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Archive | Preaching

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 […]

Avoiding Hyper-Calvinism as We Preach

Could it be that, in heart and practice, many of us in Reformed churches are not preaching evangelistically because we allow our Calvinism to bind us rather than propel us as it should? Perhaps we can learn from a controversy in Spurgeon’s time.

When it comes to controversies and Charles Spurgeon, the conflict he is most known for was the “Down-Grade Controversy” toward the end of his ministry. The Down-Grade was a battle against late Puritan ministers who began sliding toward liberal doctrines, philosophical and moralistic preaching, and less than holy practices. This controversy received its name from Spurgeon who warned: “We are going down hill at breakneck speed.”

Yet, as Iain Murray makes known in his book Spurgeon v. the Hyper Calvinists, Spurgeon faced a lesser known but equally dangerous controversy. In his early ministry he was attacked by reformed ministers because they believed he was offering the gospel too freely.

These ministers taught that in preaching the gospel care should be taken that sermons spoke only to the elect. Thus, they preached (and taught others to do the same) that when people are called to respond to the gospel, they are not to be called to believe in Christ directly but rather they are to ask for faith […]

Bungling My Way Through Romans

As a young seminarian I was told: “You would be crazy to try and preach through the book of Romans without twenty years of pastoral experience.” I trust there is probably wisdom in that. I don’t think it’s mere coincidence that many of those men I regard as great preachers have not preached through Romans without such requisite experience. So, I admit, it may have been a bit of youthful indiscretion combined with hastiness that drove me to the pulpit to preach Romans as the first series of my first pastorate. But, as my two and a half year endeavor comes to an end in the next couple of weeks, I wouldn’t change it if I could.

Romans is an intimidating letter. In it Paul plunges us to the depths of human depravity and then ascends to gospel heights where it’s hard to breath. I have sensed that every step of the way. Indeed, and I don’t mean this as a false show of humility, I’ve been acutely aware that my ignorance far outweighs my understanding, my weaknesses are far more than my strengths, and whatever zeal I have is often no match for my dullness. But even in my bungling […]

Evangelistic Preaching

In conversations I have had recently with both seasoned ministers and young men preparing for pastoral ministry, the subject of what constitutes evangelistic preaching has been discussed. As we wonder why we do not see more conversions in Reformed churches, generally speaking, certainly one simple reason is that we do not preach for them. Are there not times where a preacher should preach not only an edifying gospel-centered sermon, delivered faithfully in his weekly Lord’s Day preaching, but an evangelizing one, whether in the church for special seasons and services or outside the church along the highways and the hedges (Luke 14:23)? If so, what would such a sermon look and sound like?

Below are thirteen characteristics, briefly explained, which help distinguish an evangelistic sermon from what we might call an edification sermon. These qualities should not be understood as mutually exclusive, but rather as weighted tendencies or features.

An evangelistic sermon is aimed primarily at unbelievers; an edification sermon is aimed primarily at Christians. An obvious quality perhaps, yet this question is worth asking. When is the last time you preached or heard such a sermon? We may rightly scoff at the excesses of the widespread Arminian, revivalistic preaching of our day. Certainly I […]

The Call of God

Several young men have approached me as of late who are wrestling with the call of God on their lives regarding ministry. They have asked questions, common to many who begin considering pastoral calling, such as:

“How do I know whether this is the Lord calling me or just my own ambition?”

“Should I not feel more confidence rather than doubts about my gifts?”

“What if I go through preparing for ministry then realize I am not called?”

As I interacted with them personally about these questions and others, memories were stirred of my own struggles many years ago with this same matter. A graduate student in mathematics at Purdue University in the 1980’s, I had not gone to West Lafayette to become a pastor. Yet my growing desire to share God’s truths with others, enhanced by my friendship with Pastor Dave Long, could not be shaken. In one of the many times discussing this with Dave, he handed me a study on the call of God. I recently dug this study out of my files and gave copies to these young men.

I thought I would share this study in case it may be of help to others. I […]

3GT Episode 13: Hey, Johnny! Don’t Preach Like That!

That’s right!  Another episode already!

The men spend most of their time talking about the don’ts of preaching.  While the topic may seem to only be of interest to preachers, Austin stirs the pot a bit, offering a perspective from the side of the pew.

The other segment explores the black hole of time.  If you’re wondering what the black hole of time is, well, tune in and see!

To Listen or Not To Listen: Audio Sermons

We live in a day of instant access. Digital media has made most things available to us with a single click. This, of course, has brought untold benefits. We have more opportunities and resources at the tips of our fingers than any other generation in the history of humanity. But it also comes with its cost. I suspect one area where this is true is the modern phenomena of audio sermons.

Now, to be fair, the mass production and distribution of sermons isn’t new. For instance, when Joseph Passmore and James Alabaster began printing and distributing Charles Spurgeon’s sermons in The Penny Pulpit they could hardly keep up with the worldwide demand—though, I should note Spurgeon’s own hesitancy in this endeavor. But the instant access has become even more instant and we have available to us—literally, millions of sermons from tens of thousands of preachers. This has many of its own benefits. I, for one, am grateful for every contact the people in my church can have throughout the week with the Word of God. I’m also glad for the chance they have to benefit from particularly gifted preachers in a way that perhaps they cannot benefit from me. As Richard […]