Archive for the ‘application’ Category

Application and preaching

Peter Mead of Biblical Preaching is hand-down my favorite blog on the dynamics of preaching. Peter is constantly encouraging the faithful exercise of biblical preaching and for that I am thankful. See his recent thoughts on application linked below:

2 Essentials to a God-honoring Pulpit Ministry

As a pastor’s kid growing up in a Christian home I have listened to more sermons than many believers twice my age.  In addition to this privilege/stewardship I spent close to 13 years at the Grace Community Church (to borrow a humorous expression from Dr. Mohler).  Besides sitting under the regular preaching ministries of John MacArthur, Rick Holland, Ken Ramey, Phil Johnson, Carey Hardy, and Jerry Wragg I also was exposed to the likes of W.A. Criswell, Al Mohler, John Piper, and Jim Boice.  I have listened to far more sermons in my life than I have ever preached.  As I’ve matured in my faith I realize that if the Word of God is faithfully taught (regardless of the preacher) the Spirit of God will use that Word in the life of all true believers (Col. 1:28-29).  For those of us “Joe the plumber” preachers that is an encouraging thought!

It is my opinion that in biblical preaching God is most interested in two things: faithfulness and humility.   Allow me to make a case for that assertion.

God does not give every saint (or preacher for that matter) the same measure of talent/spiritual giftedness.  If I can borrow a principle or two from the Parable of the Talents I may be able to make this point more clearly.  In Matthew 25 the text says, For it is just like a man about to go on a journey, who called his own slaves, and entrusted his possessions to them. And to one he gave five talents, to another, two, and to another, one, each according to his own ability; and he went on his journey.  When I was in seminary it was obvious to me that all of us “pastors in training” had a lot in common.  It was also obvious that not all of us were given the same measure of giftedness.  Some of the men had photographic memories and crazy high IQ’s while others had golden tongues.  One of the lessons God was trying to teach me during this time of ministry preparation was my personal need to grow in humility.  Instead of being envious of the way God gifted a few of these exceptionally bright students I needed to be grateful.  If biblical ministry is all about the glories of Christ then how God chooses to bless a man is His prerogative.

It is my opinion that God does not gift every preacher with the exact same spiritual gifts/talents nor does He give every pastor the same measure of gifts/talents.  That is how I explain the difference between “Joe the plumber/preachers” and those unique preachers like Jim Boice.  To some God has given one talent, to others two, and to a select few, five talents. 

What encourages my heart is that God is most concerned about faithfulness not giftedness (that He alone controls, 1 Peter 4:10-11).  Consider Luke 12:48 And from everyone who has been given much shall much be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more.  Or take Matthew 25:23,  “His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave; you were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’ 

This is where I see Paul’s previous post coming in: “Are you growing in your preaching?”  What are you doing to become a more faithful steward of God’s infallible Word?  Take this common principle of sanctification and apply it to your preaching ministry.  Philippians 2:12-13, So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.

All of us have witnessed this principle fleshed out in the sports world.  Not all athletes are created equal.  I remember one guy in college who had so much athletic talent it made many of us wannabes green with envy.  Yet this particular basketball player never applied himself and after four seasons never amounted to anything significant.  Their were other players I remember who had a quarter of the talent this player had yet because of their hard work ethic, their ability to receive instruction, and their tremendous commitment took their ‘one talent’ of basketball skill to amazing levels.  Of course then there are those players like Michael Jordan who receive ‘5 talents of athleticism’ and who discipline themselves as much or more than everyone else around them.  The rest as they say is history.  R.C. Sproul and Al Mohler are those type of Christians.

It is not profitable to sit around contemplating why God’s made me the way He’s made me or why He has chosen not to gift me as much as Pastor X or Christian Y.  What is profitable is to discipline myself for the purpose of godliness.  To strive to be a faithful prophet like Jeremiah.  To preach the Word in season and out.  To be a faithful workman who cuts the word straight each and every Sunday (2 Tim. 2:15).  To understand and apply the weakness of power and the power of weakness paradox (2 Cor. 12)

I should not conclude this post without talking about the importance of humility.  God will not share His glory with another.  That is probably why in His plan of salvation He has chosen not to save many wise or mighty men (1 Cor  1-2).  Consider the words of God from Isaiah 66:2, “But to this one I will look, To him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word.”

