Four Types of Sermons the Pastor Must Avoid — I’m always reading posts about preaching and ministry and this one hits close to home. I’m only guilty of one of the four. I wonder if Jody can go and read the four and figure out which one. I’m actually guilty of two of the four, but only one of them recently.
There seems to be a host of posts that have come across my line of vision in the last couple of days dealing with preaching and doctrine. I can honestly say that both topics are dear to my heart, that is sound preaching and excellent doctrine. I strive for both, so much so, that while discussing doctrine, I will often go to preaching. I humbly tell the listener when I do that this is an “occupational hazard.” The point is that as a pastor, and any elder for that matter, both sound doctrine and good preaching should always be our goals.
Don’t Settle for Mediocre Preaching — Paul Tripp counsels preachers that the real problem with preaching in America is… the preachers. Tripp writes:
Preaching is more than regurgitating your favorite exegetical commentary, recasting the sermons of your favorite preachers, or reshaping notes from one of your favorite seminary classes. It is bringing the transforming truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ from a passage that has been properly understood, cogently and practically applied, and delivered with the engaging tenderness and passion of a person who has been broken and restored by the very truths he now stands to communicate. You simply cannot do this without proper preparation, meditation, confession, and worship.
Amen and amen. If we haven’t lived the sermon, chances are, we probably won’t preach it very well. I’m not talking about personal testimonies every time we step into the pulpit. What I’m talking about is the fact that the Spirit has worked in our lives in the way that the text calls for. Pastors should expect the Spirit to work on us as we are preparing the sermon throughout the week. My wife can tell you plenty of stories about this as it has happened to me. I usually have to live the sermon before preaching it.
One more thought from Tripp’s piece:
There simply is no way that you can begin to think about a passage for the first time on Saturday afternoon or evening and give it the kind of attention that it needs. You will not be able to understand the passage, be personally affected, and be prepared to give it to others in a way that ontributes to their ongoing transformation. As pastors, we have to fight for the sanctity of preaching, or no one else will. We have to demand that our job descriptions allow for the time necessary to prepare well. We have to carve out time in our schedules to do whatever necessary for each of us, given our gifts and maturity, to be ready as spokesmen for our Savior King. We cannot become comfortable with patterns that denigrate preaching and degrade our ability to represent a glorious God of glorious grace. We cannot allow ourselves to be too busy and too distracted. We cannot set low standards for ourselves and those we serve. We cannot be self-excusing and self-accommodating. We cannot allow ourselves to try to squeeze a thousand dollars worth of preparation into dime moments. We must not lose sight of the excellent One and the excellent grace we have been called to represent. We cannot, because we are unprepared, let his splendor appear boring and his amazing grace appear ordinary.
Tender Mercies has an excellent post on Why Doctrine Matters, quoting from R. Scott Clark. I told him that I wished I had seen the post last week, since I was preaching upon Christ’s doctrine. I would have used the following quote from Mr. Clark dealing with the fact that doctrine is unavoidable. This is similar to what I tend to say about us being theologians. We are all theologians, the question is whether or not we are good, biblical theologians or idolatrous theologians. Here is Mr. Clark’s quote:
Non-doctrinal Christianity is impossible. The teaching of non-doctrinal Christianity is doctrine. It is bad doctrine, but it is doctrine nonetheless. Some argue that “doctrine divides,” and, therefore, that we should avoid it. True, doctrine sometimes divides, but that is what the Lord intended. In Luke 12:51–53, our Lord expressly taught that He came not to bring “peace on earth” but rather to bring “division,” even among family members. We cannot hereby justify schismatic behavior in the church, which Scripture condemns repeatedly, but we cannot accept the notion that division is inherently evil.
The real question is not whether Christians will have doctrine but which doctrine or whose doctrine? Our Lord and Savior Himself advocated a host of doctrines. The Gospels are replete with His doctrinal teaching. He taught about the nature of God (John 4:24), humanity (Matt. 10:28), creation (Mark 10:6), sin (John 8:34), redemption (John 3), the church (Matt. 16), and the end of all things (Matt. 24). He taught doctrines about the history of salvation and how it should be understood (Luke 24). Anyone who advocates non-doctrinal Christianity must do so without Jesus.
But obviously, the LORD didn’t want me using that quote in my sermon. However… it’s great for a blog post.
