Paul Tripp on Law and Grace

When I hear a sermon that is essentially law-driven, that is, asking the law to do what only the grace of Jesus Christ can accomplish, I am immediately concerned about the preacher.  I immediately wonder about his view of himself, because if he had any self-consciousness about his own weakness and sin, he would find little hope and comfort for himself and his hearers in that kind of sermon.  You see this dynamic in the Pharisees.  Because they thought of themselves as righteous, perfect law givers, they had no problem laying unbearable law burdens on others.  Their misuse of the law had its roots not only in bad theology but also in ugly human pride.  They saw law keeping as possible, because they thought they were keeping it. And they thought that others should get up and keep it as well as they did.  They were the religious leaders of their day, but they were arrogant, insensitive, uncompassionate, and judgmental.

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7 Deadly Diseases of Pastoral Ministry

  By Nick McDonald: Full time ministry is dangerous. The temptation toward spiritual pride is deadly, and it infects the body like nothing else. Pastors suffer uniquely with this temptation. Because people cast their gaze on us, we’re tempted to believe we’re more important, more righteous, or wiser than we are. Spiritual pride is constantly creeping into my heart, and I need to be forced to face my idols squarely on to demolish them. With that in mind, here are 7 dangerous diseases particular to full-time ministers of the gospel: 1. The Island Syndrome. For whatever reason, pastors tend to isolate themselves from accountable community. This is beyond dangerous – it’s stupid. Maybe it’s the fear of losing respect when we reveal our sin; maybe it feels like one too many items on the task list. Whatever the reason, it’s not acceptable. Pastors need a community within which they can confess sin safely. Simon and Garfunkel said, “No man is an island”,

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What preaching is meant to do

Our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction.  1 Thessalonians 1:5 “Paul knew he was clothed with power and authority.  How does one know it?  It gives clarity of thought, clarity of speech, ease of utterance, a great sense of authority and confidence as you are preaching, an awareness of a power not your own thrilling through the whole of your being, and an indescribable sense of joy. . . . What about the people?  They sense it at once; they can tell the difference immediately.  They are gripped, they become serious, they are convicted, they are moved, they are humbled.  Some are convicted of sin, others are lifted up to the heavens, anything may happen to any one of them.  They know at once that something quite unusual and exceptional is happening. . . . What then are we to do about this?  There is only

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True Preaching

“God teaches both outwardly and inwardly at the same time.  Christ reserves his authority to himself and does not transfer it to any other, ‘so that he might stand idly by as a spectator while his ministers work.’  Yet when they do what their Lord commands, they may be said to open the kingdom to the obedient and shut it to the disobedient. . . . Such a conjunction between the work of the Spirit and human ministry suggests how congregations should honor the latter.  ‘As we receive the true ministers of the Word of God as messengers and ambassadors of God, it is necessary to listen to them as to God himself’ (Genevan Confession 20).  The first chapter of the Second Helvetic Confession deals with Scripture as the true Word of God. . . . ‘When this Word of God is now preached in the church by preachers lawfully called, we believe that the very Word of God is proclaimed and

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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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Moved and melted under the Word

“Having some time today I set myself to pray more, confessing sin, asking, thanking and praising.  I am ashamed of my shallowness in knowledge, feeling and desire.  Most humbling.  On the other hand, how astonishing has been the Lord’s kindness to me, mercies like waves of the sea, bright mercies like the stars of heaven, mercies to my soul, mercies to me a sinner in every possible way, crowned with the unspeakable kindness of putting me into the ministry and using me to win souls.  I long more and more to be ‘filled’ with the Spirit, and to see my congregation moved and melted under the Word, as in great revival times, ‘The place shaken where they are assembled together,’ because the Lord has come in power.” Andrew A. Bonar, Diary and Letters (London, 1894), page 333. (HT: Ray Ortlund)

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)

How “Professionalization” in the Pastorate Has Changed in the Last 10 Years

From the new introduction to John Piper’s revised and expanded forthcoming edition of Brothers, We Are Not Professionals: A Plea for Radical Ministry (B&H, 2013): Among younger pastors, the talk is less about therapeutic and managerial professionalization, and more about communication or contextualization. The language of “professionalization” is seldom used in these regards, but there is quiet pressure felt by many pastors: Be as good as the professional media folks, especially the cool anti-heroes and the most subtle comedians. This is not the overstated professionalism of the three-piece suit and the power offices of the upper floors, but the understated professionalism of torn blue jeans and the savvy inner ring. This professionalism is not learned in pursuing an MBA, but by being in the know about the ever-changing entertainment and media world. This is the professionalization of ambience, and tone, and idiom, and timing, and banter. It is more intuitive and less taught. More style and less technique. More feel and less force.

