Bible, Gospel Spirituality, Jesus, Preaching

The Prophets, Jesus, and Justice

How does Jesus relate to justice? Two extremes should be avoided when answering this question. One extreme argues that Jesus has nothing to do with justice. Another extreme answer is that Jesus is primarily about justice.

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Of course, the terms should be defined. What is justice? Today the term “social justice” is thrown around. Technically, social justice is about the unfair distribution of wealth or opportunity or privilege in a society. Did Jesus care about the fair distribution of wealth? Was he a revolutionary who came to bring about a classless society? Does he have anything to say regarding topics like white privilege?

Again, one extreme would argue that if this is the meaning of justice then Jesus has nothing to do with justice. However, again, another extreme would argue that Jesus was primarily concerned with bringing about a more just society.

Preachers have long turned to the prophets in order to speak to justice. For example, the great civil rights preacher Martin Luther King Jr. regularly turned to the prophets for images in his sermons. He quoted Amos 5:24 in his “I Have a Dream” speech when he said he would not be satisfied until “justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.” In the same speech he referenced Isaiah 40:4-5 when he spoke of a dream where “every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.” In his “Letter From a Birmingham Jail” he wrote, “I am in Birmingham because injustice is here. Just as the eighth-century prophets left their little villages and carried their ‘thus saith the Lord’ far beyond the boundaries of their hometowns.” Further, the night before he died, he preached at Memphis’ Masonic Temple and said, “But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And he’s allowed me to go to the mountain, and I’ve looked over. And I have seen the Promised Land.”

It is natural and right for Christians to go to those images and to the prophets when advocating for justice. After all, the prophets did more forthtelling than foretelling. Their voices still ring in the face of contemporary injustices. Following the example of Martin Luther King Jr., preachers should use their voices to advocate for a more just society. But it matters how we use those passages. Sound hermeneutical principles and biblical theology still apply when preaching the prophets. Contemporary preachers must demonstrate how they get from a verse like Amos 5:24 to tax policy.

For example, Micah 6:8 reads, “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” The social justice warriors love the “do justice” part of this verse. They are right that this verse has something to say regarding tort reform and length of jail sentences. However, do social justice warriors have the same love for the “love kindness” and “walk humbly with your God” parts? Further, what does it mean to “walk humbly with your God?” Even further still, how does walking humbly with God relate to doing justice? Sound hermeneutical principles and biblical theology help answer those questions.

You see, the way Jesus relates to justice is through a Christocentric interpretation and application of the prophets. When Jesus was given the chance to interpret “all the Prophets” (Luke 24:27) he interpreted them according to himself and his works. Luke 24:27 says he interpreted the prophets “concerning himself.” He did not interpret the prophets disconnected from himself and his gospel works.

Likewise, when contemporary preachers try to jump from Micah 6:8 to marginal tax rates, they must first connect Micah 6:8 to Jesus and the gospel. For example, what does it mean to “walk humbly with your God?” Romans 6:4 says, “We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised form the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” A preacher cannot go straight from Micah 6:8 to tax codes without first addressing our new life in Christ. The interpretation and application are more profound than just voting a certain way. Faithful preaching on justice must include clarity on how someone is born again through faith in Christ and then how they live new lives united to Christ.

Does Jesus have something to say about injustices? Yes, but it is more profound than a political rant to vote a particular issue. Jesus’ ethics are connected to his person and works. He wants us to work for justice, but according to our new life in him. Further, true humility toward God recognizes that he is the only one to really bring about perfect lasting justice. Eternal justice will not ultimately come until he returns. However, the call is to work for it here while we are here. But, when preaching the prophets, never forget that something glorious happened after the prophets that gives new illumination to the prophets. Jesus does speak to injustice, but his sermon is more beautiful radical and profound than any politician’s speech.