In biblical preaching God is most interested in two things: faithfulness and humility.   

Preaching Revelation

I have been the Senior Pastor of the First Baptist Church of Freeport for close to a year and half now.  After a short topical series on “biblical preaching” i decided to take my new congregation through the last book of the Bible.  The most common response i get when sharing that bit of information with others is “Are you crazy, stupid, or a little bit of both son?”  OK not really, but i can see what many Christians are thinking when i tell them what I just told you. 

 When Christians talk about Revelation they often think of two common things: a very obscure New Testament book and lots of prophecy charts.  Yet the book of Revelation is one of the most Christ-centered books in all the Bible.  Chapter 1 begins with a picture of Jesus Christ in all His post-resurrection glory!  Chapters 2 & 3 are immensely practical instructions to the 7 churches (real churches that represent the type of churches/church goers that exist in every century of church history).  Chapter 4 pictures Heaven’s worship of  the Sovereign Creator.  Chapter 5 highlights the great Hero of Heaven,  Jesus Christ.  Some of the most theologically rich details about the gospel are presented in this magnificent chapter.   Chapters 6-18 describe the awful Tribulation period that is yet to come.  Chapter 19 highlights the majestic return of Christ (as righteous Judge, Holy Warrior, and as KING of Kings and LORD of Lords).  Chapter 20 describes the millennial Kingdom and the final judgment of all God’s enemies.  Chapters 21-22 showcases the New Heavens and the New Earth.

Last Sunday I preached my 48th sermon from this lengthy letter (I’ve preached  8 sermons on chapter 1, 23 sermons on chapters 2 and 3, 11 sermons on chapters 4 & 5, 2 sermons on chapters 6-18, and 4 sermons on chapter 19).  My last message covered the famous battle of Armageddon (Rev 19:17-21).  Instead of getting lost in the mintua of this final battle i tried to emphasize what I believe is a major theme of this section; Judgment without mercyThose who reject the mercies of God in Christ will one day experience God’s judgment without mercy.  Talk about relevant sermons. 

With that said, I have tried to walk a very thin line in preaching through this neglected Prophesy.  I don’t want this series to be an information drop that simply tickles the fancy of those prophesy chart pundits (you know who you are).  At the same time i don’t want to ignore the theology of the Apocalypse either.  In other words, just because it is en vogue right now not to have strong convictions with regards to eschatology does not mean those major themes should/can be ignored when preaching through this inspired letter.  For example, does Revelation  3:10 promising deliverance from the Tribulation?  Does Revelation 6-18 describe a 7 year period of unparalleled evil (the Day of the Lord, the future Tribulation) or something else?  Is the binding of Satan in Revelation 20 future or present?  Is the First Resurrection physical or spiritual?  Is the reign of Christ in Revelation 20 on earth or in heaven?

Bottom line: Pastors should consider preaching through the book of Revelation because of this book’s profound Christology.  The more I talk with unbelievers and the more I minister to American believers the more I see a need to preach the REAL Jesus.  After all He is the Lion of Judah and the Lamb that was slaughtered to purchase a covenant people.  He is Prophet, Priest, and King.  He is the righteous Judge, the Holy Conqueror, & the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. 

To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever.

Sermon Preparation

John MacArthur once said that the main reason why there is not more good biblical preaching in America today is because pastors don’t know how to stay in their chairs.  In that same vein I came across this great statement over at Justin Taylor’s blog.

“There Is No Romanticism in Sermon Preparation”

C. J. Mahaney: There is no romanticism in sermon preparation. I’m 56 years old and it’s still hard. I always get to a point in preparation when I think, ‘This sermon stinks . . . and we are running out of time!’

Our Tone in Preaching

In one of John Piper’s finest sermons on preaching he said this,  “God did not ordain the cross of Christ or create the lake of fire to communicate the insignificance of belittling his glory.  The death of the Son of God and the damnation of unrepentant human beings are the LOUDEST SHOUTS under heaven that God is infinitely holy, and sin is infinitely offensive, and wrath is infinitely just, and grace is infinitely precious, and our brief life—and the life of every person—leads to everlasting joy OR everlasting suffering

If our preaching does not carry the weight of these things to our people what will?  Veggie Tales?  Radio? Television? Discussion groups? Emergent conversations?

