I know this will not go over well in our hyper-egalitarian society, but there is no greater privilege for a man other than to stand in the pulpit and declare God’s truth to God’s people. To do so faithfully is to imitate Christ to the utmost, for in doing so, the faithful preacher is allowing the people of Christ to hear from Him in a spiritual sense. The faithful preacher who declares the full counsel of God’s word is feeding the flock. He is building them up, encouraging them, and allowing God’s word to work in their lives toward sanctification.
Here is the introduction to my most recent sermon. Preached at King’s Parish (ARP) in Dallas, Tx, this past Sunday.
When my wife and I were having our morning Bible study recently, we came to this passage of scripture (Luke 6:27-36) before us and immediately felt the weight of conviction. Please don’t think that we would be alone in this. But for us, our experience is that we had to acknowledge that we do have enemies in our lives. This is a reality that few people will actually profess as Christians.
There are people in our lives who abuse us, who spitefully use us, who say things about us that would tarnish our characters and reputations. Yes, we have enemies.
One of my problems with the yearly celebration of the first advent of Christ is that there is so little support for celebrating such a day in Scripture. When we look at Mark’s gospel, he completely ignores the birth of Christ. The Apostles never speak of it other than the birth accounts given in Matthew, Luke, and John. But what they all do speak to is the purpose of Christ’s coming. In Mark, Jesus declares His purpose early on in His ministry:
Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand;[a] repent and believe in the gospel.” (Emphasis added).
Notice the first thing that Jesus does: He preaches. He proclaims the necessity of repentance and belief in the gospel. He doesn’t set out to change the world through social advocacy. He doesn’t set out to be nice. He doesn’t set out to comfort people in their sin. He confronts them with their need to repent of their sin and trust in the gospel.
Heidi and I have a lot of conversations about preaching because it is so near and dear to our hearts. We both have the desire to move into full-time ministry if the way be made clear by the LORD.
Where I struggle in the meantime is sitting under other pastors as they preach. Most preachers just make me want to enter back into the pulpit again. I think this is because I feel that preaching should be filled with Spirit-lead zeal and conviction. Every passage of Scripture is of the most importance and far too many preachers treat passages as if they are just something to talk about for a while.
I recently had the opportunity to hear a pastor who was relatively new to the ministry. I could tell that he was gifted because he actually preached with zeal for the truth. You would think that zeal for the truth would be considered a requirement for pastors today, but given the shape of the American church, and the number of pastors who sound more like counselors than those called to proclaim God’s truth, preaching the truth with zeal has fallen on hard times. When you are more likely to hear what the Bible actually says from an enemy of the gospel, rather than from a preacher of the gospel, then you know we are indeed in the last days.
I was reading with my bride this morning from Jeremiah 20 a description of Jeremiah’s unpopular ministry. The LORD had commanded him to declare “violence and plunder” to the people, since their doom was set even though they acted as though they were going to repent.
I couldn’t help but joke that the prophet Jeremiah was what so many people want in a pastor today, someone “winsome and nice.” Yet, when we are truly called by God, when we are truly filled with the Spirit to proclaim God’s word, “winsome and nice” is not really a priority. Being faithful to God’s calling is the priority. Sometimes the message of God’s word does not allow for winsome and nice, because the message itself must remind us that God will not be mocked.
Reading in Jeremiah 3 this morning, I came across this wonderful verse:
“Return, O backsliding children,” says the LORD; “for I am married to you. I will take you, one from a city and two from a family, and I will bring you to Zion. And I will give you shepherds according to My heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding.”
This passage is packed with spiritual truth. We see the need for repentance, the relationship of those who do so with the LORD, election of those who are called by Him, and even their destination to Zion. But what jumped out at me was the fact that He will call shepherds according to His heart and for the purpose of feeding His people with knowledge and understanding.
We all have recurring nightmares and dreams. It is usually some embarrassing situation about showing up to class wearing only underwear, or giving a presentation in a bathing suit. I still have the dream about being enrolled in a class at Texas A&M and forgetting to attend that class all semester long until finals, when I realize I have to go take a final for a class that I forgot I had.
