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Tim Keller on 7 Ministry Applications of the Gospel

These wonderful excerpts from a sermon on 1 Peter 1:1-12 and 1:22-2:12 were given in “The Spurgeon Fellowship Journal – Spring 2008.” I appreciate the wonderful abilities that Tim Keller has to explain, elucidate, and illuminate on the gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. There is great food for thought here, and wonderful implications for living out the gospel in ministry – enjoy! – Dr. David P. Craig

 Tim Keller on Gospel-Centered Ministry

I am here to talk to you about what ministry shaped by the gospel, profoundly shaped by the gospel, really looks like . . .

In this letter, Peter was not writing to the same type of situation Paul addressed in his letter to the Corinthians. Paul was writing into a situation where there were doctrinal fractions, divisions, and party divisiveness . . . Peter was speaking to a persecuted church – a church which was both passively and actively persecuted . . . they were being beset by a culture around them with very different values that they do not know how to relate to. So, of course, you can never divide the doctrinal from the practical issues. However, I would say that Peter here was less concerned about expounding on the content of the gospel as Paul was in 1 Corinthians 15. I’ll show how the gospel should shape the way in which we live, our ministry, and how the church operates as a community.

When I was looking through 1 Peter 1 and 2, I found seven features that Peter uses to describe the gospel . . . Since everything in these seven points has already been explicated in the previous sermon, I am simply going to draw out the implications for ministry. I am going to read a nice long section: 1 Peter 1:1-12, 1:22-2:12. Chapters one and two are remarkable at giving you all the features of the gospel and helping us to understand the ministry implications:

“Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who are elect exiles of the dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: may grace and peace be multiplied to you. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!

According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith— more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls. Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.

Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; for “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever.” And this word is the good news that was preached to you. So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation— if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good. As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it stands in Scripture:

“Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.” So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,” and “A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.” They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do. But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.”

I hate to do what I am about to do, which is a “fly-over.” I hate to go by some of these verses. These verses are deep wells, as we know. I know at least three or four men of God who would probably base their entire lives on one or two of these verses. I thought of Ed Clowney as I went by verses 2 and 9. Nevertheless, we are here for an overview. And therefore, I would suggest to you that Peter shows us in these two chapters that there are seven features of the gospel that we have to tease out of the ministry. I will say them here so you can write them down.

The gospel is: (1) historical, (2) doxological, (3) Christocentrical, (4) personal, (5) cultural, to quote Don Carson, (6) “massively transformational,” and (7) wonderful. Each one has a ministry implication.

(1) The gospel is historical . . . The word “gospel” shows up twice. Gospel actually means “good news.” You see it spelled out a little bit when it says “he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ”. Why do we say that the gospel is good news? Some years ago, I heard a tape series I am sure was never put into print by Dr. Martin Lloyd-Jones. It was an evening sermon series on 1 Corinthians 15. He clarified how the Gospel is based on historical events in how the religion got its start. He said there was a big difference between advice and news. The Gospel, he would say, is good news, but not good advice. Here’s what he said about that: “Advice is counsel about something that hasn’t happened yet, but you can do something about it. News is a report about something that has happened which you can’t do anything about because it has been done for you and all you can do is to respond to it.”

So he says think this out: here’s a king, and he goes into a battle against an invading army to defend his land. If the king defeats the invading army, he sends back to the capital city messengers, envoys, and very happy envoys. He sends back good newsers. And what they come back with is a report. They come back and they say: It’s been defeated and it’s been all done. Therefore respond with joy and now go about your lives in this peace which has been achieved for you. But if he doesn’t defeat the invading army, and the invading army breaks through, the king sends back military advisers and says . . . “Marksmen over here and the horseman over there, and we will have to fight for our lives.”

Dr. Martin Lloyd-Jones says that every other religion sends military advisers to people. Every other religion says that if you want to achieve salvation, you will have to fight for your life. Every other religion is sending advice saying, “here are the rites, here are the rituals, here’s the transformation of the consciousness and here are the laws and the regulations. Marksmen over here and horsemen over there and we are going to fight for our lives.” We send heralds; we send messengers and not military advisers. Isn’t that clarifying? It’s just incredibly clarifying. And it’s not like there’s nothing to do about it, my goodness. Both the messenger and the military adviser get an enormous response. One is a response of joy and the other one is a response of fear. All other religions give advice and they drive everything you do with fear . . . as you know, when you hear the gospel, when you hear the message that it’s all been done for you, it’s a historical event that has happened, your salvation is accomplished for you, what do you want to do? You want to obey the Ten Commandments, you want to pray, and you want to please the one that did this for you.

If, on the other hand, military advisers say you have to live a really good life if you want to get into heaven, what do you do? You want to pray and you want to obey the Ten Commandments. It looks the same, doesn’t it? But for two radically different reasons: One is joy and the other one is fear. In the short run, they look alike. But in the long run, over here we have burn out and self-righteousness and guilt and all sorts of problems. And that’s fascinating.

But having said that, what’s the ministry implication? The ministry implication is this: the significance of preaching, of proclamation, of declarative preaching, is irreplaceably central in Gospel ministry. Declarative preaching is irreplaceably central.

Why? If basically we are sending people “how to”, if we are saying here’s the “how to” to live the right way, if that’s the primary message, I am not sure words are necessarily the best thing to send. You want to send a model. If I were to teach an advanced seminar on preaching (and I never have) I would make everybody read CS Lewis’ Studies in Words. It’s amazing because we are wordsmiths and he shows you how important it is to craft your words properly. The last chapter is called “At the Fringe of Language” and he says language can’t do everything. He says that one of the things language cannot do is describe complex operations. On the other hand, when it comes to describing how, to explain to somebody that Joshua Chamberlain, without any ammunition, charged down Little Round Top in an incredible, risky adventure at the height of the Battle of Gettysburg, and as a result changed the course of history. You don’t show people that, you tell them that. It’s something that happened, you describe it. You tell them that. If you are going to give them how-tos, very often what you want is modeling and dialogue, action and reflection and so forth.

Therefore, if you believe the gospel is good news, declarative preaching (verbal proclaiming) will always be irreplaceably central to what we do. However, if you subscribe to the assertion that the gospel is simply good advice on how to live a life that changes people and connects to God . . . dialogue would be alright. Stories and modeling and reflection would be more important. In other words, you would believe what some people would quip: “proclaim the gospel, use words if necessary”. You’ve probably heard that. That shows, I think, that they don’t quite understand what the gospel is all about.

(2) The gospel is Doxological. The purpose of the gospel is not merely forgiveness of individuals, but to bring people to full flourishing through glorious worship. Now where do you see that?

Karen Jobs, in her commentary of 1 Peter, points out what all commentators point out, but I like the way she titled it. Chapter 1 verse 3 to verse 12 is all one sentence in Greek. Therefore, there is a main clause. All that follows are subordinate clauses to the main clause. Here is the main clause: “Praise be to the God and Father and our Lord Jesus Christ”. She entitled the whole section, (and that’s what I like about it), “Doxology and Basis for the Christian Life,” because everything in there, even the new birth, is to the praise of the glory of God. Now why is this so important?

One of the most life-changing and especially ministry-changing things in my life was reading Martin Luther’s “Larger Catechism” a few years ago. In “Larger Catechism,” he lays out his understanding of the Ten Commandments. Luther says that the first commandment is first because (he thinks) all the other commandments are based on it. In other words, when you break any of the commandments two through ten, you have already broken or are in the process of breaking commandment one. So, Martin Luther says you don’t lie unless you have already made something else more than God your functional savior; something else is your greatest joy. Why do you lie? You lie either because the approval of other people is more important than God’s or because money is more than the security you have in God. So you wouldn’t lie unless you already have first made something else more important than God in your life . . . something more fundamental to your meaningless in life or happiness or joy. And then Luther went one step further and said underneath every sin is idolatry in general. And underneath every idolatry in general is always some form of work-righteousness in general, in particular some kind of self-salvation project . . . whenever you make something more important than God, that thing is essentially a savior of your making.

Martin Luther says of the first commandment, you have to believe the Gospel. You can’t look to anything else for your justification . . . you have to believe in the Gospel and you can’t look to anything else for your justification . . . If he were here today, he would say that underneath everything from eating disorders to racism is a self-salvation project, a failure to believe in the Gospel, and is some form of idolatry. You have either made an idol of thinness . . . or of your race and your blood . . . your heart’s imagination is captured. Your heart is essentially adoring and dotting on something other than God . . .

Some years ago . . . I was talking to a young woman, a fifteen year-old girl in my church in Virginia . . . she was really struggling and said this: “I really understand this, I am a Christian. I have clothed myself in the righteousness of Christ, I have a guaranteed place in heaven, and I am the delight of the Father. But what good is that when the boys in high school won’t even look at me?” She was absolutely honest. You might say: is she even a Christian? Of course she was a Christian, as far as I can tell. If I look back on it and she looks back on it, there have been changes. Here’s the point: boys were on video, and God was on audio . . . if you have an audio and video happening at the same time, you know which one wins. Right?

