RSS feed for this section

Archive | Preaching

The Dodecahedron of Deception

In about 12 hours times I’ll be back in the pulpit! Tomorrow, God willing, I’ll preach two Lord’s Day sermons, to the hearers in the congregation over which I have charge as a pastor.

How healthy, once again, to reflect on the timely warning James gives to would-be hearers lest they become ‘sermon-tasters’. It is also a forceful reminder to pray for the sort of Word-doing that is part & parcel of proper Word-hearing.

James puts this matter of sermon application so unforgettably in 1.22 of his epistle:

“Be doers of the Word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.”

Having taken a few moments to identify some traps that ensnare sermon hearers each week, I have begun to realise how multifaceted this sermon-tasting deception can be. This explains in part the slightly weird title ‘Dodecahedron of Deception.’ Here, then, are twelve traps & pitfalls, that hearers may fall into & must prayerfully seek help to avoid or escape, when they attend their meeting-house tomorrow!

We deceive ourselves when….

1. We apply the message to others for whom we feel the sermon is most fitting, whilst failing to apply it to our own case & heart, for which God intended it.

2. We take great delight in the subject, style, sound or structure […]

The Relationship of Preaching to Pastoral Counseling

In Colossians 1:28, the Apostle Paul states, “We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ.” The goal of Biblical preaching is to bring every man to bear fully the image of God in Christ. Thus, we should preach in such a way that every sinner is called to the justifying work of Christ, every saint is urged onward in their sanctification in Christ, and every person desires and is being prepared to meet Christ in glory. The Spirit-filled preaching of God’s Word from the pulpit is the primary means the Lord has for accomplishing this lofty task.  As the Westminster Larger Catechism asks and answers:

Q. 155. How is the Word made effectual to salvation?

A. The Spirit of God maketh the reading, but especially the preaching of the Word, an effectual means of enlightening, convincing, and humbling sinners; of driving them out of themselves, and drawing them unto Christ; of conforming them to his image, and subduing them to his will; of strengthening them against temptations and corruptions; of building them up in grace, and establishing their hearts in holiness and comfort through faith unto salvation.

With this understanding of preaching, we […]

Refreshment on Revival

At last…..  almost a month without proper internet access & the stress of moving to a new house. Which reminds me of a few thoughts I had some time ago on Revival from Zechariah 1.1-6….

Exile was now over. The people had returned. State-sponsored rebuilding of the House of Yahweh in Jerusalem had been decreed by Cyrus . The harsh reality of life in the Empire back in their homeland which had not, as yet, lived up to their dreams of restoration. The Jews as a consequence had grown spiritually gloomy and cold. So the Prophet of God is sent to stir up his returned Church. There are at least ten lessons or principles the Spirit gives us which help us think properly about revival…

1. The Church always tends to decline so is constantly in need of revival v4.

2. Church revival comes through the efficacious preaching of the Word of God v1, 3 & 6.

3. Church revival comes with messages which place a stress on sinful behaviour or practice & the need for the grace of repentance v2, 4 & 6.

4. Church revival comes after a period of chastening & acknowledgment of waywardness on the part of the people of God v6b.

5. Church revival is forgotten by previous generations […]

Prey to Being Positive?

As I round off my preparation for three sermons this Lord’s Day, I’ve been forced to think again of the ‘dangers of being positive’ or ‘criticism for being negative’.
If I’ve already raised your eyebrows, I wonder why that is? Perhaps you’ve fallen foul of some grumpy, gloomy pastors, or been lorded over by elders with hypercritical personalities.
Others may have been tainted by Peale’s ‘Power of Positive Thinking.’ Over-optimism is rife in parts of the West. Educationalists ban criticism as cultural taboo. Self-esteem gurus feed egos with applause.
At risk of being ‘jaundiced against joy’, I’ve often remarked how the ‘positivity police’ who cry ‘stop being negative’, are often among the most negative people I know. They say cheer up but rarely smile themselves.
To get onto something of substance, you might be wondering what has generated this blog on ‘prey to being positive.’ Well Scripture, I hope you notice, is supersaturated with negatives.
A fine example is the text that set me off. “Do not be conformed to this world”. To discover, discern, do & delight in God’s entire will, as living sacrifices, we must refuse to march to the drumbeat of our age.
Paul keeps step with Christ who was negative with no fault. “I am […]

On Being Persuasive

From parenting to preaching, seeking to persuade others about the truths of the Bible and obedience to it is a fine art. One can easily veer off course and come across as harsh, demanding, exasperating, and legalistic. An over-correction in the other direction can make one sound nagging, permissive, whiny, and lacking in authority. Learning how to persuade others winsomely is a skill that needs to be cultivated. As Proverbs 16:23 says, “The heart of the wise makes his speech judicious and adds persuasiveness to his lips.”

In his work on preaching originally titled Sacred Rhetoric but now usually printed as Evangelical Eloquence, Robert Dabney, a nineteenth century theologian, has a fascinating section on this topic. Dabney reminds us that just as there are laws governing other aspects of nature, so there are rules for appealing to people to work toward a true, willing acceptance of the words that they are hearing rather than a blind obedience, grudging compliance, or outright rejection of them. He says that

…there are facts and laws belonging to man’s emotive system which must also be regarded in dealing successfully with it. It is the emotions which immediately move the will. To produce volition it is not enough that the intellect be convinced; affection must also be aroused.”

