Thursday, December 29, 2005


If you are a blogger, we'd love for you to be a part of our "blogs-for-books" effort.

Dad and I have recently written a book on Sin and Temptation, entitled "A Fight to the Death" which is being published by Presbyterian and Reformed Publishers and is coming out in February.

To obtain a PDF file of this book to review, please email us at

When you've reviewed the book and posted it on your blog, send a link with your mailing address back to us to receive a free copy of the book when it is published. This is open to the first 30 bloggers who respond.


I just dropped Mom and Dad off.

Actually, I dropped them off about 6 hours ago - at 4:30 a.m. but I spent the first couple hours after that in a daze, so it kind of feels like I just dropped them off.

The girls wanted to get in their suitcases to go with them, but the suitcases were way too full.

I've been thinking about what I've learned the past several years working alongside Dad and Mom. Yesterday I mentioned I've been encouraged that it possible to be older, to have been in the ministry a long time and to still be humble.

I think I've also learned the value and blessing of true biblical loyalty in the ministry.

There are some people who are loyal in the sense that they just tell you what they want you to hear, which of course isn't biblical loyalty. And there are other people who are not loyal at all. (Solomon certainly was right when he said many people profess their loyalty, but a faithful friend who can find?)

I guess I understand that. After all, it's tough to be loyal. It would be easy to be loyal to someone if it only meant you needed to be committed to that person when they were doing the things you liked or when they don't make things difficult for you. But that's not loyalty.

Anybody can be loyal like that. And you know, a lot of people think they are loyal because they stick with people when the going is easy. But they are not loyal because they don't stick with people when things get hard.

It's tough to be loyal because loyalty requires dying to self. It means I'm going to do the hard thing and get in your face and tell you that you are wrong even though I would rather just let you go off and do your own thing and not have to get involved. On the other hand it means when you are doing wrong and it is making life difficult for me I am going to stick with you and I am going to be for you and I am not going to take the opportunity just to jump all over you with glee and joy because you are messing up when I perhaps am not.

I want to be a person like that for other Christians. I want to be a person that people know is one hundred percent for them. I want to be like that because I believe the gospel. I want to be like that because I believe God is for me even though I messed up so badly.

And you know I want to be like that because I've experienced the blessing of that kind of loyalty in my own life. I sometimes think you could get through almost anything in life, anything in the ministry, if you just have a friend who is biblically loyal. Now, obviously - no matter how alone we are, we always have one friend who is biblically loyal and that is Jesus Christ.

At the same time, it is good when God's people follow in his footsteps.

My wife has sought and is seeking to do that for me, and so have my parents. And you know what, though we've been through some difficult times they haven't been nearly as hard because God has graced me with people who like Jesus, are for me. There's hardly anything that brings greater joy than loyal friends.

Christ and Him Crucified...

What does Paul mean when he says, "I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified?"

I'm reading Preaching the Whole Bible as Christian Scripture by Graeme Goldsworthy where he endeavors to help us as preachers understand how Paul did that and to show us how we can too. (I have to review this book for a D.Min class at S.B.T.S. so I figured I could start by thinking through what Goldsworthy says in this blog and in blogs to come. )

We know for sure what preaching Christ alone doesn't mean. It doesn't mean that Paul didn't write about anything except Jesus. He talks about his life, he talks about the lives of others, he talks about practical matters. At the same time however, while Paul talked about his life, the life of others, and practical matters, there is no mistaking the fact that he is radically Christ-centered. To quote Goldsworthy, "The main subject of all his writings is the person and work of Jesus Christ."

The same should be true for us. We need to be radically Christ-centered preachers. Like Wesley we should say,

"Happy, if with my latest breath I might but gasp his name; Preach him to all, and cry in death: Behold, behold the Lamb!"

But here's the real question:

How do we do that?

We all know we are supposed to focus on Christ, but how do we do that for example, with the Old Testament? Graeme frames the question like this, "If a passage is not directly about the gospel events of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, to what extent are we obliged to make the connection?"

One option would be to always tack a little gospel message on, almost as something additional to the message, on top of it - rather than as an essential part of it. Another option would be not even to try. Quoting Goldsworthy once again, "There is no doubt that many Christian preachers, in effect, do preach from the Old Testament about God in the Psalms, or the life of faith exhibited by one or other of the heroes of Israel, without connecting it specifically to the person and work of Christ."

According to Goldsworthy, there are a number of problems with not even trying to make the connection between the gospel and the text under consideration, one being that we moralize the Old Testament people and events, and further that we take the focus off of God and His glory and onto ourselves.

To hammer this point home, Goldsworthy quotes Clowney to say that when we primarily preach the Old Testament events as examples without connecting them to the gospel itself, when we "again and again equate Abraham and us, Moses' struggle and ours, Peter's denial and our unfaithfulness;[when we preach the Old Testament] only illustratively, [such preaching] does not bring the Word of God and does not permit the church to see the glory of the work of God; it only preaches man, the sinful, the sought, the redeemed, the pious man, but not Jesus Christ."

While I think I understand the objection Goldsworthy is making at this point, I do wonder if preaching the Old Testament saints as examples automatically equals focusing solely on man and missing the glory of God. Perhaps he is stating things a little stronger than is required to help people at least hear what he is saying. Because while the Old Testament is more than examples to imitate, doesn't Hebrews 11 give a number of Old Testament stories as examples for us to imitate? Isn't one of the purposes of Scripture to show us how to live lives that bring glory and honor to God? Doesn't Paul point to Old Testament history as an example for us not to imitate, in 1 Corinthians 10?

What do you think?

It's One or the Other

"No man can show at one and the same time that he himself is wise and that Christ is mighty to save..."

James Denney

Wednesday, December 28, 2005


I'm driving my parents to the airport tomorrow.

They are 70 years old, but that's not stopping them. They are flying to South Africa to serve as missionaries.

I'm used to dropping Mom and Dad off at the airport, so I'm not too emotional right now; but I am sure it's going to hit me sooner or later. After all, I've spent the last five years, almost six now, pastoring alongside of Dad here at Grace Fellowship in Coopersburg and it's been good, real good.

I was thinking this morning a little bit about what I've learned from watching Dad and Mom these past several years. I'll emphasize little because this is just a start. (I think I'll just give one today, and jot thoughts down the next couple days as I think on this.)

1.) It's possible to be old, to have been in the ministry a long time, and be humble.

It sounds funny to say that, but if you've got a guy who is used to leading, it can be hard for him to follow. And what's more, if you've got a guy who is used to preaching, it can be hard for him to listen.

It seems like it should be the opposite.

I mean, if you've preached long enough you should know how hard it is and want to encourage the one who is preaching by listening. Besides, if you've studied long enough you should know how important and blessed you are to sit and listen to someone who has studied long and hard that week.

It seems like it should be the opposite...but it often isn't.

I know, I want to be the kind of guy who is 90 years old and who listens to a 25 year old preacher and still learns and loves it. I want to be the kind of guy who listens to someone preaching on a text I've preached on before, and doesn't go away just critiquing his style but being blessed and transformed by his content.

I also know that's rare.

I think one of the reasons it is hard to be that kind of guy at 90 is because for that to happen, we need to be that kind of guy now. We need to be the kind of people who can listen to others and learn from them.

That sounds like it should be so easy, but for many, it isn't.

I mean, for one thing that's the way God designed it. Plus, we don't know it all. Besides that, a whole lot of what we do know we forget, so it's helpful to be told again. On top of that, it's not a matter of that other person being smarter or more studied than you, it's a matter of God speaking to you through the text of Scripture.


Watching my Dad, I know it's possible. Over the past five years, my mom and dad consistently have been among the most eager to listen and learn from the preaching and teaching of God's Word here at Grace. I have a completely different style of preaching than Dad, there are many things he could critique me on, but that hasn't stopped him or mom from being eager to learn.

I want to be like that.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

To Deduct or Induct...That is the Question

Don't worry, I have no idea what the title means either.

I do know I want to talk about deductive versus inductive preaching. Actually, I just want to share an opinion. (And we both know how much those are worth.)

For the sake of argument, and since I'm the one doing the writing I get to make the rules, deductive preaching is where you tell people what you are going to tell them, then you tell them. In honor of those visual learners out there:


Inductive preaching on the other hand, is where you design the sermon to lead the people to the point you want to make. It might look like this...


Now anybody who knows me, knows I care basically diddly squat about outlines. I think outlines are so overblown...(since I'm spouting off opinions, I might as well keep going)outlines should serve the sermon, not the other way around. An outline should function like a slingshot - I put the point of the sermon in there, and the outline swings it home.

So I'm not talking about a particular style of outline here, I'm talking about a particular approach to a passage.

I don't want anyone to misunderstand, I think deductive preaching has its place.

There are times when you definitely need to say this is what the passage says, this is what the passage means, and this is what you need to do.

I do have a problem though with an entirely deductive approach to preaching for a couple of reasons.

One being, I think what it can do - over a period of time - is train people not to think. I get up behind the pulpit, I tell you what I learned, I tell you what you need to do, and what happens? If I do this over and over, you can develop a habit of not wrestling with the text yourself.

It's like with my kids.

If I always teach them by saying this is what is true, this is what you need to believe, this is what you need to do and don't engage them, don't force them to struggle, don't help them learn the process of coming to a conclusion for themselves, then I'm doing them a disservice.

I need to do that sometimes, but probably not all the time.

To me, that's what is beautiful about a more inductive approach. I want active listeners - I want people to have to think and wrestle with the text to get the point. When I preach an inductive message, my goal is to take you on a short tour through my study process, so that by the end of the message, you and I, we can arrive at the point of the passage together.

I read a book on preaching a year or so ago, called As One Without Authority. Obviously, the title is a problem.

His point though was interesting, at least to think about. It was that our methodology of preaching should match our theology of preaching.

If I believe God's Word is the final authority in people's lives - then the method through which I deliver that message - should reflect that. In other words, I might say I believe the Bible is the final authority in people's lives and then preach a message in a way that seems to say something different.

What I think an inductive approach does is shine the spotlight on the passage. What I'm wondering, and I'm just wondering here, is if what a deductive approach can do, if we're not careful, is shine the spotlight on the preacher.

It can easily become me telling you what to do, rather than me telling you what God through the text is telling you to do.

Anyway, just thinking...

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Exegeting people...

One of the things I love about reading the Puritans is that I often get the sense they didn't just know Scripture, they knew me.

I wonder why it seems like today that's so often not the case...

We've definitely got preachers who at least try to understand the people they are talking to, but it seems like much of the time their perspectives are superficial, glib, or just borrowed from some psychologist.

And we've definitely got preachers who know the Scriptures, but sometimes it seems, honestly like they don't know many people. I wonder, in fact, if one reason so many professing Christians run to psychologists is because the psychologists actually seem to describe the way they work, while their pastor, though he is preaching Scripture, seems like he's living in a different world.

To really be an effective, God-honoring preacher it seems to me we have to exegete Scripture and we have to let Scripture exegete people.

If you try to preach to people without exegeting Scripture, you are going to end up superficial. If you try to preach the Scripture without exegeting people, you are going to end up missing the point.

As we study a passage, here are a couple questions I've found helpful for exegeting people. Perhaps you have others?

1.) What does this passage teach me about what people think, feel or do?
2.) About what people need?
3.) What problem does it address? How does that problem express itself in our lives today?
4.) What comfort is found in this passage? What does that comfort tell us about our real needs as people?
5.) What might be common objections to this text? How does my own heart object to the truth of this text?
6.) What are some specific ways people live contrary to what this passage teaches? Are there biblical examples?
7.) What are some specific ways people have applied this passage successfully?

A Hundred Lives Is Not Enough...

"Today, all sorts of subjects are eagerly pursued; but the knowledge of God is neglected...Yet to know God is man's chief end and justifies his existence. Even if a hundred lives were ours, this one aim would be sufficient for them all."

John Calvin

Monday, December 19, 2005

How to Be an Ineffective Preacher part Three

5. Don't Think About The Audience You Are Speaking To

I may be slow. It took me a couple years to realize that I'm not just preaching about the Bible, I'm preaching about the Bible to people. I came out of seminary with the attitude (almost) that the way I would preach to a wall would be the same way I would preach to a group of people, and though I don't have chapter and verse on this one, six years later I think that's pretty dumb.
For one thing, it's not the way I work outside the pulpit. When I try to explain something to my five year old daughter, I do it a little differently than if I were trying to explain it to a sixteen year old. Essentially, what I'm saying might be the same - but how I go about saying it probably will be a little bit different. If I'm really going to expect my five year old daughter to understand me, I can't just think about what I'm going to tell her, I have to work on the way I'm going to tell her.
That's part of being unselfish. I'm concerned about the other person and because I'm concerned about the other person, I think about how I can help them understand what I'm saying - realizing there is a good likelihood that they are different than me.
Bruce Wilhite describes what I'm talking about here as thinking about your sermon from the pew's perspective. Look at what you are saying and think about it from the perspective of different people within the congregation. The point is not to change the content, but to think about the best way to communicate it.

Friday, December 16, 2005

How to Be an Ineffective Preacher part two

3. Fear Man

It is so subtle, yet so dangerous. Vain-glory, as an old Puritan put it, is one of Satan's most effective traps. Instead of doing what you do to glorify God, you start doing what you do to impress people, and you end up completely missing the point.

I think personally, one of the things I loved most about Dr. MacArthur when I was at The Master's Seminary, was that he would have been the same person if he were speaking to ten people as if he were speaking to ten thousand. It wasn't about what people thought of him, it was about honoring God.

4. Be Fake

I like habits. I'm glad I don't have to think every time I tie my shoe. But I don't want that to be true when I preach. We can't let preaching become just another habit. We get up on Sundays, we deliver a message, we sit down, we do the routine.

No, no, no.

We've got to think about who we are speaking to, who we are speaking about, why we are speaking. If we really want to be effective preachers, we've got to get beat up by the text. We've got to be comforted by the text. We've got to be challenged by the text. It's got to go through us if it is ever going to get to the people.

If you want to fool people into thinking you are someone you are not, I've got a piece of advice for you, be an actor. You get up there Sunday after Sunday and try to fake it, you end up hurting everbody - including yourself.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

How to be an Ineffective Preacher...

8 Steps to Being An Ineffective Preacher...

1. Be Ungodly.

There's a reason Paul didn't write a homiletics manual when he wrote to Timothy and Titus. There's a reason Paul focused his attention on character qualities when he talked to Timothy and Titus about what to look for in church leaders. The character of the messenger is more important than the style of the message.

2. Depend on Yourself.

If you want to do something God hates, go into the pulpit trusting in your own ability. God says, "Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the Lord. He is like a shrub in the desert and shall not see any good come. He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness, in an uninhabited salt land."

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Stott on Preaching...One More Time

Expository preaching is God-centered preaching.

It is preaching that is uninterested, modest and even tentative when it comes to the preacher's own opinions and status while being passionate, courageous and authoritative when it comes to God's Word.

In order to preach expository messages the preacher must have a humble attitude towards himself. For the purpose of expository preaching is "to facilitate an encounter. 'The great encounter, however is not between the preacher and people. It is between God and the people.'" (p.325)

The preacher must have a humble attitude towards the text. "The Christian preacher is to be neither a speculator who invents new doctrines which please him, nor an editor who excises old doctrines which displease him, but a steward, God's steward, dispensing faithfully to God's household the truths committed to him in Scripture, nothing less and nothing else." (p.324)

This humble attitude towards the text will result in authoritative, courageous preaching. "The expositor is only to provide the mouth and lips for the passage itself, so that the Word may advance...The really great preachers...are in fact, only servants of the Scriptures." (p.132) "Our task as Christian preachers is not subserviently to answer all the questions which men put to us, nor to attempt to meet all the demands which are made on us; nor hesitantly to make tentative suggestions to the philosophically minded; but rather to proclaim a message which is dogmatic because it is divine. The preacher's responsibility is proclamation, not discussion." (p.110, The Preacher's Portrait)

Expository preaching begins with a mindset towards preaching that views the preacher as a servant to the text whose job it is to accurately explain the meaning of the text and passionately communicate its significance for contemporary listeners so that they might develop a biblical way of viewing the world and might be able to apply the truths they have heard to their lives, thus exalting Christ and building up His Church.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Stott on expository preaching? Part Deux...

Expository Preaching is relevant preaching.

It is preaching that clearly communicates the message the text has for the contemporary audience.

"Our task is to enable God's revealed truth to flow out of the Scriptures into the lives of men and women today." (p.138)

"To discover the text's meaning is of purely academic interest unless we go on to discern its message for today..." (p.221)

"...We preachers are supposed to be in the business of communication. A lecture has been wittily defined as the transfer of information from the lecturer's notes to the students without it passing through the mind of either; but sermons should not be equally dismal examples of non-communication. We should be praying that God will raise up a new generation of Christian communicators who are determined to bridge the chasm; who struggle to relate God's unchanging Word to our ever-changing world; who refuse to sacrifice truth to relevance or relevance to truth, but who resolve instead in equal measure to be faithful to to Scripture and pertinent to today." (p.144)

The question of course is how do we do that?

Take the term relevance. What does it mean to be relevant? It's not as easy a question as it might seem at first.

Listen to Os Guinness on relevance,

"Relevance is a prerequisite for communication. Without it there is no communication, only a one-sided sending of messages addressed to no one, nowhere. But having said that, it must also be said that relevance is a more complex, troublesome, and seductive matter than its advocates acknowledge. For a start, relevance is a question begging concept when invoked by itself. And when absolutized it becomes lethal to truth. Properly speaking, relevance assumes and requires the answer to such questions as: relevance for what? relevance to whom? If these questions are left unasked, a constant appeal to relevance becomes a way of running roughshod over the truth and corralling opinion coercively. People are thinking or doing something because it is relevant without knowing why. But it is in fact truth that gives relevance to relevance just as relevance becomes irrelevance if it is not related to truth. Without truth, relevance is meaningless and dangerous." (No God but God, p.169)

Monday, December 12, 2005

What is expository preaching?

Like any catch-phrase, expository preaching has become quite elastic, used to describe almost any kind of preaching. Over the next couple of days, I thought I might just jot down a few helpful qualifying thoughts from Between Two Worlds by John Stott on the nature of true expository preaching.

*It is Christian preaching.

