, Truth at All Costs"

It was Martin Luther who once said, "Peace if possible, truth at all costs."  Sadly, this reformation quote is counter-cultural today even among the people of truth.  The new mantra for Christians and church leaders is "truth if possible, peace at all costs."

Yet it was Jesus who said, "If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you shall know the TRUTH and the TRUTH shall set you free." (John 8:31-32)

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Preaching as Worship

When people ask me to describe my preaching style/emphasis I generally say Text-driven, doxological exposition.  

In other words, the primary goal of many/most of my sermons is 'wonder, love, and praise.'  In this regard the Reformers were right when they suggested that the pastor-teacher is the main 'worship leader' on the Lord's Day.

For pastors I think it would be helpful to rephrase Packer's quote this way, "Any preaching that does not lead to doxology and worship, is at a fundamental level, a flawed sermon."

Friday, November 20, 2015

Shallow Preaching Robs the Saints of Spiritual Riches.

After 95 expository sermons through the first 16 chapters of John's signature gospel the flock at First Baptist finally reached John 17 (the "beloved" chapter in this "beloved" Gospel).  People in our Christian community have suggested to some of our members that it's a mistake to take so much time to study one Gospel or book of the Bible.  Is this a valid criticism?  Should we adopt the preaching methodology of the larger congregations in town?  Are the masses correct?

As I evaluate the evangelical landscape both near and far it seems to me that verse-by-verse preaching is now passé- even in churches that once said they were committed to this methodology. For a season, verse-by-verse, book-by-book, line upon line, precept upon precept (expository) preaching was the flavor of the day in the American evangelical church- those days are gone. I believe the "Young, Restless, Reformed movement will experience a similar fate (when TULIP is no longer trendy and is therefore discarded), but now I digress.

Lighter, "surfacey", sentimental, overview type messages have taken the place of meaty, doctrinal, doxological, text-driven expositions.  I always find it quite ironic that people who say they love listening to Alistair Begg, Paul Washer and John MacArthur on the radio remain at churches where they are being feed more milk than meat, but that's a subject for another blog post.

While reading a selection of sermons from the greatest preacher in the twentieth century (Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones) I observed that Lloyd-Jones himself took an entire year to preach through John 17 alone.  In his commentary the good doctor writes, "We claim that we are so busy that we have not the time to read/study.  We know our forefathers used to read the doctrines, but we have not got the time.  We want it all in a nutshell, and we want to go through the whole gospel of John in one address.  We want a bird's eye view of the whole Bible, and the result is that we miss the doctrine.  But here it is displayed, and because God has displayed it to us here, it is our duty to study it, in order that we may find some of the great possibilities that lie open to us.  It is a tragedy that we tend to live as paupers in the spiritual realm, when God means us to be princes.  But, above all, we study in order that we may assert confidence and a certainty and a steadfastness in our Christian lives." (MLJ, p. 44)

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Choosing Your Church: The Ten Things that Matter Most

Choosing your church: The Ten Things that Matter Most
(by Joshua Harris, from Stop Dating the Church: Fall In Love With the Family of God; chapter 5).

Charles Spurgeon: “Do not go where it is all fine music and grand talk and beautiful architecture; those things will neither fill anybody’s stomach, nor feed his soul. Go where the gospel is preached, the gospel that really feeds your soul, and go often.”

What to look for in a local church?  The Ten Things that Matter Most:

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The Danger of Avoiding Difficult Texts and Doctrines

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When is the last time you heard a really thorough sermon on hell/eternal perdition (Luke 16:19-31, Rev. 20:11-15); marriage, divorce and remarriage (Matthew 19); biblical church discipline (1 Corinthians 5/Mt. 18:15-17); Divine reprobation (Romans 9-10); the Titus 2 mandate (esp. Titus 2:5); the wonder of God's sovereign/unconditional election (Ephesians 1); or the high cost of genuine discipleship (Luke 9:23-27; 14:25-35)?  For some of you its been a long time.

Even among American evangelical churches controversial passages/doctrines (like the sample list above) seem to be neglected with increasing frequency.  To make matters worse quite a few ministries that teach the Scriptures faithfully do not apply the Scriptures consistently (application is often where the rubber really meets the road in the local church).  Am I willing to apply the Scriptures even when it is going to cost me/us something? (Be it your reputation is slandered in the community; disgruntled members church hop to another ministry that will "do church" the way they want it done; your church budget decreases; etc, etc). In reading the pastoral epistles carefully it is crystal clear that Biblical ministry is not for the weak of faith (see Acts 16:13; 2 Timothy 2-3; Joshua 1:8-9)!