Jonathan Edwards would say that the ultimate purpose of preaching is not just to make the truth clear, but also to make it real. Of course for it to be real, it’s got to be clear. If it’s confused . . . sorry, no worship happens. But you can’t stop there. We are, I think, afraid of the spirit of the age, of subjectivism, because we believe in objective truth. As a result, our expository messages are too cognitive. Jonathan Edwards did not tell stories, he was incredibly rational. But he was also unbelievably vivid. He was incredibly logical, and precise, and clear because he knew that unless the truth is clear, it will never be real. It’s got to be crystal clear, amazingly clear. But it also has to be vivid.

I don’t think this is going to be very easy. I see the narrative preaching approach which works superficially on people’s emotions. And you have a kind of an expository preaching that tends to be like a Bible commentary that works more on the head. But the heart is not exclusively the emotions, and certainly not just the intellect . . . Therefore, the preaching has to be gripping . . .

What I love about Edwards is how incredibly rational he is, how logical and persuasive he is and yet at the same time, so vivid. You go into his messages and there’s the sun, the moon, and the stars. There are mountains and dandelions . . . it’s just astounding . . . he understood that telling stories to tweak the emotions, is like putting dynamite on the face of the rock, blowing it up and shearing off the face but not really changing the life.

One the other hand, if you bore down into it with the truth, and put dynamite in there, if you are able to preach Christ vividly, and you are able to preach the truth practically and you are able to preach it out of a changed life and heart in yourself (which obviously isn’t the easiest thing by any means) then when there is an explosion, it really changes people’s lives. I don’t think we have the right end of the stick in general, either in the movement of the people who are working towards telling stories because they want to get people emotionally or working towards giving people the truth because they want to be sure that people are doctrinally sound.

The Doctor, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, was not a touchy-feely type . . . based on his understanding of Edwards, he asserts that the first and primary object of preaching is not to give information. It is, as Jonathan Edwards said, to produce an impression. This is the Doctor, now. It is the impression at the time that matters, even more than what you can remember subsequently. Edwards, in my opinion, understood the true notion of preaching. It is not primarily to impart information . . . while you write your notes, you may be missing something that will impact your spirit.

As preachers, we must not forget this. We should tell our people to read books at home and to take notes at home; the business of preaching is to make such knowledge live. Now, by the way, I don’t mind if people are taking notes in my sermons, in the first part of the sermon. But if you are still taking notes at the end of the sermon, I don’t think that I have made it home . . .

Thomas Chalmers puts it like this:

“It is seldom that any of our bad habits or flaws disappear by a mere nature process of natural extinction. At least it is very seldom it is done by the instrumentality of reasoning or by the force of mental determination. What cannot be destroyed however may be dispossessed. One case may be made to give away to another and to lose its power entirely has the reigning affect of the mind. Here’s an example: A youth may cease to idolize sensual pleasure but it is because of the idol of wealth. The desire to make money has gotten ascendancy, so he becomes disciplined. But the love of money might have ceased to be in his heart if he was draw to ideology and politics. Now he is lorded over by the love of power and moral superiority instead of wealth. But there is not one of these transformations in which the heart is left without an object. The human heart’s desire for one particular object is conquered. But its desire to have some object of adoration is unconquerable. The only way to dispossess the heart of all its affection is by the explosive power of a new one. Thus is it not enough to hold out to the world the mirror of its own imperfections, it is not enough to come forth with the demonstration . . . of the character of their enjoyment, it is not enough to just simply speak the conscience, to speak its follies. Rather, you must seek, as a preacher, every legitimate method of finding access to the heart for the love of Him who is greater than the world.”

(3) The gospel is Christocentrical. The gospel, as Don [D.A. Carson] pointed out, in a certain sense, the gospel is just Jesus. What is the gospel? It is who Jesus is and what He did for us. The Gospel is Jesus. Of course, you see this in 1 Peter 1:10 where it says, “About which salvation the prophets sought out and searched out, prophesying concerning the grace for you; searching for what, or what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ made clear within them, testifying beforehand of the sufferings of Christ, and the glories that should follow.”

What’s intriguing to me is this: reading in Luke and Acts how Jesus got His disciples together during the forty days before He ascended after He was resurrected. What was He doing? I am sure He was doing more than what we are told. But if you look in Luke 24, it looks like He was giving them a New Testament hermeneutical seminar. This should give professors a lot of hope . . . even Jesus thought running a seminar on hermeneutics was a good idea! If he was running them in those forty days, maybe it is a good idea to run them now. Basically, He was saying that everything in the Old Testament points to Him . . .

He told Cleopas and the other disciples on the road to Emmaus and in the upper room that everything in the Prophets and the Psalms and the Law points to Him. It’s intriguing, we see that in Luke and now here in 1 Peter we have an echo of it. Peter was in on that seminar . . . now he is explaining that concerning this salvation, the salvation of the gospel of Christ, the Prophets had the Holy Spirit in them pointing them towards Jesus . . . Peter is saying what Jesus was saying . . . that everything pointed towards Jesus. Every text in the Old Testament was pointing toward Jesus.

Now my ministry implication is this: The basic subject of every sermon ought to be Jesus, regardless of what passage is at hand. It doesn’t matter whether it is Old or New Testament; it’s got to be about Jesus. By the way, you might say this is only about Old Testament hermeneutics; no, you need to know that my friend Sinclair Ferguson says most evangelical ministers don’t preach Christ. Not only do they not preach Christ in the Old Testament . . . they don’t preach Christ in the New Testament. I will get back to this in a second.

I know this is somewhat of an internal debate here and I’ve got to be careful. I don’t want to be a party guy and say, “I follow Chapell, or I follow Goldsworthy.” And you know there are people who say that you preach everything in the Bible pointing to Jesus and there are other good men that just don’t think that’s right. You shouldn’t preach Christ from Jacob wrestling with God . . . you should preach about wrestling with God in prayer or suffering or something like that. Honestly, I believe those good and sincere men are wrong on the basis of reading the Bible and the understanding of hermeneutics and so on.

But part of this goes back, I remember, some years ago, to when I sat down with my wife. You know what that’s like – on the way home – after the sermon. First you are hoping she will say: “Great sermon, honey.” But if she doesn’t say anything, you fear the worst. I remember one day we really got into it. I said, “Let me ask you, how often do you think it was a great sermon? How many weeks out of the month?” And she said “no more than one in every four or five weeks.” So, we sat down and here’s what she said: “For a good part of your sermon, your sermons are great. They are rational and biblical, and they are exegetical. They show me how I should live, and what I should believe. But every so often – suddenly at the end – Jesus shows up. And when Jesus shows up, it suddenly becomes not a lecture but a sermon for me, because when you say this is what you ought to do, I think to myself, ‘I know, I know, okay. Now I am a little clearer about it and I am a little more guilty about it. Fine.’ But sometimes you get to the place where you say, ‘This is what you ought to do, though you really probably can’t do it; but there is one who did. And because He did it on our behalf, and because He did it in our place, we believe in Him. We will begin to be able to do it.’” This is true only to the degree that we understand what He did for us. And she says: “That’s different. One time out of four or five, your lecture becomes a sermon when Jesus shows up and I want to do that. I have hope. And I begin to see how I can do it.”

I really didn’t understand . . . but basically, now I do. Here’s the thing. Your preaching will never be doxological and it won’t be central unless it is Christocentric. Here’s why: if you tell people they need to be generous, and ask why they aren’t being more generous . . . I happen to know about people being generous. Sometimes you don’t know about the lust in someone’s heart week to week, but you know if people are being generous week to week.

Why aren’t people being more generous? Are they just being sinners? Let’s go back to Martin Luther. Let’s go back to the catechism. If you are not being generous, then there is something going on there, is there not? You are saying your status or your security, which is based on money, is very important to you. You need to be able to buy certain cloths and live in certain circles and go to certain places. Human approval, security, there’s idols underneath the lack of generosity. The money is more than just money. It’s security, it’s significance, it’s status. You’ve got to make more money, and then you will give it away.

How do you do that? You have to show that Jesus Christ is their true wealth. You have to show them what their idols are. You have to get to Jesus. As a result, if you don’t get there, you are going to find that you are wailing on people’s wills. You are beating on wills. Sinclair Ferguson wrote a book . . . called Preaching Christ in the Old Testament. And this is what he says: Not only do most ministers not preach Christ in the Old Testament; they don’t preach Christ from the New Testament. The preacher has looked into the text, even in the New Testament, to find himself and the congregation . . . not to find Christ. You can do this even in the New Testament, in the Gospels. The sermon, therefore, is consequently about the people in the Gospels and not the Christ in that Gospel. The more fundamental issue is this question: What is the Bible really about? Is the Bible basically about me and what I must do or is it about Jesus and what He has done? Is the Bible about the objective and indicative?

