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Learn How to Be Mentored by Books

December 3, 2008

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I believe a means a grace God has given us has been the preservation of the thoughts of His saints in the form of books.  I bless God for books.  I bless God for the printing press.  I bless God for Amazon. Within the pages of books there are many treasures to find and friends to meet—freinds that will tell you how they understood a certain passage or how they dealt with a certain trial, or how they lived a certain life despite the seemingly unbearable hardship.  I love books.  Books are an endless resource to a Timothy in training . . . if he is wise enough to foresee it and use it.  And the more books he stacks on his shelf better he can equip himself for the preparation of becoming an elder—whether he’s in seminary or not.

1. Learn how to become a Reader

I cannot tell you how many grown men say to me, “Well, I’m just not a reader.” You should be rebuked. God has preserved a storehouse of wisdom for you in books, and you should be a good steward of the vast resources that has been made available to you. There simply is no excuse to be ignorant regarding any aspect of theology.  300 years ago, most library’s consisted of 200 books at the most—I have that many if not more.  Here in the West, we’ve become inoculated to the amount of resources that are available to us.  There’s books on-line, books on CD, books on i-pods . . .oh yea, and books on paper.

But my first caution to you would be this: Don’t read just any book. As the author of Ecclesiastes has noted, “Of the writing of books there is no end”. There may be many books that are popular at the moment but they will not stand the test of time.  Why?  Because most are absent of the aroma of Scripture and merely contain random, Bible-less babble—men trying to think thoughts after God without consulting the Book He wrote about Himself.  Sometimes the best books are those which have been around for 300 years! On the other hand, there is a remnant even in our day of men who are pumping out at accelerated rates wonderfull books.  Men like Piper, Mahaney, MacArthur, Sproul, Dever, Keller and a host of others are worth your money and time.


Spend your money on tools, not toys.


You should have all kinds of books in your library:

–books on philosophy: how do we think and how to we know truth and which source of truth should we read.

–books on theology: how do we understand that truth;

–biographies: how has that truth been proclaimed and maintained throughout the centuries;

–and finally, apologetics: how is that truth to be delivered.

Read for pleasure; if you’re not enjoying these books you’re not reading them correctly.

2. Learn How to Be Mentored by Dead Men

Believe it or not, but I have close to over 100 mentors who live in my own house. They live on my bookshelf. I cannot tell you how many authors have walked beside me during many dark valleys in my life, and I have found the best medicine for a storm-tossed soul is old books—especially biographies of old saints. When I am discouraged and downcast of soul, I rarely go to the country to get a spiritual breath of fresh air; I always go to the years prior to the 19th Century.


Luther, Richard Sibbs, Richard Baxter, John Owen, John Bunyan, Jonathon Edwards, David Brainard, Charles Spurgeon,


There are literally thousands of men who are very qualified to shed light on any situation in which you may find yourself in.  You just need to learn how to read and what to read.

C.S. Lewis once said:

“If you don’t read the older books you starve yourself.”

As I have just mentioned there are many authors to choose from . . . and I would recommend reading them all! But if that sounds like a little too much, my advice to you would be to pick someone from the past and read all you can about that person. Read their biography; read their works; begin to think like them; begin to talk like them; imitate their faith, and eventually you may find yourself loving the Word and Cherishing Christ like they did.

We often become like the friends we hang out with. I dress like the friends I hang out with; I talk like the friends I hang out with. When you pick wise, godly friends in books you begin to become like them. Become like your friends.

3. Learn how to Use Church History as a Mentor

Biographies help you to know men of the past; Church History helps you to know events of the past—both of which are able to keep you from error. Many Christians today suffer from historical amnesia. In their minds the gap between Jesus’ ascension to their own day is usually a giant blank. It is my opinion that every believer should have in their hands at least one good, church history book. Church history informs you of the past, encourages you for the present, and gives you hope for the future.

Become a consumer of books and you can give yourself a glorious education even if you’re never been able to attend seminary.  You’ll learn doctrine; you’ll meet new friends.