God planned for his Son to be crucified (Rev 13:8, 2 Tim 1:9) and for hell to be terrible (Matt 25:41) so that we would have the clearest witness to what is at stake when we preach.   What gives preaching its seriousness is that the mantle of the preacher is soaked with the blood of Jesus and singed with the fires of hell.  That is the mantle that turns mere talkers into preachers…”

Brother’s in Christ “PREACH the Word” tomorrow!

A little less talk and a lot more action

Where is the balance of application in preaching today? Some say that sermons have drifted toward the cerebral side of things and have neglected application. However Shaddix questions the conventional wisdom and seems to think it may be the other way around. What do you think?

“More application is preached than exegesis . . . While preaching may have once erred on the side of weighty exegesis with no connection to the real world, its contemporary crime is reverse. Today, application is the sermon and exegesis is the servant.”

[from Jim Shaddix, The Passion Driven Sermon: Changing the Way Pastors Preach and Congregations Listen (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2003), 101.]

What say you? (Revelation 5:13)

Do you think that all creation (redeemed man, fallen man, holy angels, the demons, etc) will one day offer some form of praise to God?

 In other words, does Revelation 5:13 teach that even the demons and unredeemed humanity will join in forever adoring the wisdom of God’s sovereign plan for the cosmos?

 Greek scholar Robert Thomas puts it like this, “The entirety of intelligent life in God’s creation joins in, even fallen angels imprisoned ‘under the earth’ (Jude 6) and unredeemed humanity who must someday join in recognizing the preeminent qualities of God and the Lamb.”

 Revelation 5:13, And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!”

N.T. scholar G.K. Beale writes, “This scene anticipates the universal acclamation to be offered at the consummation of all things.  If it represents universal praise in an absolute sense, then it issues not only from God’s willing subjects but also from His opponents who will be forced into submission.”

Is this another shocking passage of Scripture like Philippians 2:9-11? Therefore also God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those who are in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

 OR is this passage simply trying to teach that all creation (excluding unredeemed man, the demons, etc) will one day join redeemed humanity and the Holy Angels in offering to God (Father and Son) the worship that He alone deserves?

 Psalm 69:34, Let heaven and earth praise Him, The seas and everything that moves in them.

 Romans 8:19-22, For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now.

 I’ll let you know what i conclude once i come to a biblical conclusion.

What are you reading?

As a senior teaching pastor I find myself working very hard to stay afloat almost every single week.  Throw a funeral or two into the mix and you have yourself a really exciting week.  I find it challenging to prepare a Sunday AM sermon and a Sunday PM lesson week in and week out.  Pastors have so much to do and so little time to do it in.  Thank goodness God does not want us to accomplish these tasks according to human strength or worldly wisdom.

 On a weekly basis the most important ministry task I face is the Sunday morning exposition.  I find most of my extra reading time is used to supplement my sermon preparation or some other church related ministry.

 For example, this past Sunday I preached through Revelation 5:9.  Outside of Scripture, Bible Works, LOGOS, and numerous Revelation commentaries I used the following resources: John Gill’s Body of Divinity; R.B. Kuiper’s, For Whom Did Christ Die; D.A. Carson’s, The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God; & the opening chapters of Elyse Fitzpatrick’s latest book, Counsel from the Cross.

 At night I finished up Mike Abendroth’s Jesus Christ: The Prince of Preachers.  This was a very application orientated book and one that I would recommend to our faithful readers.  I am ashamed to say that during my first topical series on Biblical Preaching (I delivered these a year ago) that I did not spend a single Sunday talking about the model of Jesus.  Abendroth’s book points out how most of the great books on preaching skip over His wonderful example.

 Other than that I find myself rereading the books we’re using for our leadership training class (9 Marks of a Healthy Church, The Exemplary Husband, and 10 Questions to Diagnosing Your Spiritual Health) or reading books in preparation for my Sunday PM lessons (The Message of the Old Testament).  I am so grateful for the Christian resources that are available today.