There are some sermons that are so good, they must be listened to more than once. The one posted below by Ligon Duncan is one of those sermons. This message has helped my understanding of the bigger picture of what God is doing more than any in a while. Just listen and see how God was working in Elijah, even in Elijah’s failures. As Ligon points out, sometimes the answer to our desires and prayers is “no” because God is doing something bigger than our desires.
Give yourself some time to listen.
Hattip: Heath. And Heath, thanks for sharing this with me. I do appreciate that.
Apparently there is a new movie out entitled The Son of God that is about Jesus, His ministry and His death. And there have been attempts by the promoters of this movie to do with it, what was done with Mel Gibson’s The Passion of Christ. If you recall with the first movie, many in the church made a big deal to try and get as many people to go as possible, using the movie as an evangelistic tool. I was opposed to this type of evangelism then, and now. I see it as a lazy man’s attempt to get his wife-beating brother in-law to come to Christ. Of all those who supposedly came to know Christ because of Gibson’s presentation of Jesus, how many are truly believers today?
You will often hear me talk about the state of the American pulpit on my blog from time to time. I believe the pulpit is in a horrid state with men in it that do not belong, or they fail to recognize the responsibility that they have been given. Case in point: here is a video of a Lutheran pastor giving a 1-minute sermon so he could leave the church and get home in time for the NFC football game between the San Francisco 49ers and the Carolina Panthers.
Just wanted to let you know that as of September 22, 2013, the site that has all my old sermons will be going down. Until that time, this is your last chance to download and listen to sermons I preached at Redeemer Christian Fellowship, and even at Grace Presbyterian Church in Jackson, TN.
The reason I’m doing this is to save money. Since I’m not pursuing another call to the ministry, I don’t need the page any longer. After laboring for 12 years in four different small churches, I’m truly looking forward to and praying that God opens the door for me in the private sector. Please pray too, that the LORD opens the door soon. I need to work and earn a living.
But until then, you can go here for the sermons I have posted on line.
The story goes that a homeless man entered the back of a rather large, affluent church. He went up to person after person asking for change so he could get some food. The people at the church were in their best, Sunday-go-to-meeting clothes and wanted nothing to do with him. Finally, after no one welcomed him, helped him, or even spoke to him, the man sat down in one of the pews and just waited.
OK class, watch the video and see if we can identity the mistakes this pastor makes.
Anything wrong with this sermon?
You might check out the following sermon as an example of what the pastor is supposed to be doing. This sermons is by Voddie Baucham at Grace Family Baptist Church out of Houston. He is preaching on the table of nations out of Genesis 10 and shows that there is only ONE human race, not multiple races as we are lead to believe because of humanistic evolution. I was really surprised at the discovery that racism is at the heart of evolution, with whites being the supreme ending of evolution and blacks on a lower scale. Baucham shows the falseness of this thinking.
Here is the link.
I’m trying to be generous here, no pun intended, but when I saw that apostate Pastor Ed Young, down in the metroplex, preached a sermon this weekend entitled: “What Would Jesus Say to Ellen DeGeneres,” I realized once again the truth of 2 Timothy 4:3-4 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; 4 and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.
Do people really sit and listen to that garbage? Do people really think that is a sample of biblical preaching? Or did I miss the passage that said: “we preach Christ crucified, and every other fanciful desire of our hearts.”
There are days where I realize the greatest disappointments in life are the lives we have here in America. As I look out into our culture and the war that has been waged by those on the left of those things we prize and cherish on the right, it seems hopeless. With the school systems systematically indoctrinating our children to the evils of our very own country, and criticizing the values that made this country great, I don’t see us ever coming back from the cultural cliff we flew off some time ago. I know the big concern is the fiscal cliff before us. But the bigger problem is the cultural and moral cliff we have long since jumped.