Heath posted on Why Pastor’s Need to be Readers and quoted from several different sources. This one from Spurgeon:
We will LOOK AT [the Apostle Paul's] BOOKS. We do not know what the books were about, and we can only form some guess as to what the parchments were. Paul had a few books which were left, perhaps wrapped up in the cloak, and Timothy was to be careful to bring them. Even an apostle must read…A man who comes up into the pulpit, professes to take his text on the spot, and talks any quantity of nonsense, is the idol of many. If he will speak without premeditation, or pretend to do so, and never produce what they call a dish of dead men’s brains—oh! that is the preacher. How rebuked are they by the apostle! He is inspired, and yet he wants books! He has been preaching at least for thirty years, and yet he wants books! He had seen the Lord, and yet he wants books! He had had a wider experience than most men, and yet he wants books! He had been caught up into the third heaven, and had heard things which it was unlawful for a men to utter, yet he wants books! He had written the major part of the New Testament, and yet he wants books! The apostle says to Timothy and so he says to every preacher, “Give thyself unto reading.” The man who never reads will never be read; he who never quotes will never be quoted. He who will not use the thoughts of other men’s brains, proves that he has no brains of his own. Brethren, what is true of ministers is true of all our people. You need to read. Renounce as much as you will all light literature, but study as much as possible sound theological works, especially the Puritanic writers, and expositions of the Bible. We are quite persuaded that the very best way for you to be spending your leisure, is to be either reading or praying…
What struck me is that this quote reminded me of Heath’s earlier post about a man who came back from the dead, saying that he could tell us what Jesus looked like and sounded like. Quite a stretch of a story, but it struck me from Spurgeon, that if the Apostle Paul wasn’t at liberty to speak about the third heaven in which he was privy to, why did the man who came back from the dead think he had the right to tell us what Jesus was like? Why does anyone listen to such claims when the Apostle Paul himself was forbidden from speaking such truths? Listen to Paul’s words: 1 Corinthians 12:3-4 3 And I know such a man—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows— 4 how he was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter. Yet some bozo comes along who has had a vision thinks he is the one to share Jesus with the lost. Not the Jesus of the Bible, mind you. As Heath noted, the man wanted nothing to do with the Bible. He wanted to share the Jesus of his own personal vision. If the vision were true, it is still not lawful for him to share it.
Finally, Tim Bayly has an excellent piece called The Redemptive-Historical Preaching Fad… Redemptive-historical preaching is the model that turns every story in the Old Testament into the story of Christ. I think there is a bit of legitimacy with the model, but recognize what Bayly is attempting to get us to see. When we do this, we lose the heroes of the faith in our quickness to jump over their courage, faith and obedience in order to get to Christ Himself. Bayly writes:
The failure of men who take pride in being Christ and Gospel-centered isn’t that they’re wrong in affirming how types and examples point to Christ. Reading, teaching, and preaching Christ in all of Scripture is foundational. Obvious.
Their failure is that they deny the morals and virtues of the types and examples–the flesh and blood of history, if you will. It’s as if no one is capable of loving David as a man and desiring to be like him while also loving the God Who made him as he was and worked through him to accomplish his sovereign decrees, including the very public execution of blaspheming Goliath, the very public vindication of His Name resting on Israel, the eventual replacement of King Saul with this man whose Davidic Line would end with our Messiah, and so on.
To speak of courage and faith together does not tie even, or especially, very young boys’ brains in knots. They get it. God has made man capable of amazing intellectual feats and those feats are often seen at their most brilliant in little people who haven’t yet had blinkered professors tell them they can’t think that way. Those possessing wisdom rather than degrees are fully capable of thinking both ways at the same time, and for intellectuals to tell them that they must choose one way and delete the other from their mind, also deleting all those obvious paths criss-crossing between both ways, is for professors of hermeneutics and exegesis to chain Scripture to the same pulpits the Roman Catholics had chained it to back at the time of the Reformation.
Bayly then quotes Rob Rayburn:
[I]n my opinion, the men of this (redemptive-historical) school of thought and preaching in the 20th century have not been strong on practicalities of living the Christian life, such wisdom as the Puritans were master teachers of. The redemptive-historical men so fear moralism they seem afraid to draw out of the text the perfectly obvious lessons that may be found in it on obedience and disobedience, sin and temptation, faith and doubt, the life of prayer, and so on.
