Archive for February, 2009

Why Expositional Preaching is Particularly Glorifying to God

“George Whitefield believed in preaching and gave his life to it. By this preaching God did a mighty work of salvation on both sides of the Atlantic. His biographer, Arnold Dallimore, chronicled the astonishing effect that Whitefield’s preaching had in Britain and America in the eighteenth century. It came like rain on the parched land and made the desert spring forth with the flowers of righteousness. Dallimore lifted his eyes from the transformed wasteland of Whitefield’s time and expressed his longing that God would do this again. He cries out for a new generation of preachers like Whitefield. His words help me express what I long for in the coming generations of preachers in America and around the world. He said,

Yea…that we shall see the great Head of the Church once more . . . raise up unto Himself certain young men whom He may use in this glorious employ. And what manner of men will they be? Men mighty in the Scriptures, their lives dominated by a sense of the greatness, the majesty and holiness of God, and their minds and hearts aglow with the great truths of the doctrines of grace. They will be men who have learned what it is to die to self, to human aims and personal ambitions; men who are willing to be ‘fools for Christ’s sake’, who will bear reproach and falsehood, who will labor and suffer, and whose supreme desire will be, not to gain earth’s accolades, but to win the Master’s approbation when they appear before His awesome judgment seat. They will be men who will preach with broken hearts and tear-filled eyes, and upon whose ministries God will grant an extraordinary effusion of the Holy Spirit, and who will witness ‘signs and wonders following’ in the transformation of multitudes of human lives.1

Mighty in the Scriptures, aglow with the great truths of the doctrines of grace, dead to self, willing to labor and suffer, indifferent to the accolades of man, broken for sin, and dominated by a sense of the greatness, the majesty, and holiness of God. Dallimore, like Whitefield, believed that preaching is the heralding of God’s word from that kind of heart. Preaching is not conversation. Preaching is not discussion. Preaching is not casual talk about religious things. Preaching is not simply teaching. Preaching is the heralding of a message permeated by the sense of God’s greatness and majesty and holiness. The topic may be anything under the sun, but it is always brought into the blazing light of God’s greatness and majesty in his word. That was the way Whitefield preached.”

This is an excerpt from John Piper’s sermon at T4G 2006.  I’ve listened to this 20 minute intro at least 8 times.   I’ve received a lot of bad advice about preaching (what it is, should be, is not, etc. This sermon sheds great light on this matter).

The Glory of the Ministry

In 1911, in his book The Glory of the Ministry, A.T. Robertson quoted James Denney: “There always have been men in the world so clever that God could make no use of them.  They could never do His work; they  were so lost in admiration of their own.  God’s work never depended on them, and it doesn’t depend on them now.  The power is not the product of human genius, or cleverness, or technique, or ingenuity; the power of the gospel is in the gospel.”  (1 Cor 3:7, 2 Cor 4:5)

Preaching to Suffering People

In the book Feed My Sheep: A Passionate Plea for Preaching Pastor John Piper writes, “It is true that we must be bold in the pulpit and afraid of no man but courageous as we contend for the truth.  But it is just as true that our boldness must be a brokenhearted boldness, that our courage must be a contrite and lowly courage, and that we must be tender contenders for the truth.  If we are brash and harsh and cocky and clever, we may win a hearing with angry and pugnacious people, but we will drive away those who suffer (2 Cor 1:4).”

True Preaching

David Wells, in his new book The Courage to be Protestant:

“Preaching is not a conversation about some interesting ideas. It is not the moment in which postmoderns hear their own private message in the biblical words, one unique to each one who hears, and then go their own way. No! This is God speaking! He speaks through the stammering lips of the preacher where that preacher’s mind is on the text of Scripture and his heart is in the presence of God. God, as Luther puts it, lives in the preacher’s mouth.

This is the kind of preaching that issues a summons, which nourishes the soul, which draws the congregation into the very presence of God so that no matter what aspect of his character, his truth, his working in this world is in focus, we leave with awe, gratitude, encouragement, and sometimes a rebuke. We have been in the very presence of God! This is what great preaching always does.”

