Friday, March 30, 2012

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Untested Faith

Faith untested is faith unproven;
and an unproven faith is no faith at all.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

A Christian's Development

A Christian's real development in spiritual life
will always be revealed by how he or she
thinks about God--how much he thinks
about Him, and how highly he thinks about Him.

Sinclair Ferguson
A Heart for God
Page 111


Monday, March 26, 2012

Christ and the Curse of the Law

"Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us." (Gal 3:13)  The curse of the law is its penal sanction.  This is essentially the wrath of curse of God, the  displeasure which rests upon every infraction of the law's demand.  "Cursed is everyone that continueth not in all things written in the book of the law to do them."  (Gal 3:10)   Without deliverance from  this curse there could be no salvation.  It is from this curse that Christ has purchased His people and the price of the purchase was that He Himself became a curse.  He became so identified with the curse resting upon His peo9ple that the whole of it in all its unrelieved intensity became His.  That curse He bore and that curse He exhausted.  That was the price paid for this redemption and the liberty secured for the beneficiaries is that there is no more curse.

John Murray
Redemption Accomplished and Applied
Page 44

Saturday, March 24, 2012

A Pastoral Prayer for Sunday

Lord, love Your people through our worship.
May Your truth be spoken in prayer and praise.
Attend Your word to their mind and heart;
And may mind and heart and soul be lifted
up to You.

Lord, love Your people through the preaching.
May Your truth be in every word spoken.
Attend Your word to their mind and heart;
And may each piece of dross be removed,
  each godly character be refined, each godly
 motive be reinforced, and each stain
of soul be cleansed through repentance.

Lord, love Your people through Your presence.
May Your presence be in our prayer, and praise, and preaching.
Take away all other thoughts than You.
Make Yourself our only desire, and Your will
our greatest delight.





Sunday, March 18, 2012

Preaching on Empty

In pointing out these things to the brethren,
you will be a good servant of Jesus Christ,
constantly nourished on the words of the faith
and of the sound doctrine which you have
been following.
I Timothy 4:6
NASB

One of the great dangers, great temptations for any preacher, is in studying for the sermon instead studying for himself.  It is convenient so many times to prepare for the sermon, instead of preparing one's self to preach; and if not watched this came become a fatal habit, and can blind the preacher to his own spiritual need, which, if not corrected, will lead to his own spiritual bankruptcy.

We are to be nourished ourselves, spiritually nourished on the words of faith and sound doctrine.  We must not neglect to see that we ourselves are spiritually well fed as this is keeping the command of Paul to see to ourselves and our doctrine. 

A pastor/preacher who is spiritually malnourished himself will have nothing to give his flock, and they will eventually starve.  Yes, he will have words, but those words will be all sound, bereft of spiritual force and effectiveness.  Words without spiritual power have empty spiritual calories that fill the ears without nourishing the soul.  They are all sound with no substance. 

Fellow pastors and preachers, let us take pains to be sure our own spiritual well is full, let us feed ourselves deeply, richly, and regularly; and let us not preach on empty, but give to our people out of the overflow of our own soul.    

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Truth-The Responsibility of the Pulpit

Truth, by its very nature, is confrontational.  It is such because it is absolute and concrete.  Therefore it is unassailable, unshakable, unrelenting, immovable, and unchangeable.  Truth is always a force to be reckoned with.  Truth is the most powerful moral force in the world; in fact, truth is what makes morality moral, it is the under girding of all morality.  Truth is discriminating as it reveals all that is not true.  

The inherent power in the Scriptures is that they are true, they don't merely contain truth, but are truth in and of themselves.  Jesus asked the Father to sanctify His disciples in the truth, and then went on to say, "Your word is truth." (John 17).  Psalm 119:160 tells us, "The sum of Your word is truth."  Psalm 12:6 says, "The words of the Lord are pure words; like silver refined in a furnace on the earth, refined seven times."

