“The fear of you and the terror of you will be on every beast of the earth and on every bird of the sky…”
“The fear of you and the terror of you will be on every beast of the earth and on every bird of the sky…”
I have preached other men’s sermons word for word from the pulpit….and I’ll do it again! We’ve all heard of preachers doing this but my take on this is a little different. During the month of October our church tries to emphasize aspects of our Protestant-Reformation heritage. On Sunday evenings in October I preach from the sermons of notable figures that were either part of the Reformation or sought to promote its ongoing work in their public ministries.
Doing this affords me an opportunity to introduce key historical figures as I usually give a brief overview of their life before I preach. It also allows the congregation to hear sermons that have been used of God to shape His church through the centuries. I’m able to point out things for them to listen for and even make observations where the original preacher’s theme might have gotten in the way of his exegesis. In general I try to choose sermons that follow an expository format and stick closely to the text. Last year I preached:
This year I will likely preach George Whitfield’s “The Resurrection of Lazarus” from John 11:43-44. For the others I am open to suggestions and if you have any thoughts or ideas let me know.
Nevertheless I will play along since an old college friend tagged me a month ago and I have yet to respond.
1. One book that changed your life.
Baxter’s The Reformed Pastor (close 2nd his Christian Directory). He understood better than most that we are called “Pastor-Teacher” not one or the other. Too many good men fall to one extreme when God calls us to be both.
2. One book that you have read more than once.
I’m not too wide a reader so I find a good book and stick with it which is why I’ve read The Forgotten Spurgeon numerous times and Calvin’s Institutes have proved to be a constant part of my weekly diet for a few years but most notable in this category would be The Reformed Pastor (it’s been my habit to read it once a year since 1996). I learned this last one from Spurgeon. His wife would read to him on Sunday evenings from The Reformed Pastor.
3. One book that you would want on a desert island.
US Army Survival Manual: FM 21-76
4. One book that made you laugh.
Lewis Grizzard’s They tore out my heart and stomped that sucker flat
5. One book that made you cry.
Some folks tell me I’m unable to cry but Gideon: A Novel if you must know.
6. One book that you wish would have been written.
What I really said in light of those who wish to tell you “what I really said”: My reflections on arrogant theologians who think they know me better than me by The Apostle Paul
7. One book that you wish would have never been written.
8. One book that you are currently reading.
I like reading one book at a time but I’ve never been good at it, so I juggle a few. I’m reading a ton for my doctoral work (Greidanus, VanGemeren, etc., but notable is Kaiser’s Preaching and Teaching from the Old Testament).
9. One book you’ve been meaning to read.
Volume three of Bavinck’s Reformed Dogmatics (it’s sitting on the shelf looking at me but I refuse to pick it up right now). I also want to get into Culver’s Systematic Theology more than I have but #8 has held me up.
10. Tag Five Other People
I refuse to carry-on this ugly step-child of the old forwarded chain email/letter but I would enjoy hearing some of your answers to #8 in the comments, especially my fellow contributors here at Expository Thoughts (think of it as your contribution to the rent).
Since we are talking about the Trinity, some have asked if it’s possible to succinctly summarize the biblical teaching about the Trinity. Admittedly, such a task would be akin to summarizing the differences between the various movements of Handel’s Water Music…only infinitely so. However, when asked I have followed the lead of many other theologians who give the following three points which allow for plenty of expansion and textual argument:
How we articulate this in our preaching is of first-rate importance which has implications for how we communicate as well as for what we communicate when we stand behind the pulpit. Again quoting Bavinck who wrote, “Christianity stands or falls with the confession of the deity of Christ and of the Trinity.” My question: is there any way to improve upon this distillation and/or should anything be added?
In the last post you’ll notice that we have advertised a conference on the Trinity. Someone who saw this asked me why the conference was not on a more “practical matter” as if preaching about the nature of God is not somehow “practical”.
Does the Trinity really matter? Herman Bavinck once wrote that the Trinity is the heart of Christianity. Why then does it seem that this “heart” is only faintly beating in some evangelical circles? Why is teaching and conversation about the Trinity seemingly inaccessible?
I was sitting in my study this afternoon working on a few items when my phone rang and on the other end was a man who sounded rather hot under the collar and all I had said up to this point was “hello”. I asked him his name and all he would give me was a first name and as to his whereabouts he would only say, “The West Coast”. However before I could gather this information he came at me right out of the gate. I said, “Hello”. He said, “Can I ask you a theological question?” I said, “go for it.” At this point the fine line between asking a question and making a statement became rather blurry and this unfortunately lasted for the rest of our conversation. While listening to his diatribe (“question”) it became obvious that he did not believe Jesus was God so I fished around a bit until he finally chomped down on the Jehovah Witness bait. It wasn’t really bait, I just asked him if he was a Jehovah Witness and he responded in the affirmative and then said, “Now can we get back to my question?”