How does this slide happen?  It often takes place when verse-by-verse preaching is abandoned as the main diet of the church.  One of the chief dangers about thematic and topical preaching (or "surfacey exposition") is that preachers are able to skip around and avoid passages of Scripture that are deemed too controversial or just not 'applicable' to modern man (contra 2 Timothy 3:15-4:5; Acts 20:20-28).   More and more preachers cater their messages/worship services to the desires of the masses (note 2 Timothy 3:15-4:1-5).  In too many instances size and money is apparently more important than biblical depth and Christian maturity (contra Col. 1:28-29; Eph 4:11-16; Heb. 5:12-14).  

Mark Dever highlights one of the reasons why this approach to ministry (though subtle) is so dangerous.  Avoiding the doctrine of hell (or any other biblical doctrine) is just one step away from denying it altogether.

"Our Greatest Danger as Christians is ______ "

The late Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones once wrote, "Our greatest danger--indeed I feel it is my greatest danger-- is to read the Scriptures too generally instead of looking into them, listening to every phrase, taking hold of every utterance, asking questions concerning every statement.  Everyone of these statements in Scripture has a profound and rich meaning if we but take the trouble to look for them."

When I examine the professing evangelical Church in my own hometown and speak with pastors from around the country it is clear to me that many Christian ministries today are a mile wide and an inch deep.  In this vein, shallow, "surfacy" Bible study has become the norm rather than the exception.   As in the Old Testament it is"like people, like priests (Hosea 4:9)."  Apparently meaty, text-driven exposition repels too many "seekers" and church consumers (members); so a great number of preachers have adopted 25 minute sermonettes for Christianettes in order to keep their consumers happy.  Superficial church growth is often more important than making "mature disciples."

This problem is nothing new (see Hebrews 5:12-14).  (A.W Tozier and Al Mohler, among many other church leaders  have made very similar observations).   Tragically, biblical illiteracy defines a large percentage of American evangelicals today.  I take issue with this "surfacy approach" to Scripture because it is clearly out of step with Jesus' "Great Commission" (Matthew 28:18-20- teach them to observe ALL that I have commanded you) and with the apostle's Spirit-directed philosophy of ministry (Col. 1:28-29- We proclaim Him...that we might present EVERY person mature in Christ).  How can we expect church members to dig deeply into the infinite riches of Scripture when very few preachers model this from the pulpit?

I have long said that I learned how to study the Bible (2 Timothy 2:15), and in some ways to teach the Scriptures, before I attended my first seminary class.   When it comes to good bible study methods 'as much is caught as is taught.'  My pastors John MacArthur, Rick Holland, Jerry Wragg, Ken Ramey, Phil Johnson, and Kent Kolstad modeled how the approved workmen handles the Word of truth. They set an example for us to follow (1 Cor. 11:1).

When the majority of Christian preachers today teach the Word of God in a general (surfacy) way should we surprised when the flock views the Daily Bread as a five course meal?  God help us all.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The Golden Chain of Salvation

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The Divine Chain of Salvation (Romans 8:29-30)