(David Wells; The Courage to be Protestant; p 230)

Biased NT reductionism: Matthew 16:21 as a test case

During my sermon preparation, I generally read through commentaries last. It is often a helpful exercise but it can also be frustrating. I never ceased to be amazed at the imaginative lengths some commentators will go to be accepted by their peers rather than useful to the church. Many commentaries are essentially commentary on the biases of the scholar rather than on the text of Scripture.

Compare the following two comments concerning Matthew 16:21 which says, “From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day.”

Donald Hagner in the WBC on Matthew notes, “That Jesus’ predictions in these passages line up with the kerygma of the church is not sufficient reason to reject the possibility of their authenticity,or at least of an authentic core. A variety of scripture passages were available to Jesus in understanding what lay ahead (e.g., Pss 22; 118:17-18, 22; Isa 53; Dan 7; 12; Wis 3).”

D. A. Carson in the EBC on Matthew asks, “Is it reasonable to think that Jesus could have predicted the details of his passion only if he read about them somewhere? This is not to question the applicability of some of the OT allusions to him; it is rather to question the historical reductionism of some Gospel research.”

The Preacher of God’s Word.

Pastor Steve J. Lawson contributed the following chapter in the helpful new book John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion Doctrine & DoxologyLawson points to 10 Distinguishing Marks of Calvin’s pulpit ministry.

1. Calvin’s preaching was biblical in substance.

2. Calvin’s preaching was sequential in its pattern.

3. Calvin’s preaching was direct in its message.

4. Calvin’s preaching was extemporaneous in its delivery.

5. Calvin’s preaching was exegetical in its approach.

6. Calvin’s preaching was accessible in its simplicity.

7. Calvin’s preaching was pastoral in its tone.

8. Calvin’s preaching was polemic in its defense of the truth.

9. Calvin’s preaching was passionate in its outreach.

10. Calvin’s preaching was doxological in its conclusion.

In the words of Calvin himself, “A rule is prescribed to all God’s servants that they bring not their own inventions, but simply deliver from hand to hand, what they have received from God.”

Seeker Leader Resigns

The big religious news story in my neck of the woods is not a really good one friends.

For a number of biblical reasons the band of brothers that make up Expository Thoughts have not been in favor of the Church Growth Movementthat Bill Hybels has led.  Nevertheless, this is a very sad news story.  The Church does not need another Ted Haggard situation but we may have one.  You can read the full Chicago Tribune article below.,0,6292991.story  Please pray for those involved in this situation. 

“The pastor of Willow Creek Chicago—the city campus of the evangelical megachurch Willow Creek Community Church—has resigned and admitted to “sexual impurity,” a church spokesman said.”

The pastor, Rev. Steve Wu, could not be reached, and the church would not specify what took place.  Wu, 43, moved from California‘s Silicon Valley in early 2006, hired by senior pastor Rev. Bill Hybels to lead Willow Creek Chicago, the downtown branch of the South Barrington-based church.  Click on the link above for full story.

1 Timothy 4:16 Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.


1 Corinthians 9:27 But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.

Driscoll’s missed opportunity…

…came at the end of his interview with D.L. Hughley at CNN:

DL: The thing about religion, I come from a very religious background. You had to go to church all the time. My wife is very religious. I am not an atheist. I certainly believe in God. But I’ve seen so much hypocrisy and so many things that just kind of put me on the wrong side of things. What do you say to people like me? I’m a guy who’s had my experiences, but I still come away feeling a little bit apathetic toward religion. What about me?

MD: You know what, that’s a great question. I think what you probably love about your wife—if she belongs to God—is that she loves you and encourages you and she serves you and you see what God’s done in her heart and in her character

DL: I do love that about her. But there are aspects—when it comes to religion and the way that I grew up and the things that I saw—that are juxtaposed to what you’re supposed to be when you’re a Christian, and really, they have made me apathetic.

MD: Yeah, but what about Jesus, D.L.? I’ll just get right to the issue. Religion has all kinds of problems. Churches have all kinds of problems. But Jesus—Jesus is the big issue. Do you like Jesus? Do you dig Jesus?

