Seven Ways to Improve Your Preaching

  Kevin DeYoung: I loved the post last week from Mike Kruger, Note to Aspiring Preachers: Here are Seven Key Pitfalls to Avoid. His advice got me thinking about what advice I would give (or have given) to aspiring preachers, or any to preachers for that matter. Below are seven practical ways we can improve our preaching. And please note: I deliberately use the words “we” and “our,” because I’m thinking of my sermons as much as anyone’s. These suggestions are things I continue to work on as a preacher, sometimes with success and often with less progress than I would like. 1. Make sure your points point to something. It’s fine to say, “I have three points this morning: Abraham received precious promises. Abraham believed God. Abraham was saved by faith.” It would be better, however, to tell us what holds those points together. Are they three acts in the life of Abraham, or three lessons we can learn,

read more Seven Ways to Improve Your Preaching

What is false teaching and how do we spot it?

Kevin DeYoung: We’ve been working through 2 Timothy on Sunday evenings. Last week I preached from 2 Timothy 3:6-9. It’s a passage–like many in the pastoral epistles–that deals with false teaching. Paul warns against the folly of false teaching (and against the folly of falling for it). Which leads to the question: what is false teaching and how do we spot it? Obviously, there is no foolproof scheme for identifying false teaching. Biblical discernment takes years of prayer, preaching, and practice. But there are certain questions that may be help us sift the good from the bad. Here are 15 discernment diagnostic questions I suggested to my congregation. 1. Does the teaching sound strange? This is not fool proof, of course—predestination may sound strange at first. But sound teaching should make biblical sense for those who have read through the Bible every year, go to church every Sunday, and have gone to Sunday school for decades. As an initial question,

read more What is false teaching and how do we spot it?

Yes and Amen in Christ

  Kevin DeYoung: God has promised us everything in Christ. Abraham knew the Lord as a promise-maker, Moses knew him as a promise-keeper, but we know the one in whom all the promises are yes and Amen. In Christ, there is now no condemnation for us (Rom. 8:1) In Christ we did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but a spirit of adoption by which we cry out, “Abba, Father!” (Rom. 8:16) In Christ the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed (Rom. 8:18). In Christ we know that he who did not spare his own son, but freely gave him up for us all, will also with him freely give us all things (Rom. 8:32). In Christ there is nothing in all creation—neither life nor death, nor angels nor principalities, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor

read more Yes and Amen in Christ

Doctrine Matters: Eternal Life Depends Upon It

Kevin DeYoung: Christianity is much more than getting your doctrine right. But it is not less. You can have right doctrine and not be a Christian. You can know all sorts of true things about Jesus and not be saved. The Devil is not unaware of who Jesus really is. The first beings in the Gospels to recognize the true identify of Christ are the demons. You can know true things and not be a Christian. But you cannot be a Christian without knowing true things. Some doctrines are absolutely essential. You can know some truths and still be lost, but there are some truths, without which, you will not be found. What we believe about Jesus is one of those truths. Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father. And this is the promise that

read more Doctrine Matters: Eternal Life Depends Upon It

Why Should We Study Systematic Theology?

Kevin DeYoung: I love systematic theology. I have for a long time. I plan on immersing myself in it for the rest of my life. I hope my congregation will too. I hope especially that pastors will make the study of systematic theology a lifelong pursuit. Yes, I really believe systematic theology is that important. Objections Against But, unfortunately, systematic theology often gets a bad rap. It’s not unusual to find even pastors and professors dismissing dogmatics as an inferior version of the real stuffyou get from exegetical or redemptive-historical theology. Of course, those are crucial too (and every good systematic theology will be built on both), but systematic theology is just as crucial, no matter the objections. Objection 1: Systematic theology is not even possible.While it’s certainly true that we cannot know God as God knows himself, we can nevertheless know God truly. Theologians have long made the distinction between archetypal knowledge (which only God has) and ectypal knowledge

read more Why Should We Study Systematic Theology?