On Rating Biblical Commentaries

From time to time in the spirit of Jim Roscup we like to rate commentaries here at ET.  One thing that i was reminded of again this week is that every commentary rating is somewhat misleading.  What  I mean by that comment is that sometimes commentaries really surprise you.  For example, one of my favorite applicational commentaries is the NIV Revelation commentary by Craig Keener.  However as i came to chapter 5 i found his commentary quite weak.  On the other hand David Aune’s 3 volume exegetical commentary set has not been nearly as helpful to me as R.L Thomas’ 2 volume masterpiece.  However in Chapter 5, I found many very helpful comments in Aune’s commentary.  So just remember this point the next time you’re preparing a sermon.  Life is like a set of commentaries you never know what you’re going to get (or something like that).

My response to Dever’s BIG statement

Mark Dever makes some very helpful points in this sermon but he also draws a very strange application lesson out of the John 17 text.  I say “Amen” to the first paragraph below but don’t follow the logic of paragraph two. 

 “Therefore, I conclude that it is sin to divide the body of Christ—to divide the body that he prayed would be united. Therefore for us to conclude that we must agree upon a certain view of alcohol, or a certain view of schooling, or a certain view of meat sacrificed to idols, or a certain view of the millennium in order to have fellowship together is, I think, not only unnecessary for the body of Christ, but it is therefore both unwarranted and therefore condemned by scripture.

 So if you’re a pastor and you’re listening to me, you understand me correctly if you think I’m saying you are in sin if you lead your congregation to have a statement of faith that requires a particular millennial view. I do not understand why that has to be a matter of uniformity in order to have Christian unity in a local congregation.”

 “You are in SIN if you lead your congregation to have a statement of faith that requires a particular millennial view.”  WOW!  On the basis of John 17 you make that strong of a statement?  Really?  Dr. Dever is not one to make reckless statements.  This is clearly something he has thought about for some time before saying it ever so boldly.

 I know a very mature Christian couple that use to attend Dever’s church (they were church members at CHBC).  One of the reasons why they felt led to leave this congregation was over this very issue.  Not every church member or local church pastor has the same (strong) doctrinal convictions over the same areas of Christian theology.  It is probably one of the reasons why we have so many denominations & churches in America.  For example, many believers could not attend a church that doesn’t practice “believer’s baptism” even though they would never condemn a gospel preaching infant-baptizing church as heretical.  Some believers have spent many hours studying the text of Scripture and have developed strong convictions with regards to eschatology, pneumatology, church polity, etc.  What may be a “third order” doctrine to some may be a “second order” doctrine to someone else.  I think that is ok.  It is never ok when a fundamental doctrine is wrongly understood.  

 On this topic I would suggest reading the many posts Phil Johnson has written on this topic like “What do common sense and Scripture tell us about the relative weight of different truths?” or “Why is the distinction between essential and peripheral doctrines so crucial?”; or for my favorite article on this topic, “A Call for Theological Triage and Christian Maturity” by Dr. Al Mohler (posted July 12, 2005).

 In Mohler’s article he writes, “God’s truth is to be defended at every point and in every detail, but responsible Christians must determine which issues deserve first-rank attention in a time of theological crisis.”  A recent trip to the Emergency Room helped Mohler come up with the triage concept.  He goes on to say this, “First-level theological issues would include those doctrines most central and essential to the Christ faith…The set of second order doctrines is distinguished from the first-order set by the fact that believing Christians may disagree on second-order issues though this disagreement will create significant boundaries between believers…Third-order issues are doctrines which Christians may disagree and remain in close fellowship, even within local congregations.”  Later Mohler notes, “A structure of theological triage does not imply that Christians may take any biblical truth with less than full seriousness.  We are charged to embrace and to teach the comprehensive truthfulness of the Christian faith as revealed in Scripture.  There are no insignificant doctrines revealed in the Bible, but there is an essential foundation of truth that undergirds the entire system of biblical truth.”

 So back to Mark Dever’s BIG statement.  I think what Dever said recently does not take into account the reality that not all “statement of faith” documents are applied the same way.  I also don’t think he takes into account the point that not everyone agrees on what second-level matters are and what third-level matters are.  For Pastor Dever’s church family, eschatology is a “Third-order issue” therefore CHBC has chosen not to include a specific millennial position in their statement of faith.  Fine, but if another pastor or local assembly decides this is a second-level matter for their particular church body don’t call it “sin” brother.  To be continued.

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