“Not long ago I received a call from an editor of a Christian paper, who receives our Believers Bible Bulletins from a member of the church here. The editor is a member of a denomination that believes in a generally Arminian approach to biblical teaching. For example, he does not accept the doctrine of unconditional election, or election grounded in the sovereign good pleasure of God, just as we have been expounding it in this article. Nor does he believe in the perseverance of the saints, or the security of the believer in Christ. And yet, in spite of this, he occasionally prints our studies in his paper, apparently thinking that they might do his readers good, even though free grace is stressed. It was on a Saturday afternoon when he called me, and I was in our family room without a Bible before me. He introduced himself over the telephone and explained what he did with the studies. But he had a bit of a problem, he said. In the study on John 6:34–40, which he wanted to use in his paper, there were some strong words on sovereign grace and divine election. He told me that there was one particular paragraph that, if I did not mind, he would like to eliminate from the study, because it might be offensive to his readers. It was a paragraph in which I had cited John Calvin and had added some words myself. I asked him to read the paragraph to me, which he did, and it had to do with God’s gift of us to His Son. We discussed it for a few minutes, and then I suggested that it would be satisfactory to me for him to print the paragraph, but add a footnote to the effect that he, the editor, did not necessarily endorse all said in the paragraph. I thought that might satisfy both of us, and he agreed to do that. But then he added that He believed that those given to the Son would come, as John 6:37 says, but that there were other things that might be said about it. “I believe that those given will come to the Son,” he affirmed, but he added, “but we believe that others might also come, who had not been given.” I said to him that I did not have a Bible with me and, therefore, would he read John 6:65 over the telephone. And he read, “Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father.” And he was wise enough to put together John 6:37,  “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me,” the sufficient condition for salvation, the divine giving, with John 6:65, “no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father,” the necessary condition for salvation, the divine giving, and then confess, “Well, that looks like an iron-clad case!” I said, “Yes, it is.” We must be given to come to Christ, and all of the given shall come. That is the divine chain of salvation.”

Article by S. Lewis Johnson (1998). Emmaus Journal, 7(2), 210–211

Monday, November 16, 2015

Three Reasons Christians Should Relish the Doctrine of Unconditional Election.

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The title of this superb article highlights the first chapter of Ephesians even though the article itself is based on Jesus’ high priestly prayer in John 17.  The subtitle of this S. Lewis Johnson excerpt is, Countering Arminian Objections Against Unconditional Election.

"The Purpose of This Gift (The gift of the elect given to the Son by the Father)
It demonstrates God’s sovereignty. And we should not pass on without a word or two concerning the designs of this election. First, God demonstrates His absolute sovereignty in His act of election. Proud and arrogant man cannot abide this and regularly objects. Paul in Romans 9:14, 19 offers up man’s complaints and decisively indicates the divine reply to human rebellion against the sovereign good pleasure of God. In these verses the apostle lays as the foundation of God’s counsels about man’s eternal state His sovereign will and pleasure (cf. vv. 19–23; Job 32:12–13).
The natural man, like the Arminian theologian, likes to think and say that God loved Jacob, because He foresaw that he would be a holy wrestler with God and a great believer, and that He hated Esau, because He foresaw that he would be a profane man, would sell his birthright for a mess of pottage, grieve his father with an unholy marriage, and seek to slay his brother, the holy-to-be Jacob. How contrary to Paul’s reasoning in verses ten through thirteen!

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Am I One of God's Elect?

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"We need not ascend up to heaven to search the rolls of the eternal counsels.  All whom the Father hath given to Christ shall come to Christ; and not only receive Him as Priest, but give themselves up to be ruled and quickened by Him (as Lord).  By such a receiving of Christ we shall know whether we are of the number of those that are given to Christ." 
-Matthew Poole

"We are never told to wonder whether we are elect of not: we are instead told to believe in Christ to receive eternal life,
and then we are told that believers
are those chosen in eternity by
God to be given
to His Son. 
We know our
election not be peering
in God's inaccessible Book of Life
but by believing in the Lord Jesus
- Richard Phillips

Saturday, November 14, 2015

"The HOUR Has Come!"

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"Time did not force Christ to die, but Christ choose a time to die."


Friday, November 13, 2015

My Opinion Doesn't Really Matter Much And Neither Does Yours...

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"My function is very clear: I simply want to disclose to my church, in every environment, what is the mind of Christ."
— John MacArthur

Thursday, November 12, 2015

The Glory of the Cross

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"In the cross, the Son manifests His perfect obedience, His infinite love for sinners, and His power over the prince of this world."  William Hendrickson
"Scripture juxtaposes, without embarrassment, God's sovereign election of certain ones to eternal life, His universal love for the world, and His condemnation of those who reject His mercy." D.A. Carson.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Pastoral PTSD (By J. A. Medders)

Pastor Medders helpful article on "Pastoral PTSD" first appeared here.  Even though our fiery reformational conflicts are now in the rearview mirror I know many pastors are still very much in the thick of it.  May His grace be perfected in our weaknesses (1 Cor. 15:58)! 

