Monday, April 24, 2017

The Form of the Sermon. part 2

We have come to the second half of chapter 4 in our reading of Martyn Lloyd-Jones book Preaching and Preachers concerning the form of the sermon. This is an excellent section on preparing an outline. While there is more to preaching than form, and it can be a danger to become hardened  against truth if it doesn't fall into even the preferred form, the fact is "when truth is presented in this particular way it is more easily assimilated by the people, it is easier for them to take it in, to remember it, to understand it, and to benefit from it." The form Lloyd-Jones is found by the following steps:

  1. Exposition of the text
  2. Finding the doctrine in the text
  3. Application of the text to the hearers.
When you read a passage, you are not doing and information dump. You are not saying all the true things you can think the passage is saying. That is not a sermon. A sermon should have a theme. When you take a passage of Scripture, and expound it and then preach it, that sermon should have a point. You may say "my sermons usually have three points". Here is the key. Here is the difficulty and where most go off the rails. The "points" in a message should all be developing the main point of the message.

The conclusion of a sermon is not tacking the gospel on at the end. Rather the whole sermon should be working towards the conclusion. Read a passage of Scripture and find the meaning of the text. Next you examine it for the doctrine it is teaching us. Expound the text, get the meaning you are going to preach, have one doctrine that comes from the text, and seek to apply it. That is how you get your proposition.

Think of the proposition as being able to tell someone what your sermon was about in a text message. If it takes you 7 text messages to explain what your sermon was about, you probably didn't have a clear proposition. Work on that, think about the one thing you sermon is about. This is why some topical sermons are hard to follow. For example, they take a topic on marriage. Then there are three points about marriage from three different passages of Scripture. Each point is true and each of the points are all about marriage, but they are not related to each other in a logical flow of thought. Point one doesn't logically flow to point two and points one and two do not build to get us to point number three.

Here is an example of what NOT to do. I happened to be looking through some of my old notes recently and saw a sermon I entitled "We Must Preach Jesus" from Acts 4:14-23. The proposition was that the people of God can do nothing else but preach Jesus because we have no other message. My points were:
  1. Foolish Judgment 
  2. Fiery Zeal
  3. Fundamental Report
I had three points, and they were even alliterated! But I dropped the ball because my third point, though true, didn't fit with proposition of my message. I had opposition to the gospel followed by a zeal for the gospel preaching, leading to the example of the apostle serving through the local church. I hold to the truth of what I said, but it didn't fit together. My sermon would have benefited from the Sesame Street game, "One of these things is not like the other." The message would have been better served to only have the first two points and then a completely separate message for the report.

In summary, your message needs to have one main proposition and that one point needs to be derived from the passage you are preaching. The proposition is what you want people to do or believe based upon the exposition of God's Word. Each of your points need to advance your proposition. If you point doesn't advance the proposition, then you need to reconsider the proposition or reconsider your point. We might think of the sermon as a table, the proposition as the table top and each of your points being the legs.

Just an aside. I have found the easiest way to do this is when I go from point one to point two, write a one sentence summary of point one, restate my proposition, and then a one sentence summary of how that leads us to point two. Writing those three sentences can be difficult, but it will be a world of help to at least clarify your thought. There are tons of ways to do this. In Romans 9, Paul teaches a line of thought and then anticipates an objection to his first point, asks the question, and that leads him to his next thought. By preaching the whole chapter, you could use Paul's questions as your transition statements and the next line of thought as your points.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Resurrection Sunday

Why do you go to church on Sunday? Why not Saturday night or Tuesday afternoon? For several thousand years, the people of God set Saturday set apart for worship. But almost 2,000 years ago, an abrupt shift happened in the worship of God. A group of dejected disciples who had lamented the loss of their leader; disappointed apostles, mourning their missing Messiah were surprised with news that seemed too good to be true. The Lord rose from the dead (Luke 24:1-7). Early one Sunday morning in Jerusalem so many centuries ago, a couple women found the tomb of my Lord empty then found the Lord Jesus alive. From that Sunday, until this past Sunday and every one in between, Christians have assembled together in the name of Christ to worship the risen Lord (Mark 16:9, John 20:19; 20:26 Acts 20:7, I Cor. 16:2; Rev. 1:10). There has not been a Sunday since that blessed day in which the people of God have not met to worship. Jesus was crucified, laid in a tomb, and after three days and three nights, rose from the dead, verified and witnessed by multitudes (1 Cor. 15:4-8). Christ died for our sins, rose for our justification and because Jesus rose from the dead, you have hope of eternal life. The victorious Savior, laid down his life, and by his omnipotent power, took it up again. Jesus. Defeated. Death.