Those on the left are making any stand for morality more and more difficult with each passing day. I witnessed this first hand after the gay-marriage debate hit full steam on Facebook and those who saw my stand for morality called me a bigot. It’s not as though my views are actually anything new. But the views of those of us who let the Bible dictate our beliefs are now unacceptable for those in polite company because we stand for that which is right, according to the only place we have for know what is right, the Word of God. It is not that there haven’t always been those who have opposed our views. Naysayers and atheists have always existed. What is so disconcerting is the reality that many who oppose us and our views say that they believe in God and the Bible. It is as if the words of God have become whatever we want to believe, except when it comes to judging between good and bad morality. Those verses in the Bible seem to be the marching orders of those on the left and in the middle. The other verses of the Bible which actually condemn homosexuality and sexual perversion, don’t fit the template.
In fact, I feel one of the reasons that so many have come to champion the cause of homosexuals is two fold: first, they fool themselves into thinking they are taking a moral high road like those who stood in the face of slavery and unjust laws towards blacks. In their minds, they equate the gay-rights movements as if it were the equal-rights movements of the 1960s. I noted on my blog those blacks who strongly disagree with this idea and you can read their own words at The Minority Republican.
The other reason so many are fighting for gay-rights is that they inherently know that homosexuality is a perversion. However, if they can justify the position of those who are gay, then certainly, they can justify their own immorality. This is why the topic of gay marriage always comes up on news shows that have evangelicals on them. The hosts love to bring it up because they know evangelicals stand opposed to homosexuality… well, at least they did.
So what do we do? How do we combat these views that are so contradictory to Scripture?
We could attempt to force our views on others like Islam and others do, but that would not bring about any real change of heart, which is what is necessary.
The only means given to us as Christians: prayer and perseverance in preaching the truth. As Christians, we must persevere in all things and that means standing for the truth. I constantly have to remind myself that my job isn’t to convert the lost or change their views on things. It is my job to proclaim the truth of God’s word. He is the One that must show grace toward the lost, the blind and the spiritually dead. What we need is a miracle like the one that took place on the Day of Pentecost. We need a miracle in which God’s word goes forth and the Spirit uses that word to bring the dead back to life.
This is the hope for our country. New laws, restrictions, instructions, and taxes are not going to change what needs to be changed. All those things will do is enlarge government and give them more power, thereby reducing our freedoms. That is all that government can ever do. The government has no real power to bring about real change in the human heart.
The promise of real hope only comes in the gospel. Yes, so many do not have ears to hear. I believe that is evident given the way the country voted in November. The country likes the promise of more of what the government gives without the responsibility of actually working for those things. But with this comes a loss of freedom. We tend to think that with the additional blessings of what the government is promising us, then we will be happier. But those things only lead to more slavery, since the real problem of slavery comes through the bondage that these things have on our lives. No, real hope is found in the blessing of Christ and Him alone. Only in Him will freedom be found and maintained.
I believe that God is sovereign over all things, including our nation. Given this, I don’t believe is giving us over to blessings. The current president is the one that God placed in the White House for a reason. But I don’t like that reason. I don’t see rosie roads ahead. Not that I can see the future. However knowing the policies that the one in the White House has, this country will not be blessed.
This doesn’t mean that God is turning from those who are in HIM. We have hope because He has promised to never leave us nor forsake us. He has promised to bless us, and true blessings are knowing that we are in Him and have eternal live in Him. The blessings He gives us do not necessarily translate into material blessings. Sadly, this is what saddens me the most. This is what disappoints me the most and shows just how much my heart loves this world. My love, our love needs to be for Him and Him alone. I imagine by the time my LORD calls me home, I trust that He will have worked in my heart enough for me to come to a point of pure hatred for this world we live in. Not hatred for hatred sake, but hatred compared to the love we are to have for Him. He really is the only goodness in the world. I know this. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. Perhaps another reason for the long haul of sanctification known in this life, while we wait for the life to come…
I never intended for this to be this long. But… I can’t seem to end it…
I have to admire Jackie Hill and what she said to her brothers and sisters at this church. It was truly a message every congregation needs to hear. She was addressing blacks and the tendency of some preachers to think they have been preaching because they can sound good. But the same message applies to the white church as well. If what the pastor is saying doesn’t align with what scripture says, then he should not be listened to and should be booted from the pulpit. Jackie is saying that those blacks who continue to listen to such preachers are nothing more than JIG-A -BOOs, but the same message applies to all of us. We are nothing but fakes if we are not looking at what Scripture says, believing in Christ for salvation and tasting true freedom.
