Monday, July 31, 2006
I was talking to an old friend last night and we were talking about the inerrancy of Scripture. He stated that the term had too much baggage and, therefore, shouldn't be used today - in fact, it may keep some people from Christ. I disagree. However, there is still much confusion over what this term means. The clearest and most accepted exposition of the term "Inerrancy" is The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy. Check it out here. For a very helpful book check out: Scripture Alone by R.C. Sproul. Other helpful books include: Inerrancy edited by Norman Geisler, Scripture and Truth edited by D.A. Carson, Christ and the Bible by John W. Wenham, and God has Spoken by J.I. Packer. A good and cheap place to buy these books is www.abe.com.
Wednesday, July 26, 2006
Those who are familiar with my ministry know that I am committed to expository preaching. It is my unshakable conviction that the proclamation of God’s Word should always be the heart and the focus of the church’s ministry (2 Tim. 4:2). And proper biblical preaching should be systematic, expositional, theological, and God-centered.
Such preaching is in short supply these days. There are plenty of gifted communicators in the modern evangelical movement, but today’s sermons tend to be short, shallow, topical homilies that massage people’s egos and focus on fairly insipid subjects like human relationships, "successful" living, emotional issues, and other practical but worldly—and not definitively biblical—themes. Like the ubiquitous Plexiglas lecterns from which these messages are delivered, such preaching is lightweight and without substance, cheap and synthetic, leaving little more than an ephemeral impression on the minds of the hearers.
Some time ago I hosted a discussion at the Expositors’ Institute, an annual small-group colloquium on preaching held at our church. In preparation for that seminar, I took a yellow legal pad and a pen and began listing the negative effects of the superficial brand of preaching that is so rife in modern evangelicalism.
I initially thought I might be able to identify about ten, but in the end I had jotted down a list of sixty-one devastating consequences. I’ve distilled them to fifteen by combining and eliminating all but the most crucial ones. I offer them as a warning against superficial, marginally-biblical preaching—both to those who stand behind the pulpit and to those who sit in the pew.
1. It usurps the authority of God over the soul. Whether a preacher boldly proclaims the Word of God or not is ultimately a question of authority. Who has the right to speak to the church? The preacher or God? Whenever anything is substituted for the preaching of the Word, God’s authority is usurped. What a prideful thing to do! In fact, it is hard to conceive of anything more insolent that could be done by a man who is called by God to preach.
2. It removes the lordship of Christ from His church. Who is the Head of the church? Is Christ really the dominant teaching authority in the church? If so, then why are there so many churches where His Word is not being faithfully proclaimed? When we look at contemporary ministry, we see programs and methods that are the fruit of human invention, the offspring of opinion polls and neighborhood surveys, and other pragmatic artifices. Church-growth experts have in essence wrested control of the church’s agenda from her true Head, the Lord Jesus Christ. Our Puritan forefathers resisted the imposition of government-imposed liturgies for precisely this reason: They saw it as a direct attack on the headship of Christ over His own church. Modern preachers who neglect the Word of God have yielded the ground those men fought and sometimes died for. When Jesus Christ is exalted among His people, His power is manifest in the church. When the church is commandeered by compromisers who want to appease the culture, the gospel is minimized, true power is lost, artificial energy must be manufactured, and superficiality takes the place of truth.
3. It hinders the work of the Holy Spirit. What is the instrument the Spirit uses to do His work? The Word of God. He uses the Word as the instrument of regeneration (1 Pet. 1:23; Jas. 1:18). He also uses it as the means of sanctification (John 17:17). In fact, it is the only tool He uses (Eph. 6:17). So when preachers neglect God’s Word, they undermine the work of the Holy Spirit, producing shallow conversions and spiritually lame Christians—if not utterly spurious ones.
4. It demonstrates appalling pride and a lack of submission. In the modern approach to "ministry," the Word of God is deliberately downplayed, the reproach of Christ is quietly repudiated, the offense of the gospel is carefully eliminated, and "worship" is purposely tailored to fit the preferences of unbelievers. That is nothing but a refusal to submit to the biblical mandate for the church. The effrontery of ministers who pursue such a course is, to me, frightening.