4. The Importance of Reading Other Material

I used to be a Puritan in the area of reading, meaning this: I have never read anything other than theology books.  But I have come to learn the importance of giving my mind a break, especially since I’m in seminary.  The mind needs a break, not from God, but from the same type of books that require the same type of thinking.  The brain needs to think on many different levels, not just one.  I often find that my mind simply cannot function as well by always reading one type of genre (i.e. theolgoy books/philosophy books).  Don’t get me wrong, I would like it if I only could read theology books, but I’ve learned that if I read other genres than it helps me to think better and think clearer when I pick up my theology book.

Hey, even the Bible contains three different genres, so I think I’m safe in saying we as seminary students need also to have a trilogy, biography, or historical narrative close by to give our minds the mental breaks they need.  But remember to supplement them in moderate proportions.  Read enough of other books in order to read theology books with greater care and thought.

5. The Danger of Stuffing Your Shelf Full of Books You Never Read

Be honest, how many books are on your shelf that have never been read?  I bear the guilt of this myself.  Countless of times I have entered a book sale or attended a conference that provides books for a ridiculously-low-price only to greedily buy several books that are “oh so good” . . . and then they sit on my shelf and condemn me.  I have one shelf simply devoted to “Books to read”.  This can become a problem.  There is nothing worse than having a great book in which you’ve never read.  Oh that we would buy good books; and oh that we would read them!

Set goals for yourself.  If you’ve bought several books, discipline yourself not to buy any more until you’ve finished them . . . unless it’s a really good deal!

6. Don’t Neglect the Word

Finally, while there are many books that are worth our time, we must not fail to read that book in which all others are written.  Let the Scriptures be your true source of joy and study, for there is truly only one book worth reading . . . and reading again . . . and again . . . and again . . .

:: Prepare for Battle ::

What to Do When Your College Goes Liberal: Some Thoughts Regarding the Issue

November 20, 2008

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Approaching storms


On November 11, 2008, Northwestern College in St. Paul, Minnesota, launched a website for the purpose of refuting so called “attacks” the school was receiving regarding it’s theology and practice . . . but the attacks weren’t coming from non-believers. Instead, questions and opposition were coming from concerned students and alumni. The reason? Theological drift. Students and former students were becoming increasingly concerned over the fact that the school was drifting from its conservative roots that once steered the school’s course. The College was originally founded by Baptist Fundamentalist William Riley in 1902. Now, a century later, there is only a remnant that remains, wondering exactly why the school has left the foundation from which it was built. The full article can be read here at Christianity Today (November 11, 2008)

While I am concerned about the outcome at Northwestern College, I’m not interested in addressing the issues surrounding it here. I rather want to address a topic that seems to be rampant in our Bible Colleges, Universities and Seminaries, and that is a continual, gradual slide into Liberalism.

This is nothing new. Gresham Machen experience the same disappointment and slandering when his beloved Princeton Seminary fell to Liberal tenets in the early 20th Century. The signs aren’t new either. Below are common occurrences that have historically marked shifts from Bible-saturated, culture-engaging schools to the graveyard of Liberalism and what to do about it.

Evidence a Christian University Slipping Into Liberalism

a. The authority of the Bible is waning.

This is no surprise here. Whenever there are heretics and heresies it can always be traced back to their view of Scripture.

It is incredibly surprising but true that those who affirm the Bible as only source of authority, that biblical authors intended what they meant and we can derive truth from what they wrote, that God is sovereign over salvation, that men should be elders in Churches, that husbands should lead their home, that women should be a helpmate to husbands . . . you are considered an out-dated, culturally-irrelevant, people-hating, close-minded, world-rejecting Fundamentalist who doesn’t understand Jesus’ call to “Kingdom Relationship”. Sad. Who would have thought that one who thinks the Bible actually means what it says would be mocked first by professing believers? But it’s true. This is the first sign, and it always begins here.

b. Substitutionary Atonement is Questioned

Whenever the idea is put forth that God isn’t mad at sinners, that crucifixion was divine child abuse, the Bible itself is being relegated and our salvation is in jeopardy. Richard Niebuhr of Machen’s day summarized it clearly: Liberalism is:

“A God without wrath bringing men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a cross.”

