7 reasons to preach God-centred messages

Darryl Dash: Preachers everywhere face the pressure to preach messages that put humanity at the center. Someone has estimated that over 80% of sermons are human-centered. David Wells writes: It seems that God has become a rather awkward appendage to the practice of evangelical faith, at least as measured by the pulpit. Indeed, from these sermons it seems that God and the supernatural order are related only with difficulty to the life of faith. He appears not to be at its center. The center, in fact, is typically the self. God and His world are made to spin around this surrogate center, for our world increasingly is understood within a therapeutic model of reality. (No God but God: Breaking with the Idols of Our Age) The alternative, of course, is preaching that centers on God. Rather than being less relevant, it is actually much more explosive and life-changing. I spent some time thinking about this a few years back, and

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Resurrection Life

The Puritan John Howe, in a series of 13 sermons on regeneration, said this: “You see by this what a Christian is. And all will agree (no doubt) in the common notion, a Christian is one that believeth that Jesus is the Christ. But you see who are reckoned to believe to this purpose, such as are born thereupon another sort of creatures from what they were, and so continue as long as they live: and such as are heaven born, born of God by immediate divine operation and influence, a mighty power from God coming upon their souls, conforming them to God, addicting them to God, uniting them with God, making them to centre in God, taking them off from all this world.” “The Spirit that is from God suits us to God and to divine things and makes us savor the things of God and take delight in them.  It seasons us more and more, so that God

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What Does It Mean to Be a Pilgrim?

Jonathan Edwards on the Pilgrim Mindset These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. Hebrews 11:13-14: John Piper encourages us to let his vision shape ours: Pilgrims are not diverted from their aim. A traveler . . . is not enticed by fine appearances to put off the thought of proceeding. No, but his journey’s end is in his mind. If he meets with comfortable accommodations at an inn, he entertains no thoughts of settling there. He considers that these things are not his own, that he is but a stranger, and when he has refreshed himself, or tarried for a night, he is for going forward. (Works, Banner of Truth, p. 243) Pilgrims are to hold the things of this world loosely. So should

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The Ultimate Aim and Good of the Gospel

“The ultimate good of the gospel is seeing and savoring the beauty and value of God. God’s wrath and our sin obstruct that vision and that pleasure. You can’t see and savor God as supremely satisfying while you are full of rebellion against Him and He is full of wrath against you. The removal of this wrath and this rebellion is what the gospel is for.The ultimate aim of the gospel is the display of God’s glory and the removal of every obstacle to our seeing it and savoring it as our highest treasure. “Behold Your God!” is the most gracious command and the best gift of the gospel. If we do not see Him and savor Him as our greatest fortune, we have not obeyed or believed the gospel.” – John Piper, God Is the Gospel: Meditations on God’s Love as the Gift of Himself (HT: Allsufficientgrace)

Rest in God and Find Your Focus in Ministry

  Paul Trip writes: Pastor, many things nip away at your attention and schedule. You know many people who love you and have a wonderful plan for your life. You know that many conflicting motivations, thoughts, and desires give shape to your life and ministry. Sometimes you lose sight of why you’re doing what you’re doing. So this question is vital: do you live with singleness of focus? Is your life and ministry shaped, structured, and directed by the pursuit of one glorious, fulfilling, heart-satisfying thing? We don’t live by instinct. Our lives are directed by the thoughts and motives of our hearts. We are always interpreting, and we are always desiring. We live in perpetual pursuit of something. We are always evaluating our progress toward that thing we think will give us life. We are always in the service of some kind of dream. Maybe this is the best way to say it: in every moment of life and

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From triumphant indicatives to moral imperatives

  “Our whole life as Christians is a process of sailing confidently into the open seas, dying down in exhaustion, and having our sails filled again with God’s precious promises. We are never at any moment simply under full sail or dead in the water, but move back and forth throughout the Christian life. This is the movement that we find in Romans 6-8, from the triumphant indicative (Rom. 6:1-11), to the moral imperatives (Rom. 6:12-14), back to the indicatives (6:15-7:6), to the exhausting struggle with sin (7:7-24), back again to the triumphant indicative, “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (7:25) and the future hope awaiting us for which even now we have the Spirit as a down payment (8:1-39).” Michael Horton, God of Promise, p. 194 (HT: John Fonville)