5. It severs the preacher personally from the regular sanctifying grace of Scripture. The greatest personal benefit that I get from preaching is the work that the Spirit of God does on my own soul as I study and prepare for two expository messages each Lord’s day. Week by week the duty of careful exposition keeps my own heart focused and fixed on the Scriptures, and the Word of God nourishes me while I prepare to feed my flock. So I am personally blessed and spiritually strengthened through the enterprise. If for no other reason, I would never abandon biblical preaching. The enemy of our souls is after preachers in particular, and the sanctifying grace of the Word of God is critical to our protection.
6. It clouds the true depth and transcendence of our message and therefore cripples both corporate and personal worship. What passes for preaching in some churches today is literally no more profound than what preachers in our fathers’ generation were teaching in the five-minute children’s sermon they gave before dismissing the kids. That’s no exaggeration. It is often that simplistic, if not utterly inane. There is nothing deep about it. Such an approach makes it impossible for true worship to take place, because worship is a transcendent experience. Worship should take us above the mundane and simplistic. So the only way true worship can occur is if we first come to grips with the depth of spiritual truth. Our people can only rise high in worship in the same proportion to which we have taken them deep into the profound truths of the Word. There is no way they can have lofty thoughts of God unless we have plunged them into the depths of God’s self-revelation. But preaching today is neither profound nor transcendent. It doesn’t go down, and it doesn’t go up. It merely aims to entertain.
By the way, true worship is not something that can be stimulated artificially. A bigger, louder band and more sentimental music might do more to stir people’s emotions. But that is not genuine worship. True worship is a response from the heart to God’s truth (John 4:23). You can actually worship without music if you have seen the glories and the depth of what the Bible teaches.
7. It prevents the preacher from fully developing the mind of Christ. Pastors are supposed to be undershepherds of Christ. Too many modern preachers are so bent on understanding the culture that they develop the mind of the culture and not the mind of Christ. They start to think like the world, and not like the Savior. Frankly, the nuances of worldly culture are virtually irrelevant to me. I want to know the mind of Christ and bring that to bear on the culture, no matter what culture I may be ministering to. If I’m going to stand up in a pulpit and be a representative of Jesus Christ, I want to know how He thinks—and that must be my message to His people too. The only way to know and proclaim the mind of Christ is by being faithful to study and preach His Word. What happens to preachers who obsess about cultural "relevancy" is that they become worldly, not godly.
8. It depreciates by example the spiritual duty and priority of personal Bible study. Is personal Bible study important? Of course. But what example does the preacher set when he neglects the Bible in his own preaching? Why would people think they need to study the Bible if the preacher doesn’t do serious study himself in the preparation of his sermons? There is now a movement among some of the gurus of "seeker-sensitive" ministry to trim, as much as possible, all explicit references to the Bible from the sermon—and above all, don’t ever ask your people to turn to a specific Bible passage because that kind of thing makes "seekers" uncomfortable. Some "seeker-sensitive" churches actively discourage their people from bringing Bibles to church lest the sight of so many Bibles intimidate the "seekers." As if it were dangerous to give your people the impression that the Bible might be important!
9. It prevents the preacher from being the voice of God on every issue of his time. Jeremiah 8:9 says, "The wise men are ashamed, they are dismayed and taken. Behold, they have rejected the word of the Lord; so what wisdom do they have?" When I speak, I want to be God’s messenger. I’m not interested in exegeting what some psychologist or business guru or college professor has to say about an issue. My people don’t need my opinion; they need to hear what God has to say. If we preach as Scripture commands us, there should be no ambiguity about whose message is coming from the pulpit.
10. It breeds a congregation that is as weak and indifferent to the glory of God as their pastor is. "Seeker-sensitive" preaching fosters people who are consumed with their own well-being. When you tell people that the church’s primary ministry is to fix for them whatever is wrong in this life—to meet their needs, to help them cope with their worldly disappointments, and so on—the message you are sending is that their mundane problems are more important than the glory of God and the majesty of Christ. Again, that sabotages true worship.
11. It robs people of their only true source of help. People who sit under superficial preaching become dependent on the cleverness and the creativity of the speaker. When preachers punctuate their sermons with laser lights and smoke, video clips and live drama, the message they send is that there isn’t a prayer the people in the pew could ever extract such profound material on their own. Such gimmicks create a kind of dispensing mechanism that people can’t use to serve themselves. So they become spiritual couch potatoes who just come in to be entertained, and whatever superficial spiritual content they get from the preacher’s weekly performance is all they will get. They have no particular interest in the Bible because the sermons they hear don’t cultivate that. They are wowed by the preacher’s creativity and manipulated by the music, and that becomes their whole perspective on spirituality.