Without the cross, without substitutionary atonement, there is no forgiveness of sins, no reconciliation with God, no peace with humanity. There’s nothing. The very thing that can save our souls and save us from ourselves is rejected. When the authority and efficiency of Scripture is question, the very next doctrine that will be question is the nature of Christ and the cross. Look for it. Don’t be fooled by loose terminology veiled as relevancy.

c. Universalism is Entertained as a Possibility

It seems very popular now to think the Bible only speaks in metaphors and never in physical terms (regarding an eternal, physical hell). It is also and always will be popular to make the gospel sound as least offensive and as non-confrontational as possible. If that becomes the goal, God actually sending people to a physical hell is out. If the center of God’s attributes is love, then a loving God could not possibly do that. That’s too mean. That’s not the way to win friends and influence people.

That’s why Paul said to discern what the Scripture has taught and what you have learned; hold tightly to sound doctrine “So that you might save both yourself and your hearers” (2 Timothy 4:16). Sin is real; God is offended; hell brings justice. If God does not punish sin, He is not a God worth serving because He is not true to Himself and He ignores justice. Even if a professor propounds an over-glorified position of purgatory (God will soak up all the evil in Himself and empty heaven), then I would question whether it is then possible to eventually go from heaven to hell. If God can’t keep people out of hell, how do I know He will keep me in heaven? Don’t let professors entertain that idea. Snuff it out.

Historically, these are the tell-tale signs of coming heresy. It would not be surprising, then, that Machen composed a list of “Fundamentals” that closely resemble the above:

* Scripture’s Inspiration and Trustworthiness
* Christ’s Virgin Birth
* Christ’s Substitutionary Atonement
* Christ’s Bodily Resurrection (As an Historic Event)
* Christ’s Peformance of Miracles during his earthly Ministry

These five componants are what the Fundamentalists held to with the coming onslaught of Darwinism, Arianism, and relativism in the Church. Come to think of it, looking at this list, I’m not sure I mind being called a Fundalmentalist (it’s almost . . . like . . . biblical).

1. Hold Your Classmates and Professors Accountable to the Word of God

If your professor’s theological zipper is down, call him on it. Hold everything he says to the light of God’s Word. It is common that when a person goes to Bible college, he does not know much about the Bible (hey, that’s why he went, right?). But this can be dangerous because he could easily take as gospel truth whatever is being propounded from the front of the class room. Ask questions in order to understand the position. If something does not sound right, speak up.

A shocking and humbling reality is to realize that even at Christan Universities and Bible Colleges there are broken people who regularly engage in stealing, sexual immorality and drunkeness. Most students could care less about what they are learning; most desire to play video games rather than wrestle with the Word of God; most write their doctrinal statements of the Holy Spirit at midnight the night before it was due, because they decided to play rather than actually wrestle with what they believed about the Holy Spirit.

All that to say: I would encourage you to encourage your classmates. Correct them when necessary. Challenge them and remind them that whether or not they become a “vocational” minister of the Word, people will naturally hold them with high regards merely because they graduated from a Bible College. It is your God-given responsibility to hold accountable those who are part of the flock (Matthew 18; 2 Corinthians 5; 2 Thessalonians 3; Hebrews 2)

2. Resolve to Encourage Students in your Sphere of Influence

There are many opportunities you have to influence students.  At Multnomah, there are opportunities for students to teach freshmen Bible Study Methods. This is a unique opportunity not only to be in a mentoring relationship with the professor who oversees it, but also to encourage fellow students.  This may be unique to Multnomah, but if you have that opportunity at your school, take it.

Rally a group of fellow enthusiasts around for prayer; hold a Bible study. Host a weekly time of worship and Bible read-through. Promote what you want on the campus. If there is a particular class that you question the theology, gather the students for an extra session and facilitate a discussion centered on the areas of disagreement.

If you can and are able, join student government and rally for the change you see needed. Talk to the academic dean. Express your concerns that the school is not adhering to the word of God. Be a reformer in your own generation, in your own family, in your own school.

3. Reform is Always Needed

Often institutes and universities are started precisely because there was a need for reform. This was the case for Gresham Machen, who founded Westminster Theological Seminary because of Princeton’s ever-increasing slide into liberalism. Multnomah University was started by John G. Mitchell for the same reason. The point is, there will always be need for reform.  As excellent as Multnomah University is, it will inevitably need reform some day, simply because it is run by humans. And it will need competent, Bible-saturated, culturally relevant theologians to rise up and again hold the banner of Christ and the truth of the gospel . . . and next generation will need to then reform us.  It is a process necessary until the coming of our Lord.

Reformation never comes without a cost. For some of you, it may mean you move schools. For professors, it may mean they lose their job, much like Machen, R.A. Torrey and B.B. Warfield. But being right never has been poplular, and it shouldn’t surprise us that it never will be.

For an excellent article on Fundamentalism click here for Piper’s article


Media and The Glory of God–Why I Have Facebook

November 12, 2008

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I have always been skeptical about technology. Some have compared it to the young tiger that is very cute and cuddly, but when it grows up, it turns and eats you. While this certainly can be true about anything, I have come to reject this idea for several reasons. I would like to try and convince you that all sources of media use can be used for the glory of God, as well as to show you that men you and I admire and want to be like used the media of their day to spread the gospel. I guess you could call this “my defense of why I joined the static noise of Facebook”. Whenever I get a new gadget (an ipod), join a social network (facebook), I always make sure there is precision and purpose for what I do. Below are some thoughts for you to think about.

1. All Things are Under the Lordship of Christ

It is my theological conviction that all things are under the lordship of Christ. As Abraham Kuyper has said,

“There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: ‘Mine!’”

Therefore, everything that is created is good, because it comes from a good Father; it is what man does with those resources that are bad. Christ rules over all things. That is the logical argument and conclusion Paul makes in Ephesians and Colossians. Not only is Christ Lord over everything, but as His ambassadors in His Kingdom under His rule, we have the authority and the calling to redeem and take back that which has been used for evil. Don’t despise the technology that is being polluted. Instead, show how to properly use them for the glory of God. You should be thinking Kingdom governance and oversight. Show how a citizen of God’s Kingdom stewards and manages properly resources He has made available. You are a manager of many resources that can be used as a tool. Redeem technology. If your excuse is, “Well, so many people have used it for ill” then for Christ’s and the gospel’s sake get out there and use it for good. Don’t let pagans use for evil the things your King has created. Show them how to use it properly.

2. Every Media Tool is a Vehicle to Spread the Gospel of Christ

Your main objection and the responsibility you have as a steward of God’s gifts is to use it for the purpose of spreading the gospel. To be honest, I am technologically illiterate . . . but I’m learning. More honestly, I used to be a puritan/fundamentalist (. . . well, I still am in many ways) when it came to anything new in technology. I only saw the evil in it. I saw ipods were only used to waste time listening to music that mushed your brain. And Facebook? Well, don’t get me started on Facebook.

But I have been convicted that we as believers have a unique opportunity to reach and evangelize the world . . . from our desk. Don’t get me wrong, this is not negating or excusing you from the responsibility to physically get in the presence of non-believers and preach the gospel. But while you are preaching, evangelizing, fellowshipping and spreading the gospel to your sphere of influence, you can also be impacting those around the world. You should be active in all types of media . . . no matter what your eschatology. Blogs. Facebook. Websites. The gospel of Christ can be used in any media. Picture these as an extension of your voice. When I use a microphone, it is acting as merely an extension of my voice to reach a larger group of people. Blogs, Facebook, ipods and websites can all be tools in which God uses as an extension of spreading the gospel. So the only question that remains is, “Why aren’t you involved?”

3. Everything You Own is for One Purpose Only . . .

Why have I chosen to spend X amount of dollars on a car? To spread the gospel of Jesus Christ. That car is an extension of my legs. It takes me to Western Seminary where I listen to influential men who prepare me to prepare. Why do I own a home? To house my family and other weary sojourners who need refreshment. Why do I own an ipod? To listen to men that are present day Spurgeons. If I lived in Spurgeon’s day and was even 100 miles from him, I might not even know he exists. And how many people didn’t! Now, I can listen to Piper, Macarthur and Mark Driscoll all because of the gracious, good gift from God expressed in an ipod.

4. Spread the Gospel, Not Yourself

I can’t tell you how sick I am of updates on Facebook that tell me how great my friend’s mocha was, or what euphoric experience they had the other day. As Christians, our primary task is to spread the vision of Jesus Christ and His glory. Take a look at your facebook and answer this question:


Do your posts, updates, links, pictures and videos reflect the aroma of the spreading of Christ, or do you contribute to the world’s static chatter that numbs our minds to thinking after Christ?


Answer the question. Make the changes.

5. Those Before Us . . .

If Paul would have shunned the stadium, men of Athens would not have heard him. If Luther would have despised the printing press, no Reformation. Period. Because he took advantage of the media of the time, there was a Reformation that exploded throughout the world. If Billy Graham would have despised the microphone, the some odd million people would never have heard him. If Piper would have neglected the tape recorder, we would not have any of his sermons from the past.

6. Final Exhortations And Some Ideas

  • Redeem your ipod. Don’t just fill your 80 gig ipod with music, fill it with sermons! We live in a unique day and age where we can listen to a sermon given thousands of miles away, all while jogging! Redeem your ipod.
  • Start a blog. There is no greater way to influence a great amount of people than by blogging your opinions . . . but blog the opinions of the Apostles. Pick something you are passionate about in regards to the gospel—a need you see not being fulfilled—and begin to rally around you fellow enthusiasts for the cause of Christ
  • Start a Facebook. Spread the message of Jesus Christ. Don’t just tell your friends pointless updates, encourage them in the faith, challenge them in their beliefs, and call them to join you in the spreading of the gospel, not yourself.

What do you think? How and what do you see is the purpose of social networks like Facebook? According to what you’ve heard me say, how do you think they should be used and why.


Spread the gospel. Preach the Word. Get Facebook.

An Example of How Not to Preach From Steven Furtick

October 22, 2008

Steven Furtick is a 28 year old pastor at Elevation Church in Charlotte, NC.   Check this clip out and tell us what you think of his preaching.


A Misunderstanding of Doctrine

 I can sympathize with his frustration regarding all head and no heart Christians.  I understand the issue he is trying to address.  But Pastor Steven has led his flock to bad grass.  Underlying his message is a fundamental misunderstanding: It appears he thinks sound doctrine and sound living cannot co-exist, and if they do, it’s a shaky relationship.

You Can’t Preach Jesus Without Preaching Doctrine

Notice his sarcastic remarks regarding justification by faith in Galatians, propitiation from sin and the doctrines of grace of John Calvin.  I agree with him if he’s saying we are not to follow the teachings of man but the teachings of Christ.  I couldn’t agree more.  But what should first be understand is this: the doctrines of grace are not the idea of John Calvin; it’s the idea and theology of Paul.  Without the doctrines of grace there is no gospel.  Propitiation is the gospel.  Without grace and a proper understanding of that grace there is nothing to preach.  Doctrine is what drives evangelism.  Doctrine produces sound living.  It is the engine which pulls the train, the rudder which steers the ship from dangerous waters.  If people in his church have lost a vision for evangelism, loving the saints and preaching the gospel, then it’s possible they have never heard sound teaching.  You cannot have right living apart from right teaching.  If there is a disconnect, the fault lies with the preacher, not the sheep.  If sheep are not responding to sound doctrine, the course of action is not to move away from sound doctrine but to correct people’s misunderstanding of that doctrine

Pharisees weren’t Pharisees because they knew sound doctrine; they were condemned for knowing the wrong doctrine.

The aim of preaching is the salvation of souls, and the glory of God is our chief object.  We aim at it by clear statements of gospel doctrine, never shrinking from declaring the whole council of God. If the conversion of souls and the glory of God is our aim, then assuredly we should attend to the truths that most prominently speak to that end, which includes sound doctrine.

Conviction Vs. Condemnation

There is a large chasm between conviction and condemnation, and it would serve a young preacher well to know the difference. Condemnation beats the sheep; conviction lovingly disciplines the sheep. Condemnations leaves the saints with no hope and only fear of judgment; conviction leads them to the cross in repentance and godly sorrow, producing a harvest of righteousness and peace. In condemnation, the preacher is the judge ruthlessly giving a verdict to a people he cares not; in conviction, a preacher weeps over his flock that has gone astray. Condemnation curses; conviction pleads.  He’s angry.  And anger never produces a harvest of righteousness.

I started to count how many times he said “you”, but stopped after 50. Also notice how his finger is pointed at the people all the time. If his finger should go any where . . . it should go in the text.

Use of Humor in Preaching

His joke about taking his anger out on his wife is just childish. That type of “humor” does not serve the text nor the flock. He has ultimately dishonored his wife, the Bride of Christ and the gospel of Jesus Christ.  He has not served to adorn the gospel.

Don’t Imitate Other Preachers; Be Your Own Man

Who is he trying to be, anyway? A bad imitation of Mark Driscoll?  At least be original.  Spurgeon says one of the worst things you can do is fall into a foolish imitation of an admired preacher.  Be yourself in your presentation of the eternal truth.

In all honesty, I never want to preach a sermon the way this young man did. May we learn now so that we may have less to repent of later.


What would some of you Paul’s say to this young man?

What do you Timothy’s think?


Preach the Word

October 9, 2008

As young men who are in the midst of beginning families studying the Word of God (whether in an academic manner or in our own personal study), we do know that we want to preach the Gospel! We know that we have been commanded by God to preach the Word and do the work of an evangelist (2 Tim 4:2-5), to guard sound doctrine closely (1 Tim 1:3; 4:16), to fight the good fight of faith (1 Tim 6:12) and to not let anyone look down on us because we are young, but to set as an example for believers in speech, life, love, faith and purity (1 Tim 4:12). We want to see the future Church of Jesus Christ filled with Bible-loving, doctrine-guarding, Christ-exalting, sheep-loving wolf-killing elders.


We Want to Begin Preparing Now for Then


We want to call our generation to join with us in preparing to become elders in the Church of Jesus Christ, whether in America or in a distant land to an un-reached people. We want young preachers to arise in the pulpit. We want young Timothy’s to set out and plant churches. We want Timothy’s to give their lives to a foreign people in a foreign land. We want to come under well-trained, seasoned men of God who have wisdom beyond our ministry experience and train us in their ways. We want to fan into flame the gift God has given us and have that gift tested, approved and sharpened by older men. We want to help move our generation to, what we believe, is a Paul and Timothy model of mentoring.


And We Know We’re Not Alone.


We know you’re out there. We know we’re not the only ones who have this desire. We know God is in the process raising up a remnant that loves Christ, loves His Word and loves His sheep. So, we want to hear from you in order to gather together and move as one towards the goal of preparing to become elders for the future Church of Jesus Christ. Tell us your situation.  Tell us the calling you’ve received. Join the movement.

Preach the Word.

What to Ask Yourself Before You Preach

October 1, 2008

Is This What the Author Intended?

Your authority in preaching lies not in what you in your own ability or opinions assert, but rather in the proclamation of the authority of the author.  When you are preaching the intention of the author, your words carry with it the authority of God Himself.  By understanding the author’s intent you then release the Spirit’s power to convict sinners and comfort saints.

 

If you can, consult the original language.  In Luther’s day, not knowing the original language was a reasonable excuse.  In our day, there is no excuse.  There is an incredible amount of resources to access in order to learn Hebrew and Greek.  In this day and age, one can even learn a language over the internet.  Even if you do not know languages or have any idea where to begin, there are many tools available that can aid a non-linguistic.  To see some, click here. 

 

Does my Explanation Fit the Larger Context?

Your sermon must be a slave to the flow of the text.  No matter how small of a passage you are preaching, if you are preaching from an epistle, it would be in your best interest to have the entire book in mind.  You should have your own outline of the book, an understanding of major themes, repeated words/phrases, usages of O.T. quotation, exhortations and commands. 

 

There may be many surface level issues people are dealing with that seem legitimate—and this may be a temptation to use the passage in which you are speaking from as a springboard into some other topic foreign to the mind of the author—but humanity’s greatest problem and greatest answer is in the pages of Scripture.  Stick to the text.

 

How Will This Truth Be Resisted by the Hearers?

Assume resistance.  Romans 1 says that people naturally suppress the truth from themselves.  In other words, you should expect that everybody will not wish to believe what you have to say. 