One of the things I have observed over the years is that trials and fiery conflicts are often the very best teachers. Pastors who have not gone through intense and prolonged periods of internal conflict themselves often offer unhelpful (naive) counsel to those battle weary ministers of the gospel whom God has sent to Corinth-like situation. 
Stop and reflect on this next point. Not all local church ministries are the same. Contrast the seven churches of Revelation 2-3 or compare Paul's ministry with the Philippians versus his painful experience with the Corinthians and you'll see exactly what I mean.  Some congregations treat their shepherds like esteemed servants of Christ, while others, chew up and spit out Word-driven pastors like chewing tobacco. 
But wait their is good news too! According to God's transforming grace, lukewarm, consumer-driven, and/or compromising local churches can be turned around- but often not without the loss of much blood, sweat, sleep, and tears (consider Al Mohler's personal testimony at Southern Seminary). J.A. Medders understands some of the unique challenges gospel ministry because he has clearly gone through the Refiner's fire himself. As such this article his article below is worth reading.

"Pastor Ted plops down in his peeling “leather” office chair, opens his Gmail, swigs his Coke Zero, and reads a two-sentence email from a church member: “Hey, can we meet? I’d like to talk you about something.” Depending on the state of Ted’s heart, he will either be encouraged or exhausted—maybe worried fearful of what’s about to happen.  I’ve been Pastor Ted. Have you?

Saturday, October 31, 2015

The Sanctifying Shepherd

“. . .As a pastor, I understand my responsibility is not to the community; it is not to the culture; it is not to the people down the street. I’m not supposed to be entertaining to them, clever enough to suck them in. I’m not going to redefine the church so that nonbelievers are happy and content, and enjoying it. My responsibility is a very simple one. And it is to follow the great Shepherd in the pursuit of the sanctification of His flock, through the Word. That’s my mandate. And my reward will be based on faithfulness to that. Or my lack of reward will be based on unfaithfulness to that.” 

Excerpt from John MacArthur (Resolved Conference 2009).
HT: Daron Roberts

Friday, October 30, 2015

A New Dawn at FBC, Freeport

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Over the past seven and half years many faithful servants have worked hard in effort to reestablish a God-centered, Word-driven, "9 Marks," local church in Freeport.  Much blood, sweat, and tears have been shed along the way.  In the same vein, many attempts have been made to halt these reformational efforts.  Like Nehemiah, we sometimes were forced to fend off spiritual opposition with a (biblical) sword in one hand (for example see this, this, and this), while continuing to rebuild the city walls with a (biblical) trowel in the other hand.   By the grace of God, the depth and direction of First Baptist Church is once again in harmony with the clear precepts and priorities of Scripture (see Acts 2:42, Colossians 1:28-29, 1 Timothy 3:15, Jude 3). 

With so many Evangelical churches today falling wayside to the consumer-driven expectations of juvenile Christians the Holy Spirit's revitalizing work, combined with the Divine Gardner's pruning activity(John 15:1-2), is cause for celebration! 

As we enter into our 171st year of ministry we ask that you would join us in praising the Lord.  For "He who began a good work....will be faithful to complete it!" (Phil. 1:6)

A New Dawn:  Sunday's near unanimous vote to adopt a beefed up doctrinal statement/philosophy of ministry was a major milestone in the life of this local church. Many outside sources were used as we reworked this governing document.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

A Major Ministry Milestone in Freeport

This past Sunday the congregation at the First Baptist Church of Freeport approved leadership's revised Constitution by a 96% to 4% margin.  Leadership believed that these revisions were important because they reflect with greater clarity what we believe the Scriptures teach and because it better represents our biblical philosophy of ministry (per Matt. 28:18-20; Eph. 4:11-16; Col. 1:28-29; 1 Tim. 3:15). 

As most of you know, the journey over the past seven and half years has been anything but easy.  Along the way I have tried to summarize some of the setbacks, roadblocks, and challenges here with you on Post Tenebras Lux.  All I can say right now is that after experiencing the low valleys in ministry it gives you a much greater appreciation for the spiritual mountain peaks!  

In writing this I am in no way suggesting that we have arrived as a church.  Perish the thought!  The moment you believe that lie is the moment you start to decline spiritually (both individually and corporately). 

The Apostle Paul makes this point abundantly clear in Philippians 3:12-14Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

The following note, from a seasoned pastor friend of mine (who use to minister in a nearby city), sums up this moment better than I can put it.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The Bible Is Not a Cafeteria!