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Bible, Jesus, Preaching

Preach Jesus from the Old Testament

Sight is a clear literary theme in the Road to Emmaus story (Luke 24:13-35). Cleopas and his buddies saw Jesus, but don’t really see him. They saw a man coming down the road. They had an in-depth conversation with him as they walked together. However, they don’t perceive that the man was Jesus. They don’t see Jesus, even though they most likely knew him before Jesus’ death and resurrection. They had certainly seen him teach and knew what he looked like. Their lack of perception that the man was Jesus is connected to their lack of spiritual perception. They physically didn’t recognize him, and they also spiritually didn’t recognize him. What is so terrifying about the Road to Emmaus account is that these men claimed to be followers of Christ! The Road to Emmaus story teaches us that even Christians might now fully perceive Jesus.

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This reality is no truer than when we are studying and preaching the Old Testament. It is easy to see Jesus in the Gospel narratives. It is red meat for a pastor to preach Christ from an epistle like Galatians. However, Jesus is harder to see in books like Joel or Haggai. However, the command to “preach the Word” (2 Timothy 4:2) and Jesus’ example on the Road to Emmaus call us to preach Christ from the Old Testament.

Paul famously told his younger disciple to “preach the Word” (2 Timothy 4:2). Every pastor should heed this command. Every pastor has a call on his life to preach or proclaim the Word. Of course, that begs the question, “what is the Word?” John 1:1 calls Jesus the Word. All of Scripture can be understood as God’s communication or Word (2 Timothy 3:16). The Word can be understood as the good news or the gospel. However, all three of these aspects of the meaning of the Word are intertwined. Jesus cannot be rightly understood separate from the whole counsel of God or the gospel. The Bible as a whole must be understood according to the person and work of Christ, specifically the good news of salvation through faith in his atoning work on the cross. The gospel is only good news unless it is linked to both the Old and New Testaments. As a result, Timothy (and contemporary pastors) are to preach the Bible, the gospel, and Jesus. Further, we are to intertwine them in our preaching.

Jesus models this approach on the Road to Emmaus. Luke 24:27 says, “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.” Of course, this verse cannot mean a couple of obvious things. First, Jesus did not read the entire Old Testament and show how each verse concerned him. He simply would not have had the time to it. Second, clearly not every verse in the Old Testament was some sort of direct reference or foretelling prophecy about Jesus. However, Luke 24:27 does provide a broad interpretive grid by which Jesus understood each genre of the Old Testament. At some level, and maybe it was a broad macro level, every passage points to Jesus. Every passage from Genesis to Malachi says something concerning Jesus. At least that is how Jesus saw it!

The fun twist to the Road to Emmaus story is that when Jesus showed them how to see Jesus in the Old Testament, the men were then able to see Jesus physically. In other words, interpreting Christ from the books of Moses and the Prophets is how we actually perceive Christ. Tomes are written on how to preach like Jesus and interpret Christ from the Old Testament. There are certainly appropriate ways to do it and inappropriate ways to do it. However, the general principle is that when pastors preach the Old Testament, they are to preach Jesus.

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Bible, Gospel Spirituality, Preaching

Preach Hard Books

Brothers, preach hard books. During our church’s new members class our pastors make the case for expository preaching. It is one of our church’s deepest convictions. During the class we explain our strategy of preaching from both Old Testament and New Testament books. We talk about the importance we place on preaching the Psalms and the Gospels. I always add we want to be experts on Jesus and we want to be a worshipping people. But we also explain that expository preaching actually protects the church from the pastor. Eyes usually get big at the thought. However, we explain how every pastor has soap boxes. Further, every pastor has texts and truths he tends to avoid. Therefore, preaching the whole counsel of God protects the church from a pastor’s soap boxes as well as forces him into truths he might otherwise avoid.

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That is how expository preaching should work in an ideal world. However, that is not always the case. For example, I attended a seminary that had an amazing class that was an in-depth exegesis of the book of Ephesians. We all joked how pastors from that seminary taught heavily from Ephesians at their first pastorate. However, many times, hard books are overlooked. For example, book like Ephesians is profound but also linear in its logic, but what about Isaiah? I assume many pastors prefer to preach an easier to understand book like Ephesians over the swirling imagery of Isaiah. Calvinists love Romans, but might be tempted to preach less from the warning passages in Hebrews. Arminian leaning brothers might love the Gospel of John, but find it more difficult to preach Romans or Ephesians. It is a mark of a mature pastor and a healthy church if sermons are preached from hard books. This claim is true for a number of reasons.