Here’s an example. Hermeneutics is important. You can’t just find Jesus in every little twig. And there needs to be a way where you are following the trajectory of the text no matter what that text is to Jesus. You have to show how Jesus is the ultimate fulfillment of that particular trajectory of the text. You’ve got to be responsible. And yet, like Sinclair said, it’s more like an instinct. It’s not so much just the right hermeneutical principles; it’s an instinct. Do you believe the Bible is basically about you or basically about Him? Is David and Goliath basically about you and how you can be like David and Goliath or about Him, the One that took on the only giants in life who can kill us? You see. And His victory is imputed on us. Who is this all about? That’s the fundamental question.

And when that happens, you start to read the bible anew. Jesus is the true and better Adam who passed the test in the garden. His garden is a much tougher garden and his obedience is imputed on us. Jesus is the true and better Abel, who though innocently slain has blood that cries out: not for our condemnation but for our acquittal. Jesus is the true and better Abraham, who answers the call of God, who leaves all the familiar comforts of the world into the void, not knowing where He went. Jesus is the true and better Isaac who is not only offered by his father on the mount but who was truly sacrificed for us all. While God said to Abraham: “Now I know you truly love me, because you did not withhold your son, your only son, from me.” Now we, at the foot of the cross, can say to God: “Now we know you love us because you did not withhold your Son, your only Son, whom you love, from us.”

Jesus is the true and better Jacob, who wrestled and took the blows of justice that we deserved so we like Jacob only receive the wounds of grace that wake us up and disciple us. Jesus is the true and better Joseph, who is at the right hand of the king, and forgives those who betrayed and sold him and uses his power to save them. Jesus is the true and better Moses, who stands in the gap between the people and the LORD and mediates the new covenant. Jesus is the true and better rock of Moses who struck with the rod of God’s justice now gives us water in the desert. Jesus is the true and better Job, He is the truly innocent sufferer who then intercedes for and saves His stupid friends. Is that a type? That’s not typology. That’s an instinct.

Jesus is the true and better David, whose victory becomes the people’s victory even though they didn’t lift a stone to accomplish it themselves. Jesus is the true and better Esther, who didn’t just risk losing an earthly palace but lost ultimately the heavenly one, who didn’t just risk His life but gave His life, who didn’t say if I perish I perish but when I perish, I perish for them . . . to save my people. Jesus is the true and better Jonah who was cast out into the storm so we can be brought in. He’s the real Passover Lamb; He’s the true temple, the true prophet, the true priest, the true king, the true sacrifice, the true lamb, the true life, the true bread. The Bible is not about you. And that’s an instinct.

Until that shows up in your sermons, it will be lectures and not sermons. It won’t be doxological, it won’t be central.

(4) The gospel is personal and individual. Don [D.A. Carson] already said this. In 1 Peter 1 and 2, we see a lot of references to the new birth. What does the new birth mean – think about the metaphor of the birth – you can’t make yourself a Christian? You can make yourself a Buddhist. You can make yourself a Muslim. You can make yourself an Atheist. But you can’t make yourself a Christian. To become a Christian, you have to be converted . . . notice that’s a passive. You don’t convert yourself, something happens to you. Through faith you’re born again. You are confronted with you sin in front of a holy and jealous God. And you see the provision. Now, that’s individual conversion. This is very important, at this moment, in all our lives as Christians, especially in North America, but I am sure in other places as well. There is an erosion in the confidence of the thing that I just said. It is the idea that we have sinned against a holy and jealous God, the wrath of God has to be satisfied, Jesus Christ stood in our place, substitutionary atonement is provided, and when we believe in this, both in His suffering and obedience is imputed to us . . .

J.I. Packer, in his little chapter on grace in Knowing God, said there are two things you have to know in order to understand the concept of grace. Grace isn’t the opposite of Law. First of all, you have to understand how lost you are, how bad you are, how dire your condition is, and how big the debt is. You have to understand that . . .

Now if somebody says, “I believe Jesus died for me, He shed His blood for me and I have given my life to Christ. I accepted Him; I walked forward and invited Him into my life,” but you don’t see any change in that person’s life, you don’t see identify shifting, behavior transformation and joy, what’s the problem? It’s clear that this person doesn’t understand the size of the debt, and therefore the size of the payment . . . Jim Packer used to say to understand grace, and for grace to be transforming, first you have to understand the debt.

The second thing you have to understand, besides the size of the debt, is the magnitude of the provision. There are people who do understand that they are pretty bad. They do understand how flawed they are. They do understand how far short they fall. But they aren’t convinced of the magnitude, sufficiency, freeness, and fullness of the provision. They may only believe that Jesus died the death that we should have died. And maybe they also don’t believe Jesus lived the life that we should have lived . . . And you also see Pharisees – people who are really under the burden of guilt. As a result, they are withdrawn and hostile and moralistic and legalistic. And we look at these two groups of people and the evangelical world is filled with them. Easy-Believeism is really deadly. The Cost of Discipleship book by Bonhoeffer explains why Easy-Believeism was the reason Nazism could come into power. That’s pretty dangerous. Why Easy-Believesim? Why the Moralism? Because they don’t understand the gospel; the old gospel, the historic gospel. The gospel of salvation by grace through faith and the work of Jesus Christ alone, and substitutionary atonement . . . they don’t get it.

So what’s the solution to all the Easy-Believeism? Why is it that we don’t have people living the life they ought to live? Why do we see people culturally withdraw, being really negative and narrow? Because people think the solution is “let’s change the gospel” . . . I can’t imagine that anybody is going to write a hymn that goes like this: “my chains fell off and my heart was free, I rose forth and followed thee.” It’s just not going to happen . . .

(5) The gospel is cultural. What do I mean by cultural? The gospel creates a culture called The Church. It’s not just an aggregation of saved individuals. It’s a culture. The gospel is so different in what it says about God, you, and your standing with God. It’s so identity transforming; every other religion or system motivates you through fear and pride to do the right thing. Only the gospel motivates you through joy . . . the fear and trembling joy . . . the fear of God joy. That doesn’t mean that now we are a bunch of saved individuals with wonderful internal fulfillment. It means that when we get together we want to do things differently. We will do everything differently. The gospel is massively transformational and it creates a counter culture but it also makes us as people relate to the culture around us. And this comes out especially in 1 Peter 2. I will be brief on this but it’s crucial.

Those of us who believe in that individual gospel often miss the communal aspects of the gospel. And in 1 Peter 2:12, he says “Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.” Right before this, he says, “Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers.” In 1 Peter 1:1, “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To God’s elect, strangers in the world.” There’s been a lot of discussion about this. There’s pretty much a consensus. The word “strangers” there means not a tourist who’s just passing through the world briefly, but not a citizen of the world either. Somebody who’s going to be there a long time whose true citizenship and value belongs somewhere else.

Peter makes an amazingly balanced statement and we have to understand this. The gospel, I believe, is radical. The nature of the gospel, on the one hand, does say “you need to engage” to the legalists who are afraid to be polluted by the culture and have the tendency to bolster their fragile sense of righteousness by feeling superior to the sinners around them. On the other hand, the gospel also confronts the secular, irreligious, liberal Christian, who asserts that we really can’t believe in sin or the holiness of God and hell because it offends people.

The gospel says that there are dangers on both sides: cultural accommodation, culture withdrawal. Most of us as Christians today think that most of the dangers today are on one side. We tend to get together with a group of people and say: the main danger, the main danger today is cultural accommodation. On the other side, there are Christians who think the main danger is cultural isolation and irrelevance. No one will see the good deeds of those who withdraw from the world and just hate the world. They don’t glorify God. They are not involved with caring for the poor; they are not engaged. On the other hand, people who accommodate the culture are never persecuted. How do we know that the radical gospel is turning us into a counter-culture for the common good? This counter-culture should be distinct, very different from the side we have inside of us, but a side that shows that we love the world and care about the world. We love our enemies because we are saved by a man who died loving His enemies.

Therefore, this balance is awfully hard to maintain. In Jeremiah 29, the exiles, wanted to stay outside of Babylon and remain pure. The Babylonians wanted to come in to Babylon, and lose their cultural identity. God told them through Jeremiah to do the hardest thing possible. In a sense, He said, “I don’t want you to stay out and be different. I don’t want you to go in and become like them. I want you to go deeply in and stay very different.” And that’s exactly what 1 Peter is talking about. Peter calls them exiles. He knows that the relationship with the culture around them has to be the same relationship as the Jewish exiles had with the Babylonians. We need to seek the welfares of the city. We need to care about that. We need to follow in the footsteps of the one who serves His enemies and forgave His enemies and died for His enemies.

At the same time, we have to be telling people that they are going to hell. Now, generally speaking, by and large, the people who want to be prophetic don’t want to be priestly. The people that want to talk about going to hell do not just sacrificially pour out themselves and say we are going to love you and we are going to serve you, whether you really like what we do or not. And the people who are serving like that are afraid of talking about things like hell or wrath. I don’t know whether we can become a movement of people who understand what 1 Peter is saying: that the gospel creates a counter culture, but a culture that engages the community around us at the expense of persecution . . .