What does a Van Gogh painting of rabbits in a field
have to do with the resurrection?
Good question.
I love celebrating the resurrection. And praise God, He gives you 52 days a year to publicly rejoice in the resurrection of Christ. That is why the doors are open to the house of God every Sunday morning. Each Sunday is a bold declaration that Jesus rose from the dead. We shouldn’t have one day out of the year we set apart in commemoration of the resurrection because EVERY Sunday is resurrection Sunday. If your only thought of Christ and his resurrection comes once a year, and that with marsh-mellowly candies and mystical, egg laying bunny rabbits, you have a serious spiritual problem. The Bible doesn’t say anything about appointing  just one day out of the year to remember Jesus rose from the dead.  When Jesus rose from the dead, the disciples rejoiced in that fact together, every Sunday. We are told not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together on the Lord's day, and when we do, even if it is two or three who are gathered together, Christ is in the midst of that assembly.

If you love the Lord Jesus Christ, you will want to gather and worship Him. The Lord's day is the day of worship, the day of rest, the testimony of the resurrection, the declaration that you follow the risen Christ and that he is your Lord. Don't rob yourself of the ordinary means God uses to bless his people through Sunday worship. Don't let your children think that one Lord's day is more important than the others. I invite you to worship the resurrection of Jesus Christ. This Sunday and every Sunday after.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

A good preface

This is from the preface of William Perkins book on preaching "The Art of Phrophecying". A winesome introduction as well as a preemptive strike against petty criticism. Good advice for reading anything, for that matter.

"If you are persuaded of this style of preaching, walk on with me; if you have some doubts, inquire with me; if you begin to see points at which you have wandered, come back on to the right path with me; if you see that I have strayed, call me back to the road you are on. Your appreciation of me will become disapproval soon enough if you do not like godly and moderate-minded men ! But if anyone has petty complaints about these pages—few as they are— my conscience is a strong enough defence against all criticism, because my only concern has been to serve the church of God. So I commit you to him, and this little book on the art of prophesying to you as well as to him."

Monday, April 17, 2017

You Must Be Born Again

No Preaching & Preachers this week, Lord willing, I'll post next week. I preached at conference for the Glade Creek Missionary Baptist Church this weekend, so I fell behind. The theme of the conference was on salvation and I preached on You Must Be Born Again.

If you are interested, here is the sermon. 

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Excuses, excuses. Proverbs 26:13

"The slothful man saith, There is a lion in the way; a lion is in the streets." - Proverbs 26:13 
Meet the slothful man. He is the idle and shiftless ne'er do well, puttering around working hard at keeping from having to work. With much fortitude, Mr. Sloth rolls out of bed because he has a lot of work he has to take care of today. Sitting down to breakfast, his heart is full of determination as his belly is filling with eggs; he's going to get stuff done. Walking out the door, he kisses his poor, longsuffering wife on the head and tells her that he's off to take care of business. On the porch, he takes a deep breath and looks up at the sun beating down on him. "Sure is hot, for 9 in the morning." No matter, better get to it. He gets to the end of the lane, and spots something off in the distance. "It's moving pretty slow, and whatever it is, it looks big from here." The shape, though he can't be sure from this distance, almost looks like –wait, is that…a lion?

His wife is doing the morning dishes when the door busts open and her husband wildly declares "There is a lion in the way; a lion in the streets! That vicious beast could have ate me alive!" He sits down in his favorite chair in the living room to recover and orders from his beloved a tall cool drink. "That was close. I could have died! I just wish I would have been able to get to work. Maybe tomorrow."
    Yawning Man (disputed attribution)
    Pieter Bruegel the Elder