Listen to Jackie:
I love this open letter to praise bands by James K.A. Smith (Hattip: Lance). He says what we all feel about the praise band in a way that truly resonates with those of us who are seeking to worship in spirit and truth. I know, the praise band leaders say they are seeking to worship Christ in spirit and truth too, but for some reason, their spirit and truth seems more focused on their emotional experience before a crowd, than actually humbly worshipping our Savior for who He is and what He has done.
Mr. Smith points out part of the problem is that we, the church, have encouraged the leaders of praise bands to bring their worship into the church itself. He writes:
I sometimes worry that we’ve unwittingly encouraged you to import certain forms of performance that are, in effect, “secular liturgies” and not just neutral “methods.” Without us realizing it, the dominant practices of performance train us to relate to music (and musicians) in a certain way: as something for our pleasure, as entertainment, as a largely passive experience. The function and goal of music in these “secular liturgies” is quite different from the function and goal of music in Christian worship.
In other words, we know you have talent, and want you to use that talent, but it’s not truly fitting for true worship of God’s people. He gives three reasons for this:
1. If we, the congregation, can’t hear ourselves, it’s not worship. Christian worship is not a concert. In a concert (a particular “form of performance”), we often expect to be overwhelmed by sound, particularly in certain styles of music. In a concert, we come to expect that weird sort of sensory deprivation that happens from sensory overload, when the pounding of the bass on our chest and the wash of music over the crowd leaves us with the rush of a certain aural vertigo. And there’s nothing wrong with concerts! It’s just that Christian worship is not a concert. Christian worship is a collective, communal, congregational practice–and the gathered sound and harmony of a congregation singing as one is integral to the practice of worship. It is a way of “performing” the reality that, in Christ, we are one body. But that requires that we actually be able to hear ourselves, and hear our sisters and brothers singing alongside us. When the amped sound of the praise band overwhelms congregational voices, we can’t hear ourselves sing–so we lose that communal aspect of the congregation and are encouraged to effectively become “private,” passive worshipers.2. If we, the congregation, can’t sing along, it’s not worship. In other forms of musical performance, musicians and bands will want to improvise and “be creative,” offering new renditions and exhibiting their virtuosity with all sorts of different trills and pauses and improvisations on the received tune. Again, that can be a delightful aspect of a concert, but in Christian worship it just means that we, the congregation, can’t sing along. And so your virtuosity gives rise to our passivity; your creativity simply encourages our silence. And while you may be worshiping with your creativity, the same creativity actually shuts down congregational song.3. If you, the praise band, are the center of attention, it’s not worship. I know it’s generally not your fault that we’ve put you at the front of the church. And I know you want to modelworship for us to imitate. But because we’ve encouraged you to basically import forms of performance from the concert venue into the sanctuary, we might not realize that we’ve also unwittingly encouraged a sense that you are the center of attention. And when your performance becomes a display of your virtuosity–even with the best of intentions–it’s difficult to counter the temptation to make the praise band the focus of our attention. When the praise band goes into long riffs that you might intend as “offerings to God,” we the congregation become utterly passive, and because we’ve adopted habits of relating to music from the Grammys and the concert venue, we unwittingly make you the center of attention. I wonder if there might be some intentional reflection on placement (to the side? leading from behind?) and performance that might help us counter these habits we bring with us to worship.