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Pastors: Recommit Yourselves to What You Were Ordained to Do

Justin Taylor: In a day when many pastors are downplaying serious study of God’s word and the necessary time for their own sermon preparation, I found this quote from Andrew Perves bracing and prophetic: To ministers let me say this as strongly as I can. Preach Christ, preach Christ, preach Christ. Get out of your offices and get into your studies. Quit playing office manager and program director, quit staffing committees, and even right now recommit yourselves to what you were ordained to do, namely the ministry of the Word and sacraments. Pick up good theology books again: hard books, classical texts, great theologians. Claim the energy and time to study for days and days at a time. Disappear for long hours because you are reading Athanasius on the person of Jesus Christ or Wesley on sanctification or Augustine on the Trinity or Calvin on the Christian life or Andrew Murray on the priesthood of Christ. Then you will have

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Ten Reminders for Preachers

From Justin Childers: Here is a post with some great quotes supporting these ten reminders: 1. Effective ministry consists not of fads or gimicks, but of faithfully preaching the truth. 2. Preaching is a far more serious task than most preachers realize. 3. Faithfulness in the pulpit begins with the pursuit of personal holiness. 4. Powerful preaching flows from powerful prayer. 5. Passionate preaching starts with one’s passion for Christ. 6. The preacher is a herald, not an innovator. 7. The faithful preacher stays focused on what matters. 8. The preacher’s task is to make the text come alive for his hearers. 9. The preacher is to be Christ-exalting, not self-promoting. 10. Faithful preaching requires great personal discipline and sacrifice. Read the post here, including the quotations.  

6 Traits of a Pastor in Awe of God

Paul Tripp: What traits does the awe of God produce in the heart of a pastor that are vital for an effective, God-honoring, and productive ministry? Here is a list of six. 1. Humility There is nothing like standing without defense before the awesome glory of God to put you in your place, correct a distorted view of yourself, yank you out of functional arrogance, and take the winds out of the sails of your self-righteousness. In the face of his glory I am left naked with no glory whatsoever left to hold before myself or anyone else. As long as I am comparing myself to others I can always find someone whose existence seems to make me look righteous by comparison. But if I compare my filthy rags to the pure and forever unstained linen of God’s righteousness, I want to run and hide in heart-breaking shame. This is what happened to Isaiah, recorded in chapter six. He stands

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I Have Been Preaching Christ For Nearly Forty Years

I have been preaching Christ for nearly forty years, and in the contemplation of him I am more and more filled with wonder, admiration, and joy. Perhaps this may have given some new freshness, and power and unction to my preaching. ‘O, that I all but knew him!’ In Christ there is a beauty that is unspeakable; there are wonders which human language cannot describe. If I may say so, in Christ there is a an ocean of wonders. For, how wonderful, that he who was so rich, for our sakes became poor–so poor as to have no place to lay his head. How wonderful, that he who, in heaven, is the Savior of all, should for our sakes on earth, become a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief!…This has been the principal theme of all my sermons, and hence what some are pleased to call the ‘remarkable success’ which has crowned my preaching. And to God be all

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Are Your Sermons Too Long?

Denny Burk: Here’s a bit of wisdom from the Prince of Preachers on sermon length: Brethren, weigh your sermons. Do not retail them by the yard, but deal them out by the pound. Set no store by the quantity of words which you utter, but strive to be esteemed for the quality of your matter. It is foolish to be lavish in words and niggardly in truth. – C.H. Spurgeon, Lectures to My Students, p. 71 There is no intrinsic value in an overlong sermon. Nor is there anything to boast about that a congregation has become conditioned to endure them. What constitutes a long sermon is a relative term anyway, isn’t it? In any case, a long-winded preacher is just as capable of wispy words as a short-winded one. Likewise, a short sermon is just as capable of filling a room with hot air as is a long one. Twenty minutes of gospel power would do far more for a

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Who Would Dare to Preach?