If he were a character on a television show, he'd be the loveable lazybones. But in real life, it isn't very funny. Mr. Slothful isn't funny to his wife. It isn't very funny to his kids. It isn't very funny for those people who are depending on him to live up to his God given responsibilities as a man, to put his hand to his work. Was there a lion in the street? Who knows. Maybe, maybe not. If there wasn't a lion, there very well could have been one, in this man's mind, and what, do you want him to die?!? The point here is it was an excuse. And so what if there was a lion? He goes back to bed instead of, I don't know, taking care of the lion in the way! If there was a danger, there is a danger to everyone else in the community. I've lived long enough to know that if there were free tickets to the Super Bowl on the other side of that lion, he would have braved the danger. Whether working for someone else (Ephesians 4:28), or working on things around the house, or working for the Lord, be diligent in your calling. Proverbs 15:19  The way of the slothful man is as an hedge of thorns: but the way of the righteous is made plain.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Jealousy​ of God

This excellent passage is by Joe Thorn from his book Experienceing the Trinity.

"Jealousy is a word that evokes pictures of a controlling, oppressive husband who doesn’t trust his spouse and denies her freedom. But the jealousy of God for his people doesn’t stem from a lack of trust in his people. It comes from his desire to have an intimate and exclusive relationship with them. He calls them to maintain the fellowship they have with him above everything else. To say that God is jealous for you is to say that he loves you, desires you, and does not want to share you with other gods. His jealousy protects you from the false gods of the world that seek to use and exploit you. His jealousy is your good. Yes, his jealous love for you calls you to faithfulness. Does this limit your freedom? In some ways, of course it does. But why would you want to be free to dishonor the Lord? Where is the joy in finding temporal pleasure in idols that do not love you, cannot care for you, and will always hurt you? Here is what is beautiful in God’s jealousy: His love for you is fervent. His fidelity to you is unbreakable. And by his jealous love he swears to defend you and keep you. The jealousy of God for you should lift your countenance, not cast it down. You should feel safe, treasured, and compelled by his love to stay close to him. And though you fail him, he will not fail you. His love, unlike your own, is immovable."

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Do you work, or just pastor? Tuesday with Timothy # 65

"Do you work, or are you just a pastor?" I've been asked that question enough that I am no longer surprised  the general population think preaching or pastoring is not really work. And all the stay at home mom's say "amen!"

It takes work, and it's usually hard work, to understand the meaning of the text and then to prepare a message for the people, rightly dividing and rightly applying it to the congregation. A message that is preached so plain and in such a logical way that the profundity of the passage is clear and accessible; that is the message that has been worked on, prayed over,  and studied. It takes no work to make a complicated matter seem complicated. It takes very little effort to make a simple thing complicated. That isn't the sign of a deep thinker, but a lazy preacher.

Because preaching is a spiritual endeavor, some think that study and preparation is not relying on the Holy Spirit. They quote Matthew 10  "take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak.  For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you."  Using this verse to justify no preparation for your sermon is further proof you NEED to study. The context is clear this was direction for the apostles for when they were called to testify before the Jewish and Gentile leaders who are persecuting them, not for Sunday morning worship. I think it was Spurgeon's grandfather who told him to prepare like the fruit of your sermon depends upon your efforts and enter the pulpit knowing that the it depends on the Holy Spirit.

I have on many occasions, been asked to preach with only a few minutes notice. I relied on past study and was able to preach extemporaneously. If you do that every week, you will starve the sheep.

If we could borrow from Paul's instructions on "widows indeed" that elder that labors hard, works, and strives to understand the text and works hard to make it known to his people for their good is a "pastor, indeed." He is not only worthy of his pay, but he is worthy of twice whatever you are currently paying him. I know most churches pay their pastor as much as they can and not as much as they would like to, but it's a worthy investment for the church.

Monday, April 10, 2017

The Form of the Sermon. Preaching and Preachers Chapter 4, part 1

An expositor of Scripture is not to divorce yourself from systematic theology. Lloyd-Jones makes a great point here. The preacher must have a grasp of the whole message of the Bible and he must have a systematic theology. However, the systematic theology doesn't impose itself on the text, which is where you get sermons that have the right doctrine from the wrong verse. Truth is spoken, but it did not originate from the text, but from a true, systematic theology.

After the preliminary marks, he gets to the point of the chapter, the form of a sermon. He begins by stating what a sermon is not. The sermon is not an essay. I'm not against manuscripts, if it is a manuscript for preaching and not an essay for reading. We are not writing literature, but declaring truth.