12. It encourages people to become indifferent to the Word of God and divine authority. Predictably, in a church where the preaching of Scripture is neglected, it becomes impossible to get people to submit to the authority of Scripture. The preacher who always aims at meeting felt needs and strokes the conceit of worldly people has no platform from which to confront the man who wants to divorce his wife without cause. The man will say, "You don’t understand what I feel. I came here because you promised to meet my felt needs. And I’m telling you, I don’t feel like I want to live with this woman anymore." You can’t inject biblical authority into that. You certainly wouldn’t have an easy time pursuing church discipline. That is the monster that superficial preaching creates. But if you are going to try to deal with sin and apply any kind of authoritative principle to keep the church pure, you must be preaching the Word.
13. It lies to people about what they really need. In Jeremiah 8:11, God condemns the prophets who treated people’s wounds superficially. That verse applies powerfully to the plastic preachers who populate so many prominent evangelical pulpits today. They omit the hard truths about sin and judgment. They tone down the offensive parts of Christ’s message. They lie to people about what they really need, promising them "fulfillment" and earthly well-being when what people really need is an exalted vision of Christ and a true understanding of the splendor of God’s holiness.
14. It strips the pulpit of power. "The word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword" (Heb. 4:12). Everything else is impotent, giving merely an illusion of power. Human strategy is not more important than Scripture. The showman’s ability to lure people in should not impress us more than the Bible’s ability to transform lives.
15. It puts the responsibility on the preacher to change people with his cleverness. Preachers who pursue the modern approach to ministry must think they have the power to change people. That, too, is a frightening expression of pride. We preachers can’t save people, and we can’t sanctify them. We can’t change people with our insights, our cleverness, by entertaining them or by appealing to their human whims and wishes and ambitions. There’s only One who can change sinners. That’s God, and He does it by His Spirit through the Word.
So pastors must preach the Word, even though it is currently out of fashion to do so (2 Tim. 4:2). That is the only way their ministry can ever truly be fruitful. Moreover, it assures that they will be fruitful in ministry, because God’s Word never returns to Him void; it always accomplishes that for which He sends it and prospers in what He sends it to do (Isa. 55:11).
John MacArthur is the pastor of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, CA and is the author of numerous books.
Article Taken from the 9 Marks Ministry Website
Monday, July 24, 2006
“It Doesn’t Matter What You Do, God Loves You” and the Judgment of God in
Romans 2:4: "4 Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God's kindness leads you toward repentance?"
Douglas Moo commenting on this passage says this: "Certainly the OT encourages God's people to regard God as merciful and forgiving (e.g., Ps. 145). But the assumption of God's special favor toward his people had already in the OT period become a source of false security for those within Israel who were not living faithfully within the covenant, as the preaching of the prophets abundantly indicates. The literature of intertestamental Judaism, while consistently stressing the need for Jews to repent of sin, also tended to highlight
Does this sound familiar to you? Often one hears pastors and Christians saying things like: "It doesn't matter what you do, God loves you the same" or "God has already judged Jesus on the cross, so he will not judge you for your sin." This perspective is characterized as follows:
“A prevailing notion is that all we have to do to enter the
However, the book of Romans, and the whole New Testament itself, seems to teach something totally different:
“Romans 2:5 But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God's wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed.
If you have an unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath.
6 God "will give to each person according to what he has done." 7 To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life.
8 But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. 9 There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile;
11 For God does not show favoritism. 12 All who sin apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who sin under the law will be judged by the law. 13 For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God's sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous.
16 This will take place on the day when God will judge men's secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares.
God will judge us based on the works we are done. This does not mean that salvation is by works, for Paul clearly says in Romans 3:27-38: “27 Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. On what principle? On that of observing the law? No, but on that of faith. 28 For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law” and in Romans 11:6: “And if by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace” and in Romans.
However, we will all stand before God’s judgment seat, and it is here that our faith will be revealed as a true faith or a false faith: “21 "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' 23 Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'” (Matthew 7:21-23).