Paul told Timothy that in the last days people will not put up with sound teaching but instead will surround themselves with the prosperity gospel, The Shack, Velvet Elvis and many other teachings that do not abide with sound doctrine.  (To listen to an excellent review of the Shack, click here for Albert Mohler’s radio program).

 

The Puritans approached preaching this way.  They would often craft their sermons around the very objection they believed their hearers would raise, and would then seek to clearly buttress their sermon from the argument of Scripture.  

 

Does This Sermon Convict Sinners?

Your primary task as a preacher is to point out the awfulness of sin and awesomeness of Christ.  You should make hell appear intolerably horrible and heaven irresistibly beautiful.   If people are not convicted over sin through the words of him who speaks at the pulpit, he has no business to stand before them.  Preach as if standing on the borders of another world, pleading with people not to sell their souls to such unsatisfying, unfulffilling pleasures of the world.

 

Does This Sermon Encourage the Saints?

Every sermon should cause the saints to hope in God, to hate sin, to stand firm in their faith and to long for the Day of Christ’s return.  If all you do is parse Greek verbs and talk about the historical-geographical background of the text, your listeners have yet to hear what the text actually says.  Stick to the text.

 

May the Lord bless you in your endeavor to be faithful to His Word and to tremble when presenting it.

 

Preach the Word.

Know the Scriptures: The First Task of a Timothy

September 7, 2008

I have yet to meet a true, born-again believer who does not love their Bible. How do I know when person loves their Bible? It’s all they talk about. Scripture is in their language. Scripture is in their prayers. The Bible’s in their back pocket. Everything they discuss reminds them of the pages of Scripture. You know how it is: you start talking to them and they say, “You know, I was reading this morning in brother Jude’s letter. . .” Personally, I just become really uncomfortable when someone is telling me about a “spiritual experience” they had or what “God told them last night” and I can’t even link together a Scripture reference to their language and terminology. That concerns me.

Be sure there will be no experience, no dream or vision that cannot be directly verified by the context of Scripture. Check this out: Peter, when speaking about that holy moment when he, James and John stood before the Son of God as He was transfigured (Matt 17), says to us, “We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain.” And then, just before we all start feeling jealous that he was there and we weren’t, he says something that blows my mind: “And we have something that is more certain: the word of the prophets.” What! You mean that we, the church, have something that is more certain than standing on the mount of transfiguration? Yep. The Old Testament. And more than that, we have the New Testament that confirms that the One of whom of the Old Testament speaks of, Jesus our king, has now come in the flesh. That . . . is cool.

So what can a young Timothy do in order to prepare for the work of the ministry? Know the Word. Memorize the Word. Pray the Word. Preach the Word.

Here are some tips that have helped me love the Scriptures:

1. Read The Bible

“Wow” you say. That was helpful. I know, it’s basic. But few Christians do it. The first step to Bible Study Methods is familiarity. Familiarity is key. Read. Read. READ.

2. Start At the Beginning

Picture with me trying to understand the LORD of THE RINGS trilogy by picking up one of the books at random, turning to the middle of that book, and reading a chapter. How long would it take you to understand what Tolkien was talking about? You might never understand it that way. But that’s exactly what we do with the Bible. We treat it as a collection of 66 complete random books that have no unity at all. I know that’s not what we think, but that’s the assumption that we are living under when we read the Bible at random. Read all the way through.  There needs to be an overall knowledge of the Bible, as a whole.  When we are studying a passage, or listening to a sermon, we need to be able to place every part of Scripture into the overall context of the entire canon and understand its unique purpose.  It is our hope to understand, the best we can, the aimed intention of the Divine Author for every part of Scripture.

3. Read a Whole Book at a Time

This is obviously easier in the N.T. than in the Old. But try it in the Old! Deuteronomy was a sermon brothers and sisters, and we have a hard time sitting through a 1/2 hour sermon! If you can’t read a whole O.T. book at a time, then at least review where you are in the narrative to remind you of the story. This is especially helpful in the N.T., where conclusions are pivotal to understanding the argument of the epistle.

Here are some ideas that can get you started… If you are aspiring to the work of an elder, hopefully you are already well beyond “started”.  So, in that case, hopefully this will help you continue to succeed in the essentials!

We must know the Word in order to preach it!