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  • 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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Jerry Bridges: Saints or Sinners?

The Discipline of GraceJerry Bridges:

I am sometimes asked, “As Christians, should we view ourselves as saints or sinners?” My answer is, both. We are simultaneously saints and sinners. The apostle Paul often referred to believers as saints (Ephesians 1:1; Philippians 1:1), and we really are. We are saints not only in our standing before God but in our essential persons as well.

We really are new creations in Christ. A real, fundamental change has occurred in the depths of our beings. The Holy Spirit has come to dwell within us, and we have been freed from the dominion of sin. But despite this we still sin every day, many times a day And in that sense we are sinners.

We should always view ourselves both in terms of what we are in Christ, that is, saints, and what we are in ourselves, namely, sinners. To help us understand this twofold view of ourselves, consider Jesus as an analogy. In His own person He was sinless, but as our representative He assumed our guilt. However, He never had any of the personal feelings associated with guilt. He was fully conscious of His own sinlessness even when bearing our sins and the curse of our sins in our place. In like manner, while we should always rejoice in the righteousness we have in Christ, we should never cease to feel deeply our own sinfulness and consequent unworthiness. (The Discipline of Grace: God’s Role and Our Role in the Pursuit of Holiness)

John Piper on Earnestness in Preaching

John PiperJohn Piper:

Here is a key to great earnestness in preaching. If you really believe that “those who endure to the end will be saved” (Mark 13:13), and that not only the first act of faith but all subsequent acts of persevering faith are sustained by the Spirit through the Word of God, then virtually every sermon is a “salvation sermon” and the souls of the saints are being saved every Sunday. There is not an earnest sermon for evangelism when the souls of the lost are at stake, and then a less serious and less critical message for the saints to simply add a few stars in their crown. Rather every sermon is crucial and critical in sustaining the faith of the saints and so bringing them safely to glory. (“Thoughts on Earnestness in Preaching,” unpublished teaching notes, 3/15/99)

 

Charles H. Spurgeon on Preaching

Charles SpurgeonCharles H. Spurgeon:

“Our ministry must be emphatic, or it will never affect these thoughtless times; and to this end our hearts must be habitually fervent, and our whole nature must be fired with an all-consuming passion for the glory of God and the good of men.”

“Preach not calmly and quietly as though you were asleep, but preach with fire and pathos and passion.”

“The great reason why we have so little good preaching is that we have so little piety. To be eloquent one must be in earnest; he must not only act as if he were in earnest, or try to be in earnest, but be in earnest.”

“Unless we have the spirit of the prophets resting upon us, the mantle which we wear is nothing but a rough garment to deceive. We ought to be driven forth with abhorrence from the society of honest men for daring to speak in the name of the Lord if the Spirit of God rests not upon us.”

G. Campbell Morgan: The Preacher’s Time

G. Campbell MorganG. Campbell Morgan:

Nothing is more needed among preachers today than that we should have the courage to shake ourselves free from the thousand and one trivialities in which we are asked to waste our time and strength, and resolutely return to the apostolic ideal which made necessary the office of the diaconate. [We must resolve that] “we will continue steadfastly (sic) in prayer, and in the ministry of the Word.” (This Was His Faith: The Expository Letters of G. Campbell Morgan [Fleming Revell, Westwood, NJ], 1952)

Mark Dever: The Preacher

Mark DeverMark Dever, (pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, DC):

What about the role of the preacher of God’s Word? If you are looking for a good church, this is the most important thing to consider. I don’t care how friendly you think the church members are. I don’t care how good you think the music is. . . . The congregation’s commitment to the centrality of the Word coming from . . . the preacher, the one specially gifted by God and called to that ministry, is the most important thing you can look for in a church. . . .

