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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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  • Recommended Reading

DECEITFUL TEACHERS

Satan’s greatest ambassadors are not pimps, politicians, or power-brokers, but pastors. His priests do not peddle a different religion, but a deadly perversion of the true one. His troops do not make a full-out frontal assault, but work as agents, sneaking into the opposing army. Satan’s tactics are studied, clever, predictable, effective. Therefore, we must always remain vigilant. “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits” (Matthew 7:15-16a). (Tim Challies)

LISTENING TO A SERMON

So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. (Romans 10:17 ESV)

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, (2 Timothy 3:16 ESV)

Do you enjoy a good sermon or do you just want it to be short enough to make it to your favorite restaurant before the Sunday crowd? Do you want sermons to always move you emotionally or do you consider the accuracy of the Word preached to be the most important thing? Do you believe that music and singing should take up most of the service? Do you listen to preaching to be entertained or to learn more about Jesus?

People have many reasons for attending a particular church and often the sermon is not the highest priority. This is why you hear complaints: “The sermons are too long”; “The pastor doesn’t include enough funny illustrations”; “He talks about holy living and sanctification too much”. Such criticisms reflect the attitude that growing in Christ is not the highest priority. So many people in our churches today seem to want just a little bit of Jesus and no more.

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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)

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)

Don’t Mess it Up

John MacArthurJohn MacArthur:

”The preacher is not a chef; he’s a waiter. God doesn’t want you to make the meal; He just wants you to deliver it to the table without messing it up. That’s all.”

Preaching

The Devil's Puppet PreacherLeonard Ravenhill:

“If Jesus preached the same message minister’s preach today, He would have never been crucified.”

Some Sermons Make the Angels Weep

Charles H. Spurgeon by Ron AdairCharles H. Spurgeon:

The sermon which does not lead to Christ, or of which Jesus Christ is not the top and the bottom, is a sort of sermon that will make the devils in hell laugh, but make the angels of God weep.

The trials of a true minister are not few… Let no man who looks for ease of mind and seeks the quietude of life enter the ministry; if he does so he will flee from it in disgust. (“The Minister’s Fainting Fits”, Lectures to My Students, Lecture XI, 1856.

The Word of God

Watchman NeeWatchman Nee:

“The gospel we preach must not be just something we hear from men or read from books or even conceived through our meditation. Unless it is delivered to us by God, it can serve no spiritual utility.”

The Devil Told Me That!

Charles H. Spurgeon

Charles H. Spurgeon:

Somebody once told John Bunyan that he had preached a delightful sermon. “You are too late,” said John, “the devil told me that before I left the pulpit.” Satan is adept in teaching us how to steal our Master’s glory.

The man who cannot weep cannot preach. At least, if he never feels tears within, even if they do not show themselves without, he can scarcely be the man to handle such themes as those which God has committed to his people’s charge. (15.233)

How is Your Hearing?

HearingJ.I. Packer:

“We complain today that ministers do not know how to preach; but is it not equally true that our congregations do not know how to hear?”

The Ministry

Charles SpurgeonThe ministry is a very serious business. Preaching is not about a speaker talking to an audience as if it were a motivational seminar. It is not about making people feel better as they walk out of the church. The ministry is preaching Jesus Christ and Him crucified. Charles Spurgeon had this to say about the ministry:

A sermon often does a man most good when it makes him most angry. Those people who walk down the aisles and say, “I will never hear that man again,” very often have an arrow rankling in their breast.

He that can toy with his ministry and count it to be like a trade, or like any other profession, was never called of God. But he that has a charge pressing on his heart, and a woe ringing in his ear, and preaches as though he heard the cried of hell behind him, and saw his God looking down on him–oh, how that man entreats the Lord that his hearers may not hear in vain!

I always say to young fellows who consult me about the ministry, “Don’t be a minister if you can help it,” because if the man can help it, God never called him. But if he cannot help it, and he must preach or die, then he is the man.

If any man will preach as he should preach, his work will take more out of him than any other labor under heaven.