For, the fact is, the biblical history is a “thick” history. That is the term the literary scholars have invented and I like it. It has layers. It can say many things at the same time and teach many lessons. If the first lesson here is about Israel’s deliverance through a deliverer that God supplies her, the second lesson is surely that the way of that deliverance is the way of faith. David is an exemplar of the believing man just as he is the exemplar of Jesus Christ himself.
There is so much on that one post, that I may draw from it again, since it has given me a lot to think about concerning my approach to preaching. I do focus on our responsibility as believers, which I think is part of the problem of much of preaching. My point is that if we have been saved, and born again, to what end? To live as the rest of the world, tattoos and all? No, not at all. Christ redeemed us from that lifestyle and we are to live as He lives, with the reality of His Spirit dwelling in us, turning from sin, not embracing it as so many in our culture and the church tend to do. If the Bible declares something to be sinful, then we should turn away from that which is sinful and live as the holy people we are. Not so that we earn righteousness, but because we have been given righteousness. We need to live as those we are called to be, not as the world or what we were before the grace of salvation came to us.
“I Was Born in a Doomsday Cult” — Andie Redwine has written an excellent account of how she was raised in the Worldwide Church of God, which is a doomsday cult. She recounts of how she had to seek counseling in order to remove herself from the effects of spiritual abuse that came about from being in the cult. She has also help put together a movie called Paradise Recovered, which is about those who are in spiritual abuse. This movie has been very helpful to those who have seen it, since there seems to be so many who are in spiritual abuse by their church leaders. Here is a bit of what she wrote after her eyes were opened by the Spirit and she began reading the Bible:
I kept reading the Bible, but with different eyes and with a different voice in my head.I started really liking the stories that Jesus told. We didn’t spend so much time on these in the Worldwide Church of God. When I read them, Jesus emerged for me as a character with a quick wit, who was cunning but not deceitful, and who was overwhelmingly compassionate.In short, I found him miles more compelling that Herbert Armstrong.
Shai Linne Expository Preaching. “We need more expositors, not more comedians!” — I’m not much into rap, but this song is dead on for what the church needs today. It is about the need for more expository preachers, those who preach what the word of God says, not their opinions. You may not like rap, but please listen to the message. Make sure your church has a pastor that actually preaches the word of God, and not his own opinions.
What the World Truly Needs — From the department of the obvious, comes the following which I was unable to post this past Sunday:
In view of that, you can go here to listen to Sunday’s sermon, which I preached here at Redeemer Christian Fellowship of Roswell, NM. This was the first Sunday that we moved back into the sanctuary since my arrival. It was a truly wonderful service.
I was listening to a sermon by Voddie Baucham of Grace Family Church down in Houston and he pointed out four areas that people make when it comes to the gospel. They were so good I had to incorporate them into my sermon this past Sunday. Here they are:
- People think the gospel is the plan of salvation – People think the gospel is a plan or steps we take to become saved, such as the four-spiritual laws. But that is not the gospel and by saying that it is it leads to two errors. The first is that it truncates the gospel leading to the belief that the gospel gets us saved… and then we need to do the rest. No, the gospel saves us, sanctifies us and glorifies us. The second error is that it leads to the belief that the gospel is something that we do. The gospel isn’t something we do, it is what Jesus has done.
- Secondly, people think the gospel is the Greatest Commandment – these people boil the gospel down to love God/ love people. On the surface, this sounds great but what they fail to realize is that the Greatest Commandment is an an encapsulation of the Law. In Matthew 22:34-39, Jesus is saying that the first commandment is a summary of commands 1-4, and the second commandment is a summary of commands 5-10. The Law does not lead to salvation, faith in Christ does. By saying the gospel is the Law, we are binding people’s consciences to do what they are incapable of doing. This is why knowing the Gospel of Christ is so important. It’s not more Law, it grace. Romans 3:28 Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law. The gospel empowers us to do these things, but we are not saved by doing them: Romans 3:20 Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight.
- People think the gospel is the Great Commission – This groups believes the gospel is actually doing the Great Commission and teaching people to do whatsoever I’ve commanded you. Again, sounds good, but this is just another form of the Law. The gospel is not teaching people to do everything that Jesus told us to do. The gospel is not moral teachings or proclamations, but the proclamation of the good news that He was the One who did do these things.
