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Letting The Word Do Its Work – Again

At Ligonier, Steven Lawson recalls the well-known quote from Martin Luther about his belief that the event we know as the Reformation was primarily a ministry of God’s Word.
As Lawson goes on to add, tomorrow at MGPC we’ll be setting the Bible loose again confident that it will do its work.

As the Reformation began to break, Luther was approached: “Explain what is taking place here in Europe?” “Explain the Reformation?” Luther gave this famous answer: “I simply taught, preached, wrote God’s Word. Otherwise, I did nothing. And then I slept. And the Word so greatly weakened the Papacy that never a prince and never an emperor inflicted such damage upon it. I did nothing. The Word did it all.”

We’re not looking for gospel gimmicks in these days. We’re not looking trendy little techniques. We’re looking for men, and women, and churches, and seminaries, and ministries, and denominations who will stand up with the Word of God—teach it, preach it, write it, sing it, counsel it, lift it up, let it out, and let it fly. And let the Word do its work.

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Allowing God To Set The Agenda (via Stephen Neale)

The bulk of sermons at MGPC follow an expository, systematic Bible teaching pattern. Sermon series follow books of the Bible, sometimes in sections. This year we’ve been through the book of James and we’ll finish with Ecclesiastes; we’ve also been through sections of 1 Kings (chapters 12-17) and Mark’s Gospel (chapters 9-11). We’ll return to those next year.
Sunday nights has been John’s Gospel, which I took up after finishing Psalms. Currently after John (whenever that finishes I think I’ll go through Isaiah).
Through summer and at various points of the year we have occasional sermons.
Our expository sermons focus on the passages at hand, not on themes drawn from them.
I believe this is the best way for people to hear God, and not the preacher’s themes and interests. We don’t ride hobby horses. We simply preach what the text is this week. And next week we preach the next text.

Stephen Neale points out that this is a balanced diet of God’s word, in contrast to the what might be understood as a dessert buffet version of preaching if the series reflect the preacher’s interests.

The regular diet of expository, systematic Bible teaching is like your meat and potatoes main meal. It will fill you up, it is good for you and it will build you up. I am convinced that the best diet for our churches is one that majors on teaching the scriptures faithfully, book-by-book and allowing the Lord to set the agenda for your church.

Read the whole post here.


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The Danger Of Moralistic Preaching That Drives Hearers Away From Christ (via David Prince)

An extended article pointing out how Biblical preaching, even preaching based on Gospel texts can lead people away from fellowship with Jesus through moralistic applications:

It is possible to preach only true assertions from the Scripture and yet mislead hearers regarding the truth of the faith because none of the truths of Scripture are meant to be understood in isolation. When ethical and moral imperatives are proclaimed as sufficient, even abstracted from Jesus, the result is a crossless Christianity in which the central message becomes an exhortation to live according to God’s rules. Christless, moralistic preaching is not restricted to the Old Testament. Frequently, gospel-free sermons emerge from the gospel narratives themselves, their significance reduced to mere moralisms.
When preaching is moralistic rather than Christ-centered hearers who possess a seared conscience may develop an attitude of self-righteousness: according to their judgment they are adequately living by God’s rules. Faithful believers with tender consciences may despair because they know that they constantly fall short of God’s standard. In other words, preaching bare moral truths (moralisms) often drives people away from fellowship with Christ.

Read the whole post at Christward Collective.

If you hear a sermon tomorrow, may its moral imperatives lead you to Christ, and base your response in knowing Christ.


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Every Christian’s Sermon Preparation (via Ryan McGraw)

There is usually a lot of preparation taking place on Saturday nights for sermons being preached on Sunday.
If you’re a Christian, even if you’re not going to preach, there’s sermon preparation that you can be doing as well.