God is the gospel

John Piper: All the saving events and all the saving blessings of the gospel are means of getting obstacles out of the way so that we might know and enjoy God most fully. Propitiation, redemption, forgiveness, imputation, sanctification, liberation, healing, heaven — none of these is good news except for one reason: they bring us to God for our everlasting enjoyment of him. If we believe all these things have happened to us, but do not embrace them for the sake of getting to God, they have not happened to us. Christ did not die to forgive sinners who go on treasuring anything above seeing and savoring God. And people who would be happy in heaven if Christ were not there, will not be there. The gospel is not a way to get people to heaven; it is a way to get people to God. It’s a way of overcoming every obstacle to everlasting joy in God. If we don’t want

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The God-Centeredness of the Gospel

From Jared Wilson: How is God’s desire for his own glory reflected in the gospel? Firstly, the gospel of forgiveness of sins through Christ is predicated on our needing forgiveness, and further, our inability to provide restitution to merit such pardon. So the gospel’s presupposition is mankind’s lack of glory. Sin in fact is defined as to “fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). Secondly, though, Christ the God-Man makes this restitution for us himself on the cross, which gives God the glory (the credit) for salvation. Thirdly, he goes to the cross willingly; nobody murders him except that he has allowed them to, which takes the infamy of blame off of the perpetrators and transfers it to the credit of the sacrifice. Fourthly, the God-Man doesn’t stay dead but rises on the third day through the power of the Spirit with a glorified body. Ergo, even more glory for God. Then he ascends into heaven, giving himself even more

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4 things to do with yourself

I love this from Justin Buzzard: I see four ways you ought to handle yourself: 1. Know yourself. “Nearly all the wisdom we possess, that is to say, true and sound wisdom, consists of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves”(John Calvin). Do you know yourself? 2. Be yourself. God created you to be you. Cease all attempts to be like someone else. Be you. Meditate on Psalm 139. Walt Disney said, “The more you are like yourself, the less you are like anybody else, and that’s what makes you unique.” Disney’s statement points us to a central way we can glorify God. God gave you the vocation of being yourself, he doesn’t call you to usurp someone else’s vocation by attempting to be somebody you’re not. Are you comfortable being yourself? 3. Preach to yourself. “The main art in the matter of spiritual living is to know how to handle yourself. You have to take yourself in hand, you

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Having God Is Better than Money, Sex, Power, or Popularity

John Piper: We need to ponder the superiority of God as our great reward over all that the world has to offer. If we don’t, we will love the world like everyone else and live like every one else. So take the things that drive the world and ponder how much better and more abiding God is: take money or sex or power or popularity. Think about these things. First think about them in relation to death. Death will take away every one of them: money, sex, power, and popularity. If that is what you live for, you won’t get much, and what you get, you lose. But God’s treasure is “abiding.” It lasts. It goes beyond death. It’s better than money because God owns all the money and he is our Father. “All things are yours, and you are Christ’s and Christ is God’s” (1 Corinthians 3:22-23). It’s better than sex. Jesus never had sexual relations, and he was

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13 Questions to Diagnose Your Idolatries

From Desiring God: This past Sunday, Kenny Stokes preached his second message on 1 John 5:20-21, which ends, “Little children, keep yourselves from idols.” (See his first sermon on this passage.) Near the end he laid out 13 questions, adapted from an old Puritan sermon, to help us identify the idols of our hearts: What do you most highly value? What do you think about by default? What is your highest goal? To what or whom are you most committed? Who or what do you love the most? Who or what do you trust or depend upon the most? Who or what do you fear the most? Who or what do you hope in and hope for most? Who or what do you desire the most? Or, what desire makes you most angry or makes you despair when it is not satisfied? Who or what do you most delight in or hold as your greatest joy and treasure? Who or

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A word of caution

From Reformation Theology: Most Christians do not think enough, or study enough in order to pursue God with their minds as well as their hearts, but as Dr. John Piper reminds us, there is a ditch on the other side of the road – an intellectualism that pursues the study of God without relationship with God. In the short video below, he encourages Christians to value theology as a means for knowing God, without making theology God.