It is not a style of preaching but a philosophy of preaching.

"...if by an expository sermon is meant a verse by verse explanation of a lengthy passage of Scripture, then indeed it is only one possible way of preaching, but this would be a misuse of the word. Properly speaking, exposition has a much broader meaning. It refers to the content of the sermon (biblical truth) rather than its style (a running commentary). To expound Scripture is to bring out of the text what is there and expose it to view." (p.125,126)

* It is Scripture-dominated preaching.

It is preaching that begins and ends and is centered in the text of God's Word.

"The Christian preacher has a boundary set for him. When he enters the pulpit, he is not entirely a free man. There is a very real sense in which it may be said of him that the Almighty has set him his bounds that he shall not pass. He is not at liberty to invent or choose his message; it has been committed to him, and it is for him to declare, expound and to commend to his hearers..." (p.126)

* It is faithful preaching.

It is preaching that accurately explains the original meaning of the text being considered.

"What did the original author intend his words to mean? That was the question. Moreover it is a question which can with patience be answered, and answered confidently...the biblical authors were honest men, not deceivers, and their writings intended to be understood."

" search for its contemporary message without first wrestling with its original meaning is to attempt a forbidden short cut. It dishonours God (disregarding his chosen way of revealing himself in particular historical and cultural contexts), it misuses his Word (treating it like an almanac or book of magic spells) and it misleads his people (confusing them about how to interpret Scripture.)" (p.221)

Thursday, December 08, 2005

I'm no hero...

I'm convinced one of the hardest things for people to get when it comes to the gospel, one of the things that is hardest for me to remember is that...we're not the hero.

Jesus is.

I've found it's kind of funny, most people don't mind you telling them they have problems. In fact, in a strange way some people seem to like it. They don't even really mind you being blunt...just check out the popularity of people like Dr. Laura or Dr. Phil.

What people mind and where they start having problems is when you begin pointing to a solution outside of them.

That's why what many people want a pastor to do is tell them they have problems and then spend the rest of the sermon encouraging them about how they can overcome their problems. You want to be a popular preacher, find an interesting way to do that...just check out the popularity of motivational speakers like Joel Osteen.

Our job though as preachers is different.

It's not to encourage blind men to wear glasses, it's to take them to the only one who can heal their sight.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Beaten but Stronger

"George Whitefield was the most famous man of his day...and among the most hated. In a crude and spiteful age, the barrage against him was particularly venomous He was accused of all the usual misdeeds with money, women and fame. But there was so much more. The strange squinting of the eyes that childhood measles left him caused the hostile press to call him, 'Dr. Squintum.' There was even a play by that name, written to expose him to a jeering public. If he gained weight he was a glutton. If he bought property for an orphanage, he was selfishly building an estate for himself. It was open season on Whitefield and all England seemed to take aim...
Then of course, there was the uniquely 'Christian' kind of attack. For some believers, a man cannot simply be wrong about a few things; he must be evil, possibly even controlled by a spirit. Certainly, he is part of a broader conspiracy of darkness, perhaps in league with the anti-Christ. He then becomes an enemy to drive out rather than a brother to restore. So it was with Whitefield, who surely heard the words, 'You have a devil' as often as he heard the word, 'Hello.'
None of this surprised Whitefield...yet had he been a lesser man, he might have been crushed and embittered by the barrage against him. The pain might have driven him from the ministry early, leaving him a broken, angry man. But Whitefield had acquired that condition of soul for which criticism becomes an enobling force. He had learned that criticism is like pain in the human body, giving needed information for healthy change. One can receive it as a blow and angrily nurse the wound. Or, one can regard the words as an eagle does a gust of wind -as a force upon which to fly still higher."
Stephen Mansfield, Forgotten Founding Father, the heroic legacy of George Whitefield, p.143-145...get the book!

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Miscellaneous thoughts on teaching...

I'm not a good enough teacher to come up with any laws of teaching, but I've been thinking lately that if I were, I'd have to say that one of the essentials to being an effective teacher is having students who know they need to learn. To put it another way, one of the greatest hindrances to effective teaching is when students don't think they need to learn.

I know, I know, it's not like I'm going out on a limb saying something like that.

It's obvious, from experience and from Scripture. (Just check out Proverbs...) But I guess what's new for me lately, is thinking about how I as a teacher can help students come to this point. I, clearly can't get into their hearts and humble them. The students themselves have a major responsibility in all of this. Yet, it seems to me that if I'm going to be an effective teacher, I need to think of ways I can reveal to my students their need to learn.

There's a sense in which I have to humble them. (Maybe a better way of putting it would be, I have to encourage, exhort them to be humble.)