At some point I asked him why he called and he explained that he had surfed around and found my church’s website and noticed that he didn’t like our statement of faith, especially the part about the Trinity so he thought he might call us up. Long story short, this guy didn’t have any questions he only wanted to challenge us and let us know that we were cult-like heretics (it’s not everyday that you get called a “heretic” by a JW).
When I realized what was going on and my Starbucks kicked-in I told him something that seemed like it was the first time he had heard it. I told him in no uncertain terms (very politely and very calmly) that I could assure him that he did not have a chance at convincing me because (gasp!) I am admittedly not open to new teaching on the Trinity. That’s right…my mind is closed, made-up, stubborn and whatever else you want to call it. Now I admit that puts me at odds with this JW caller but that should come as no shock to anyone. However, I’m afraid that my lack of generosity about this doctrine might put me at odds with some who wear the label of “Evangelical Christian” as well. Is it possible that some attempts to preach Christ in a more palatable fashion have also made Him out to be less than who He is (same goes with preaching about the Father and the Holy Spirit)? I’ve heard sermons by some evangelicals where I wondered if a JW would be okay with what was just preached.
The biblical teaching about the Triune God is not without its difficulties but that doesn’t give preachers an excuse to ignore it. Bruce Ware has stated this concern succinctly when he wrote, “God cares that we know who he is, and he longs for us to understand him rightly, according to what he has revealed in his Word.” Ware makes the case that this is only possible through knowledge of the God that has revealed himself as a Trinity. So here’s my question for our readers: how does the fact that God has revealed Himself in this way affect your preaching or your life for that matter? Would you agree with my armchair assessment that evangelicals have practically forgotten (maybe ignored) the Trinity? I hope I’m wrong but that is the view from my theological window.
In addition to some of the other resources we’ve highlighted around here recently, we thought it would be helpful to draw your attention to an upcoming conference. The Brandon Biblical Theology Conference will be hosted by Grace Bible Church of Brandon, FL (suburban Tampa), from October 12-14, 2006. The conference theme is The Holy Trinity, and will be addressed by Phil Johnson, Executive Director of Grace to You, and Dr. Robert Reymond, Emeritus Professor of Systematic Theology at Knox Theological Seminary in Ft. Lauderdale, FL. The conference fee is $40 ($15 for pastors!) and includes three meals. Free books are also included with paid registration. For more information follow the links (.pdf files) below.
We hope to see many of you in Brandon!
There are a number of blog posts that should be of interest to expositors making their way around the web.
A popular word these days in preaching circles is “contextualization”. It’s certainly not knew and preachers disagree as to what it actually means but David Jackman, President of the Proclamation Trust, moves the discussion forward with a thought provoking article entitled “Bridging the Gap” in the latest edition of Kairos Journal (sign-up for the journal is free and is emailed weekly). Preachers of old (I’m thinking of J. C. Ryle) thought of contextualization as speaking plainly in understandable English as opposed to metaphorical, dumbed-down language, or even overly intellectualized verbiage (and no one would claim that Ryle was not an intellectual). Also I would add that speaking into the “context” of anyone through preaching does not require the absorption of their culture. Those who would disagree would often cart-out 1 Corinthians 9:20-22 as the catch-all for cultural amalgamation. However the context of said passage often eludes such culturenistas as Paul warns at the end that lack of care in this area can actually disqualify one from preaching ministry (see 9:27, a fact not often acknowledge by modern-day libertines). More could certainly be said on this issue but suffice it to say at this point that we should not confuse identifying “with” someone as being identified “like” someone. The former, I think, is biblical but the latter is the nucleus of compromise. Jackman writes:
…the issue for apostolic ministry is not whether there might be some way in which we 21st century human beings could perhaps be persuaded to accept God, though that seems to be the predominant concern of so much contemporary evangelism. The real issue is whether there is any way in which God could be persuaded to accept us, and that provides a wholly different preaching agenda.
It means that the preacher must have confidence that with the Bible in the driving seat, God’s power will be at work, confronting and exposing our human ignorance, convicting and humbling our sin, as guilt and wrath are explained, energising and motivating repentance and faith as the character of God is revealed in the grace and mercy of the gospel. This content must always be directed straight into the contemporary culture, with its false presuppositions and arrogant rebellion, just as Paul exposed the spiritual ignorance of the Areopagites. That is one area where we so often need help. Also, we need to work hard at understanding and explaining the biblical text in accessible, contemporary language, and thought-forms, so that the divine power inherent in God’s living and enduring Word is unhindered and on target, every time we seek to proclaim its penetrating analysis and life-giving imperatives.