New Yorkers love what the Bible says about forgiveness and reconciliation and caring about the poor. They hate what it says about sex and gender and family. Go on to the Middle East and find people who love what the Bible says about sex and gender and family, but abhor the idea of forgiving people, 70 times 7. I think what 1 Peter 2:12 is trying to say is in every single culture, if you actually live distinctively in an engaged way, you will get persecution AND you will get approval. It will always be different depending on the culture. You will attract people, you will influence people. You will be salt and light and at the same time you will get punched in the mouth.

If you are only getting punched in the mouth, or if you are only getting praise, you are not living the gospel life. Either you are falling into legalism and withdrawal or you are falling into accommodation.

(6) The gospel is massively transformational. When I say the gospel is massively transformational, I am just saying the gospel creates a worldview, a basis of worldview that actually touches every area of life; the way you do business, the way you do art, the way you conduct your family life. What do I mean when I say the gospel is wonderful? 1 Peter 1:12, “It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things.”

Angels love to look into the gospel. They never get tired of it. So what does that mean? It means gospel ministry is endlessly creative. It means you can preach the gospel and never have to be afraid of boring people . . .

(7) The gospel is wonderful. Isn’t that amazing? The gospel is not the ABC’s of Christianity, it’s A to Z. It’s not just the elementary and introductory truths. The gospel is what drives everything that we do. The gospel is pretty much the solution to every problem. The gospel is what every theological category should be expounding when we do our systematic theology. It should be very much a part of everything.

Even angels long to look into it. And you should. Let’s pray.

About Dr. Tim Keller: He was born and raised in Pennsylvania, and educated at Bucknell University, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, and Westminster Theological Seminary. He was first a pastor in Hopewell, Virginia. In 1989 he started Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan with his wife, Kathy, and their three sons. Today, Redeemer has more than five thousand regular attendees at five services, a host of daughter churches, and is planting churches in large cities throughout the world. He is the author of a study of Mark entitled King’s Cross; The Prodigal God based on Luke 15; The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness; Generous Justice; Counterfeit Gods; Ministries of Mercy: The Call of the Jericho RoadThe Meaning of Marriage; a wonderful small group study entitled Gospel In Life; and the New York Times bestseller The Reason for God; & the forthcoming Center Church (August 2012). Tim has a passion for Jesus Christ, making the Gospel clear, church planting, and reaching cities for Christ. If you really want to understand the gospel, and how grace applies to all of life I urge you to devour his books and sermons!

 

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How Does Dr. Tim Keller Write His Sermons?

Dr. Tim Keller on Writing a Sermon

“Two weeks ahead I sit down with a text of the passage of the Bible I’m going to preach on and I spend about four hours figuring out what the outline of the text is. I also spend some time figuring out the meaning of the text and sometimes it’s necessary for me to look up in some commentaries verses that may be problematic. I usually come up with an exegetical outline of the passage itself. I then writes this up and send it to my musicians so they can be preparing the music for worship, and so they can get my outline in the bulletin. I also send my outline to other preachers that I know who will be preaching from the same text.

Then three days before Sunday I sit down with my outline and I seek to turn the Bible study [exegetical work] into a sermon. The Bible study is more abstract – here I’m asking the question “What does the text say?” The sermon I’m asking a question that is more life related “What does this text mean to me?”

So I spend four hours two weeks ahead of time on the text, then another four hours turning it into a life related sermon. And that’s usually on the Friday before the sermon is preached. And then on Saturday I spend another six hours working on the sermon. I’m seeking to make it shorter. It’s always initially too long unless I take the time to make it shorter. In total I spend between 14-16 hours writing the sermon. And then on Sunday I spend all day preaching it because I deliver it four times on a Sunday.

Therefore, I spend approximately 25 hours per week in order to produce one public sermon…before I do anything else in my job as a pastor.

This is a transcript of a 2:02 video from You Tube entitled “Tim Keller on Writing a Sermon” based on his answering the question “What is the process you use when writing a sermon?”

About Dr. Tim Keller: He was born and raised in Pennsylvania, and educated at Bucknell University, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, and Westminster Theological Seminary. He was first a pastor in Hopewell, Virginia. In 1989 he started Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan with his wife, Kathy, and their three sons. Today, Redeemer has more than five thousand regular attendees at five services, a host of daughter churches, and is planting churches in large cities throughout the world. He is the author of a study of the Gospel of Mark entitled King’s Cross; The Prodigal God based on Luke 15; Generous Justice; Counterfeit Gods; Ministries of Mercy: The Call of the Jericho RoadThe Meaning of Marriage; a wonderful small group study entitled Gospel In Life;  and the New York Times bestseller The Reason for God; The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness & the forthcoming Center Church (August 2012). Tim has a passion for Jesus Christ, making the Gospel clear, church planting, and reaching cities for Christ. If you really want to understand the gospel, and how grace applies to all of life I urge you to devour his books and sermons!

 

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Tim Keller: 5 Practical Habits To Keep Your Ministry Strong

Tim Keller in my humble opinion is the finest communicator of the gospel today. He has the ability to preach and teach at a deep theological and practical level at the same time. I especially appreciate his ability to lead you to worshipping Jesus whether he is preaching form the Old or the New Testaments. He is also extremely effective at reaching postmodern lost people with the Gospel of Jesus Christ – without watering it down. So whenever Tim talks – I listen! – Dr. David P. Craig

Tim Keller recently spoke at the City-to-City Conference in New York on the difference between ‘inner power’ that which flows out of our relationship with the Lord and ‘external power’ that which comes from position, status or prestige. Focusing on ‘external power’ is deadly, but ‘inner power’ brings life and vitality to you and your ministry.

Here are Tim’s 5 practical habits we have to work at, plan for, and be disciplined at in order to have an inner source of power (through the vehicle of the Holy Spirit) to live out and proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ:

(1) Private Devotions – Regular and consistent; morning  (40 minutes), lunch-time (5 minutes – recap), evening (40 minutes), bed-time (prays with his wife Kathy)

(2) Spiritual Friendship – Christian brothers & sisters who encourage you and hold you accountable through intimate friendship. Who have you given the right to do that?

(3) Right kind of Pastoral Counseling – Regular evangelism, discipleship, helping others, and some form of serving.

(4) Study & Reading – You’ve got to read your head off! You can’t preach Christ from Genesis to Revelation like Tim does unless you know your Bible inside and out!

(5) Corporate Worship – Do you really worship in your services or are you merely the producer and director?

DR. TIMOTHY KELLER was born and raised in Pennsylvania, and educated at Bucknell University, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, and Westminster Theological Seminary. He was first a pastor in Hopewell, Virginia. In 1989 he started Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan with his wife, Kathy, and their three sons. Today, Redeemer has more than five thousand regular attendees at five services, a host of daughter churches, and is planting churches in large cities throughout the world. He is the author of King’s Cross (on the Gospel of Mark), Counterfeit God’s, The Prodigal God (on Luke 15), and the New York Times bestseller The Reason for God & the forthcoming Center Church (August 2012).

 

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Remembering John R.W. Stott on his Birthday – One of The Greatest Evangelicals of Our Time

Remembering John R.W. Stott Who Would Have Been 91 on April 27, 2012

I first met John Stott in 1985 after he had given a message at a Chapel service at what was then called Multnomah School of the Bible (Multnomah University) in Portland, Oregon. After he spoke he stayed for lunch and ate in the cafeteria. I was privileged to sit with him and hear his wisdom for over an hour. I was impressed with his humility, knowledge of the Scriptures, and genuine concern for us students. Two years later I was returning from spending two months in Spain on a missions trip and met up with my parents in London for a few days. While there we went to All Souls Church in London and worshiped there with John Stott delivering a wonderful Christo-centric sermon from Isaiah. Afterwards while waiting in a very long line to greet “Uncle John” he said to me without hesitation, “Hello David, how is your ministry at Multnomah going?” I couldn’t believe that he remembered my name, my ministry (with junior highers at the time), and where I was going to school! Needless to say, I was dumbfounded. I have always held Stott’s commentaries, books, and ministry in high regard – but what I loved most about Stott – was his genuine love for, and ability to shepherd like the Chief Shepherd – not just his local sheep, but around the world. I have taken random samples of tribute from Stott in this short article – many are from memorial services held for him around the globe, and some are from tributes in various venues. May John Stott’s tribe increase! We miss you Uncle John! – Dr. David P. Craig

“He (John Stott) truly was, in some ways, the first person who spoke the word of God to me through his literature and I also heard him in person,” proclaimed Tim Keller, senior pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City and whom Newsweek magazine described as a “C.S. Lewis for the twenty-first century.”

Keller delivered the sermon at John Stott’s U.S. memorial service Friday (Wheaton Bible Church, November, 11, 2011) and shared that Stott’s bestselling book, Basic Christianity (1958), which has sold well over a million copies and has been translated into 25 languages, had a “profound informative influence” on him.

“Therefore, I needed to rethink. I need to do what Hebrews 13:7 says I should do. I need to rethink my life in light of the results of his (Stott’s) life,” recalled Keller about his thinking several months ago when he was invited to speak at Stott’s memorial service.