Worship in Spirit and Truth

From Juan Sanchez: But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth.”  (John 4:23, ESV) The following are some of the basic principles by which we seek to plan and practice corporate worship at High Pointe Baptist Church. (As best as I can remember, these principles were influenced by a sermon series I listened to by John Piper on worship titled, Worship God.) 1.  True worship is God-centered. We were created to worship, and we are commanded to worship God alone (Exodus 20:3-5; Revelation 22:9) in the ways that He has outlined in Scripture (Ecclesiates 5:1-7). Therefore, as we prepare our hearts for worship let’s remember that worship is about God, not us. 2.  True worship is Christ-focused. Jesus Christ is the image of God, the creator, sustainer, and reconciler of creation, and the head of the church (Colossians 1:15-20). It pleased God to reveal Himself through the Son and to

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The one inestimable gift

“If we have regarded religion merely as a means of getting things — even lofty and unselfish things — then when the things that have been gotten are destroyed, our faith will fail. When loved ones are taken away, when disappointment comes and failure, when noble ambitions are set at naught, then we turn away from God. We have tried religion, we say, we have tried prayer, and it has failed. Of course it has failed! God is not content to be an instrument in our hand or a servant at our beck and call. Has it never dawned on us that God is valuable for His own sake, that just as personal communion is the highest thing that we know on earth, so personal communion with God is the sublimest height of all? If we value God for His own sake, then the loss of other things will draw us all the closer to Him; we shall then have

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Remembering God

“We are simple people. You can’t remember ten things at once. Invariably, if you could remember just ONE true thing in the moment of trial, you’d be different. Bible ‘verses’ aren’t magic. But God’s words are revelations of God from God for our redemption. When you actually remember God, you do not sin. The only way we ever sin is by suppressing God, by forgetting, by tuning out his voice, switching channels, and listening to other voices. When you actually remember, you actually change. In fact, remembering is the first change.” – David Powlison (HT: Of First Importance)

What it means to think like a Christian

“The effort to think like a Christian is . . . an effort to take seriously the sovereignty of God over the world he created, the lordship of Christ over the world he died to redeem, and the power of the Holy Spirit over the world he sustains each and every moment. From this perspective the search for a mind that truly thinks like a Christian takes on ultimate significance, because the search for a Christian mind is not, in the end, a search for the mind but a search for God.” —Mark Noll, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, p. 253 (JT’s emphasis) (HT: Justin Taylor)

Things I don’t need in the New Year

This is the outline of a great sermon from yesterday preached by my Pastor and friend Roydon Hearne. Because Jesus is supreme and sufficient there are some things I don’t need in this New Year: . I’m going to start this new year by listing some needs that, with God’s help, will be eliminated from my life. I’ll ask the Father to take away: My need to be appreciated. I don’t need praise from those around me. God’s approval is all that counts. John 15: 18-19 My need to be physically attractive. Other people look at physical appearance, but they don’t see what the Lord sees. He sees my heart. 1 Samuel 16: 7 My need to be first. Paul writes that I shouldn’t look for what is good for me, but I should be concerned with what is good for others. 1 Corinthians 10: 23-24 My need to appear smart. I don’t need to be a great speaker to

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In God, heaven

“The Scriptures constantly teach that man’s only true happiness is in God, and that his full happiness in God cannot be attained in this life, but that believing men have that happiness assured to them in the life to come.  Commenting on John 14:6, Godet says, ‘Jesus here substitutes the Father for the Father’s house.  For it is  not in heaven that we are to find God, but in God that we are to find heaven.’” Alexander Whyte, An Exposition on the Shorter Catechism, page 137. (HT: Ray Ortlund)

Luther on Idolatry and Trust

Martin Luther’s Large Catechism begins with a shrewd reflection on the first commandment: “You are to have no other gods.” That is, you are to regard me alone as your God. What does this mean, and how is it to be understood? What does “to have a god” mean, or what is God? Answer: A “god” is the term for that to which we are to look for all good and in which we are to find refuge in all need. Therefore, to have a god is nothing else than to trust and believe in that one with your whole heart. As I have often said, it is the trust and faith of the heart alone that make both God and an idol. If your faith and trust are right, then your God is the true one. Conversely, where your trust is false and wrong, there you do not have the true God. For these two belong together, faith and God.

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What is true of Him

  “God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” 2 Timothy 1:7 We must think of suffering in a new way, we must face everything in a new way. And the way in which we face it all is by reminding ourselves that the Holy Spirit is in us. There is the future, there is the high calling, there is the persecution, there is the opposition, there is the enemy. I see it all. I must admit also that I am weak, that I lack the necessary powers and propensities. But instead of stopping there . . . I say, “But the Spirit of God is in me. God has given me his Holy Spirit.” . . . What matters . . . is not what is true of us but what is true of Him. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Spiritual Depression, page 100. (HT: Ray Ortlund)