Preachers are not called to preach what’s popular according to the polls. . . . People already know all that. What life does that bring? We’re not called to preach merely moral exhortations or history lessons or social commentaries. . . . We are called to preach the Word of God to the church of God and to everyone in His creation. This is how God brings life. Each person . . . is flawed and has faults and has sinned against God. And the terrible thing about our fallen natures is that we are greedy for ways to justify our sins against God. Every single one of us wants to know how we can defend ourselves from God’s charges. Therefore, we are in desperate need to hear God’s Word brought honestly to us, so that we don’t just hear what we want to hear but rather what God has actually said.

All of this is important . . . because God’s Holy Spirit creates His people by His Word.

This is why Paul told Timothy to “form a committee.” Right? Of course not! . . . “Take a survey”? No! . . . “Spend yourself in visiting”? No! . . . “Read a book”? No! Paul never told young Timothy to do any of those things.

Paul told Timothy, straight and clear, to “Preach the Word” (2 Tim. 4:2). This is the great imperative. This is why the apostles earlier had determined that, even thought there were problems with the equitable distribution of financial aid in Jerusalem, the church would just have to find others to solve their problems, because, “We . . . will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the Word” (Acts 6:4). Why this priority? Because this Word is “the word of life” (Phil. 2:16). That is the great task of the preacher: to “hold out the word of life” to people who need it for their souls. (Nine Marks of a Healthy Church, p. 38-39)

Geoffrey Thomas on Powerful Preaching

Geoffrey ThomasGeoffrey Thomas, pastor of Alfred Place Baptist Church in Aberystwyth, Wales:

One of the great perils that face preachers . . . is the constant danger of lapsing into a purely cerebral form of proclamation, which falls exclusively upon the intellect. Men become obsessed with doctrine and end up as brain-oriented preachers. There is consequently a fearful impoverishment in their hearers emotionally, devotionally, and practically. Such pastors are men of books and not men of people; they know the doctrines, but they know nothing of the emotional side of religion. They set little store upon experience or upon constant fellowship and interaction with almighty God. It is one thing to explain the truth of Christianity to men and women; it is another thing to feel the overwhelming power of the sheer loveliness and enthrallment of Jesus Christ and communicate that dynamically to the whole person who listens so that there is a change of such dimensions that he loves Him with all his heart and soul and mind and strength. (“Powerful Preaching,” chapter 14 in The Preacher and Preaching, edited by Samuel T. Logan [Presbyterian and Reformed, 1986], p. 369)

R. L. Dabney on Preaching

R. L. DabneyR. L. Dabney (1820-1898):

The preacher is a herald; his work is heralding the King’s message. . . . Now the herald does not invent his message; he merely transmits and explains it. It is not his to criticize its wisdom or fitness; this belongs to his sovereign alone. On the one hand, . . . he is an intelligent medium of communication with the king’s enemies; he has brains as well as a tongue; and he is expected so to deliver and explain his master’s mind, that the other party shall receive not only the mechanical sounds, but the true meaning of the message. On the other hand, it wholly transcends his office to presume to correct the tenor of the propositions he conveys, by either additions or change. These are the words of God’s commission to an ancient preacher: “Arise, go unto Nineveh, that great city, and preach unto it the preaching that I bid thee.”

The preacher’s task may be correctly explained as that of (instrumentally) forming the image of Christ upon the souls of men. The plastic substance is the human heart. The die which is provided for the workman is the revealed Word; and the impression to be formed is the divine image of knowledge and true holiness. God, who made the soul, and therefore knows it, made the die. He obviously knew best how to shape it, in order to produce the imprint he desired. Now the workman’s business is not to criticize, recarve, or erase anything in the die which was committed to him; but simply to press it down faithfully upon the substance to be impressed, observing the conditions of the work assigned him in his instructions. In this view, how plain is it, that preaching should be simply representative of Bible truths, and in Bible proportions! The preacher’s business is to take what is given him in the Scriptures, as it is given to him, and to endeavor to imprint it on the souls of men. All else is God’s work. The die is just such, so large, so sharp, so hard, and has just such an “image and superscription” on it, as God would have. Thus, He judged, in giving it to us. With this, “the man of God is perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” (2 Tim 3:17) This is enough for us. (Evangelical Eloquence: A Course of Lectures on Preaching [Banner of Truth, 1999] originally published as Sacred Rhetoric, 1870)