From Ryan McGraw at Reformation21:

We should pray for preachers in light of the biblical definitions and goals of preaching. We should pray privately and corporately that the Spirit would accompany our pastors in their studies in order to achieve the aims of preaching. Do we pray that the Spirit would increase love for Christ in our ministers so that they would preach him devotionally? Do we pray that the Lord would grant them the skills needed to fulfill the duties of their office? Do we pray that Christ would give them the ability to apply their sermons wisely, warning every man and teaching every man in order to present every man perfect in Christ? (Col. 1:28). The role of church members in sermon preparation through prayer is equally vital (if not more so) as the pastor’s prayers throughout his studies. Through private and corporate prayer, we participate in the preparation of sermons.

read the whole post here


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Neither Spirituality Or Religion Is Ever Enough (via Fleming Rutledge)

Fleming Rutledge skewers the central conceit behind the supposed superiority of being ‘spiritual’ rather than ‘religious’: they’re both manifestations of the same condition.
Humans need neither.
What they need is justification through Christ.
From Rutledge:

Spirituality, too, like religion, is essentially a human activity or trait that stands in stark contrast to faith. To put it in the simplest terms possible, spirituality is all too easily understood as human religious attainment, whereas faith itself is pure gift, without conditions, and nothing can be done from our side to increase it or improve upon it. On the contrary, we throw ourselves upon the mercy of God, saying, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”
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…Human potential—which often takes the guise of “spirituality”—has itself become the object of worship.
So what is the antidote to the situation we find ourselves in, where in some places, attendance at “Celtic” services on Sunday evenings—with candles and chants and eclectic liturgies—far outnumbers church attendance on Sunday morning? Where so often, sermons are little more than assorted reflections having little to do with the biblical text? Where the high Christology of the creeds and councils has become mere “Jesus-ology”?
In today’s context, it is more crucial than ever to make a sufficiently sharp distinction between self-justification and self-sanctification on the one hand, and on the other, the utterly gratuitous, prevenient action of God in justifying humanity through his Son. The answer to our problem, then, is both simple and difficult: We need substantive, biblical preaching that drives home our need for justification through Christ.

Read the whole article at Christianity Today.


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The Royal Wedding Sermon

People have asked me from time to time what I thought of the sermon that was given during the recent royal wedding.
I have a few observations.
One train of evangelical thought is that the preacher gave an introduction to the Gospel, laying down a number of threads that could later be drawn together in a full Gospel understanding. Such a sermon is an exercise in restraint, not saying everything, but just saying enough to point the way. It is a technique that preachers committed to the Gospel sometimes use in public contexts.
My perception of the message is that a very skilled and committed communicator took the opportunity presented to him and actually gave the entirety of his gospel message. He didn’t hold anything back, and what he said is the sum total of what he believes the good news to be.

Jesus did not get an honorary doctorate for dying. He didn’t . . . he wasn’t getting anything out of it.
He gave up his life, he sacrificed his life, for the good of others, for the good of the other, for the wellbeing of the world . . . for us.
That’s what love is. Love is not selfish and self-centred. Love can be sacrificial and in so doing, becomes redemptive. And that way of unselfish, sacrificial, redemptive love changes lives and it can change this world.

“Love can be sacrificial and in so doing, becomes redemptive”
Trying to be charitable by maintaining he chose not to say it all, instead of simply accepting that everything he did say was all he has to say, is a work of unnecessary condescension.

Now, if that is the case, my observation about the sermon is that it sort of reminded me of this message, wherein the preacher says much the same thing and takes considerably less time to say it.


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Advice To Preachers (via Peter Adam)

Peter Adam provides what is titled Advice To A Young Preacher, but his points are worth revisiting at any age or stage in preaching experience.

This one is challenging when producing sermons in a most individualistic age and culture:

Recognize that most of the Bible is actually addressed to God’s people, not to individuals. Even books such as Luke–Acts, Timothy, and Titus have wider audiences in mind. The gospel is not just God’s plan for an individual Christian’s life; it is God’s plan to create His own people for His glory. The Bible is addressed to God’s people, and we should use it for the same purpose. If you want to know how to preach that way, read Deuteronomy, 1 Corinthians, Hebrews, 1 John, or Revelation 2–3.

Read the rest here.