He is the author of over 50 books translated into 65 languages, and was named by Time magazine in 2005 as one of the “100 most influential people” in the world.

But despite the influence and recognition he received during his life, Stott is remembered for his humbleness and dedication in serving the Lord.

“The greatest gifts in John’s life were not his talents, it was actually his character,” remarked the Rev. Dr. Mark Labberton, a former study assistant of Stott who is now a professor at Fuller Theological Seminary in California.

Keller, who said he read six volumes on the life of John Stott over the past two months, stated that he uncovered five findings about Stott’s life that should make Christians rethink their own life.

First, Christians should be convicted by Stott’s Kingdom vision and zeal for God’s Kingdom.

“Everything I have read, known, and by all accounts, John Stott’s motives were about as pure as a human being’s motives can be,” asserted Keller. “He was not an ambitious man for his own glory. He did not want power. It was obvious he did not want status. He did not want wealth, he gave it away.” 

“But there was something driving him,” said the influential American preacher.

Although Stott was considered the greatest student evangelist of his generation and foresaw the rise of Christianity in the global South before most anyone else, he was not satisfied with his accomplishments.

“Here is my point. Most of the rest of us would be very happy being told you are the best. You are the best preacher, you’re the best of this or that. But he didn’t care about that. He wanted to change the world for Christ,” Keller explained. “I looked at his motives, I looked at his labors, how he spent himself, and how he gave himself. Why wasn’t he ever satisfied? It really was not worldly ambition. He really wanted to really change the world for Christ. We should be convicted by that.”

Stott’s life, according to Keller, should also make Christians reflect on their cultural learning curve in terms of the cultural blinders on their eyes, and believers should be chastened by his leadership controversy. If even a man as gracious as Stott could not avoid controversy and fall-outs with other Christian leaders, people should “realize that it (controversy) is going to happen. If you want to do something for Christ, someone will be mad.”

Keller also found that Stott was a great innovator, including his reinvention of expository preaching, invention of the modern city-centered church, his role as a Christian statesman who uses institutions to further the work of God, and his forcing evangelicals to deal with social justice issues.

Finally, the evangelical scholar, while studying Stott’s life, found that the English clergyman essentially created evangelicalism, which Keller sees as “the greatest center between fundamentalism and liberalism.”

The Rev. Dr. Christopher Wright, the so-called “successor” of Stott and the international director of Langham Partnership in London, remarked that Stott was way ahead of his time.

“From the early stages of his ministry, he reached out to the whole world. Starting here in the United States, his first international trip, and so many other countries … his thinking, his world was global,” said Wright. “Long before the Internet, John Stott had created a world wide web from relationships and friendships and ministries. Long before the iMac, or the iPhone, or the iPad, there was iFrances (Stott’s long-time secretary), reaching out to the world on behalf of John, by letters, faxes, and eventually, through emails… “He always spoke of himself as just an ordinary follower of Jesus. He once said we should not get used to adulation … he never reveled in being famous. I think he would want to be remembered as a disciple of Jesus.”

Dr. Joshua Moody, senior pastor of College Church, recalled Stott saying decades ago to a group of undergraduate students that included himself, “If I had to live life over, I would live for Christ.” After a pause, Stott added, “You know, if I had to live a thousand lives, I would live them all for Christ.” “We come here to honor a man whose preeminent purpose is to honor Christ,” declared the pastor of the host church of the U.S. memorial service for John Stott.

“I’m not certain that John Stott would want people to remember him,” said John Stott Ministries President Benjamin Homan. Those puzzling words about the man described as the architect of the evangelical movement in the 20th century make sense when you talk to more people who knew him. One of the most popular words used to describe Stott, who passed away Wednesday aged 90, is humble.

“Over and over again as people have described their interactions with John Stott, it is one of humility, and one of not pointing people to himself but to Jesus,” Homan said from Colorado. “The ministries that he began were never about promoting his works or his teachings. They have been about drawing the Church’s attention to the work of Christ around the world, how the Church is growing and how it needs to grow in depth and maturity around the world. I think he will be remembered as a global Christian.”

Not only was Stott’s daily routine strict, but his year was structured with a razor-sharp focus on maximizing his effectiveness in various ministries. For 25 years, Stott spent three months in every 12 travelling for international missions, speaking at conferences and preaching around the world. Another three months of each year would be devoted to writing, and six months dedicated to ministry.

“He was extremely disciplined in his personal life and very simple in his habits. He lived in a one bedroom, one living room with a small kitchenette, and that was his life. He did not have any great wealth or style. He was very simple and frugal,” Wright recalled.

His mentor taught him how to engage in ministry publicly as well as in a pastoral capacity while maintaining equal integrity in both.

“I find him to be a man of genuine humility, not just fake humility, but genuine, through and through humility. He was able to mix with what we might call the ‘rich and famous’ on one hand, or with the ‘poorest of poor’ in other parts of the world, and do so with equal integrity and simply be himself.”

Stott died peacefully at 3:15 p.m. local time on July 27, 2011, at his Christian assisted living home at St. Barnabas College in Lingfield, Surrey, England. At his bedside were his niece and close friends, who read 2 Timothy 2 to him, and listened to Handel’s “Messiah” with him in his final moments on earth.

In 2006, Stott broke his hip and had increasingly become incapacitated. Wright said the elderly clergyman did not suffer dementia, but was weak and in pain in the time leading up to his death. Stott will perhaps be best known for being the chief drafter of the 1974 Lausanne Covenant, the evangelical manifesto on evangelism and theology.

He also was the primary author of the Preamble to the 1951 constitution of the World Evangelical Alliance, the world’s largest evangelical organization, now representing some 600 million evangelicals in 128 countries.

“I can’t think of another evangelical theologian who would come close to Stott in both the depth of his diligent scholarship and the breadth of his unifying work in the global body of Christ – especially through the Lausanne Movement,” said Greg Parsons, global director of the U.S. Center for World Mission, in an email.

“It is probably his involvement in guiding and crafting the masterful document known as the Lausanne Covenant that will be the best single thing for which he is known,” remarked Parsons, who was a member of the Statement Working Group at Lausanne III in Cape Town, South Africa, in 2010. Parsons shared that Stott’s talk at the Urbana Student Missions Conference in 1976, titled, “The Loving God is a Missionary God,” became the first chapter of USCWM’s Perspectives reader.

John Robert Walmsley Stott was born to Sir Arnold W. Stott, an accomplished physician and an agnostic, and Emily, a Lutheran who took her youngest son to All Souls Church in Langham Place, London, as a young boy. Stott later became rector of All Souls in 1950, then rector emeritus in 1975.

In 1959, Stott was appointed chaplain to the queen and served in that position until 1991. He retired from public ministry in 2007 at the age of 86, two years after being named by Time magazine as one of the world’s “100 Most Influential People.”
Fond memories of Stott include his passion for bird watching and his affection for chocolates.

John Stott Ministries President Benjamin Homan recalled that the month before Stott passed away, a friend had visited and told Stott that a black bird was outside his window. Stott, who had lost much of his eyesight by then, corrected his friend, saying that it was a nightingale, which he knew from the bird’s chirp.

“John Piper on John Stott – Year One In Heaven”

Today is John Stott’s first birthday in heaven.

Coming toward the end of my (32-year) ministry as Pastor for Preaching and Vision at Bethlehem Baptist Church, I read Alister Chapman’s new biography of John Stott with special interest. I wanted to see how he finished at All Soul’s and how he shaped the rest of his life.

Stott became Rector at All Souls in 1950 at the age of 29. Just shy of 20 years later he told the church council on September 20, 1969 that “he wanted to stand down.” The church was not prospering as it once had. He felt his calling was to “wider responsibilities.”

The council accepted the proposal and 15 months later Michael Baughen took the helm. “Within a few years All Souls was bursting again” (75). But, Chapman observes, “by almost any measure, Stott’s ministry at All Souls was a success” (77).

Stott was still on the ministerial team at All Souls for another five years. When the severance was complete in September, 1975, he wrote, “I find myself pulled and pushed in various directions these days, and need divine wisdom to know how to establish priorities” (Timothy Dudley-Smith, John Stott, A Biography: The Later Years, IVP, 2001, 248).

I found this comforting. It is remarkable how many good things there are to do. And if one is ambitious to live an unwasted life for the glory of Christ, discernment is crucial. Sudden release from decades of familiar pastoral expectations can easily lead to sloth or superficial busy-ness.

Stott’s discovery was that his calling was a remarkable global ministry. “As with Jim Packer, Stott gave himself to Anglican politics but in the end tired of them. Neither had an obvious, appealing role to fill in England. Both were in demand elsewhere. The result was that two of England’s most gifted evangelicals spent most of the end of their careers serving the church beyond England’s shores” (Godly Ambition, 111).