Now the thing is, as a Christian, as one who believes in the gospel when it comes to humbling others there are a whole lot of things I can't do. I can't humble others by acting as if I'm superior to them, because I'm not. I can't humble others by anti-gospel methods, like mocking them or sarcasm. I can't humble others for the purpose of exalting myself. Those are all non-Christian methods. (Sometimes effective when it comes to teaching, but not effective when it comes to the big picture - glorifying God.)

How do Christian teachers inspire humility in students? I don't have all the answers, that is for sure...Here are a couple ideas though.

1.) Example.
2.) With affection. think the best teachers are able to humble their students while at the same time never leaving any doubt as to their love and affection for their students. Kind of like Jesus does with us. The Bible is one big long humbling book, while at the same time, it never leaves any doubt as to God's attitude towards us.
3.) Exalting God. "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge..." See MLJ quote in comments section of previous post.
4.) The Gospel. Helping the students have a right view of themselves, of Jesus Christ, and of the Cross.
5.) Prayer.

Responding to those who differ...

A helpful article on polemic theology, how to respond to those who differ.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Note-taking and the Purpose of Preaching

I've never heard anyone I really respected spiritually discourage note-taking during sermons before so when I heard Tim Keller in the Wilson Preaching Lectures at Covenant Seminary (thought-provoking lecture, by the way) mention that Martyn Lloyd Jones did, I had to check it out.

The main point isn't not taking notes - (really, who is going to argue with a person who takes note because he wants to learn?) his main point, the important point, has to do with the nature of preaching.

Without getting lost in the details, what do you think?

"Let us now turn to Edwards' method of preaching. We note at once that he preached sermons, and that he did not deliver lectures. Edwards did not lecture about Christian truths. I am told frequently these days that many preachers seem to be lecturers rather than preachers.
Preaching is not lecturing. Neither did Edwards just give a running commentary on a passage. That is not preaching either; though many today seem to think that it is. That was not Edwards' idea of preaching; and it has never been the classical idea of preaching. He started with a text. He was always Scriptural. He did not merely take a theme and speak on it, except when he was expounding some doctrine, but even then he chose a text. He was always expository. He was also invariably analytical. He had an analytical mind. He divides up his text, his statement; he wants to get at the essence of the message; so the critical, analytical element in his wonderful mind comes into play. He does this in order that he may arrive at the doctrine taught in the verse or section; and then he reasons about this doctrine, shows how it is to be found elsewhere in Scripture, and its relationship to other doctrines, and then establishes its truth. But he never stops at that.
There is always the application. He was preaching to people and not giving a dissertation, not giving expression in public to his private thoughts in the study. He was always concerned to bring home the truth to the listeners, to show the relevance of it. But, above all, and I quote him, he believed that preaching should always be 'warm and earnest'. I remind you again that we are dealing here with a giant intellect and brilliant philosopher; and yet this is the man who places all this emphasis upon warmth and upon feeling. This is how he states this principle:

'The frequent preaching that has lately obtained, has in a particular manner been objected against as being unprofitable and prejudicial. It is objected that, when sermons are heard so very often, one sermon tends to thrust out another; so that persons lose the benefit of all. They say, two or three sermons in a week is as much as they can remember and digest. Such objections against frequent preaching, if they be not from an enmity against~-re1igion, are for want of duly considering the way that sermons usually profit an auditory. The main benefit obtained by preaching is by impression made upon the mind at the time, and not by an effect that arises afterwards by a remembrance of what was delivered. And though an after-remembrance of what was heard in a sermon is oftentimes very profitable; yet, for the most part, that remembrance is from an impression the words made on the heart at the time; and the memory profits, as it renews and increases that impression' (Vol. I, 394).

I would add that I have often discouraged the taking of notes while I am preaching. It is becoming a custom among evangelical people; but it is not, as many seem to think, the hallmark of spirituality!
The first and primary object of preaching is not only to give information. It is, as Edwards says, to produce an impression. It is the impression at the time that matters, even more than what you can remember subsequently. In this respect Edwards is, in a sense, critical of what was a prominent Puritan custom and practice. The Puritan father would catechize and question the children as to what the preacher had said. Edwards, in my opinion, has the true notion of preaching. It is not primarily to impart information; and while you are writing your notes you may be missing something of the impact of the Spirit. As preachers we must not forget this. We are not merely imparters of information.
We should tell our people to read certain books themselves and get the information there. The business of preaching is to make such knowledge live. The same applies to lecturers in Colleges. The tragedy is that many lecturers simply dictate notes and the wretched students take them down. That is not the business of a lecturer or a professor. The students can read the books for themselves; the business of the professor is to put that on fire, to enthuse, to stimulate, to enliven. And that is the primary business of preaching. Let us take this to heart. Edwards laid great emphasis upon this; and what we need above everything else today is moving, passionate, powerful preaching."