Therefore, our attitude in life should not be like that of Israel’s, possessing a false security that believes that we are immune to God’s judgment and that we are guaranteed God’s favour and salvation, when our very lives are contradicting the Holy God we claim is our Father. Instead, let us work out our salvation with “with fear and trembling” (Philippians ), for “he who stands firm to the end will be saved” (Matthew ; cf. 1 Timothy ).
A helpful resource you might want to check out is: Donald S. Whitney, How Can I Be Sure I’m A Christian?: What the Bible Says About Assurance of Salvation (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 1994).
Thursday, July 20, 2006
Friday, July 14, 2006
"Stop Test-Driving Your Girlfriend"
The following is taken from Justin Taylor's blog:
Michael Lawrence, associate pastor at Capitol Hill Baptist Church, has written a must-read article for single men entitled Stop Test-Driving Your Girlfriend. It's chock full of practical biblical wisdom. I encourage you to read the whole thing.
The most common question he hears from single Christian men is: "How do I know if she's the one?" But he rightly suggests this is the wrong question. The questions instead should be:
- Am I the sort of man a godly woman would want to marry?
- What sort of qualities should I be looking for in a wife so that my marriage will be a picture of the relationship between Christ and the church?
- Generally speaking, will you be able to serve God better together than apart?
- Do you desire to fulfill the biblical role of a husband outlined in Ephesians 5:22-33 with this specific woman? Do you want to love her sacrificially?
- Does this relationship spur you on in your Christian discipleship, or does it dull and distract your interest in the Lord and his people? Are you more or less eager to study God's word, and pray, and give yourself in service as a result of time spent together?
- Do you think she will make a good discipler of your children?
- What do other mature Christian friends and family members say about your relationship? Do they see a relationship that is spiritually solid and God-glorifying?
Righteousness and Peace have kissed each other.
Now is the Hour of Darkness come,
And Jesus waits to hear his Doom;
The Roman speaks, the Jews reply,
"His Blood be on us, let him die."
Death and Despair, what do I see?
The Lamb of God hang on a Tree!
With rusty Nails his Body tore,
And bloody Sweat from ev'ry Pore
Runs plentious down.
Hark! how he groans! his bitter Cries
The Rocks have split; but see! he dies!
Now is the Hour of Darkness past,
Christ has assum'd his reigning Pow'r;
Behold the great Accuser cast
Down from the Skies to rise no more.
Old Adam the First, excited by Lust,
And Eve the Seducer entailed the Curse;
But Adam the Second, our Saviour and King,
Has made the Atonement and freed us from Sin.
[William Billings as cited in: Mark Dever, Promises Kept: The Message of the New Testament (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2005), 158-159].
Tuesday, July 11, 2006
Justin Taylor has been spending time with J.I. Packer lately. Here is a memorable moment:
"[J.I. Packer] mentioned how struck he was by the comment once made by G. Campbell Morgan (d. 1945), who remarked that he wouldn't expound a book of the Bible until he'd read it through 40 times. Inspired by that comment, Packer read the book of Hebrews through 10 times in a row in one sitting. That event, he said, was a watershed moment for him, and he'd like to encourage once again the lost habit of reading whole biblical books at a time."
For more on Justin Taylor's mini-interviews with Packer see the following: "CBA and Packer," "Packer on Becoming a Better Writer," and "Packer Tidbits."
Saturday, July 08, 2006
Sunday, July 02, 2006
The following is taken from Justin Taylor's blog:
Here's a biographical sketch of a warm, winsome, humble brother who has been saved by grace and is using his skills at rap--formerly used to celebrate sin and now being used to sing of the Savior--in order to edify the body of Christ.
"Voice sought refuge in rap music from his fatherless upbringing and the mean streets of Washington, D.C. Voice’s rap sheet started around the same time he began listening to rap and hip-hop—when he was 7 years old. It was the early 1980’s, and life in the hood was being lyricized by the likes of Run-DMC, KRS One, Doug E. Fresh, Eric B., and Rakim, and Big Daddy Kane. Those were the hip-hop pioneers who shaped Voice’s ear and his outlook. He began break dancing, then rapping. He practiced impromptu and spontaneous freestyle rap, calling himself MC Finnesse. He got into the studio, and while others were playing ball, he was laying down tracks. After numerous demo tapes and rap battles at clubs, Voice was a recognized up and coming rapper. The D.C. market’s two biggest rap and R&B stations, 93.9 WKYS and 95.5 WPCG, began to play his songs.