The thesis of Chapman’s book, Godly Ambition: John Stott and the Evangelical Movement (Oxford, 2012), is that Stott “was both a Christian seeking to honor God and a very talented man who believed he had key roles to play in God’s work in the world and wanted to play them. In short, he combined two things that might seem incongruous: godliness and ambition” (8). With that double drive, “few did more than John Stott to shape global Christianity in the twentieth century” (160).

This ambition was as vital to the end of Stott’s days as his mental and physical life would sustain. One reason is that it was biblically grounded. Explaining his own understanding of ambition he said,

Ambitions for God, if they are to be worthy, can never be modest. There is something inherently inappropriate about cherishing small ambitions for God. How can we ever be content that he should acquire just a little more honour in the world?

Christians should be eager to develop their gifts, widen their opportunities, extend their influence and be given promotion in their work — not now to boost their own ego or build their own empire, but rather through everything they do to bring glory to God. (156)

May every one of us, in the transitions of our lives, seek the kind of holy fire that gives both the light of discernment and the heat of ambition. All of it for the glory of God. This is my deep longing as I face whatever future God gives.

In remembering the humble preacher, author, and theologian, here are a few of his lasting words:

“His authority on earth allows us to dare to go to all the nations. His authority in heaven gives us our only hope of success. And His presence with us leaves us with no other choice.”

“The truth is that there are such things as Christian tears, and too few of us ever weep them.”

“Every Christian should be both conservative and radical; conservative in preserving the faith and radical in applying it.”

“I believe that to preach or to expound the scripture is to open up the inspired text with such faithfulness and sensitivity that God’s voice is heard and His people obey Him” (His definition of expository preaching).

“When it comes to preaching – Theology is more important than methodology.”

“The gospel is NOT preached if Christ is not preached.”

“Before we can begin to see the cross as something done for us, we have to see it as something done by us.”

“We should not ask, ‘What is wrong with the world?’ for that diagnosis has already been given. Rather we should ask, “What has happened to salt and light?”

“Social responsibility becomes an aspect not of Christian mission only, but also of Christian conversion. It is impossible to be truly converted to God without being thereby converted to our neighbor.”

“Sin and child of God are incompatible. They may occasionally meet; they cannot live together in harmony.”

“Good conduct arises out of good doctrine.”

“Every powerful movement has had its philosophy which has gripped the mind, fired the imagination and captured the devotion of its adherents.”

“The Christian’s chief operational hazards are depression and discouragement.”

“Faith is a reasoning trust, a trust which reckons thoughtfully and confidently upon the trustworthiness of God.”

“Knowledge is indispensable to Christian life and service. If we do not use the mind that God has given us, we condemn ourselves to spiritual superficiality and cut ourselves off from many of the riches of God’s grace.”

“Christianity is in its very essence a resurrection religion. The concept of the resurrection lies at its heart. If you remove it, Christianity is destroyed.”

“Writing a book or a manifesto, is the nearest a man gets to having a baby.”

“The very first thing which needs to be said about Christian ministers of all kinds is that they are “under” people as their servants rather than “over” them (as their leaders, let alone their lords). Jesus made this absolutely plain. The chief characteristic of Christian leaders, he insisted, is humility not authority, and gentleness not power.”

“We must allow the Word of God to confront us, to disturb our security, to undermine our complacency and to overthrow our patterns of thought and behavior.”

Did You Know? 
Stott daily woke up at 5:00 a.m. to read the Bible and pray for hundreds of people before breakfast. For over 50 years, he would read the entire Bible annually.

 

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Ross Douthat on the “Character of Christianity’s Decline,” Part 1 By Tim Keller

18th of April 2012 by Tim Keller

Ross Douthat’s new book, Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics, is very helpful for Christians seeking to understand why the Church is in decline in the U.S. Before the book’s publication I gave a high-level look at its basic theses. In these next posts, I’ll share more details of Ross’s proposals and interact somewhat with his material.

Ross Douthat speaks of “five major catalysts” for the decline.

First, he points to the political polarization between Left and Right that drew many churches into it.

Mainline Protestants and some Catholics were pulled into line with the political positions of liberalism, while the evangelical churches (and again, some Catholics) became instruments of conservative political policy. He writes: “Issues that were swiftly turned to partisan ends by politicians in both parties…divided churches against one another as no controversies had since slavery.” As Robert Putnam has demonstrated in American Grace, this has greatly weakened the credibility of Christianity in the culture. Since so many parts of the Christian church are now strongly tied to one end of the political spectrum or the other, it means each branch of Christianity can be dismissed by a majority of the population (moderates and those on the other end of the spectrum) as partisan pawns. It has been particularly damaging to see white evangelicals voting overwhelmingly in the opposite way as black evangelicals. This has all given rise to a broadly held perception that religion is really not about God and the Bible but about politics.

We should keep in mind that in the 1950s, the two great enemies were the fascism of Hitler and the Communism of Stalin and Mao—both movements that had severely persecuted their national churches. Marxism was of course intensely atheist. And so in the average American’s mind, religion and Christianity were associated with freedom and democracy while secularism and atheism were not. Today, post 9-11, that has been completely reversed. In the average American’s mind religion and fundamentalism are associated with political extremism and terrorism. They are now seen as the enemies of pluralistic, western society.

Second, he points to the sexual revolution and the birth control pill that made it possible.

“Before the sexual revolution,” Douthat writes, “a rigorous ethic of chastity and monogamy had seemed self-evidently commonsensical even to many non-Christians.” Why? The fear of “illegitimacy, abandonment, and disease.” But the pill changed all this. “Over the course of a decade or so, a large swath of America decided that two millennia of Christian teaching on marriage and sexuality were simply out of date.” The arguments against the traditional ethic had been around for centuries, but the hard reality was that sex produced babies and so the only really safe sex was married sex. The pill swept that argument away. Now far more people wanted (and were free) to believe these arguments for extra-marital sex because of “the new sexual possibilities” that the birth control pill afforded.

The importance of the sexual revolution for the loss of Christianity’s credibility can’t be over-estimated. For centuries individuals have justified and rationalized sex outside of marriage, but this had never occurred on a culture-wide basis as it now did in the West. Today there are enormous numbers of professing Christians, including card-carrying evangelical believers, who simply have stopped practicing the Christian sex ethic. It is seen as unrealistic and even perverse by thousands of people who identify as believers. This is massively discrediting and makes Biblical faith implausible to hundreds of millions both inside and outside the church.

The new sexual view of the world is one of the main barriers today to belief in historic Christianity. Most apologetics books (including mine!) give a chapter to each of the main objections to the faith, and yet few address what is almost the number 1 “defeater” for young skeptics—the regressive and supposedly unrealistic Christian view of sex and homosexuality.

The third factor has been the dawn of globalization and the impression that Christianity was imperialistically “western”.

After World War II, the “Third World” de-colonialized—dozens of former Western colonies were given their freedom. “To celebrate the new global civilization was to celebrate the eclipse of European dominance…[and] to cast a cold eye across the many sins of Western civilization.” This occurred during the 1960s through the 1980s with the rise of academic studies of colonialism and western imperialism, through books about U.S. genocide toward Native Americans (e.g. Dee Brown’s Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee), through discovery of southern white churches’ resistance to Civil Rights (e.g. The 1988 film Mississippi Burning), and to the uncovering of the history of the European church’s support of anti-Semitism in the wake of the Nazi Holocaust. Meanwhile “the more the world was swept up in the drama of decolonialization and Third World empowerment, the more tainted Christianity seemed by its centuries of association with the now-discredited imperial projects of the European West.” Out of “Christian guilt” over all this, the number of professing Christians who were willing to say that their faith is the one, true faith plummeted. Globalization has seemed to support those who attack Christianity’s claims to uniqueness.

The fourth factor in Christianity’s decline, according to Douthat, is the enormous growth in the kind of material prosperity that generally works against faith.

This explanation was striking to me personally. Most religious-cultural analysts do not go here, but I found this argument persuasive. John Wesley was famous for his insistence that whenever a society (or a portion of society) becomes more wealthy, Christianity loses its power. Why? One underrated reason for the decline in the quality and quantity of those pursuing the ministry as a vocation is that other professions now provide far more wealth and status (as they did not 50 years ago). Another is that Biblical Christianity actually contains a very trenchant, powerful critique of greed and acquisition, as it does of sexual immorality. Just as the sexual revolution makes it hard for people to stomach one part of Biblical wisdom, so a highly materialistic society makes it hard to stomach the other. In addition, the consumerism of our culture is so pervasive and powerful that it has shaped American Christians’ attitude toward the church—namely, it makes the church irrelevant. Americans are conditioned to think of themselves as customers of goods and services, and churches as vendors that can be used or discarded on the basis of cost-benefit analysis. Douthat adds that in a materialistic society people are extremely mobile and they tend to commute long-distances to work. “Religious community proved harder to sustain in the new commuter society than it had been in an America of small towns and urban neighborhoods.” That’s right. In a society of increasing wealth, human community becomes less important for sustaining your life. Both church and neighborhood becomes superfluous.

The fifth and final factor in Christianity’s decline is the loss of the elites and the academic and cultural institutions they control.