This is why the Bible is confrontational, it is truth.  It shows us the truth about God, the truth about ourselves, the truth about life, and the truth about eternity.  Because it is confrontational, it is also controversial.  It is why it is attacked, mocked, and derided.  It is why someone like Piers Morgan can keep saying to the Christians he has on his show, "Shouldn't the Bible be brought kicking and screaming into the 21st century."

Because of its confrontational nature, because it raises the ire of those to whom it shines the light of truth upon, because when confronted with the truth people will typically fight or flee (John 3:18-21); many who occupy the pulpit will not preach the word in all its fullness, seeking to make it more palatable to those who hear.  Such preaching neuters the word, and promulgates a form of godliness that denies the true power of the gospel. 

Those who occupy the pulpit have a responsibility to preach the whole counsel of God, to preach the word in all of its fullness, to preach so that the sharp edges of truth are not blunted, to preach so that the truth is not veiled, to preach so that the truth of God is brought to bear on the minds and the hearts of those who hear.  This understanding, this sense of responsibility, this allegiance to the truth is the great need in the preaching of our day, and indeed, if you follow church history, the great need in the pulpit in every age.  This never has been nor ever will be a position of great popularity; but to those who love the truth (which are those who are saved, or will be saved- II Thessalonians 2:10), those who preach as such are much beloved; not only by those to whom they preach, but also by the One for whom they preach.

Let those of us who occupy the pulpit pledge our allegiance, our fidelity, to the One who is the truth; and as such preach His truth...unashamedly and unapologetically.

The following is from Tom Ascol, in his blog at www.founders.org.  I will let him have the last word.

"Discriminating, expositional preaching is a great need in our day. We must be willing to show from the text what God says is right and true and then distinguish that from all of the counterfeits that plague the world and church today. Failure to preach and teach like this leads to a mongrel religion that may fly under the banner of Christianity but has missed Christ altogether. It is a frightening prospect. Where there is no discriminating preaching, it has been and remains a tragic reality."
Scriptures taken from the NASB.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Most Applicable Verse in the Bible

Would you want a command from our Lord that would be universally applicable...in every situation, with every person, in every context, culture, and condition; a command that is easy to remember, easy to relate to, and easy to understand; a command that in keeping would lead you to keep other commands automatically; a command so simple that even a child understands the concept?  Have I aroused your curiosity and piqued your interest?  I hope so. 

This command is on par with the second greatest commandment, "To love your neighbor as yourself," and, in fact, is the practical outworking of that command.  What is it?  Glad you asked.  Let's look at Matthew 7:12 "In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for  this is the Law and the prophets."    Here in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus gives this command, and it comes some time before He is asked the question that leads Him to give us the two greatest commandments; and He says the same thing about this command that He says about those two great commandments...that it sums up the Law and the prophets (See Matthew 22:34-40).  Pretty astounding, wouldn't you say.  Yes, this Golden Rule that many of our mothers taught us is that powerful and that profound. 

I tell people quite frequently that the Lord has not made being a Christian complex or hard, but in reality He has made it simple for us to live a life that pleases Him and blesses others; for that is what living out this command does.  It is universally applicable, and is intertwined in so much of Scripture.  Let's look at some examples.

Do not return evil for evil or insult for insult, but give a blessing instead.
Be patient and kind, not arrogant or boastful or jealous, not taking into account a wrong suffered, not being easily provoked, not acting unbecomingly, and not self-seeking.
Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit.
Turn the other cheek.
Walk the extra mile.
Be generous and ready to share.
Do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.
Let your speech be seasoned with salt, giving grace to those who hear.
Walk in a manner worthy of the Lord.
Be submissive...to masters, to parents, to husbands, to elders, to each other.
Clothe yourselves with humility toward one another.
Stimulate one another to love and good deeds.
Forgive those who have sinned against you.
Don't judge your more mature brother or hold in contempt your weaker brother.
Give honor to whom honor is due.
Do not withhold good when it is in your power to do good.
Visit orphans and widows in their distress.
Do not think more highly of yourself than you ought to think.
When reviled, revile not.
Regard one another as more important than yourself.
Pray for those who persecute you.
Love one another fervently from the heart.
Be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, and kindhearted.