I really like reason number 3. He says what needs to be said. So many who lead praise teams seem to think that the worship is about them and their performance. I know that praise leaders will say that it isn’t. If that is the case, why not move the praise team to the back of the church where no one can see them? That is a quick way to determine just how important the praise team and song leaders think they are.
What I have found in most churches that have praise leaders/teams is that for them, worship is the music itself. It’s not what is prescribed in worship according to Scripture. The means of worship according to Scripture are… and get this, reading God’s word, the declaration of God’s word (known as preaching), prayer and the sacraments. No where are we given praise teams/leaders.
In fact, up until about 200 years ago, the use of instruments in worship was quite limited to those of the Lutheran and Catholic persuasions. Protestants didn’t use instruments for the most part and sang only from the psalter which is the actual worship book of the church, i.e., the Psalms. Now it is hard to even find anyone sing the psalms at all. There are hymns that reference the psalms, but that isn’t singing a psalm.
The other problem with praise-band churches is that they tend to punt the other elements of worship. For instance, preaching God’s word has fallen on hard times and has been substituted for mass-counseling sessions on everything to from better marriages, to better sex in marriage, to better dating before sex and marriages, etc. The messages are attempts to become more “relevant” to the needs of the congregation and shows the complete lack of faith those who preach such sermons have in God’s word.
Preaching God’s word faithfully means preaching the text of God’s word, saying what it says, not saying what it doesn’t say. It means declaring the truth of what God has said regardless of how uncomfortable or unwelcome it may be. Far too many preachers are too busy wanting to be liked, as opposed to doing what God has called them to do. See the Paul Washer video below.
The other element of worship that has fallen on hard times is true biblical prayer. We do get prayer in the praise-band churches, but it’s usually the praise-team leader emoting about “just” wanting to see Jesus and “just” wanting to be in His presence, and “just” wanting to praise Him, and just just just just just just many other things. And by golly, the praise-team leader was so emotional, that it must have been a good prayer. That’s not true prayer.
True prayer is speaking God’s truth back to Him and praising Him (real praise) for who He is. That requires that the one saying the prayer to the One receiving it must know some actual truth about the One being prayed too. In other word, if you are going to lead in prayer, you should probably have a deeper knowledge of who Christ, the Father and the Spirit are, than your typical eighth grader.
And then.. there are the sacraments. I was visiting a mega-church back in July that actually had it’s baptismal in the lobby of the church. They didn’t bother putting it in the sanctuary where they “worshipped,” even though baptism is a center-piece for worship. By baptizing our converts, we are worshipping in the truest sense.
Never mind communion. It’s pointless to even bring up that the early church had communion every Lord’s day. It was central to the worship service. Most mega-churches cannot conceive of the fact that the Lord’s supper is actually an element of the worship service given to us by our Lord. After all, there is no room in the “worship” service for communion. It takes too long and cuts into the “singing/emoting/concert” time.
And we wonder why the broader church is having trouble standing for righteousness’ sake.
Update: Found this parody via Daniel. It’ fits well with the theme of this post…
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.
In preaching through the Gospel of John, I came across the following comments by J.C. Ryle. He is applying the aspect of God sending John the Baptist to ministers being sent by God as well. If a majority of the ministers would take their calling as serious as John the Baptist, the church would be far better off. Not that many do not take their calling seriously, but they do not take the Word of God seriously.
“Christian ministers are not priests, nor mediators between God and man. They are not agents into whose hands men may commit their souls, and carry on their religion by deputy. They are witnesses. They are intended to bear testimony to God’s truth, and specially to the great truth that Christ is the only Savior and light of the world… Unless a Christian minister bears a full testimony of Christ, he is not faithful to his office. So long as he does testify of Christ, he has done his part, and will receive his reward, although his hearers may not believe his testimony. Until a minister’s hearers believe on that Christ of whom they are told, they receive no benefit from the ministry. They may be pleased and interested; but they are not profited until they believe. The great end of a minister’s testimony is ‘that through him, men may believe.’”
 J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on the Gospels: John, Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2007, Vol. 1, p. 14.