First, preaching hard books demonstrates a commitment to the authority and power of the Word. Malachi is “God breathed” (2 Timothy 3:16) just like Luke. Isaiah is “living and active” (Hebrews 4:12) just like Galatians. When pastors preach hard books, it demonstrates the authority of God’s Word to the church. It helps people understand how to apply those texts to their lives. By preaching hard passages I have seen our people embrace all of God’s Word and not just cherry pick well known texts. When God’s people understand and apply God’s Word, they also unleash its power. By preaching difficult books like Micah, it opens the flood gates of God’s power. I have seen God do powerful things in the lives of his people when they reflect on rarely studied texts.

Second, preaching hard books spiritually grows the pastor and the congregation. I’m reformed and preaching the warning passages from Hebrews has forced me to do the hard work of clarifying my theology in light of God’s Word. By preaching those passages I grew by creating in my spiritual life a place for genuine warning. I emphasize God’s grace, but I also shouldn’t avoid a genuine call to fear the Lord. Our church was greatly challenged by our study of the book of Micah. The paradoxical Day of the Lord is a consistent theme in Micah’s book. The Day of the Lord became a hope and a motivation for our church. Personally, I have benefited from doing the challenging work of wadding into hard passages, but more importantly our church has also spiritually matured.

Third, preaching hard books illumines a beautiful and lofty gospel. Brothers, I’m with you in having soap boxes. Particular themes and passages stir my soul over and over again. However, if I stick to my tried-and-true texts I limit the beauty of the gospel for myself and our church. For example, diving into the prophet’s foreshadowing prophecies about Jesus was like holding up a diamond to the light and examining its beauty from multiple angles. We might have head knowledge of certain truths, but preaching even the hard texts helps us ponder afresh stirring of the gospel. Further, I’ve found hard texts broaden my understanding in a way that makes the gospel loftier and God more glorious. For example, OT narratives can provide layers of meaning that protect us from putting God in a box.

Years ago, I heard an older pastor say that he tries to bounce back and forth from the Old Testament to the New Testament in his expositional series. Initially his approach seemed too formulaic to me. However, as years have passed, I have found that pattern helps me into difficult Old Testament books that I might naturally avoid. Preaching those hard texts have helped me see how God’s Word is truly powerful to save and sanctify. Preaching those hard texts have matured me and our church. Preaching those hard texts have given us a delight in the God of the gospel.

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Bible, Church, Church Planting, Counseling, Gospel Spirituality, Jesus, Redeemer Church

Saddened and Sobered

Last Sunday, August 28th, 2022 The Village Church (TVC) in Flower Mound announced their pastor Matt Chandler was going on a leave of absence for discipline and developmental reasons related to inappropriate direct messaging interactions with a woman in the church. I am saddened and sobered by this development.

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I am saddened due to the esteem I have for Matt Chandler and the affection I have for TVC. The church is part of the Acts 29 Network and the Southern Baptist Convention. Redeemer Church is also part of both. I will always be grateful for the financial support Redeemer Church received from TVC in our early years. TVC is like-minded to our church in many ways. Like us, they hold to conservative, evangelical, baptistic, and reformed convictions. Like us, they have a genuine desire to shepherd and disciple their congregation. Like us, they have a heart to love and serve their community with the gospel. There are distinctions between our churches, but I really love TVC and am grateful for their leadership. Matt is a brother and pastor that I truly respect.