DL: Oh, absolutely, absolutely.

MD: Well then I think that’s really what matters at the end of the day. I mean, churches are filled with people who are imperfect and sinful, and Jesus is working on ‘em all.

DL: Now I’ve got a rabbi and a preacher. Thank you Mr. Mark Driscoll. Thank you very much. Very funny.

The Primacy of Preaching

In his opening chapter The Primacy of Preaching from the book Feed My Sheep: A Passionate Plea For Preaching Dr. Al Mohler wrote, “Evangelical pastors commonly state that biblical preaching is the hallmark of their calling.  Nevertheless, a careful observer might come to a very different conclusion.  The priority of preaching is simply not evident in far too many churches.


We must affirm with Luther that the preaching of the Word is the first essential mark of the church.  Luther believed so strongly in the centrality of preaching that he stated, ‘Now, wherever you hear or see this Word preached, believed, professed, and lived, do no doubt that the true ecclesia sancta catholica (Christian, holy people) must be there….And even were no other sign than this alone, it would still suffice to prove that a Christian, holy people must exist there, for God’s Word cannot be without God’s people and, conversely, God’s people cannot be without God’s Word.’”


Before he died the great Bible expositor James Montgomery Boice wrote, “I do not think it is too much to say that preaching really is an essential means perhaps even the most important means, of grace.  If that is the case, then we should be very careful in our Christian lives to expose ourselves to the best teaching and attend the best churches available.”


2 Timothy 3:13-4:5; John 21:15-17; Col. 1:25-29; Romans 10:17; 1 Peter 1:23, 2:2; 1 Timothy 4:13-18; Ezra 7:10; Neh. 8.

Happy Valentine’s Day from Mark Driscoll

I wrote a short article for ET on Mark Driscoll back on January 10th.  Because it dealt with such a controversial and complicated Pastor/ministry it was of course a well read and commented on blog post.  Overall my article did not do much to advance the conversation that has already been had at various Christian blogs around the http://www.   Honestly, I do not know how much more can be said on this topic by way of dialogue.

I watched Mark’s recent interview on CNN this morning and to no ones surprise it was much of the same.  I read the comments of professing Christians (post CNN interview) and guess what?  It was much of the same.  Please check out the video for yourself here at 

Now for those who are not already “in bed” with Mark (excuse the CNN video play on words friends) it only served to confirm some of my growing concerns.   I know from listening to other Pastors talk I am not alone in this.  By the  way, the group I am speaking of here is not a bunch of Driscoll “haters” or “Hyper-critical-Fundies”.  It is a group of Biblical pastors who appreciate the gospel that is being preached at Mar’s Hill but who share common concerns about some of the other “baggage”.  Those concerns have been discussed here and elsewhere so their is no need to go down that path again.  I simply add that the cutting words of Jesus in Matthew 23 do not remind me of the controversial words of Driscoll in videos like the CNN one.  I guess John Piper (others) and I disagree on this point or

If you would like to dialogue more about the CNN video do so at “Between Two Worlds“.

In fairness to Mark I need to say that it appears Mark tries to answer questions on CNN the same way he would at Mars Hill.  Everyone is grateful when Christian Pastors don’t act like chameleons.   Mark is who he is.  He and others sincerely believe this style of ministry and his choice of words are appropriate; whether at church on Sunday AM or on CNN during an evangelism conversation. 

Perhaps some of the principles that the Apostle Paul discusses in Philippians 1 could and should be applied to this conversation.  Happy Valentine’s Day E.T. readers!

The glory of the gospel is that when the Church is absolutely different from the world, she invariably attracts it. It is then that the world is made to listen to her message, though it may hate it at first. That is how revival comes. That must also be true of us as individuals. It should not be our ambition to be as much like everybody else as we can, though we happen to be Christian, but rather to be as different from everybody who is not a Christian as we can possibly be. Our ambition should be to be like Christ, the more like Him the better, and the more like Him we become, the more we shall be unlike everybody who is not a Christian.

D.M Lloyd-Jones, Intro to the Beatitudes

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