One of the best ways to ensure that the body of Christ is exposed to the truth, the WHOLE truth, and nothing but the truth- is sequential, Text-driven, expositional preaching (Acts 20:27)!

Topical and thematic preaching is much safer because the pastor can pick and choose which truths to communicate and which ones to pass over.  The will of the consumer is regularly feed so that the people generally only hear what they want to hear (see 2 Timothy 4:3-5).  Who wants to come to church and hear sermons about God's narrow view on divorce and remarriage (Matt. 19:1-11), the absolute sovereignty of God in salvation (Rom. 9; Eph. 1), the promise of persecution from the world against faithful disciples (John 15:8-16:4), the cost of discipleship (Luke 9:23-24), etc.?

Verse-by-verse preaching forces the pastor to deal with countercultural texts.  Many times I am left with the choice to either betray God (2 Tim. 2:15,) by not expounding the real meaning of such and such a text, or to honor Him, and let the chips fall where they may; (which is not wise if job security and pay raises are idols of your heart).  Too many pastors today treat the Bible like a cafeteria where they take what they want and leave the rest behind.  The fruit of this approach is what you see today in the American evangelical church!  May God forgive us and help us to preach more like Jesus (with boldness, love, and passion).

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Pastoral Ministry Isn't Stressful! (A Little Tuesday Humor)

This made me laugh.  Enjoy!

2 Corinthians 4:7-18

But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death works in us, but life in you.

Monday, October 26, 2015

4 Questions to Ask as You Study the Scriptures

"Whenever we study the Scriptures we should ask ourselves the following questions:

1) What does it teach us?

2) In what areas of our lives does it rebuke us?

3) What healing, restoring, transforming effect does this teaching have?

4) How does this section of Scripture equip me to serve Christ (and the body of Christ) better?"

Sinclair Ferguson, Faithful God: An Exposition of the Book of Ruth (pg. 10)

Saturday, October 24, 2015

We Are Not Saved From Trouble; We Are Saved In Trouble!

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"We are not saved from trouble; we are saved in trouble."  This is not only the testimony of this pastor-blogger, it's the confession of every believer that is seeking to build Christ's church, God's way!
As Miller notes, "As long as a Christian is in the world he will be pressed as through by a great mob; he will be crushed in spirit as through great crushing weights were lying on his chest; he will know spiritual anguish like that of a mother in labor.  This, Jesus has told us.  When he speaks, therefore of peace, it is not the peace of unruffled days but the inner confidence of the warrior who is weary, thirsty, outnumbered, and wounded, but who fights bravely on, confident of the outcome, assured of victory.  We are saved not from trouble; we are saved in trouble."   John 16:16-33 

Friday, October 23, 2015

Feed My Sheep

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My chief task as your lead pastor is to be like a mother bird during the week- and your faithful giving frees me up to gather spiritual food that I might feed you the best biblical diet possible when we come together on the
Lord's Day.

(John 21:27, Titus 1:9-10; 1 Timothy 5:17-18; 2 Timothy 4:1-5)!

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Peace and Courage in Christ

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"If, therefore, we desire to be Christians, we must not seek exemptions from the cross, but must be satisfied with this single consideration, that, fighting under the banner of Christ, we are beyond all danger, even in the midst of the combat."

John Calvin commenting on John 16:33.

Jesus said to them, "Take courage, I have overcome the world!"

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Live in Light of Eternity

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And Jesus was saying to them all, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.  For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it. For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself.  For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when He comes in His glory, and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels." (Luke 9:23-26)

"The sands of time are sinking" and "the dawn of heaven breaks." 

Therefore, "I have born scorn and hatred, I have born wrong and shame,
Earth's proud ones have reproach'd me, for Christ's thrice-blessed name.
Dark, dark dark hath been the midnight, but dayspring is at hand,
And glory, glory dwelleth in Immanuel's land." (Anne Ross Cousin, 1857).

And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He shall dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be among them,  and He shall wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there shall no longer be any death; there shall no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.  And He who sits on the throne said, "Behold, I am making all things new." And He said, "Write, for these words are faithful and true." (Rev. 21:3-5)

Saturday, October 17, 2015

O Sacred Head Now Wounded

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"Might not the angels wish to weep in sympathy with Jesus?  Who can forebear to sorrow when Jesus stands insulted by menials, reviled by abjects, forsaken by His friends, blasphemed by His foes?  It was enough to make a man's heart break to see the Lamb of God so roughly handled." Charles Spurgeon (MTP, 24:617).

