Sermons Should Change Lives

We are to be pitied if we fail to understand that this particular sermon should change lives in some specific way.  A. W. Tozer speaks a perceptive word to all of us:

There is scarcely anything so dull and meaningless as Bible doctrine taught for its own sake.  Truth divorced from life is not truth in its Biblical sense, but something else and something less. . . . No man is better for knowing that God in the beginning created the heaven and the earth.  The devil knows that, and so did Ahab and Judas Iscariot.  No man is better for knowing that God so loved the world of men that He gave His only begotten Son to die for their redemption.  In hell there are millions who know that.  Theological truth is useless until it is obeyed.  The purpose behind all doctrine is to secure moral action (I would go with ‘heart and life change’).

-Haddon W. Robinson, Biblical Preaching, p. 107, quoted A. W. Tozer, Of God and Men, pp. 26-27.

And,

No matter how many times you say, “The Problem, The Process, The Promise” or “The Cause, The Condition, The Conclusion,” all you do is point out the structure of the passage and perhaps its meaning in its original context.  You still fail to build a bridge to your listeners.  You are preaching a sermon that even the devil can agree with.  He can be in complete agreement with your analysis of the text.  The most backslidden member of your church can nod in sympathy with your description of the new covenant – or of any other biblical truth.  Applicational points in which you show the mandate of the text and its claim on our lives awaken people to their own need for conformity to the image of Christ.  When you preach applicational points, the devil can’t agree and the backslidden (or lost) can’t stay comfortable.

(Admittedly, I do not prefer the term “backslidden” nor do I affirm wholeheartedly that every point must be applicational – but you get the point).

-Hershael W. York, Preaching With Bold Assurance, p. 142.

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“The Human Future is an Urban Future . . . Will the Church Also Hear?”

Intriguing post by Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr., president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, entitled “Mission and Metropolis: The Church and the City.” An excerpt:

The human future is an urban future. In one of the greatest social shifts of all human history, over half of all living humans now inhabit cities. Driven by population shifts, immigration, and human reproduction, massive new cities are springing up all over the globe. Will the church rise to this challenge? The answer to that question will largely determine the future of Christian missions.”

Children on Loan to Us from God

The following is an excerpt from the Letters of Samuel Rutherford, Letter II, “To a Christian Gentlewoman on the death of her daughter.”

Good mistress, if ye would not be content that Christ would hold from you the heavenly inheritance which is made yours by His death, shall not that same Christ think hardly (hard) of you  if ye refuse to give Him your daughter willingly, who is a part of His inheritance and conquest?  I pray the Lord to give you all your own, and to grace you with patience to give God His also.  He is an ill debtor who payeth that which he hath borrowed with a grudge.  Indeed, that long loan of such a good daughter, an heir of grace, a member of Christ (as I believe), deserveth more thanks at your Creditor’s hands, than that you should gloom and murmur when He craveth but His own. . . . you are nearer your daughter this day than you were yesterday.  While ye prodigally spend time in mourning for her, ye are speedily posting after her.  Run your race with patience.  Let God have His own; and ask of Him, instead of your daughter which He hath taken from you, the daughter of faith, which is patience; and in patience possess your soul.  Lift up your head: ye do not know how near your redemption doth draw.

I was greatly moved by Rutherford’s pastoral heart/theology, but particularly with the notion that he set forth for this woman, that her daughter was on loan to her from God, and that her death was but God having His own, His inheritance, His conquest.  While the following was not intended immediately by Rutherford, I was further provoked by the following thought: how tightly we hold onto our children, hoping and praying and laboring as it were to keep them out of the hands of the God who has redeemed them (if they are redeemed).  It is good for us to remember that God has been exceedingly gracious to us in granting that we should have them for a season, but also, and in light of such grace, that they are after all, only on loan.  Thus, if they be (Oh, God let them be) redeemed by Christ, let us be moved to have an open hand with our children, that God might have them for His service . . . whatever the cost, whatever the continent, whatever the loss to us.  So God will be big, Christ displayed according to His true worth, and the Gospel evidenced to be the power of God unto salvation for any man.  To do otherwise would be to waste the inheritance that God has given to us, and on what?  Sports?  God help us!  They are a gift, dear parental brothers and sisters.  Pray for their salvation, and when it comes, let God have His own which to you has been on loan.

“Wherefore must we pray?”

“The Father in heaven – who is omniscient – knows what they need and will give it to them.  So prayer, the purpose of which is not to exercise the tongue, does not inform or remind God of anything; it is instead worship, and it serves to cleanse the mind, purify the heart, and align one’s will with God’s will; it recalls to the supplicant who God is and what His purposes are.  Compare Chrysostom, Hom. on Mt. 19:5: ‘Wherefore must we pray? Not to instruct Him, but to prevail with Him; to be made intimate with Him, by continuance in supplication; to be humbled; to be reminded of thy sins.'”

– Dale Allison, Jr., Matthew, 1:590.  On the Lord’s model prayer for His disciples, Matthew 6:9-13.

The Pursuit of Ethnic Diversity Amongst the Eldership

John Piper writes an article with the intention of explaining Bethlehem’s explicit pursuit of ethnic diversity amongst her eldership.  Interesting read, provoking thoughts.  Go here.