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: