What Made Spurgeon a Great Preacher

  By Michael A.G. Haykin In many ways, C.H. Spurgeon’s ministry was nothing less than amazing: the crowded auditories that assembled to hear the “Cambridgeshire lad” in the 1850s and that continued unabated till the end of his ministry in the early 1890s; the remarkable conversions that occurred under his preaching and the numerous churches in metropolitan London and the county of Surrey that owed their origins to his Evangelical activism; the solid Puritan divinity that undergirded his Evangelical convictions-something of a rarity in the heyday of the Victorian era during which he ministered for that was a day imbued with the very different ambience of Romanticism; and finally, the ongoing life of his sermons that are still being widely read around the world today and deeply appreciated by God’s children. What accounts for all of this? Numerous reasons could be cited, many of which may indeed play a secondary role in his ministerial success. For example, in a fairly

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Give us Dependent Preachers

“How utterly dependent we are on the Holy Spirit in the work of preaching! All genuine preaching is rooted in a feeling of desperation. You wake up on Sunday morning and you can smell the smoke of hell on one side and feel the crisp breezes of heaven on the other. You go to your study and look down at your pitiful manuscript, and you kneel down and cry, “O God, this is so weak! Who do I think I am? What audacity to think that in three hours my words will be the odour of death to death and the fragrance of life to life (2 Cor. 2:16). My God, who is sufficient for these things?”” John Piper, The Supremancy of God in Preaching, pp. 41-42. (HT: Justin Childers)

A Divine and Supernatural Light

“This light is such as effectually influences the inclination, and changes the nature of the soul. It assimilates our nature to the divine nature, and changes the soul into an image of the same glory that is beheld. 2 Cor. iii. 18. “But we all with open face, beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image, from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” This knowledge will wean from the world, and raise the inclination to heavenly things. It will turn the heart to God as the fountain of good, and to choose him for the only portion. This light, and this only, will bring the soul to a saving close with Christ. It conforms the heart to the gospel, mortifies its enmity and opposition against the scheme of salvation therein revealed: it causes the heart to embrace the joyful tidings, and entirely to adhere to, and acquiesce in

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Total Depravity And The Believer’s Sanctification

Ligon Duncan: Total depravity is a reality, both taught in Holy Scripture and experienced in life, with important implications not only for pagans but also for Christians. Very often we think of this Biblical doctrine in connection with those who are unregenerate, or with regard to Christians before their conversion, but we reflect less frequently on the depravity which still infects those who have been saved by grace and reborn of the Spirit. This is a serious omission, for misunderstanding or underestimating the continuing corruption in the believer leaves the Christian unprepared for the warfare of sanctification and leads to a variety of spiritual problems. There are many errors propagated in evangelical circles on this subject, the two main tendencies of which are: perfectionism and antinomianism. The former asserts that the Christian life is (or ought to be) characterized by complete victory over sin. Hence, Christian life as intended by God is “higher life” or the “victorious life.” Perfectionistic teachers

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Extend the Same Grace You Preach

Paul Tripp: I did it for years. I was good at it, but I didn’t know it. It shaped how I preached and how I sought to pastor people. If you would have questioned my theology, I would have been offended. I was an ardent defender of the “doctrines of grace.” I knew them well and could articulate them clearly, but at ground level something else was going on. In the duties, processes, and relationships of pastoral ministry I actively devalued the same grace I theologically defended. My ministry lacked rest in grace. It lacked the fruit of grace: confidence and security. So I attempted to do in people what only God can do, and I consistently asked the law to do what only divine grace will ever accomplish. How does this happen? The heart of every believer, still being delivered from sin, is tugged away from rest in the nowism of grace to some form of legalism. Even after

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When the Spirit is poured down

“The purest joy in the world is joy in Christ Jesus.  When the Spirit is poured down, his people get very near and clear views of the Lord Jesus.  They eat his flesh and drink his blood.  They come to a personal cleaving to the Lord.  They taste that the Lord is gracious.  His blood and righteousness appear infinitely perfect, full and free to their soul.  They sit under his shadow with great delight. . . . They lean on the Beloved.  They find infinite strength in him for the use of their soul — grace for grace — all they can need in any hour of trial and suffering to the very end.”   Robert Murray M’Cheyne, preaching on Psalm 85:6, “Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you?” (HT: Ray Ortlund)

Killing Sin Through Personal Prayer

“The activity by which the Christian directly secures the mortification of his sins is prayer,” wrote J. I. Packer in his book A Quest For Godliness. But what does this practice of putting sin to death through personal prayer look like? Desiring God recently traveled to Vancouver to ask him to explain, and he kindly did in this 9-minute video clip.   J. I. Packer: “I never get to the end of mortifying sin because sin in my heart is still marauding, even though it is not dominant. Sin is constantly expressing itself in new disorderly desires, as bindweed is constantly expressing itself in fresh shoots and fresh blooms. Once bindweed has established itself in your garden or hedge it is very difficult to get out because it is always extending itself under the surface of the soil. And sin in the heart is rather like that. But as blooms of sin break surface and I recognize them, I am called

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When We Say “Gospel,” Do We Really Mean “The Spirit?”

Great post from Trevin Wax: Evangelicals love to speak in theological shorthand. We employ phrases and terms that become popular, become a badge of identification, and over time get emptied of their meaning. Obedience Fueled by the Gospel? Take “gospel-centered” language as an example: Our obedience is fueled by the gospel. The gospel is what motivates our obedience. We need to be captured again by the gospel. We need be refreshed in the gospel every day. And on and on. The more I hear this kind of talk, the more I’m convinced that we are using the word “gospel” where we really mean the Holy Spirit. We often talk about the gospel doing stuff when actually it’s the Spirit who is working. So we say, “The gospel fuels our obedience,” but what we really mean is the Spirit captures our affections with the gospel in order to fuel our obedience.  Now, knowing the Spirit, He probably doesn’t mind all that much that we’re devoting so much attention to Christ. That’s who He’s about, after all. But I do

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Union With Christ: One of the Secrets of Sanctification

Tony Reinke: What is union with Christ? And how does this union help us advance in personal holiness? We asked J. I. Packer recently, and he answered in this rich 9-minute video:   Transcribed Excerpt: “[As a Christian] you have to face a great deal of opposition from the world, the flesh, and the devil. But as the new creatures that you are in Christ — risen with him, with the power of his resurrection mediated through the Holy Spirit into the actual living of your life — you can stand fast. You pray for power to stand fast. You set yourself to stand fast. And you find that you are standing fast. In his strength you can do it. And this is one of the secrets of sanctification, the secret which I would say matches, balances, and complements what we were saying earlier on about mortification (draining life out of sinful desires, urges, and lusts). . . . [Union with Christ]

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No longer blind to the gospel of the glory of Christ

“For as God, the Creator of the world, pours forth upon us the brightness of the sun, and gives us eyes to receive it, so, as the Redeemer, in the person of His Son, He shines forth, indeed, upon us by His gospel, but, as we are blind, that would be in vain, if He did not at the same time enlighten our understandings by His Spirit. His meaning, therefore, is, that God has, by His Spirit, opened the eyes of our understandings, so as to make them capable of receiving the light of the gospel. John Calvin, Calvin’s Commentaries, vol. 20, p. 200 (HT: John Fonville)

“Is There a Holy Spirit?”

By Bobby Jamieson: How do you try to fill up your church building? And what does that say about your belief in the Holy Spirit? TWO WAYS TO FILL A CHURCH Nineteenth-century Baptist Francis Wayland suggests that there are basically two ways to fill a church (Notes on the Principles and Practices of Baptist Churches, 43-47). One is to preach in a way that is agreeable and inoffensive to both believers and unbelievers. The other is to preach in a way that highlights the difference between true religion and mere profession, and thus creates a sharp contrast between the church and the world. The first approach seems reasonable. After all, why would non-Christians come to hear sermons about things they’ve never experienced and can’t understand? Why would non-Christians come to a church that highlights the fact that they are outsiders? Yet Wayland argues that the price of this approach is far too steep. In order for his preaching to equally please Christians

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Spiritual Gifts Inform Us of Our Neediness

Timmy Brister: We do not have an exhaustive list of gifts of the the Spirit in the Bible, but we do have a lot of them.  These gifts are sovereignly distributed by the Spirit for the common good and edification of the church.  When each member is working properly, the body grows and is built up in love. In the wisdom of God, He has designed that we are all ministers to one another in various ways through a variety of gifts.  Have you considered what God is saying about us with the equipment of so many gifts?  We are a needy people! You are a needy person. We do not realize how profound our spiritual needs are, but God does, and He has made provision for our needs through the gifts of His Spirit exercised through the lives of His people. For example: When the Holy Spirit intends a person with the gift of giving to be useful in the church, what does it

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Sam Storms – Are Prophets Foundational to the Church?

Sam Storms: The fact that Paul, in Ephesians 2:20, describes “apostles and prophets” as the foundation of the Church has led some to draw what I believe are unwarranted theological conclusions, specifically the idea that prophecy is a gift that was restricted to the first century and subsequently died out. Richard Gaffin, for example, says that in Ephesians 2:11-22 the church “is pictured as the construction project of God, the master architect-builder, underway in the period between the ascension and return of Christ (cf. 1:20-22; 4:8-10,13). In this church-house the apostles and prophets are the foundation, along with Christ as the ‘cornerstone’ (v. 20). In any construction project (ancient or modern), the foundation comes at the beginning and does not have to be relaid repeatedly (at least if the builder knows what he’s doing!). In terms of this dynamic model for the church, the apostles and prophets belong to the period of the foundation. In other words, by the divine architect’s design,

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What Is Worship?

D. A. Carson admits that his definition of worship is “too long and too complex,” but in his defense he takes 36 pages to explain each element in his chapter “Worship under the Word,” in Worship by the Book, ed. Carson (Zondervan, 2002), p. 26. Worship is the proper response of all moral, sentient beings to God, ascribing all honor and worth to their Creator-God precisely because he is worthy, delightfully so. This side of the Fall, human worship of God properly responds to the redemptive provisions that God has graciously made. While all true worship is God-centered, Christian worship is no less Christ-centered. Empowered by the Spirit and in line with the stipulations of the new covenant, it manifests itself in all our living, finding its impulse in the gospel, which restores our relationship with our Redeemer-God and therefore also with our fellow image-bearers, our co-worshipers. Such worship therefore manifests itself both in adoration and in action, both in the individual believer and in corporate worship,

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What Does the Holy Spirit Do?

  John Owen: The Comforter gives a sweet and plentiful evidence and persuasion of the love of God to us, such as the soul is taken, delighted, satiated with. This is his work, and he does it effectually. To give a poor sinful soul a comfortable persuasion, affecting it throughout, in all its faculties and affections, that God in Jesus Christ loves him, delights in him, is well pleased with him, has thoughts of tenderness and kindness towards him; to give, I say, a soul an overflowing sense of this, is an inexpressible mercy. This we have in a peculiar manner by the Holy Ghost; it is his peculiar work. –John Owen, Communion with God (Christian Focus, 2007; repr.), 375-76 (HT: Dane Ortlund)

The Difference between Union and Communion with God

  My thanks to Justin Taylor for this: Kelly Kapic: It is important to note that Owen maintains an essential distinction between union and communion. Believers are united to Christ in God by the Spirit. This union is a unilateral action by God, in which those who were dead are made alive, those who lived in darkness begin to see the light, and those who were enslaved to sin are set free to be loved and to love. When one speaks of “union,” it must be clear that the human person is merely receptive, being the object of God’s gracious action. This is the state and condition of all true saints. Communion with God, however, is distinct from union. Those who are united to Christ are called to respond to God’s loving embrace. While union with Christ is something that does not ebb and flow, one’s experience of communion with Christ can fluctuate. This is an important theological and experiential distinction, for it protects the

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“Spiritual,” because…

The latest issue of The Gospel Coalition’s online theological journal, Themelios is out now. From Don Carson’s editorial on Spiritual Disciplines: . “People think of themselves as “spiritual” because they have certain aesthetic sensibilities, or because they feel some kind of mystical connection with nature, or because they espouse some highly privatized version of one of any number of religions (but “religion” tends to be a word with negative connotations while “spirituality” has positive overtones). Under the terms of the new covenant, however, the only “spiritual” person is the person who has the Holy Spirit, poured out on individuals in regeneration.” (HT: Guy Davies)

The Spirit Before and After Pentecost

Jared Wilson: Did the Spirit not prowl the earth, seeking whom he may save before his coming at Pentecost? Is God’s Spirit not omnipresent? How did people love and obey God before Pentecost if we believe, as Jesus said, he would be sent after the Lord’s ascension? John Piper explains with a neat illustration: Now let me suggest an analogy to illustrate the experience of the Spirit before and after Pentecost. Picture a huge dam for hydroelectric power under construction, like the Aswan High Dam on the Nile, 375 feet high and 11,000 feet across. Egypt’s President Nasser announced the plan for construction in 1953. The dam was completed in 1970 and in 1971 there was a grand dedication ceremony and the 12 turbines with their ten billion kilowatt-hour capacity were unleashed with enough power to light every city in Egypt. During the long period of construction the Nile River wasn’t completely stopped. Even as the reservoir was filling, part of

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As We See Him We Become Like Him

By John Starke: Pastoral ministry has a way of sobering up theological debates. Far from dumbing them down, ministry shows how good theology helps makes sense of reality. The recent justification/sanctification debate, for example, has significant pastoral implications. Pastors and soon-to-be pastors are bringing this debate into the fires of their pulpit, discipleship, and counseling ministry. In so doing they follow the example of Martin Luther, who dismissed the use of the law in the Christian life in his polemical writing and yet still instructed children by devoting the entire first section of his Small Catechism to the Ten Commandments. Biblical Expectation for Change At the very heart of this debate is the biblical reality that Christians have been justified, born again, joined in union with the risen Jesus Christ, and indwelt with the Holy Spirit. Therefore, there is a real expectation for change. So when we preach or teach passages that exhort our listeners to turn from unrighteousness and pursue holiness, to

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John Flavel on the Importance of Gospel Delight

From Scotty Smith: John Flavel (English Puritan – 1630-1691), was one of the main influences in Charles Spurgeon’s spiritual formation in the gospel. This quote will let you know why. “Ecstasy and delight are essential to the believer’s soul and they promote sanctification. We were not meant to live without spiritual exhilaration, and the Christian who goes for a long time without the experience of heart-warming will soon find himself tempted to have his emotions satisfied from earthly things and not, as he ought, from the Spirit of God. The soul is so constituted that it craves fulfillment from things outside itself and will embrace earthly joys for satisfaction when it cannot reach spiritual ones. The believer is in spiritual danger if he allows himself to go for any length of time without tasting the love of Christ and savoring the felt comforts of a Savior’s presence. When Christ ceases to fill the heart with satisfaction, our souls will go

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