The sermon is not a lecture. A lecture communicates facts. Preaching is for a decision, a call to action, an attack against error or strongholds in the heart. A lecture starts with a subject, but a sermon starts with the text.  

The sermon is not a commentary. Those that object to expository preaching do so, in part, because they misunderstand exposition or they have rarely heard good exposition. Expository preaching is not verse by verse running commentary on the text until you run out of time. That is a commentary, not a sermon. Lloyd-Jones says that if that is all you do, you haven't preached a sermon, but just the introduction to a sermon. After you have explained what the text means and what it clearly says, then you can apply the truths and preach the message that God has given. Don't just give facts. The sermon comes from the text, what the text actually says and what it actually means. Each part of the message, each point is derived from the theme of the meaning of the text. The sermon should be one whole unit, one whole message. If you have three points, they should all come from and be connected to the meaning of the text.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Quoting Dr. Luke - Tuesday with Timothy #64

I Timothy 5:17-18  Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine. For the scripture saith, thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn. And, The labourer is worthy of his reward.

There is a blessed jewel in this passage that will strengthen your belief in the authority of Scripture. The chapter begins with Paul giving instructions to the church on caring for widows and who should receive continual financial support from the church. Now, he turns his focus to the pastors. The church has a responsibility to care for their pastor financially as he cares for them spiritually. Those that labor in the Bible and doctrine do a good work, and they are worthy of the church's support. Most people bristle at this passage because it talks about the pastor and money. Paul had to deal with accusations of being “in it for the money" so he worked a job to support himself, proving he wasn't a prophet for profit. Paul does what any man who labors in word and doctrine worth his salt does when addressing an issue – he brings the book. 

“For the scripture saith”. Paul shows from the Bible the principle of supporting the pastor from two unlikely places. He first illustrates that it is an act of love and mercy to support your pastor. Deuteronomy 25:4 says you shouldn’t put a muzzle on the ox that you use when threshing the corn. It was cruel and counter-productive to starve out your ox while he is working for you. Don't get greedy about mouth full of corn he’ll eat, and work him hungry. The ox is worthy of taking some of the fruit of his labor. The application is not that your pastor is a big dumb ox, but  rather don’t starve out your pastor to keep him humble and at least treat him as well as you do your livestock. 

Here is the verse that I wanted you to see. “The labourer is worthy of his reward”. Paul quotes Luke 10:7. This is a big deal because he refers to the gospel of Luke as Scripture – the written word of God. Paul did not viewed the writings of his friend, Dr. Luke, as the inspired word of God. Luke's gospel, for Paul, has the same weight and authority as Deuteronomy! Paul at once shows that both the Old Testament and the newly penned gospels and epistles are authoritative for the Christian. All of Luke's gospel is Scripture; the virgin birth, the life and ministry of Jesus, His miracles, and His death and resurrection. The New Testament writers knew their writings were inspired of God and quoted each other while submitting to that word. When you open the gospel of Luke, you can know that it is God's word and have faith in its message as not the words of men, but the very words of God.

Monday, April 3, 2017

The Sermon and Preaching. Preaching and Preachers, Chapter 3

"Cannot this all be done better by means of group discussions? Why must it be preaching? Why this particular form? Cannot his be replaced by a kind of 'dialogue', as it is now called, or exchange views? Should we not rather encourage more questions at the end of the sermons, and a dialogue between the minister and the people who have come to listen?"

Why preach at all? People don't really like it, so we are told. I don't believe that anyway. People love to be preached to. We loved to be preached to in TV shows, movies, songs. We love to be preached to on Talk Radio and Fox News. We love for people to make pronouncements about what is right and wrong, good and evil. We just don't like Christian preaching. Lloyd-Jones tries to parse out what makes preaching, preaching. It "does something to" the hearer. It isn't an information dump, but a call to decision. Christian preaching should not leave a person merely being entertained, but called upon to action, one way or the other. God isn't debated or discussed, but proclaimed.

But I think his distinctions between sermon and instruction, content and delivery go a bit too far because his definitions are very subjective. The difference between a sermon and preaching could depend on the mood of the congregation. I also disagree with his suggestion that if people will gravitate to hear a preachers if he preaches the truth. Scripture and history attest that this isn't always the case. This is where I believe that Lloyd-Jones can take events or experiences and make the case that this is the way it is for everyone or the way it is supposed to be.