While commenting on John 16:20 Jim Boice writes, "The world, so far from sorrowing at the loss of Jesus, actually rejoiced that He was out of their way and would no longer be a bother to them." 

"So it remains today that people are glad for Jesus not to be in the world, preferring his crucifixion to His righteous reign" (Richard Phillips, John Commentary, volume II, p. 356).

Friday, October 16, 2015

The State of the American Church Today

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John Calvin's description of the disciples pre-Pentecost sounds an awful lot like the (childish) contemporary Church (see Eph. 4:11-16).

"They were so slow that the slightest difficulty of any kind made them hesitate; for as children who are learning the alphabet cannot read a single verse without pausing frequently, so almost every word of Christ gave them some sort of offence, and this hindered their (spiritual) progress."

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Don't Be a Fair Weather Christian

"It is a poor faith which can only trust God when friends are true, the body full of health, and the business profitable; but that is true faith which holds by the Lord's faithfulness when friends are gone, when the body is sick, when spirits are depressed, and the light of our Father's countenance is hidden. A faith which can say, in the direst trouble, 'Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him,' is heaven-born faith."   Charles Spurgeon

Friday, September 11, 2015

When the Word no longer WOWS us...

In February 1546, just a few days before he died, Martin Luther preached his last sermon in his hometown of Eisleben.

In that sermon, he said:
In times past we would have run to the ends of the world if we had known of a place where we could have heard God speak.  But now that we hear this every day in sermons, indeed now that all books are full of it, we do not see this happening.  You hear at home in your house father and mother and children sing and speak it; the preacher speaks it in the parish church – you ought to lift up your hands and rejoice that we have been given the honor of hearing God speak to us through the Word.  ‘Oh,’ people say, ‘what is that?  After all, there is preaching every day, often many times every day, so that we soon grow weary of it.  What do we get out of it?’  All right, go ahead, dear brother, if you don’t want God to speak to you every day at home in your house and in your church, then be clever and look for something else: in Trier is our Lord God’s coat, in Aachen are Joseph’s britches and our blessed Lady’s chemise.  Go there and squander your money, buy indulgence and the pope’s secondhand junk!"

Monday, September 7, 2015

Rethinking Biblical Application (part 4)

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In the fourth installment of this series on rethinking biblical application I want to identify some  practical principles that will hopefully help us put feet to our faith.  As one reads the New Testament it is clear that the Spirit of truth always works in partnership with the Word of truth in order to conform believers into the likeness of Jesus (Col. 1:28; 2 Cor. 3:18).   Thus far we have addressed the biblical expectations of the preacher (2 Timothy 4:1-2; James 3) and the listener (James 1:21-25; Luke 12:48).  Here are a few more principles to keep in mind.

1) Not all sermons are going to have the exact same impact.  

Establishing realistic expectations is critical for both the expository preacher and the expository listener.  Not every message is going to have the exact same impact on our hearts; the same principle is true with regards to the worship songs/hymns that are selected during the service.  A lot of factors account for this:  A) The sermon itself (some messages are better than others.  By "better" I mean messages with great clarity, more direct exhortation, more passionate delivery, and more in-depth exposition).  B) the Text itself  (True expository preaching is always Text-driven.  A faithful expositor will try and make the main points of a passage the main headings of his exposition.   Some texts are weightier than others while other passages are more difficult to understand-see for example 2 Peter 3:15-16.  Some chapters are more doctrinal, Ephesians 1; while others are more application-orientated, Ephesians 5).  In saying this, I am in no way discounting the sufficiency of all the God-breathed Scriptures (per 2 Timothy 3:16).  C) The preacher (Members often have no clue what is really going on in their pastor's life).  D) The hearer (Preachers often know very little about what happened Sunday morning before his fellow members arrived at church, let alone, how their congregation members week really went).  