If I only had one more sermon to preach before I died, it would be about my Lord Jesus Christ. And I think that when we get to the end of our ministry, one of our regrets will be that we did not preach more of Him. I am sure no minister will ever repent of having preached Him too much. (Sermon 54.149)

Preaching the Bible Unbiblically

Alistair BeggAlistair Begg:

There’s a way to preach the Bible unbiblically…You can use the Bible as the springboard for all kinds of ideas, can’t you? Look around in here, find something that fits your fancy, and then launch a rocket off it. People say, ‘That was amazing, wasn’t it? Remarkable what he got out of that.’ Well of course it is because he put it in before he got it out.

The Manner of Delivering A Sermon

PreachingWe now come to the end of this series of articles on preaching by Al Martin. I have found his thoughts on this subject to be challenging and Biblical. However, I feel his advice is something we should already know, and have carelessly and rebelliously lost along our way. God help us where we have failed to bring glory to your precious Name! Help us to teach and preach by your Holy Spirit! Now, to Al Martin’s final remarks:

The manner of our delivery [preaching] should be marked by reasonable orderliness. In preaching the truth of God to men, we must never forget that they are men whose minds are so constructed as to be able to receive thoughts in a logical structure. The mind simply cannot receive truth when it comes as one big formless blob. We must seek to send our people home with a few stakes driven into the mind, and certain aspects of the truth of God hung upon those stakes.

Consider with me the necessity of directness in the manner of our preaching. There is a most excellent section on preaching the gospel in Charles Bridges’ book The Christian Ministry. In this section, he comments on the matter of directness by saying ‘For this end, we must show them from first to last, that we are not merely saying good things in their presence but directing what we say to them personally as a matter which concerns them beyond expression.’ When one reads the sermons from the great preachers of the past, one is struck with their holy directness. One feels as though these sermons of the old masters are boxing him up into a corner where he must do something with the truth with which he is being confronted. Joseph Alleine in his Alarm to the Unconverted stands as a classic illustration of this principle. Again and again, he backs the sinner against the wall, as it were, with questions that cause the sinner to reflect upon his way, upon his own state before God. . . .

May God deliver us from simply saying good things in the presence of a gathered people, and enable us so to preach that men will know that we are saying weighty things to them personally.

What is wrong with preaching today? I am sure that many of the faults are exemplified in my own life and ministry as much as in others, but I would suggest that together we consider the problem of preaching today as a problem of the MAN — in the area of personal devotional experience, in the realm of practical piety, and in the purity of his motivation. What is wrong with preaching today? Some of the problem is in the MESSAGE — the substance of what is preached, and in the manner in which it is being communicated. May God grant that where any of these things legitimately apply to us we may suffer the word of exhortation, and by the grace of God apply ourselves to be more effective communicators of the truth of the Word of God to our own needy generation. (“What is Wrong with Preaching Today?”)

Read more by Al Martin here. . . .

The Preacher’s Call

Charles H. SpurgeonCharles Spurgeon preaches here on the preacher’s call:

If a man be truly called of God to the ministry, I will defy him to withhold himself from it. A man who has really within him the inspiration of the Holy Ghost calling him to preach, cannot help it, – he must preach. As fire within the bones, so will that influence be until it blazes forth. Friends may check him, foes criticize him, despisers sneer at him, the man is indomitable; he must preach if he has the call of Heaven. All earth might forsake him; but he would preach to the barren mountain-tops. If he has the call of Heaven, if he had no congregation, he would preach to the rippling waterfalls, and let the brooks hear his voice. He could not be silent. He would become a voice crying in the wilderness, “Prepare ye the way of the Lord.” I no more believe it possible to stop ministers than to stop the stars of heaven. I think it no more possible to make a man cease from preaching, if he is really called, than to stay some mighty cataract, by seeking, in an infant’s cup, to catch the rushing torrent. The man has been moved of Heaven, who shall stop him? He has been touched of God, who shall impede him? With an eagle’s wing, he must fly; who shall chain him to the earth? With a seraph’s voice, he must speak; who shall seal his lips? And when a man does speak as the Spirit gives him utterance, he will feel a holy joy akin to that of Heaven; and when it is over, he wishes to be at his work again, he longs to be once more preaching. Is not the Lord’s Word like a fire within me? Must I not speak if God has placed it there? (A sermon on 1 Corinthians 9:16, August 5, 1855 – New Park Street Pulpit Volume 1, Sermon 34)

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