- People think the gospel is our personal testimony — Just look at how many evangelism programs teach people to share their testimonies. What they fail to realize is that we are no in the process of becoming the gospel ourselves. In other words, we are replacing His story, with our story. We are not the gospel, Jesus is. This is just a variation of St. Francis of Assisi’s statement: “Preach the gospel at all times, use words when necessary.” It sounds good, but again, we are not the gospel, Jesus is. Read my post on St. Francis state here.
What is the gospel?
The gospel is an announcement of the person and work of Jesus Christ. It is the fact that He died on the cross and was raised again on the third day. It is that He was sinless and took on our sin and satisfied the wrath of God on our behalf. The gospel is not the Law, but the fact that Jesus satisfied the Law, earning righteousness in a way that we cannot earn righteousness. When we believe in Jesus for our salvation, all the benefits of His ministry are given to us. We no longer rest in our failed works of the Law, but rest in His perfect satisfaction of the LAW. God no longer looks at us as sees us as children of wrath, but He sees the righteousness of His Son, and sees us as His children. This is the gospel.
You can hear the full sermon that contained this intro here.
Just a reminder to my faithful readers, that I post sermons at Sermon Audio every week when I can. I just posted the latest on the law and the gospel from John 1:14-18. Moses brought the Law, Jesus is the grace and the truth. You cannot have one without the other. The Law shows us our sinfulness, Jesus shows us grace and kindness. In Him, the condemnation that we are under because of the Law, is removed through His atoning work on the cross.
Click here for the link to FCC Roswell.
Part of my sermon for Sunday.
One of the most gripping events in the Old Testament comes when Nadab and Abihu, Aaron’s sons, decide to offer profane fire before the Lord. I think it is shocking to our culture and sensibilities because so many believe that whatever we do for the LORD, if we do it with sincerity then there can be nothing wrong.
In other words, we can do whatever we want when it comes to worshipping God as long as we do so sincerely. After all, that is what Nadab and Abihu were doing… offering fire to God with sincere hearts.
Then Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it, put incense on it, and offered profane fire before the LORD, which He had not commanded them. 2 So fire went out from the LORD and devoured them, and they died before the LORD (Leviticus 10:1-2).
I can imagine that the first time someone reads this text, their thoughts quickly jump to the unfairness of God. The reader is tempted to think that God is being too harsh on these two men. We are witnessing God’s justice being quickly executed and if God is so quick to execute these two priests, then He might just as easily exact justice upon us. The first-time readers of the Bible rarely understand why the judgment is issued so quickly. It is done so because these men are priests. They are being held to a higher standing because of there position before God.
Yet, God would not be unjust for doing the same to the layman who offered profane fire before the LORD. He has every right to do, but usually does not, instead grace and mercy.
The point behind this is that we do not have permission to worship God in any form we choose. God gives us boundaries by which we must approach Him because He is holy and will not be profaned. Listen to what He said in response to devouring Nadab and Abihu:
‘by those who come near Me I must be regarded as holy; and before all the people I must be glorified.
Abihu and Nadad were certainly not regarding God as holy. Because God could not tolerate their profane actions, He punished them right then and there for the sake of the people. We do not need leaders who will enter into God’s presence with flippant and cavalier attitudes. The leadership must understand the seriousness of worship. God has given us standards by which we may and may not worship Him
What are those righteous standards? The righteous standards we are given come from the Ten Commandments.
Part of my sermon this past week was on serving the Lord. Many often ask “how is it that we can serve the Lord?” A lot of serving the Lord is done with the mindset of doing those things that we are called to do as though we are doing them for the King of kings Himself. In other words, we are called by Him in our every day lives to serve Him with our every day lives. Christians often times get caught up on the idea that you can only serve the Lord if you are in a vocation directly related to the church. This isn’t true. We are actually called to serve Him where we are, whether we are husbands, father’s, mother’s, wives, friends, or in the world as a banker, carpenter, plumber, etc. It is not as though we have to have the church lay hands on us in order to serve the Lord.
The other aspect that I like to focus on in this line of thinking is the fact that all we do is noble in sight of the Lord, when we do those tasks in view of the Lord. If the King of kings was willing to wash feet, then no task is beneath the nobility of the calling placed upon us. In view of that, here is my list of jobs that I find noble because no one wants to do them, yet God calls us to do these tasks.