In some ways all of the other four factors have had their most powerful impact on what Christopher Lasch called the “knowledge classes”—the most educated and affluent, and this in turn magnifies secularization, because this class controls the media, newspapers, and networks, the academy, publishing, the arts, the most powerful and rich foundations, and much of the government and business world. Here Ross sounds a lot like Lasch (The Revolt of the Elites: And the Betrayal of Democracy) or James Hunter’s To Change the World. He argues that the educated and affluent have “gained the most from the new sexual freedoms and…suffered the least from their darker repercussions.” They were more cosmopolitan, multi-cultural, and well-traveled, and so they held more intensely to the view that religion was culturally narrow and imperialistic. The result is that the cultural elites have not merely “rejected” the faith. “Orthodoxy was less rejected than dismissed, reflexively, as something unworthy of an educated person’s intellect and interest.”

Article above posted originally on April 18, 2012 at: http://redeemercitytocity.com/blog/

All quotes taken from Ross Douthat, Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics (Free Press, 2012) pp.65-81

About Ross Gregory Douthat: (pronounced /ˈdaʊθət/; born November 28, 1979) is a conservative American author, blogger and New York Times columnist. He was a senior editor at The Atlantic and is author of Privilege: Harvard and the Education of the Ruling Class (Hyperion, 2005) and, with Reihan Salam, Grand New Party (Doubleday, 2008), which David Brooks called the “best single roadmap of where the Republican Party should and is likely to head.” He is a film critic for National Review and has also contributed to The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Weekly Standard, the Claremont Review of Books, GQ, Slate, and other publications.

 

About Tim Keller: was born and raised in Pennsylvania, and educated at Bucknell University, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, and Westminster Theological Seminary. He was first a pastor in Hopewell, Virginia. In 1989 he started Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan with his wife, Kathy, and their three sons. Today, Redeemer has more than five thousand regular attendees at five services, a host of daughter churches, and is planting churches in large cities throughout the world. He is the author of KING’S CROSS, THE MEANING OF MARRIAGE, COUNTERFEIT GODS, THE PRODIGAL GOD, and the New York Times bestseller THE REASON FOR GOD, SELF-FORGETFULNESS  & the forthcoming CENTER CHURCH (August 2012).

 

 
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Posted by on April 25, 2012 in Current Issues, Tim Keller

 

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Dr. Tim Keller – On Why People Are Spiritual but not Religious

“Religion-Less Spirituality”

By Dr. Tim Keller*

“Growing numbers of Americans say they are spiritual but not religious,” says Robert Wuthnow in After Heaven, his assessment of American spiritual development since 1950.

It is a spirituality without truth or authority but filled with belief in the supernatural. It is a trend born of the modern fears of religion.

The powerful critiques of Freud, Marx, and Nietzsche have penetrated our popular psyche. Freud saw religious performance as a way that guilt-ridden people cleanse themselves and force God to bless them. Marx saw religious principle used by one class of people to oppress another. Neitzsche asserted that anyone claiming to have the truth is making a power play. He asked the powerful: “Why do you call for love? Is it not just a way to keep anyone from revolting against your authority?” He asked the powerless: “Why do you call for justice? Is it not just a way for you to get on top?”

These critiques are powerful because they have the ring of truth. They’re the reasons many who seek spirituality reject religion.

What shall we do then? We must address the real issues of self-righteousness, exclusion, and power-plays. The church must echo Jesus’ own powerful critique of religion and visibly demonstrate the difference between religion and the gospel.

Right word, right time

First, we must do it in word—in our preaching and communication. Even more than Freud, Jesus condemned self-justification through moral performance, at one point claiming that religion was more spiritually dangerous than overt immorality.

Jesus gives us the classic picture of the failure of both religion and irreligion in his parable of the two sons in Luke 15. The elder brother represents the religious leaders; he never disobeys any of the father’s laws. As a result, he tries to control his father and exclude his brother. In the end, he is the one who misses the feast of salvation rather than his profligate brother.

There could not be a more powerful warning: The elder brother is not lost despite his obedience to the father but because of it.

Jesus shows us that the problem is self-justification, the belief that we can win blessing through our virtue. In Luther’s terminology, religion is just another form of works-righteousness, which leads to profound internal instability. We are never sure of our worthiness, yet we need to feel superior to those who do not conform in order to bolster our insecurity.

Following Jesus, we must agree with our critics about the danger of religion, but show them that they are wrong about their solution to it. Secular people see religion as a body of fixed doctrine and ethics that one must adhere to in order to acquire rights to blessing and heaven. They see how often religion leads to self-righteousness, exclusion, and oppression. Modern culture, however, wrongly identifies fixed doctrine (the idea of absolute truth) as the poisonous element.

Both traditional religion and the new spirituality are forms of self-salvation. The religious way of being our own savior leads us to keep God’s laws, while the irreligious way of being our own savior leads us to break his laws. The solution is the gospel.

The gospel shows us a God far more holy than a conservative moralist can imagine—for he can never be pleased by our moral performance. Yet it also shows us a God far more loving than the liberal relativist can imagine—for his Son bore all the weight of eternal justice. His love for us cost him dearly.

Practically speaking, this means in our preaching we must be extremely careful to distinguish between general moral virtue and the unique humility, confidence, and love that flow from the gospel. I’m convinced we must learn carefully from Jonathan Edwards: “An experience of God’s grace is the only basis for ultimate and enduring … true virtue.”

Religion is outside-in; 
the gospel is inside-out.

Edwards says that most virtue is secondary virtue, based on self-love, and therefore on fear (of punishment) and pride (in our superior decency). Edwards appreciates that common morality makes the world a liveable place, but he essentially agrees with Neitzsche that it is really a power play. General moral virtue does not come from a heart that has given up its need to feel superior to others.

Only an experience of grace and free justification can create a heart that does good out of delight in God himself, out of delight in goodness itself, and out of love for our neighbors in themselves. Without the gospel, we can restrain the human heart, but not change the human heart. The gospel calls for repentance over our self-righteousness. The true virtue that results creates an attitude of acceptance toward the poor, the outsider, and the opponent that neither religion nor secularism can produce.

Show me your faith

Second, we must demonstrate the difference between religion and the gospel in our deeds—how we embody the gospel in our community and service. Even more than Marx, Jesus condemned religion as a pretext for oppression: “If you only greet your brothers, what do ye more than others?” (Matt. 5:47).

Lesslie Newbigin makes the bold case that Christianity is a better basis for true tolerance of opposing beliefs than any other religion or even secularism. Saved only by grace, Christians true to the gospel will not feel superior to those with whom they differ.

This must be more than rhetoric. Only when Christians non-condescendingly serve the poor, only when Christians are more firm yet open to their opponents will the world understand the difference between religion and the gospel.

What does this mean practically?

We will be careful with the order in which we communicate the parts of the faith.

Pushing moral behaviors before we lift up Christ is religion. The church today is calling people to God with a tone of voice that seems to confirm their worst fears. Religion has always been outside-in—”if I behave out here in all these ways, then I will have God’s blessing and love inside.” But the gospel is inside-out—”if I know the blessing and grace of God inside, then I can behave out here in all these ways.”

A woman who had been attending our church for several months came to see me. “Do you think abortion is wrong?” she asked. I said that I did. “I’m coming now to see that maybe there is something wrong with it,” she replied, “now that I have become a Christian here and have started studying the faith in the classes.”

As we spoke, I discovered that she was an Ivy League graduate, a lawyer, a long-time Manhattan resident, and an active member of the ACLU. She volunteered that she had experienced three abortions.

“I want you to know,” she said, “that if I had seen any literature or reference to the ‘pro-life’ movement, I would not have stayed through the first service. But I did stay, and I found faith in Christ. If abortion is wrong, you should certainly speak out against it, but I’m glad about the order in which you do it.”

This woman had had her faith incubated into birth our Sunday services. In worship, we center on the question “what is truth?” and the one who had the audacity to say, “I am the truth.” That is the big issue for postmodern people, and it’s hard to swallow. Nothing is more subversive and prophetic than to say Truth has become a real person!

Jesus calls both younger brothers and elder brothers to come into the Father’s arms. He calls the church to grasp the gospel for ourselves and share it those who are desperately seeking true spirituality.

We, of all people, ought to understand and agree with fears about religion, for Jesus himself warned us to be wary of it, and not to mistake a call for moral virtue for the good news of God’s salvation provided in Christ.

Tim Keller is pastor of 
Redeemer Presbyterian Church
New York, New York
RPCNYC@aol.com 

*DR. TIMOTHY KELLER was born and raised in Pennsylvania, and educated at Bucknell University, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, and Westminster Theological Seminary. He was first a pastor in Hopewell, Virginia. In 1989 he started Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan with his wife, Kathy, and their three sons. Today, Redeemer has more than five thousand regular attendees at five services, a host of daughter churches, and is planting churches in large cities throughout the world. He is the author of KING’S CROSS, COUNTERFEIT GODS, THE PRODIGAL GOD, and the New York Times bestseller THE REASON FOR GOD & the forthcoming CENTER CHURCH (August 2012).