 

I am also sobered because I know the burden of striving to live an “above reproach” (1 Timothy 3:2) lifestyle while knowing my imperfections and struggles. The Bible charges pastors to “keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching” (1 Timothy 4:16). Any time I hear an account like I heard this weekend, it is healthy for me to back up and do an evaluation of my heart and life. This week Kristen and I have done a heart check and I’ve asked for her wisdom on these types of issues. With the support of Kristen and the Elders, I have long standing common sense boundaries for how I relate with women. I know in some working environments these boundaries might seem stiff, outdated, or even rude. However, I strongly believe they help preserve my personal integrity, as well as the integrity of our church and our teaching. Further, this situation has led me to have some helpful discussions amongst our staff. Shannon has been a gift to our staff on a number of levels. When we first hired Shannon the staff was made up of only young men. At the time I felt there were moments we were joking in ways that were on the line of being inappropriate for pastors. When Shannon came into the room she helped us immediately raise the bar of maturity and godliness. This week her reflections have helped Grant and I further think through what is appropriate behavior for how pastors relate to women. Friends, we desire godly brother sister relationships within the church. We desire to do those relationships in ways that are healthy, appropriate, and edifying.

 

I am thankful for the courage of the woman at TVC who approached her pastor about her concerns, the conviction of their Elders for pushing into this issue, and the humility of Matt Chandler for embracing this rebuke and being willing to grow in the Lord even when it is embarrassing. Please glorify God in this moment by being saddened and sobered. Please soberly do an evaluation of yourself including having some discussions with your spouse and close friends. Please pray for TVC and Matt Chandler. Please pray for the spiritual health of our staff, our Elders, and me personally. May God be glorified through these discussions and prayers.

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Comments on Dobbs

Micah 6:8 says, “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” God’s People are called to “do justice” but not in a way that is divorced from loving kindness or walking humbly with God.

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Today, by God’s grace, the United States Supreme Court has overturned their 1973 Roe v.s. Wade decision with their Dobbs v.s. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision. I was born in 1978 and this is the most just moment in my nation’s history during my lifetime. I wonder what Abolitionist Christians felt when President Lincoln gave his Emancipation Proclamation. I feel a range of emotions and have a series of thoughts running through my head.

 

First, this is a moment for Christians in America to praise God. This decision is good and right. This decision is ultimately a grace of God. The Dobbs decision makes our nation more just and kind.

 

Second, this decision is the result of a half century of work. This is how a contentious issue should work. It should be debated and discussed. Abortion is not the sort of issue that should be mandated. The Court is right in rebuking the 1973 ruling and thus sending this issue to elected state legislators. I live in Texas. We will treat it differently than those in New York or California. As a result, Dobbs is a better settlement than Roe. This is a better settlement for those on both sides of the issue. It enables genuine discussion and compromise. This decision is the result of a half century of work, but the debates and the work will continue.

 

Third, again, this decision is the result of a half century of work. Christians need to understand that history and be thankful for it. In the early 1980s my parents worked with a group of people to start a Crisis Pregnancy Center. Normal people like my father worked for this day. He died of COVID-19 in 2020. I really miss him today because I had envisioned getting to celebrate this moment with him. ProLife workers have been shamefully demonized by the left in this country, but Christians should esteem the work they have done. I’m proud of my father’s work and look forward to carrying on the work of caring for women who experience an unplanned pregnancy. Ordinary ProLife workers should be thanked today. ProLife politicians should also be thanked. Senator Mitch McConnell should be thanked. ProLife judges should also be thanked. President Donald Trump should also be thanked. I did not vote for either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump in 2016 because I believed both were so morally flawed I could not in good conscience vote for either. Related, I did not believe President Trump would truly be a ProLife President. However, I was wrong. In fact, he ended up being the most ProLife President. I ended up voting for him in the 2020 election based primarily on his ProLife work. Even though I believe President Trump has obvious moral flaws, on this day I am especially thankful for him and his presidency.

 

Fourth, Americans should be clear about what this decision means. The Handmaid’s Tale is not our future and those who try to paint that picture are either misinformed or dishonest. What this decision means is that the issue of abortion will now be sent to state legislatures like it was before 1973. The people of each state, through public debate and elections, will make abortion decisions. Texas is a ProLife state and thus there will be more restrictions on abortions than a ProChoice state like New York. However, ProChoice Texans will have and should have the freedom to make their case and vote their consciences. Similarly, ProLife Californians will have and should have the freedom to make their case and vote their consciences.