Sinclair B. Ferguson: Abiding in Christ

Sinclair B. FergusonSinclair B. Ferguson:

In a nutshell, abiding in Christ means allowing His Word to fill our minds, direct our wills, and transform our affections. In other words, our relationship to Christ is intimately connected to what we do with our Bibles!

Sinclair B. Ferguson: God Loves Us

A Heart for GodSinclair B. Ferguson:

We may think that severity (as God leads His children) is inconsistent with what we know of God’s gentleness and compassion. But that is because we do not appreciate how seriously God loves us, and how determined He is that we should have His best, even if it means pain. (A Heart for God, 1987)

Charles Spurgeon: The Power of the Gospel

Charles H. SpurgeonCharles Spurgeon:

“The power that is in the gospel does not lie in the eloquence of the preacher; otherwise men would be the converters of souls. Nor does it lie in the preacher’s learning; otherwise it would consist in the wisdom of men. We might preach until our tongues rotted, till we would exhaust our lungs and die, but never a soul would be converted unless the Holy Spirit be with the Word of God to give it the power to convert the soul.”

John Piper: Whatever Comes to Pass

John PiperJohn Piper:

“The logic of the Bible says: Act according to God’s “will of command,” not according to his “will of decree.” God’s “will of decree” is whatever comes to pass. “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that” (James 4:15). God’s “will of decree” ordained that his Son be betrayed (Luke 22:22), ridiculed (Isaiah 53:3), mocked (Luke 18:32), flogged (Matthew 20:19), forsaken (Matthew 26:31), pierced (John 19:37), and killed (Mark 9:31). But the Bible teaches us plainly that we should not betray, ridicule, mock, flog, forsake, pierce, or kill innocent people. That is God’s “will of command.” We do not look at the death of Jesus, clearly willed by God, and conclude that killing Jesus is good and that we should join the mockers.”

Richard Sibbes: Yet Another Grows

Richard Sibbes:

If believers decay in their first love, or in some other grace, yet another grace may grow and increase, such as humility, their broken heartedness; they sometimes seem not to grow in the branches when they may grow at the root; upon a check grace breaks out more; as we say, after a hard winter there usually follows a glorious spring.

God Tempts No One

The Five Dilemmas of CalvinismCraig R. Brown:

Although God decrees evil, He does not directly perform morally evil deeds. God cannot do moral evil because His will is directed only toward good. However, God allows Satan, demons, and sinful men to do evil deeds. He does not cause them to do anything they don’t want to do; He merely allows them to carry out their evil intentions. Thus, man is responsible for his sin, not God.

As James wrote: “Let no one say when he is tempted, `I am being tempted by God,’ for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death” (James 1:13-15). (The Five Dilemmas of Calvinism)

Thomas Watson: The Kingdom of Grace

Thomas WatsonThomas Watson:

The Kingdom of grace is nothing but…. the beginning of the Kingdom of glory; the Kingdom of grace is glory in the seed, and the Kingdom of glory is grace in the flower; the Kingdom of grace is glory in the daybreak, and the Kingdom of glory is grace in the full meridian; the Kingdom of grace is glory militant, and the Kingdom of glory is grace triumphant…. the Kingdom of grace leads to the Kingdom of glory.

Luther: Reading through the Bible

Martin Luther Nailing His 95 Theses on the Wittenberg Door October 31, 1517Martin Luther:

For some years now, I have read through the Bible twice every year. If you picture the Bible to be a mighty tree and every word a little branch, I have shaken every one of these branches because I wanted to know what it was and what it meant.

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