6 Reasons Why Membership Matters

Kevin DeYoung: “Why bother with church membership?” I’ve been asked the question before. Sometimes it’s said with genuine curiosity-“So explain to me what membership is all about.” Other times it’s said with a tinge of suspicion-“So tell me again, why do you think I should become a member?”-as if joining the church automatically signed you up to tithe by direct deposit. For many Christians membership sounds stiff, something you have at your bank or the country club, but too formal for the church. Even if it’s agreed that Christianity is not a lone ranger religion, that we need community and fellowship with other Christians, we still bristle at the thought of officially joining a church. Why all the hoops? Why box the Holy Spirit into member/non-member categories? Why bother joining a local church when I’m already a member of the universal Church? Some Christians–because of church tradition or church baggage–may not be convinced of church membership no matter how many

read more 6 Reasons Why Membership Matters

Yes, You Can Please Your Heanvenly Father

Kevin DeYoung: Sometimes Christians can give the impression that pleasing God is a sub-biblical motivation. “We’re totally justified,” someone might say. “We’re totally accepted. If we tell our kids to please God, we are just giving them more law. We are training them to be little moralists. We’re discipling them to think of God as a kind of Santa Claus keeping a naughty-and-nice list.” Obviously (or maybe not so obviously), that’s not how God wants us to parent, because that’s not what God is like with his children. But don’t let the potential abuse of this “pleasing God” language lead you to suppress what Scripture clearly says. One of the principal motivations for holiness is the pleasure of God. Colossians 1:10: Those who bear fruit in every good work and increase in the knowledge of God are pleasing to God. Romans 12:1: Presenting your body as a living sacrifice pleases God. Romans 14:18: Looking out for your weaker brother pleases

read more Yes, You Can Please Your Heanvenly Father

You are not the light

  Kevin DeYoung: I had read John 1 hundreds of times before. But this time I got stuck on verse 8: “He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.” “Huh,” I thought, sitting up straight and staring at nothing in particular for a minute or two, “that’s a word I need to hear as a pastor.” More than that, it’s a word I need to hear as a Christian. Here’s John the Baptist–pretty important guy, wildly popular prophet, forerunner of the Messiah, just about the greatest person ever born of a woman (Mt. 11:11). And when the Holy Spirit takes a moment to introduce him in John’s prologue, He wants to make clear: John the Baptist was not the light. Hey pastor, have you forgotten that this whole church thing isn’t about you? Have I forgotten that it’s not about the size of my church, the number of compliments I receive, or the reach of

read more You are not the light

Redeeming culture, building the Kingdom – Really?

  Some helpful insight from Kevin DeYoung: We need to be careful about our language. I think I know what people mean when they talk about redeeming the culture or partnering with God in His redemption of the world, but we should really pick another word. Redemption has already been accomplished on the cross. We are not co-redeemers of anything. We are called to serve, bear witness, proclaim, love, do good to everyone, and adorn the gospel with good deeds, but we are not partners in God’s work of redemption. Similarly, there is no language in Scripture about Christians building the kingdom. The New Testament, in talking about the kingdom, uses words like enter, seek, announce, see, receive, look, come into, and inherit. Do a word search and see for yourself. We are given the kingdom and brought into the kingdom. We testify about it, pray for it to come, and by faith, it belongs to us. But in the New Testament,

read more Redeeming culture, building the Kingdom – Really?