 

Fifth, and related, how people behave on both sides of this debate (including this weekend) will either be persuasive to their side or not. For example, if we see more Jane’s Revenge bullying, threatening and vandalism, I believe it will only serve to convince people of the virtues of the ProLife camp and the nastiness of the ProChoice camp.

 

Sixth, and related, my prayer is for a civil debate this weekend and moving forward. Personally, I hear the concern of a woman feeling like taking away abortion in her state makes her feel like a second class citizen because her pregnancy impacts her body and thus her life in more extreme ways than it does the father of the baby. Unplanned pregnancies make women’s lives more difficult. It impacts their schooling and careers. They deal with shameful judgments that men don’t have to experience. An unplanned pregnancy for a young woman is terrifying. I do not believe abortion is the answer, but I do hear the fear. My prayer is that all of us (no matter where we are on this issue) can genuinely listen to the other side and hear the concerns. My prayer is for understanding and civility not screaming, bullying, and vandalism. Dobbs does end one important aspect of this discussion, but it does not end all the discussions. Americans, let’s do this with civility and kindness so that people can actually be persuaded.

 

Seventh, I believe most Americans desire civility and to discuss this issue with kindness. However, I am not naive to believe that all will respond with self-control and kindness. Jane’s Revenge has made their intentions clear. Crisis Pregnancy Centers and churches need to be mindful of threats and ensure their security measures are in place this weekend. I am also calling on local police to ensure violence and vandalism are not allowed to happen this weekend.

 

Eighth, and finally, Christians in this moment are to walk humbly with our God. Praise Him today for enabling our nation to be a more just place. Dobbs is His grace upon us. However, the conversations I have had today have only briefly been celebratory in nature, but have then quickly turned to fears over the responses of ProChoice people. Those fears are also an opportunity to walk humbly with God and cast our fears upon Him. ProLife Christians still have much work to do persuading neighbors toward our position as well as caring for scared ladies experiencing an unplanned pregnancy. We need to humbly walk with God in order to know how to persuade and care. We need God’s grace.

 

God is good. God is just. God is merciful and kind. Please be safe. Please do not allow your anger to think you are justified in bullying or harming others or committing acts of violence and vandalism. Please continue to pray. Please commit to work for the care of women who have an unplanned pregnancy. Please reach out if you want to have a civil conversation.

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Advice for Listening to Preaching (Part 4)

Preaching is explaining and applying the Bible. The Bible calls us to “preach the word” (2 Timothy 4:2). We need to read the Bible, but sitting at home alone reading it is not sufficient for a healthy spiritual life. Every Christian needs the preaching of God’s Word. Therefore, we need a renewed understanding of preaching as a spiritual discipline or a means of grace. Spiritual disciplines are biblical habits that promote spiritual growth. These biblical habits are how God pours out his grace in order to conform us to the image of Jesus (Romans 8:29). If preaching is a means of grace, how can everyday Christians be equipped through listening to the preaching of God’s Word?

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First, be prayerful to prepare your heart to hear God’s Word. Most Christians do not pop out of bed in the morning excited to hear a sermon. Therefore, we need the Spirit’s help. We need to pray to God to give us a heart to hear what we need to hear from the upcoming sermon.

Second, learn how you learn. Some people are classified as audible learners while others are visual learners. Some are active learners while others are reflective learners. While some learn through sequential steps others are called global learners. Learning how you are wired can help you develop proactive strategies to better hear God’s Word.

Third, take notes. The sermon is primarily an audible experience. However, even if you are a visual learner take notes on what you are hearing. Pastors should develop sermon notes and ways for the congregation to fill in blanks. Related, preachers should make the main points clear. However, preachers should not make the note taking too obvious. Sequential learners need to see the flow of thought, but global learners need to figure some things out for themselves. Even if your pastor does not provide sermon notes, everyone learns best with a pen in their hand writing down key concepts as well as notable truths.