"The early 1990’s . . . rolled around, and it looked like a recording contract would as well. Voice changed his name to Intrigue Garcia. He began to develop a crew of other rappers from his Belle Haven neighborhood, hoping to “take the recording industry by storm” and represent D.C. But the Belle Haven crew, known as “2nd Gin,” was involved in more than rap. They developed a drug dealing operation as well, and Voice found himself in a complicated world where art and life intertwined. The crime and violence he rapped about were more than poetic narratives—they were gritty realities. As hip hop denegrated into an increasingly bitter feud between the west and east coasts, Voice’s life began to spiral out of control as well. Shortly after he met with an entertainment lawyer and record label executives to sign a recording contract, he was charged with felony assault with a deadly weapon, second degree assault, reckless endangerment and possession of a gun. Voice faced 43 years in prison. He needed refuge, but music could not deliver that, and he knew it.
"A few friends stuck with Voice through the trial. One was a Christian. He told Voice about Jesus’ death on the cross and resurrection. This was an old story for Voice. He had heard it many times. But this time he was low enough to listen. Miraculously, a judge sentenced Voice to only 20 months in jail and extended probation. Voice felt that God had worked on his behalf, and instead of walking away from God, drew closer. But Voice knew he needed Christian friends and a strong church. His friend’s church was gospel-centered, scripturally strong, and practiced what it preached. But it was predominantly white. This was an obstacle for Voice, but God used it to confront wrong attitudes in Voice’s heart. Voice joined Covenant Life Church in 2001, and is now a bridge to the African-American community while serving as a singles ministry intern. 'This church accepted me as I was and helped me to grow as I should,' says Voice. 'The grace of God is seen so clearly in the local church and for me this is what I needed and what we all need if we are to mature in Christ.'
"Voice decided to forget about rap. It was a distraction from his love for God because it tempted him to worship himself and lured his heart toward his old life. It functioned as an idol in his heart. But in January 2004, Covenant Life Church pastor Joshua Harris, also Executive Director of New Attitude Ministries, asked Voice to rap at the national 'New Attitude' Conference. Voice performed “You Have Captured Me” for 3,500 young people, and then realized his love and desire for rap remained. But the focus would no longer be on himself, or guns, drugs, or women. 'My desire is to hopefully affect people with content that speaks of the truth of the gospel,' Voice says. 'With all that I have been through, I still can’t believe I’m here and that I might have the opportunity to be used by God in this way. I’ll take this over prison any day.''"
For more info on Voice's new CD, Progression, you can read about it or purchase it through the Sovereign Grace Ministries Store.
"The CD features 16 new songs that portray a Christian’s 'progression' from conversion, through the joys and trials of the Christian life, toward a destiny that’s about God, not us. You can listen to song samples and download lyrics at the official website of Voice: www.ihearvoice.com."
Well-Meaning Pastors Who Endanger the Church
Jim Hamilton gives us some wise counsel on "how [to] avoid winding up with a pastor who will harm the church by turning Christianity into the American religion of self help therapy." (Thanks to Justin Taylor).
A Call for a Spiritual, Intellectual, and Creative Renaissance
"C.S. Lewis said, we don't need more Christian writers; we need more Christians who can write. Lewis and Tolkien wrote 50 years ago and are still influential today because their work had spiritual, intellectual and creative ballast. They would not have imagined operating in the kind of parallel universe that Christian media has become. They were mainstreamed. Last year alone their works sold in the millions. At the risk of sounding uncharitable—50 years from now, how many copies of Left Behind and the Purpose Driven Life will be sold? Our popular culture is impoverished and the 'Christian media culture' is satisfied to make money by serving crumbs off the table of that fallen culture, often dumbing down our faith in the process. Until we experience a spiritual, intellectual and creative renaissance, both culture and the parallel universe of Christian media will serve thin gruel, entertaining ourselves to death. I'm concerned about the whole Christian media enterprise."
(Thanks to Justin Taylor)
Saturday, July 01, 2006
Conversations Heard at the Water Cooler at Work"So hey what have you been up to lately."
"We'll believe it or not I am into reading."
"Really? Reading what?"
"Well, I am growing my spirituality."
"So, what are you reading?"
"Well I am reading the Bible. And let me tell you, that guy can write!"
Taken from Ben Witherington's blog. Thanks to Judah Oudshoorn for the tip to go to this blog.