Of course we could go on, but what could you add to the list?

If we would but apply this verse with each person every day, think about the witness it would provide, and the blessing it would give.  We could apply it to:

Our spouse.
Our children.
Our parents.
Our siblings.
Our friends.
Our neighbors.
Our co-workers.
Our enemies.
Our church family.
Our competition.
The person who gets under our skin.
The person who always seems to have it out for us.
The person who inadvertantly or intentionally cuts us off in traffic.
The person who never lets us get in a word edgewise.
The lazy clerk at the store.
The incompetent clerk at the store.
The server who can't get our order right.
Our spouse in a disagreement.
Our children when we have to discipline them.
Our employee when we have to terminate them.
Someone at church with whom we disagree.
Anyone with whom we get frustrated.

See how applicable it is.  Pretty amazing, huh?  But it does require something from us, and that is self-sacrifice, a genuine putting others ahead of our self.  This is not always an easy task, but this should be a joyous task; one that we know pleases the Father, and one that we know blesses others.  Let's start tomorrow by being intentional about putting this verse into practice in our lives, and let's see how the Lord uses it for His glory.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Keys to an Effective Preaching Ministry

1. Be diligent in preparation and accuracy.

II Timothy 2:15 Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.

I Timothy 4:14-15a Do not neglect the spiritual gift within you, which was bestowed on you through the prophetic utterance with the laying on of hands by the presbytery.  Take pains with these things; be absorbed in them....

2. Be godly and growing yourself.

I Timothy 4:15b-16...so that your progress will be evident to all.  Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and those who hear you.

II Timothy 2:16-26...vs 21 Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work.

3. Be dependent on the Holy Spirit.

Zechariah 4:6..."Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit," says the Lord of hosts.

II Corinthians 2:16b-4:6 And who is adequate for these things? For we are not like many, peddling the word of God, but as from sincerity, but as from God, we speak in Christ in the sight of God.....Such confidence we have through Christ toward God.  Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God, who also made us adequate as servants of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

4. Be faithful to God by fulfilling your calling.

I Timothy 4:14-16 Do not neglect the spiritual gift within you....persevere in these things....

II Timothy 3:1-2 I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom:  preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.

I Corinthians 4:1-2 Let a man regard us in this manner, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.  In this case, moreover, it is required of stewards that one be found trustworthy.

I Timothy 1:12-14 I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service....and the grace of our Lord was more than abundant, with the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus.

II Timothy 4:7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith.

Brothers and fellow pastors, may this be our heart and our life; and may the benediction of our life be:
I Timothy 1:17 Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.  And may our lives and ministries bring Him, our King, honor and glory forever and ever!

Sunday, March 04, 2012

Preaching and Stewardship

As stewards of the living word of the living God,
we stand on His authority, and preach with His
authority, and preach under His authority. 
Therefore, we must preach as men who have
no confidence in themselves, and no reliance
 upon themselves and their own words; but
preach as those who totally rely upon the living
word itself to do that which God has intended
it to do, realizing the word is the medium through
which the Holy Spirit brings about conviction.

Saturday, March 03, 2012

Christ and the Scriptures

The grand subject of all the Scriptures is Jesus Christ, Himself.
When you take Christ out of the Scriptures, they become a
rule book for good behavior, and a guide book for self-improvement.
Without Christ we have nothing to preach!

Friday, March 02, 2012

Preaching and Persuasion

In preaching we persuade with the truth, with facts,
and with the reality of the person and work of Christ;
not using persuasive techniques, but realizing that
God stands over His word to fulfill it and the Holy
Spirit convicts concerning sin, righteousness and judgment.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Preaching and the Message

For pastors, it is sometimes too easy to forget that,
ultimately, preaching is about the message,
not about the method of delivery.