Fourth, listening to a sermon and taking notes will require someone to develop their concentration abilities. The success of apps like Tic Tock and the success of TED Talks highlight our generation’s short attention spans. Pray for God to help you concentrate. Make it a game to see how long you can focus. Remember, concentration can be developed.

Fifth, in your mind or on your sermon notes, ask the “so, what?” questions. Educators understand that one of the best ways to motivate students to learn is to quickly show the relevance and usefulness of their lesson. God is communicating through every verse in the Bible, therefore our role is to determine the relevance of the passage. When we are listening to a sermon we need to ask questions like: what do I need to believe, what do I need to turn from, how does this passage convict me, how does this verse encourage me, what does this say about my heart, what does this Scripture teach me about Jesus and his gospel grace? Keep your mind active by discovering how your pastor’s sermon can transform your thinking, emotions, and behaviors.

During the pandemic we have all been reminded of the charge from Hebrews 10:25 to not neglect the habit of meeting together. For a season we had to neglect this habit. However, one of the main reasons we meet together is to hear the preaching of God’s Word. The sermon is meant to be a communal experience. Everyday Christians are designed to come together and collectively hear the Word preached. Together we are to learn and be admonished and encouraged. Together we are to believe and repent. Together we are to remember the good news of the gospel. Brothers and sister, do not neglect the hearing of God’s Word preached. We all need it. It is a gift, a means of God’s grace. I pray your pastor sees you this Sunday with your Bible open and your pen in hand!

 

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Preaching as a Means of Grace (Part 3)

Preaching is explaining and applying the Bible. From Genesis to Revelation we see that communication of God’s Word leads to life. In fact, the biblical model of someone experiencing new life and being born again is through the avenue of the preaching of God’s Word. Therefore, the Bible itself calls us to “preach the word” (2 Timothy 4:2). We need to read the Bible, but sitting at home alone reading it is not sufficient for a healthy spiritual life. Every Christian needs the preaching of God’s Word. Therefore, we need a renewed understanding of preaching as a means of grace.

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Spiritual disciplines are biblical habits that promote spiritual growth. 1 Timothy 4:7 calls us to train ourselves in order to become godlier. However, we have to be careful and not make the mistake of the Pharisees in believing the discipline is the godliness. Christians, unlike the Pharisees, understand spiritual practices are a means to an end. Further, another mistake of the Pharisees was living out their spirituality in their own strength. Moralism, being good or righteous through human strength, is contrary to the gospel. For example, in Philippians 2:12 God calls us to obey and to work out our salvation with “fear and trembling.” However, he goes onto say in Philippians 2:13 that “it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” As a result, not only is godliness the goal of our spiritual habits, but we cannot ultimately do them out of our own strength. Therefore, it is helpful to think of spiritual disciplines as means of grace. These biblical habits are how God pours out his grace in order to conform us to the image of Jesus (Romans 8:29).

Biblically, we see a series of ways God’s grace conforms people into the image of Jesus. Bible reading is key to spiritual growth. Prayer is a vital means of grace. Ministry and service are also hallmarks of a healthy spiritual life that leads to godliness. However, listening to preaching is also essential. Ephesians 4:11 says that God has given the church individuals gifted as apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds, and teachers. Each of those god-gifted roles requires preaching. Paul goes onto explain the reason God has given us those ministers. He says they are given “to equip the saints for the work of ministry” (Ephesians 4:12). Their preaching is a means of grace to help everyday Christians mature to the point of doing ministry. Like prayer or Bible reading or good works, preaching is a means of grace given to each and every Christian.

As you approach Sunday morning, I challenge you to view the hearing of a sermon by your pastor as a means of grace. God has given you that church and that pastor and that sermon and that moment to mold you into the image of Jesus and prepare you for life and ministry.

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Preaching Defined (Part 2)

If the Bible comes from inside God and is thus truthful and useful to equip us for good works, then what should we do with it? 2 Timothy 4:2 says we are to “preach the word.” We are to proclaim or herald the good news of the Bible. It is truth and it teaches us how to live faithfully. We should urgently tell the world what it teaches. People need to know, therefore the church has a mission to “preaching the word.” But, what does preaching really mean?