Friday, December 02, 2005

Up for discussion...

Who was the best teacher you ever had?

I don't mean, who was the teacher you liked the most. I mean who was the most effective teacher you ever sat under?

I think for the sake of this discussion we should rule out parents or friends, I'm talking about in-class teachers.

What teacher effected you the most?

I'd love to hear some responses and I'd love to hear a reason or two why you think they were so effective. What was it about the way they taught that made their teaching so helpful?

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Thoughts from Spurgeon on the Atonement

"I am going to be as plain as I can, while I preach over again the precious doctrine of the atonement of Christ Jesus our Lord. Christ was an offering for sin, in the sense of a substitute. God longed to save; but, if such a word may be allowed, Justice tied his hands. "I must be just," said God; "that is a necessity of my nature. Stern as fate, and fast as immutability, is the truth that I must be just. But then my heart desires to forgive—to pass by man's transgressions and pardon them. How can it be done? Wisdom stepped in, and said, "It shall be done thus;" and Love agreed with Wisdom. "Christ Jesus, the Son of God, shall stand in man's place, and he shall be offered upon Mount Calvary instead of man. Now, mark: when you see Christ going up the Mount of Doom, you see man going there: when you see Christ hurled upon his back, upon the wooden cross, you see the whole company of his elect there; and when you see the nails driven through his blessed hands and feet, it is the whole body of his Church who there, in their substitute, are nailed to the tree. And now the soldiers lift the cross, and dash it into the socket prepared for it. His bones are every one of them dislocated, and his body is thus torn with agonies which can not be described. 'Tis manhood suffering there; 'tis the Church suffering there, in the substitute. And when Christ dies, you are to look upon the death of Christ, not as his own dying merely, but as the dying of all those for whom he stood as the scape-goat and the substitute. It is true, Christ died really himself; it is equally true that he did not die for himself, but died as the substitute, in the room, place, and stead of all believers. When you die you will die for yourselves; when Christ died, he died for you, if you be a believer in him. When you pass through the gates of the grave, you go there solitary and alone; you are not the representative of a body of men, but you pass through the gates of death as an individual; but, remember, when Christ went through the sufferings of death, he was the representative Head of all his people.
Understand, then, the sense in which Christ was made a sacrifice for sin. But here lies the glory of this matter. It was as a substitute for sin that he did actually and literally suffer punishment for the sin of all his elect. When I say this, I am not to be understood as using any figure whatever, but as saying actually what I mean. Man for his sin was condemned to eternal fire; when God took Christ to be the substitute, it is true, he did not send Christ into eternal fire, but he poured upon him grief so desperate, that it was a valid payment for even an eternity of fire. Man was condemned to live forever in hell. God did not send Christ forever into hell; but he put on Christ, punishment that was equivalent for that. Although he did not give Christ to drink the actual hells of believers, yet he gave him a quid pro quo—something that was equivalent thereunto. He took the cup of Christ's agony, and he put in there, suffering, misery, and anguish such as only God can imagine or dream of, that was the exact equivalent for all the suffering, all the woe, and all the eternal tortures of every one that shall at last stand in heaven, bought with the blood of Christ. And you say, "Did Christ drink it all to its dregs?" Did he suffer it all? Yes, my brethren, he took the cup, and

"At one triumphant draught of love,
He drank damnation dry."

