• Samuel at Gilgal

    This year I will be sharing brief excerpts from the articles, sermons, and books I am currently reading. My posts will not follow a regular schedule but will be published as I find well-written thoughts that should be of interest to maturing Christian readers. Whenever possible, I encourage you to go to the source and read the complete work of the author.

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  • September 2008
    M T W T F S S
  • Recommended Reading

The Entertainment-Oriented Preacher

John Piper believes as did John Calvin and many others that sound preaching is “tethered” to the Bible. In the following excerpt, Piper distinguishes between entertainment-oriented preachers and Bible-oriented preachers:

For Calvin, preaching was tethered to the Bible. That is why he preached through books of the Bible so relentlessly. In honor of tethered preaching, I would like to suggest the difference I hear between preaching tethered to the word of God and preaching that ranges free and leans toward entertainment.

The difference between an entertainment-oriented preacher and a Bible-oriented preacher is the manifest connection of the preacher’s words to the Bible as what authorizes what he says.

The entertainment-oriented preacher gives the impression that he is not tethered to an authoritative book in what he says. What he says doesn’t seem to be shaped and constrained by an authority outside himself. He gives the impression that what he says has significance for reasons other than that it manifestly expresses the meaning and significance of the Bible. So he seems untethered to objective authority.

The entertainment-oriented preacher seems to be at ease talking about many things that are not drawn out of the Bible. In his message, he seems to enjoy more talking about other things than what the Bible teaches. His words seem to have a self-standing worth as interesting or fun. They are entertaining. But they don’t give the impression that this man stands as the representative of God before God’s people to deliver God’s message.

The Bible-oriented preacher, on the other hand, does see himself that way-“I am God’s representative sent to God’s people to deliver a message from God.” He knows that the only way a man can dare to assume such a position is with a trembling sense of unworthy servanthood under the authority of the Bible. He knows that the only way he can deliver God’s message to God’s people is by rooting it in and saturating it with God’s own revelation in the Bible.

The Bible-oriented preacher wants the congregation to know that his words, if they have any abiding worth, are in accord with God’s words. He wants this to be obvious to them. That is part of his humility and his authority. Therefore, he constantly tries to show the people that his ideas are coming from the Bible. He is hesitant to go too far toward points that are not demonstrable from the Bible.

His stories and illustrations are constrained and reined in by his hesitancy to lead the consciousness of his hearers away from the sense that this message is based on and expressive of what the Bible says. A sense of submission to the Bible and a sense that the Bible alone has words of true and lasting significance for our people mark the Bible-oriented preacher, but not the entertainment-oriented preacher.

People leave the preaching of the Bible-oriented preacher with a sense that the Bible is supremely authoritative and important and wonderfully good news. They feel less entertained than struck at the greatness of God and the weighty power of his word.

Read the complete article “In Honor of Tethered Preaching” here. . . .

HT: Son of Westminster

Are You Altering The Word Of God? By Charles H. Spurgeon

There have always been self-appointed prophets who believe they can do a better job of writing Scripture than the Holy Spirit accomplished through the apostles and prophets of the Bible. Quite often we, ourselves, fall into this sin by choosing to emphasize some particular portion of Scripture out of the context in which it was written. We may also be guilty of overemphasizing some verses of Scripture that we personally perceive as more positive and ignoring the verses we do not like. Charles Spurgeon warned his congregation about such practices:

Take care my dear friends, how any of you meddle with God’s Word. I have heard of folks altering passages they did not like. It will not do, you know, you cannot alter them; they are really just the same. Our only power with the Word of God is simply to let it stand as it is, and to endeavor by God’s grace to accommodate ourselves to that. We must never try to make the Bible bow to us; in fact we cannot, for the truths of divine revelation are as sure and fast as the throne of God.

If a man wants to enjoy a delightful prospect, and a mighty mountain lies in his path, does he commence cutting away at its base, in the vain hope that ultimately it will become a level plain before him? No, on the contrary, he diligently uses it for the accomplishment of his purpose by ascending it, well knowing this to be the only means of obtaining the end in view. So must we do; we cannot bring down the truths of God to our poor finite understandings; the mountain will never fall before us, but we can seek strength to rise higher and higher in our perception of divine things, and in this way only may we hope to obtain the blessing. (Sermon 241)

The Greatest Nation on Earth

Peter J. Leithart is Senior Fellow of Theology and Literature at New St. Andrew’s College, Moscow, Idaho, and author of a number of books on theology and literature. In a book written in 1993 against the backdrop of the U.S. “culture wars,” he acknowledges the many-sided attack on Christian values in contemporary society. He then reminds American Christians that they have much to be thankful for: they inhabit the greatest nation on earth, the hope of the world. But there is a twist in his encouragement.

“Truly we face a vicious attack from powerful enemies in high places. And yet in the midst of the battle, we are very blessed. Despite the war, we can give thanks. We constitute the greatest nation on the face of the earth. She is in fact the greatest empire that has ever existed, truly the “last great hope of mankind.” We enjoy a degree of justice and liberty, prosperity and peace beyond the imagination of any other people. We have an unsurpassed heritage, boasting many of the greatest thinkers, artists, and leaders in all of human history.

“Indeed, despite the present conflict and turmoil, we will overcome our adversaries and endure forever. No matter how powerful our enemies, no matter how vicious their attacks, we will rise up to advance across the globe, and other nations will, like birds seeking refuge in a spreading tree, find security in the shade of our branches. We will defeat any and all enemies, within and without, in our cosmic warfare.

“Do these last statements surprise you? Have I lapsed into the overheated rhetoric of an extremist patriot? I assure you that I am completely serious, and I believe every word that I have written.

“But perhaps that little pronoun “we” has confused you. You may have assumed that “we” meant “we Americans” or “we conservative Americans” or “we right-thinking” Americans.” What I have been describing is in fact not the United States of America, but the church, the priestly kingdom and holy nation of God (1 Peter 2:9). Men and women find true liberty, peace, and joy only in the church. She is the original melting pot. Only citizens of heaven have access to true riches and enjoy true security. The kingdom of God is the cosmic tree in which the nations find shelter. It is the church against which even the gates of hell shall not prevail.”

Peter J. Leithart, The Kingdom and the Power: Rediscovering the Centrality of the Church (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing, 1993),7-8.

HT: Son of Westminster

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