In […]

RPIC 2016 Messages

As Nathan explained a few days ago, several of us at Gentle Reformation were at the quadrennial Reformed Presbyterian International Conference last week. A number of people have inquired how they might listen to the messages that were given at the conference, so I thought it would be helpful to have the links collected in one place for easy reference.

Preaching Sessions

Several brothers preached throughout the week. I was grateful to sit under the Word as they brought powerful, relevant, and searching messages to us.

A Child’s Powerful Witness (II Kings 5:1-5) | Gordon Keddie

Power. Prayer. Providence. (Ephesians 3:7-21) | Matt Kingswood

Seasoned for the Flames (Matthew 5:1-16) | Jeff Stivason

Can You See It? (Nehemiah 6) | Peter Smith

Plenary Sessions

I spoke five times on the theme of “The Sacrificing Church: Ministering Faithfully as Priests in the Local Congregation.”

The Sacrificing Church As a Worshiping Temple (I Peter 2:4-10)

The Sacrificing Church As a Praying Priesthood (Revelation 8:1-5)

The Sacrificing Church As a Believing Community (Romans 12:1-21)

The Sacrificing Church As a Merciful People (James 1:26-2:13)

The Sacrificing Church As a Mission Outpost (Hebrews 10:19-39)

Ten Truths For Thomas

I’ve just about finished writing an article on ‘Preparing to Preach Isaiah’, and having deposited 4k of weariness onto the treadmill, I’m in a position to type a few brief thoughts on the folly of unbelief and the overwhelming reasons Isaiah provides for faith in Israel’s God.

My targets in this article are Doubting David’s and Skeptical Sarah’s – which in the end basically means all of us at one time or another. in life’s varied faith-shaking circumstances.

Isaiah shows us what unbelief leads to – idolatry, rebellion, moral decay, judgment and exile as he explains in chapter 1 (and at various other points in the book).
Isaiah shows us what is in store for believing people from all nations who stream to Zion in chapter 2.1-6.
Isaiah shows why God really hates unbelief and idolatry because He is Holy, Holy, Holy and has given us a holy calling, so if you are tempted to doubt fall down on your face before God in chapter 6.1-8.
Isaiah makes the most stupendous predictions (in spite of what some continue to insist) of the most remarkable events such as the Virgin Birth of the Saviour in chapter 7.14, the everlasting Government of the Messianic Son of David in chapter 9.6-8, […]

Preaching to the Mind

Sometimes we preachers fail in the pulpit simply because we forget what we are up against. We think if we are just pleasant enough or clever enough or loud enough, certainly we will be convincing to our hearers. Yet we must never forget that one of the impacts of the noetic effect of sin is that it causes the mind to be at war against the things of God. We can act as if we are training puppies when instead we are wrestling bears.

Fallen man at his fundamental level, at the core of his constituted being, sets his mind on the things of the flesh. In Romans 8:7-8, Paul states it this way: “The mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” That unconverted man sitting before you in the pew has a mind that dwells on how he can satisfy his own cravings for such things as pleasure, prestige, and power. So deeply do men suppress the truth, so fiercely do they hate God, that in the words of Dr. James Boice men become “morally insane.” […]

Help! I Struggle With My Pastor’s Preaching

Call me an old school Presbyterian but in my estimation there is nothing as important as the preaching of God’s Word. I don’t think it was overbold for PT Forsyth to suggest: “With its preaching Christianity stands or falls.” Preaching is not merely an appendix to the many activities of the church, an ancillary support to a pastor’s more important tasks, or a supplement for the spirituality of a congregation. It stands at the center. It is the primary method God uses to give faith (Romans 10:17), to save sinners (1 Corinthians 1:21), and to spiritually strengthen (Romans 16:25). It’s for this reason the Westminster Shorter Catechism says: “The Spirit of God makes the reading, but especially the preaching, of the word, an effectual means of convincing and converting sinners, and of building them up in holiness and comfort, through faith, unto salvation.” That’s why it can be such a spiritual crisis when people struggle with their pastor’s preaching.

I was recently speaking with a friend who was dealing with this problem. For some time he has not felt overly encouraged or built up by the preaching in his local church. It’s not that there’s false doctrine being preached or anything […]

Do you really preach sin properly?

Recently I’ve been meditating on the books of Romans and Isaiah and, thinking about the importance of preaching sin properly, I have drawn up a list of points to help me which, I thought, it might be worthwhile sharing (even though this list might later need revision or refining).

1st we need to be clear on definitions.

It can be confusing and unhelpful to call sin rebellion. This is certainly truth but is not the best way of approaching the problem. The old definition of lawbreaking or transgression clarifies the matter for hearers. This is in fact one definition the bible gives and nails ‘Sabbath-breaking’ as ‘want of conformity to or transgression of the Law of God’.

2nd we need to avoid redressing sin in more acceptable unbiblcal jargon.

Some are tempted to go down the more culturally acceptable path of dropping terms like sin, iniquity, transgression, error for failure, mistake, fault and so forth. There is certainly a place for illustrating ‘sin-pictures’ with modern language where appropriate. Surely, however, our task is to unpack these good biblical words, so that our hearers appreciate and comprehend how God thinks about sin, even if it might offend 3rd MIllennium sensibilities.

3rd we need to employ the […]