The best part of this chapter is the discussion on where the man gets his message. It has to be the Bible. It is God's message, not the man's message. Preach the Word. Such as we have been given, give. We can't preach anything other than what we have received, and what we have received is God's word. Preaching from the headlines of the paper or preaching morals that we glean from TV and movies isn't Christian preaching. Christian preaching is making Christ know through the declaration of God's truth found in Scripture.

What do you think? Am I being too critical here? I have preached a message that blessed the souls of the congregation. I have preached that same message in a different place where people yawned the whole time and no one listened to  word I said. Did I only preach in the message that was received?

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Friday, March 31, 2017

Notable Quotable 3/31/2017

"Theologian S. Lewis Johnson points us to Ephesians 2:1–5 and says that man “was either tried in Adam and fell, or he has been condemned without a trial.” Clearly, only the former is true."
The World-Tilting Gospel by Dan Phillips 

"Other than the fact that they all had holes, none of his socks matched."
Ballad of the Whiskey Robber: A True Story of Bank Heists, Ice Hockey, Transylvanian Pelt Smuggling, Moonlighting Detectives, and Broken Hearts by Julian Rubinstein

“Under the auspices of Nineb, my patron, I killed 120 lions in my youthful ardor, in the fullness of my manly might on my own feet, and 800 lions I killed from my chariot. All kinds of beasts and fowls I added to my hunting spoils.”
The Rise and Fall of the Assyrian Empire  by Zenaide Ragozin

"On average, there were about 6,046 men killed every day of the [WWI], a war that lasted 1,566 days."

A Hobbit, a Wardrobe, and a Great War: How J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis Rediscovered Faith, Friendship, and Heroism in the Cataclysm of 1914-18 by Joseph Loconte

By the By...
It's been almost 10 months since the flood ripped through this area. Road crews are still working on the the road near my house and there are some places they haven't even started on yet. If you are interested in seeing more or if you like fly-fishing, check out the upcoming Fly Fishing Chronicles.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Remember Me

1 Corinthians 11:24 …Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me.

Christians have bad memories. Jesus in His mercy provided a way for us to worship Him and have our blessed Lord's work to the forefront of our minds. The closer we get to the world, or the more we give our hearts over to worldly pursuits, the further our hearts are from God. One purpose of the Lord's Supper is to see the Lord with eyes of faith, and remember what He did for us. Our Lord Jesus has been gracious to us in giving us means to remember him. This does not mean Christians forget Jesus exists, but rather Jesus is not thought of as we go through our lives.
Vasily Polenov's The Lord's Supper

God's people need to daily look to Jesus and remember our sins, confess them, and then know that our sins were dealt with by the sacrifice of Jesus. Remember, the Lamb of God came to lay down His life for His people, to save them from their sins. Remember Christ shed His blood, the just for the unjust. Remember Jesus shed his blood for the remission of your sins. Remember, Jesus bled to purge and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Remember that without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sins and this real blood spilled from His real and true body. The same body that was beaten and the same body in which the Lord bore our sins laid dead in the tomb. The same body from which his life blood poured out, laid cold and dead and buried for three days and three nights . Remember, that the same body which was broken for you, and died for you, and was in the tomb for you, raised from the dead for our justification.

Jesus said to take the Lord's supper in remembrance of Him. This is a blessed gift to the Lord's church. Are you saved but deny yourself the privilege of partaking of this Heavenly ordinance by not joining the Lord's church? The Lord Jesus established a supper and uses it to draw our hearts and minds to His sacrificial work on the cross; and will you forsake this? For what? What could be so important? What other object in this world could be so worthy of your time and your attention that you will forsake the Lord's Supper for it? Don't discard the blessed means of remembrance. Do not ignore or abandon the gracious invitation to fellowship with Christ. Do not renounce the kind command given for your benefit. Do this. Do this for remembrance – not for regeneration. These are memorial aids, not sacrificial offerings. These are pictures of the Lord, not the Lord Himself. To say the Lord is sacrificed afresh with each observance of the ordinance is blasphemy. You cannot take the Lord's Supper in remembrance of the Lord if you have never come to meet him the first time.