A Birdseye View of the Gospel in One Big Sentence

  Kevin DeYoung: One of the clearest and most comprehensive statements of John Witherspoon’s theology can be found in his Essay on Justification ( 1756) where he sets out to defend justification by the imputed righteousness of Christ and ends up giving this big, broad, glorious summary of the gospel:   The doctrine asserted in the above and other passages of Scripture may be thus paraphrased: that every intelligent creature is under an unchangeable and unalienable obligation, perfectly to obey the whole law of God: that all men proceeding from Adam by ordinary generation, are the children of polluted parents, alienated in heart from God, transgressors of his holy law, inexcusable in this transgression, and therefore exposed to the dreadful consequence of his displeasure; that it was not agreeable to the dictates of his wisdom, holiness and justice, to forgive their sins without an atonement or satisfaction: and therefore he raised up for them a Saviour, Jesus Christ, who, as the

read more A Birdseye View of the Gospel in One Big Sentence

Five Questions for Christians Who Believe the Bible Supports Gay Marriage

Kevin DeYoung: So you’ve become convinced that the Bible supports gay marriage. You’ve studied the issue, read some books, looked at the relevant Bible passages and concluded that Scripture does not prohibit same-sex intercourse so long as it takes place in the context of a loving, monogamous, lifelong covenanted relationship. You still love Jesus. You still believe the Bible. In fact, you would argue that it’s because you love Jesus and because you believe the Bible that you now embrace gay marriage as a God-sanctioned good. As far as you are concerned, you haven’t rejected your evangelical faith. You haven’t turned your back on God. You haven’t become a moral relativist. You’ve never suggested anything goes when it comes to sexual behavior. In most things, you tend to be quite conservative. You affirm the family, and you believe in the permanence of marriage. But now you’ve simply come to the conclusion that two men or two women should be able

read more Five Questions for Christians Who Believe the Bible Supports Gay Marriage

An Ephesians Kind Of Prayer

By Kevin DeYoung: O Lord, who has given to you that you should repay him? Surely we have given you nothing and yet you lavish your riches upon us. Who are we that you should have set your affections upon us? How infinite your tenderness toward us. How astounding your glory that you should have chosen us before the ages began. How amazing your grace in forgiveness and redemption. All that we have and all that we are and all that we will be are bound up in your Son, Jesus Christ. We pray, therefore, in the name of Jesus that you would make us strong in our inner being. Through your Spirit give us power that is not our own. With Christ in our hearts, make us steadfast that we may not give up in the face of suffering, or give in to cultural pressures, or give ourselves over to the lusts of the flesh. We earnestly plead that

read more An Ephesians Kind Of Prayer

A Watchman on the Walls

Kevin DeYoung: It is not the work of the pastor to say whatever seems relevant or whatever seems noncontroversial or whatever is especially interesting to itching ears. Our responsibility, before God and for the sake of God’s people, is to declare the whole counsel of God (Acts 10:27). The teachers of the church must disclose all of the glorious parts in Scripture and all the hard parts, all the promises and all the warnings, all the blessings and all the curses, all the parts that make us smile and all the parts that make us wince. While we do not like to upset people and we do not wish to be thought uncouth, we answer to a higher authority. It is the solemn task of the preacher–weak and failing though he may be–to stand fast as a watchman on the walls. We cannot shrink back from the uncomfortable bits in the Bible (Acts 20: 20-21, 25-32). If we see the

read more A Watchman on the Walls

Take God at His Word: Kevin DeYoung on the Character of Scripture

Matt Smethurst: Your Bible is evidence that the Maker of the universe is a God who initiates, who reveals, who talks. There are, after all, only two options when it comes to knowledge of one’s Creator: revelation or speculation. Either he speaks, or we guess. And he has spoken. The Lord of heaven and earth has “forfeited his own personal privacy” to disclose himself to us—to befriend us—through a book. Scripture is like an all-access pass into the revealed mind and will of God. By virtually any account the Bible is the most influential book of all time. No shortage of ink has been spilled on writings about it. But what does Scripture say about itself? In his new book, Taking God at His Word: Why the Bible Is Knowable, Necessary, and Enough, and What That Means for You and Me (Crossway) [20 quotes], Kevin DeYoung cuts through the fog of contemporary confusion to offer a readable and constructive defense