- Garbage collectors — these men and women do want no one aspires to do. Think of the smell each of us would endure without the work they do. They actually have to live with that smell. Therefore this position is noble because they are willing to help out their fellow man in dealing with garbage. I hope that they realize the nobility in this position.
- Nurses in nursing homes — especially poorly funded nursing homes. There have been times I have wanted to take these nurses aside and share with them the nobility of their work. They are working with those that are cast aside by society and cannot help themselves. It’s a tough and hard job that goes unnoticed by society unless something really wrong happens. The nurse who does this job needs to realize that there is One who notices her work. It is a noble task.
- Chicken pickers — those who slaughter and clean the chickens we eat. Just the smell alone would drive most of us to a vegetarian lifestyle. Yet there are people who do it so we can eat. Thank God for their willingness to do so.
- Stay-at-home moms — we tend to forget the importance of our wives staying at home with their children. While liberalism and feminism put this task down, it is the most noble calling a woman can have. She is not just raising children, but raising the next generation of citizens. We need to encourage mothers who do their work well, and correct those who do not do their work well.
- Anyone who works at McDonald’s — come on, you’ve seen how miserable these people are! Someone needs to encourage them.
Telemarketers — OK, probably not. They serve no useful purpose to humanity. Plumbers — especially the guys that have to deal with septic tanks and port a potties! (The telemarketer comment was just meant to be funny. See comments below).
- The sweat jockey — the guy who wipes up sweat off the basketball court during NBA games.
- Janitors — let’s face it, these guys get very little glory for keeping our malls, banks, movie theaters, etc., clean of the filth we leave behind. We need more good janitors.
- Dental Hygienist — same gross job as a dentist, but without the respect and title of a dentist.
- Proctologist and GI doctors — crappie no matter how you look at it.
If you would like to hear the sermon that inspired this post, go here. I also preached one on Sunday night on the Marks of the Healthy Church: Preaching. This second sermon is done in the tradition of Alistair Begg’s sermon series on the topic, as well as Mark Dever’s book on the topic. In other words, those two helped inspire me to preach the series.
I’m currently preaching through 1 Corinthians 15:1ff, where Paul recounts the number of witnesses who saw the risen Savior. They did not see visions of Christ, or manifestations of Him, but the physically raised Son of Man in bodily form. I stress this because there are those who like to say that the resurrection was spiritual in nature only. It was not. The resurrection of Christ, and our future resurrection is both spiritual and physical. Our bodies will be raised up and united to our souls (if we have already departed). This is why the writers stress that He was physical in nature, after all, He made them breakfast and ate it with them as well.
Sunday’s sermon was on Peter’s encounter with Christ by the Sea of Galilee. It was a real encounter, not something that was merely a vision. You can listen to the full sermon by going here. Other sermons are here. Just a side note, my voice was shot this weekend, so it does take just a tad getting use to listening to it. But I’m told it is worth it. May you be blessed by the preaching of God’s word.
The problem the Pharisees had with Jesus was that He wasn’t the Messiah they were waiting for. They were waiting for an earthly king, with an earthly reign, an earthly purpose and an earthly way of doing things. It really upset them when the Messiah arrived on the scene and wasn’t the least bit interested in bringing them a kingdom to their liking. Their solution? Hang Him on the cross.
I get the same impression today when those of us who are amillennial in our beliefs, meaning that we do NOT believe in a literal, earthly reign of Christ, are confronted by the premillennial dispensational. In other words, it is upsetting to those in the Premill-Dispy camp when we don’t take a literal view of the kingdom of Christ, like the Pharisees did. We see Christ’s Kingdom as not of this world, coming not with observation, and concentrating on righteousness, peace and joy. We see the Kingdom of God as something that can only be entered into by a new birth, not swearing loyalty to earthly potentate.
If you would like to know more, listen to the sermon I preached this past Sunday by going here. It is based upon Luke 17:20-21.
I love this sermon by Jeff Noblit. He is the pastor of First Baptist Church of Muscle Shoals, AL. He preaches on what needs to be the priority of the church for it to be a healthy church. He gives quite a bit of biblical realities for those who seek to be truly biblical.
Here is the link:
Here is the link to his ministry: http://www.anchoredintruth.org/