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Definitions of preaching abound. Sadly, due to so much unfaithful preaching, definitions have to be narrowed to Christian preaching as well as expository preaching. A technical definition for expository preaching is needed as well as a simpler more straight-forward one. First, expository preaching consists of a Christian preacher uncovering an author’s intended meaning of a section of the Bible by means of the historical, grammatical, literal (consistent with the genre of the passage) exegesis as well as enlightenment by the Holy Spirit; then structuring a sermon not only built around the central idea of the text but also the structure and thought of the text; then placing the passage within the metanarrative of redemptive history; then interpreting a universal principle which he first applies to himself; and concluding by applying the Scripture through the power of the Holy Spirit to his audience. Like most technical definitions, that was a mouthful! However, notice the definition includes five key components: exegesis, central idea and structure, metanarrative, universal principle, and application. Second, expository preaching is simply defined as a sermon that explains and applies the passage preached. But, why is it so important for a pastor to explain and apply the Bible?

Churches and pastors should commit to preach the Bible because of the example given to us throughout the Scriptures. Beginning in Genesis 1, we learn that God ultimately creates by speaking creation into existence. His Word (or communication) is what brings life. Another interesting example is the account of the Valley of Dry Bones in Ezekiel 37. God brings his prophet to a valley filled with bones. The bones are so dead they are described as dry. Again, God’s chosen method of bringing life is the communication of his Word. The prophet is told to preach of the dry bones. As a result of his proclamation the bones come to life. In the book of Ezra we read of God’s people rebuilding the temple. We see scenes of God’s people gathering in order to hear the prophet explain and apply God’s Word. As a result, we see a familiar Old Testament phrase that the people are doing things “as it is written” (Ezra 3:2). Faithfulness to the preaching and explanation of God’s Word led to the application of rebuilding the temple.

We also see helpful examples in the New Testament where God’s Word is explained and applied. Between the testaments the synagogue system was established. Throughout the land of Israel buildings were built with the primary purpose of reading the Scriptures then explaining and applying them. Jesus provided us an example in Luke 24 where he appeared on the Road to Emmaus. He walked and talked with two who followed him but strangely do not recognize him. Jesus proceeded to explain the meaning of all the Bible to them. Then, upon hearing his explanations God enabled them to see Jesus. A great example of faithful preaching was Peter’s sermon in Acts 2. He explained and applied texts like Joel 2 and Psalm 16 in order to call the crowd to repent and believe. Thousands were born again at the preaching of God’s Word. Finally, we are given an interesting account in Acts 8 that helps us further understand the importance of preaching. The Spirit led Philip to an Ethiopian Eunuch reading the book of Isaiah. The problem was the man needed to do more than just read it because he did not understand it. In Acts 8:30, Philip asks, “Do you understand what you are reading?”Understanding was what he lacked therefore he needed more than just reading. The Ethiopian Eunuch needed preaching. Philip proceeded to explain and apply the Bible to him resulting in the man’s salvation.

Again, preaching is explaining and applying the Bible. Communication of God’s Word leads to life. In fact, the biblical model of someone experiencing new life and being born again is through the avenue of the preaching of God’s Word. We need to read the Bible, but sitting at home alone reading it is not sufficient for a healthy spiritual life. Every Christian needs the preaching of God’s Word. Therefore, we need a renewed understanding of preaching as a means of grace.

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Preaching for Everyday Christians (Part 1)

It is common to wonder about the role of sermons in the lives of everyday Christians. Why do pastors spend so much time preparing a weekly sermon? Wouldn’t it be better if he spent more time in meetings with teams of leaders, counseling the hurting, building relationships with visitors, or discipling young believers? Of course, those are all key aspects of pastoral ministry. However, every Christian should recognize the role of preaching in their lives. Further, they should devote themselves to listening to biblical preaching. Even though we live in an age with multimillion-dollar action movies and TED talks, the weekly sermon in an local church is key to the spiritual growth of everyday Christians. Ordinary believers need to understand the Sunday sermon is grounded in a deep theology of the Word of God. Further, listening to sermons is essential for our spiritual growth. The church also needs a revival in our understanding of preaching as an avenue of grace. Spiritual maturity is linked to our ability to soak up a faithful sermon. Finally, the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the role of the sermon in our corporate worship as a needed reminder of the gospel.