Suffice it to say, life circumstances often play a large role in the mind and heart of both the preacher and the hearer.  The way certain sermons impact us (more or less) sometimes comes back to this simple principle.  For example, if someone is going through a dark valley they may find certain exhortations and messages are especially encouraging to them.  On the other hand, if a believer is struggling with internet pornography they may find certain Texts to be particularly convicting, etc, etc.  When I was in seminary I read Spurgeon's lecture on the Minister's Fainting Fits and honestly was not really moved by it.  Eight years later I went back and reread this message and found it to be one of the most encouraging and helpful things Spurgeon ever said/wrote.  What happened?  My life experience had greatly changed.   I was now the man that Spurgeon was addressing in this famous lecture.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Rethinking Biblical Application (pt 3)

During a question and answer session at Grace Church Pastor John MacArthur offered some wisdom concerning the subject of expository preaching and biblical application.

"Through the years there is kind of a running discussion about how to preach and when you preach, what you should say and how you should say it. And I’m outside the box of kind of most contemporary discussions about preaching and I often have to sort of defend myself.

The criticism is this, MacArthur is biblical, he’s just not relevant. MacArthur is biblical, he’s just not practical. MacArthur is good on interpretation, he’s weak on application. And I think that people have said this and by virtue of the way they view what I do, they think they’re right, and I understand that. I don’t have a quarrel with that.

But I want you to understand, if you don’t already understand, what I think should happen in effective biblical preaching. You heard a testimony tonight in the waters of Baptism from Juan about how he kept coming to Grace Church. And in spite of the fact that he wanted to be a hypocrite, the power of the Scripture began to overwhelm him.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Rethinking Biblical Application (pt. 2)

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In a previous article I began to unpack the role of the hearer in the process of biblical change. Suffice it to say, James 1:21-27 should be considered a lifelong text.  In other words, a Christian never graduates beyond the implications and requirements of this passage.  I am not a tattoo person, but if I were, this would be a really good passage to have inked on my wrist.  Much more could be said about this foundational text but I'll save those comments for another time.

Today, I want us to consider the role of the preacher (teacher) when it comes to helping people mature in the faith as we strive to become more and more like Jesus (Colossians 1:28-29; 2 Corinthians 3:18).  

The apostolic mandate to carefully (2 Timothy 2:15) exposit the Scriptures is clearly established in 2 Timothy 3:16-4:5.  Preach the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.  I have posted numerous articles about this chief means of grace (preaching/teaching) that God has instituted in His Church for His ultimate glory and our highest good.  Note this, this, this, this, this, and this.  Mark Dever is correct when he says that expositional preaching is the first and most important mark of a healthy church.   The pulpit has been rightly called "the rudder of the church."  As the pulpit goes so goes the church.  

Let me share three considerations with regards to preaching and biblical application:

Monday, August 31, 2015

Rethinking Biblical Application (pt. 1)

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One of the areas of Christian living that believers seem to prize the most is biblical application. Evangelicals hope whatever they are investing in, be it a Christian book, a sermon, or even a blog article is "applicable to their everyday lives." In other words, why am I in this Bible study, listening to this sermon, sitting in these counseling sessions, attending this small group Bible study, etc, etc ? What difference does this truth bear in relationship to the here and now? How is this going to impact my everyday life?  On one hand, these are important questions for preacher(s) and hearer(s) alike.

James 1:21-25 reminds us of the listener's responsibility in the process of biblical change. But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does. (See also Martha Peace's put off/put on study of Ephesians 4).

When it comes to listening to sermons however one of the most common misconceptions is as follows.  When a believer feels convicted (or encouraged, or challenged) during the message they often wrongly equate this feeling with biblical "application." During sermons that are especially application orientated it is not uncommon for a church member/attendee to thank the preacher or Sunday School teacher on the way out the door. "Great study today pastor!"  In this context it's very tempting for everyone to go home assuming all is well; but is that what James 1:21-27 teaches?  Is feeling convicted over our sin during a message the same thing as repenting and putting on the graces of Christ?  Is feeling encouraged about the "peace of God which surpasses all understanding" as the preacher waxes eloquently on Philippians 4:6-7 the same thing as appropriating Christ's peace (John 14:27) in the midst of uncertain circumstances?  Is feeling strongly about biblical church discipline (Matt 18:15-17; 1 Corinthians 5), the same thing as applying these principles when doing so upsets the financial apple cart?  Is feeling especially challenged about the mandate to evangelize the lost the same thing as sharing the gospel with an unsaved neighbor?   No, it is not.