Michael McKinley: Preaching is a strange business. It requires you to stand up and speak with authority and pointed passion to people who may well be your intellectual and spiritual betters. But a man who has confidence in the word of God has everything he needs for the task. Here’s how Herman Bavinck put it: For if a minister is not convinced of the divine truth of the word he preaches, his preaching loses all authority, influence, and power. If he is not able to bring a message from God, who then gives him the right to act on behalf of people of like nature with himself? Who gives him the freedom to put himself in the pulpit [a few feet] above them, to speak to them about the highest interest of their soul and life and even to proclaim to them their eternal weal or woe? Who would dare, who would be able to do this, unless he has

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J I Packer on the Doctor

  Carl Trueman posts: From JIP’s Collected Shorter Writings 4, pp. 84 and 87: “In some way there was in the Doctor’s preaching thunder and lightning that no tape or transcription ever did or could capture — power, I mean, to mediate a realisation of God’s presence…. Nearly forty years on, it still seems to me that all I have ever known about preaching was given me in the winter of 1948-49, when I worshipped at Westminster Chapel with some regularity.  Through the thunder and lightning, I felt and saw as never before the glory of Christ and of his gospel as modern man’s only lifeline and learned by experience why historic Protestantism looks on preaching as the supreme means of grace and of communion with God.  Preaching, thus viewed and valued, was the centre of the Doctor’s life: into it he poured himself unstintingly; for it he pleaded untiringly…. Pulpit dramatics and rhetorical rhapsodies the Doctor despised and never indulged in;

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What You Reeeally Want in a Pastor

  Excellent post by Jonathan Leeman: There are a lot of things a church should look for in its next pastor. But as your church considers different pastoral candidates, I want to make sure this is toward the top of your list: a supernatural faith in the power of God’s Word.   AS IMPORTANT ANY OTHER QUALITY I’m not talking about a man who simply checks the belief box on the “authority” or “sufficiency” or “power” of the Bible. I’m talking about a man who whose conviction here runs so deep that it profoundly influences the way he works and lives. He plans his weekly schedule based on this conviction. He rests his daily mood upon this conviction. He even picks his clothes in the morning knowing that, it’s not how good he looks that will bring life to the dead, it’s the resurrection power of God’s Word and Spirit. This is as important as any other quality a pastor could have.

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Doctrine and Doxology: Why we must fire boring teachers and preachers

Carl Trueman writes: Preaching on 1 Timothy 1:16-17 on Sunday, I was struck by a number of things.  First, doctrine and worship go together.  Doctrine may often seem a dry word but in fact it is simply the description of who God is and how he has acted.   As Paul reflects in 1 Tim. 1 upon how God has dealt with him, his language becomes exuberant and he speaks of God’s grace `overflowing’ towards him.  Then, able to contain himself no more, he bursts into a doxology.  This is hardly surprising.  The description of God’s actions should naturally call forth worship; and here Paul offers a paradigm of a worshipful response in which he ascribes to God glory and honour, i.e., that to which God’s person and actions entitle him.  Paul’s praise is doctrinal in origin and doctrinal in content.  To state what should be obvious, praise and worship that is neither is simply not praise and worship as the Bible would

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Sincerity in preaching

“A strangely fascinating power is exerted by those who are utterly sincere.  Such believers attract unbelievers, as with the case of David Hume, the eighteenth-century British deistic philosopher who rejected historic Christianity.  A friend once met him hurrying along a London street and asked him where he was going.  Hume replied that he was going to hear George Whitefield preach.  ‘But surely,’ his friend asked in astonishment, ‘you don’t believe what Whitefield preaches, do you?’  ‘No, I don’t,’ answered Hume, ‘but he does.’ I am convinced that in our day simple sincerity has not lost any of its power to appeal or to impress.  It was in 1954 that Billy Graham first hit the headlines in Britain, with his Greater London Crusade.  Approximately 12,000 people came to the Haringay Arena every night for three months.  Most nights I was there myself, and as I looked round that vast crowd, I could not help comparing it with our half-empty churches.  ‘Why

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