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2 Timothy 3:16 teaches, “All Scripture is breathed out by God.” This phrase means God’s Word comes from inside of him. This truth is the ground for the biblical doctrine of inerrancy. The New Hampshire Confession of Faith (1833) is the origin of the Baptist Faith and Message 1925, 1963, and 2000. All four documents explain the Bible is truth “without any mixture of error.” The reason his Word cannot be mixed with any untruth is that only truth is found inside God. The Bible, therefore, is truth.

2 Timothy 3:16 builds on this idea to explain that because Scripture is from inside God and thus truthful it is “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” As truth “without any mixture of error” the Bible is useful. Specifically, the Bible is beneficial for teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness. God provides his Word for us to learn doctrine. We need to know it theoretically in order to apply it practically. Speculation leads to application. His Word is how God chooses to reprove or convict. We perceive our sin as sin through Scripture convicting us. Therefore, the Bible corrects or makes straight what was crooked. It shows us the way we should go. As a result, it trains, educates, and disciplines us to live according to God’s way. The pathway to righteousness is through the Bible. The end result is that the Bible equips us “for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:17).

If the Bible comes from inside God and is thus truthful and useful to equip us for good works, then what should we do with it? 2 Timothy 4:2 says we are to “preach the word.” We are to proclaim or herald the good news of the Bible. It is truth and it teaches us how to live faithfully. We should urgently tell the world what it teaches. People need to know, therefore the church has a mission to “preach the word.”

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Bible, Devotional Reading, Gospel Spirituality

What is faithfulness selling?

Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life.“ (Hebrews 11:35)

We tend to seek our happiness in this life versus the next. Some have quibed that one can be too heavenly minded to be any earthly good. As a result, our focus can be on our paneled houses (Haggai 1:4) rather than our heavenly home. As a middle-class American living in the suburbs I feel the temptation to seek happiness in material things. I feel the tug to pour my energy into earthly plans. However, I have also seen how those temptations can pull my focus and energy away from faithfully following the Lord and spreading his gospel message.

Hebrews 11 is the great Hall of Faith passage. These examples are held up as virtuous ideals for us to follow. Hebrews 11 provides a vision for the faithful life. Hebrews 11, therefore, is important because faithfulness is the great biblical virtue that leads to salvation.

But, an interesting thing happens in the middle of Hebrews 11:35. The first sentence reads, “Women received back their dead by resurrection.” This is likely a reference 1 Kings 17:22-23 and 2 Kings 4:36. I find it very appealing when I read that a result of faithfulness is resurrection from the dead. My hope is in heaven and seeing those beloved friends and family again. Further, I wish that faith worked like a magic formula and could have kept those beloved from not dying. If faithfulness is selling resurrection from the dead, I’m buying!

However, the interesting twist is the second sentence of Hebrews 11:35. It reads, “Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life.” This is likely a reference to the suffering of God’s People during the Maccabean revolt. Most middle-class American suburbanites will likely pause their purchase if faithfulness is selling torture and imprisonment. However, faithfulness leading to torture and imprisonment is a “better life” here and leads to a “better life” in the hereafter. Hebrews 11:36 is teaching us about a “better life” than self absorbed materialism in this world.

This verse reminds us of those faithful Huguenot women who chose decades in the Tower of Constance rather than recanting their gospel faith for a works based righteousness. They grew old in that tower. They were cold and hungry in that tower. They lost their children in that Tower. However, they found something in that Tower that is better than anything this world can offer. Because their faithfulness was not based upon gaining this world, they gained a “better life” in the world to come.

Faithfulness is about being so heavenly minded that you end up becoming earthly good. Pursue faithfulness to the Word, hope in heaven, and you will “rise again to a better life.”

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