read more Take God at His Word: Kevin DeYoung on the Character of Scripture

How to Handle Your Sin

Kevin DeYoung: What do you do with your sin? You can explain it with science. You can minimize it with sophistication. You can swallow it up with self-talk. Or you can confess it to your Savior. There are the two radically different schools of thought when it comes to dealing with our imperfections. One message–the “good news” of the world–tells you: “You own yourself, you engineer yourself, you invent yourself, you discover yourself.” This message screams an absolutely diabolical falsehood. It will not give you the freedom you are looking for. It will not give you peace of mind. It will not give you a clean conscience. It will not give you eternal life. The second message–the good news of the cross–will give you real freedom. It confesses, “I am not my own. I was bought with a price. I am not in charge. I am not the purpose of my life. I will not find the “true” me. I

read more How to Handle Your Sin

Missions, Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God

Kevin DeYoung: So shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it (Isaiah 55:11). We do not know when God’s purposes will be accomplished. We do not always know whether the divine plan is to harden the heart or to soften it. We do not know the outcome of our work. But we should know that our work in the word is never in vain. No sermon from the word, no bible study, no time of prayer in the word with your children, no memorizing of scripture, none of it is wasted. If there is time spent in the word, God promises it is working. Working something. The same sun which melts the snow hardens the clay. Why should missionaries continue to labor in the hardest parts of the world with limited success,

read more Missions, Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God

Red Letter Nonsense

Kevin DeYoung: An excerpt from Taking God at His Word on the implications of 2 Timothy 3:16 for the authority and unity of the whole Bible: Just as crucially, if all Scripture is breathed out by God, then there is a unity to be found across the pages of the Bible. Without minimizing the differences of genre and human au­thorship, we should nevertheless approach the Bible expect­ing theological distinctives and apparent discrepancies to be fully reconcilable. The unity of Scripture also means we should be rid, once and for all, of this “red letter” nonsense, as if the words of Jesus are the really important verses in Scripture and carry more authority and are somehow more directly divine than other verses. An evangelical understanding of inspiration does not allow us to prize instructions in the gospel more than instructions elsewhere in Scripture. If we read about homosexuality from the pen of Paul in Romans, it has no less weight or relevance than if we

read more Red Letter Nonsense

Justification and Sanctification: What’s the Problem?

Matt Smethurst: The relationship between justification and sanctification—between being pronounced righteous in a moment and being made righteous over a lifetime—is delicate, complex, and altogether crucial to grasp. “Sanctification is always properly built on justification,” says Bryan Chapell in a new roundtable discussion with Kevin DeYoung and Rick Phillips. Still, he explains, we can make two mistakes concerning what motivates our obedience—denying either a plurality of motivations on the one hand or a priority of motivations on the other. “We’re never in danger of talking about grace too much,” DeYoung insists. “But we can talk about grace in a truncated, reductionistic way.” We must take great care, then, to deal faithfully with the Bible’s multiplicity of motivations, resisting the tendency to flatten certain texts, while at the same time never becoming “suspicious of grace.” Phillips cautions against rhetoric that suggests sanctification is a “tag on” to justification—little more than “being excited about justification.” Rather, he says, sanctification is a “twin grace with justification, each resulting from union

read more Justification and Sanctification: What’s the Problem?

Ten Questions for the New Year

I appreciate this reminder, and very challenging check list, for 2014, courtesy of Kevin DeYoung: Even though the questions are particular to a husband, father, and pastor, you may be able to put them to good use as well. 1. Am I spending time slowly reading God’s word and memorizing Scripture? 2. Am I having consistent, focused, extended times of prayer, including interceding for others? 3. Am I disciplined in my use of technology, in particular not getting distracted by emails and blogging in the evening and on my day off? 4. Am I going to bed on time? 5. Am I eating too much? 6. Have I exercised in the last week? 7. Am I patient with my kids or am I angry with them when they disobey or behave in childish ways? 8. When at home, am I “fully present” for my wife and family or are my mind and energy elsewhere? 9. Am I making sermon preparation a priority

read more Ten Questions for the New Year