He suffered all the horror of hell: in one pelting shower of iron wrath it fell upon him, with hail-stones bigger than a talent; and he stood until the black cloud had emptied itself completely. There was our debt; huge and immense; he paid the utmost farthing of whatever his people owed; and now there is not so much as a doit or a farthing due to the justice of God in the way of punishment from any believer; and though we owe God gratitude, though we owe much to his love, we owe nothing to his justice; for Christ in that hour took all our sins, past, present, and to come, and was punished for them all there and then, that we might never be punished, because he suffered in our stead. Do you see, then, how it was that God the Father bruised him? Unless he had so done the agonies of Christ could not have been an equivalent for our sufferings; for hell consists in the hiding of God's face from sinners, and if God had not hidden his face from Christ, Christ could not—I see not how he could—have endured any suffering that could have been accepted as an equivalent for the woes and agonies of his people.
Methinks I heard some one say, "Do you mean us to understand this atonement that you have now preached as being a literal fact?" I say, most solemnly, I do. There are in the world many theories of atonement; but I can not see any atonement in any one, except in this doctrine of substitution. Many divines say that Christ did something when he died that enabled God to be just, and yet the Justifier of the ungodly. What that something is they do not tell us. They believe in an atonement made for every body; but then, their atonement is just this. They believe that Judas was atoned for just as much as Peter; they believe that the damned in hell were as much an object of Jesus Christ's satisfaction as the saved in heaven; and though they do not say it in proper words, yet they must mean it, for it is a fair inference, that in the case of multitudes, Christ died in vain, for he died for them all, they say; and yet so ineffectual was his dying for them, that though he died for them they are damned afterward. Now, such an atonement I despise—I reject it. I may be called Antinomian or Calvinist for preaching a limited atonement; but I had rather believe a limited atonement that is efficacious for all men for whom it was intended, than an universal atonement that is not efficacious for anybody, except the will of man be joined with it. Why, my brethren, if we were only so far atoned for by the death of Christ that any one of us might afterward save himself, Christ's atonement were not worth a farthing, for there is no man of us can save himself—no, not under the gospel; for if I am to be saved by faith, if that faith is to be my own act, unassisted by the Holy Spirit, I am as unable to save myself by faith as to save myself by good works. And after all, though men call this a limited atonement, it is as effectual as their own fallacious and rotten redemptions can pretend to be. But do you know the limit of it? Christ hath bought a "multitude that no man can number." The limit of it is just this: He hath died for sinners; whoever in this congregation inwardly and sorrowfully knows himself to be a sinner, Christ died for him; whoever seeks Christ, shall know Christ died for him; for our sense of need of Christ, and our seeking after Christ, are infallible proofs that Christ died for us. And, mark, here is something substantial. The Arminian says Christ died for him; and then, poor man, he has but small consolation therefrom, for he says, "Ah! Christ died for me; that does not prove much. It only proves I may be saved if I mind what I am after. I may perhaps forget myself; I may run into sin and I may perish. Christ has done a good deal for me, but not quite enough, unless I do something." But the man who receives the Bible as it is, he says, "Christ died for me, then my eternal life is sure. I know," says he, "that Christ can not be punished in a man's stead, and the man be punished afterwards. No," says he, "I believe in a just God, and if God be just, he will not punish Christ first, and then punish men afterwards. No; my Saviour died, and now I am free from every demand of God's vengeance, and I can walk through this world secure; no thunderbolt can smite me, and I can die absolutely certain that for me there is no flame of hell, and no pit digged; for Christ, my ransom, suffered in my stead, and, therefore, am I clean delivered. Oh! glorious doctrine! I would wish to die preaching it! What better testimony can we bear to the love and faithfulness of God than the testimony of a substitution eminently satisfactory for all them that believe on Christ?
I will here quote the testimony of that pre-eminently profound divine, Dr. John Owen:—"Redemption is the freeing of a man from misery by the intervention of a ransom. Now, when a ransom is paid for the liberty of a prisoner, does not justice demand that he should have and enjoy the liberty so purchased for him by a valuable consideration? If I should pay a thousand pounds for a man's deliverance from bondage to him that retains him, who hath power to set him free, and is contented with the price I give, were it not injurious to me and the poor prisoner that his deliverance be not accomplished? Can it possibly be conceived that there should be a redemption of men, and those men not redeemed? That a price should be paid and the ransom not consummated? Yet all this must be made true, and innumerable other absurdities, if universal redemption be asserted. A price is paid for all, yet few delivered; the redemption of all consummated, yet, few of them redeemed; the judge satisfied, the jailer conquered, and yet the prisoners inthralled! Doubtless 'universal,' and 'redemption,' where the greatest part of men perish, are as irreconcilable as 'Roman, and 'Catholic.' If there be a universal redemption of all, then all men are redeemed. If they are redeemed, then are they delivered from all misery, virtually or actually, whereunto they were inthralled, and that by the intervention of a ransom. Why, then, are not all saved? In a word, the redemption wrought by Christ being the full deliverance of the persons redeemed from all misery, wherein they were inwrapped, by the price of his blood, it can not possibly be conceived to be universal unless all be saved: so that the opinion of the Universalists is unsuitable to redemption."
I pause once more; for I hear some timid soul say—"But, sir, I am afraid I am not elect, and if so, Christ did not die for me." Stop sir! Are you a sinner? Do you feel it? Has God, the Holy Spirit, made you feel that you are a lost sinner? Do you want salvation? If you do not want it it is no hardship that it is not provided for you; but if you really feel that you want it, you are God's elect. If you have a desire to be saved, a desire given you by the Holy Spirit, that desire is a token for good. If you have begun believingly to pray for salvation, you have therein a sure evidence that you are saved. Christ was punished for you. And if now you can say,

"Nothing in my hands I bring,
Simply to the cross I cling."

you may be as sure you are God's elect as you are sure of your own existence; for this is the infallible proof of election—a sense of need and a thirst after Christ."

For the rest of this sermon, The Death of Christ...