ARTICLE ABOVE Copyright © 1999 by the author or Christianity Today/Leadership Journal, Friday, October 1, 1999.

 

 

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12 Ways To Prepare Yourself For Listening to Biblical Preaching by Dr. David P. Craig

(1) Only those who have been saved from sin by grace through faith in Christ can truly understand the truth of God’s Word.

“Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith” … “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ. – 2 Corinthians 13:5 & 1 Corinthians 2:14-16

(2) A Commitment to listening to Biblical Preaching helps you grow spiritually.

“Make them pure and holy by teaching them your words of truth.” – John 17:17

“You must crave pure spiritual milk so that you can grow into the fullness of your salvation. Cry out for nourishment as a baby cries for milk.” – 1 Peter 2:2

“And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is at work in you who believe.” – 1 Thessalonians 2:13

(3) Confess and Forsake your sins continually.

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” – 1 John 1:9

(4) Through prayer and disciplined thought, adjust your attitude prior to the service so that you expect to hear exciting and life-changing truths from God’s Word.

“Open my eyes to see the wonderful truths in your law. I long to obey your commandments! Renew my life with your commandments. Give discernment to me, your servant; then I will understand your decrees. I rejoice in your word like one who finds great treasure.” -Psalm 119:18, 40, 125, 162

(5) Eliminate any potential distractions that might hinder your attentiveness during the message.

“But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” – Romans 13:14

(6) Make a concerted effort during the worship service to understand and retain as much as you can from the teaching by taking notes and writing down in your own words the primary lessons you learn and the questions raised in your mind.

“I have hidden your Word in my heart that I might not sin against You.” – Psalm 119:11

(7) Practice and develop your skills of discernment by examining the teaching carefully, but remember to maintain a humble, teachable spirit.

“Now these [Bereans] were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the Word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.” – Acts 17:11

(8) Discuss the message after the service & throughout the week with other Christians, asking them questions and sharing the encouragement and challenges you received.

“I am fully convinced, dear brothers and sisters, that you are full of goodness. You know these things so well that you are able to teach others all about them.” – Romans 15:14

“Think of ways to encourage one another to outbursts of love and good deeds.” – Hebrews 10:24

(9) Study the passage or topic further by discussing it with the teacher/preacher or another knowledgeable Christian, and by referring to commentaries or other reference books on the topic.

“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” – 2 Timothy 2:15

(10) Purpose in your heart to make any changes necessary as a result of what you have learned, pray about those changes and practice them daily (see James 1:22-25; Hebrews 13:7-17)

“But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” – James 1:22

(11) Devote yourself to supporting those who teach you.

“Anyone who receives instruction in the word must share all good things with his teacher.” Galatians 6:6

“Christian workers should be paid by those they serve.” – 1 Corinthians 9:10b

“Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart. Don’t forget to pray for us, too, that God will give many opportunities to preach about His secret plan—that is also for you Gentiles. That’s why I am here in chains. Pray that I will proclaim this message as clearly as I ought.” – Colossians 4:2-4

(12) Prepare yourself for the message the night before by getting to bed early. Also, by rising early enough to have plenty of time to get ready for a smooth ride to church (plan for a peaceful rather than a stressful rushed morning).

 

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Book Review – Heralds of the King: Christ-Centered Sermons in the Tradition of Edmund P. Clowney, Edited by Dennis E. Johnson

Sermons that Manifest the Centrality of the Person, Work, and Presence of Christ

 One of my greatest concerns in the times in which we are living is seeing more pastors, theologians, and the rank and file Christian allowing cultural pressures to influence them more than the influence of Christ from the Scriptures. As I am currently looking for a church to become a part of I am astounded by how many “protestant” pastors can preach a sermon that neither begins or ends with Christ. As a matter of fact, most of the sermons I’m hearing could be preached by a non-Christian, and in what even passes for “church” God doesn’t even have to show up at all.

I would urge, plead, and even pay preachers to read this book. What people need – including Christians – is more of Jesus – His death, life, teachings, work as Prophet, Priest, and King – in short His person and work. Jesus said that all of the Scriptures pointed to Him (that means all of the Old Testament and New Testament, see John 5 and Luke 24).

In this book we have some excellent examples of former students of Dr. Edmund P. Clowney who preach in the Christ-centered mold. The book has a good balance in that it incorporates sermons from the Law, the Prophets, the Psalms, and Several New Covenant genres. Before each sermon begins there is a brief tribute to Edmund Clowney demonstrating how he influenced the preacher in his pursuit of personally loving Christ and preaching sermons that show us the Savior’s Person and work on our behalf.

In Part 1: “The Law” we have the following sermons –

“Living in the Gap” based on Genesis 17:1-14 by Joseph V. Novenson

“The Girl Nobody Wanted” based on Genesis 29:15-35 by Tim Keller (this is my favorite sermon in the book – it is a masterpiece on how to preach Christ from the Old Testament and how to apply it to our lives in the 21st century)

“Lord and Servant” from Genesis 43 by Brian Vos

“Rock of Ages” based on Exodus 17:1-7 by Julius J. Kim

In Part 2: “The Prophets” we have these sermons –

“Surprising Love:” on 2 Samuel 9 by Charles D. Drew

“Thorns and Fir Trees” based on Isaiah 55:13 by the late Harvie M. Conn

“No Condemnation” from Zechariah 3 by Iain M. Duguid

In Part 3: “The Psalms” we have only one sermon (I would have liked to have had at least two or three from this large section of Scripture including “Lament” and “Praise” genres) –

“Beauty in the Sand” by William Edgar based on Psalm 90

Part 4: “The New Covenant” we have the following sermons –

From Luke 1:5-25 “When God Promises the Impossible” by Dennis E. Johnson

“Soul-Ravishing Sightings” based on Luke 9:28-36 by Joseph F. Ryan

Arturo G. Azurdia III preaches the final sermon in the book based on Hebrews 1:1-3 entitled “The Greatness of God’s Ultimate Word.”

I highly recommend this book for all preachers, and for those who listen to preachers and love Jesus. I would encourage you if you are reading this review, to ask your pastor if he has read this book, and if not, to get him a copy – to encourage him in preaching in a more Christ-centered manner. Christ-centered preaching is hard work. However, when you hear it, or do it – you sense the presence of God in a powerful way. When I started preaching in Christ-centered manner it was as if a huge millstone was taken off my back. I think most preachers want to please God and help their flock from God’s Word – but they have not been well trained in Biblical Theology, or in Christo-centric preaching.

Edmund Clowney and all the preachers represented in this book are preaching to give glory to God and to let their hearers experience Jesus in worship. I think most preachers today are preaching to be liked, and meet felt needs – but no one can meet our needs like Jesus – and what we need more than anything is what these preachers do in this book – lead us to worshipping Jesus!

I constantly find myself when listening to modern preachers asking the question, “Where’s Jesus in this message?” Edmund Clowney always asked, “Where is my Savior?” His primary concern was always to reveal the presence of Christ in all of the Scriptures – since this is what Jesus mandated. I believe that if you ask these questions of yourself, or your preacher and Jesus is nowhere to be found, then it is not “Christian” preaching. What we desperately need today is to hear Jesus speaking to us from the Word of God by the voice of his heralds. All the preachers in this book do a wonderful job of leading us to the presence of Jesus and to worshipping Him.

Other Books that I would recommend to help you in Christo-centric preaching are:

Edmund P. Clowney’s: “Preaching Christ in All of Scripture;” “The Unfolding Mystery: Discovering Christ in the Old Testament;” and “How Jesus Transforms The Ten Commandments.”

Alec Motyer’s “Look to the Rock: An Old Testament Background to Our Understanding of Christ.”

All of Tim Keller’s books (e.g. “King’s Cross” based on his expositions on the Gospel of Mark). And anything by Sidney Greidanus (e.g., “Preaching Christ from the Old Testament”), or Graeme Goldsworthy (e.g.,“Preaching the Whole Bible as Christian Scripture”).

I hope that this movement of Christ-centered preaching continues to spread, and grow and bring about a new reformation of the gospel, and the desperately needed revival that is needed around the globe.

 

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Book Review: Preaching and Preachers (40th Anniversary Edition) by *D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

A Preaching Classic Just Got Even Better

 In order to introduce a new generation of preachers to “the Doctor” this book published in 1972 has been reissued. All the material from a series of lectures the Doctor gave in 1969 at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia – and is still very relevant to the times in which we are living in the 21st century. The Doctor was one who knew his cultural climate and ministered in a setting in London, that (especially in comparison with big cities in America) was ahead of its time in terms of a naturalistic worldview and skepticism toward religion and the gospel. However, he never backed down from the primacy and centrality of preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ from the Scriptures.

It’s doubtful that very many preachers will agree with everything Lloyd-Jones has to say in this book, but it’s also very probable that you will gain profound insight, wisdom, and be encouraged in your preaching. You will most certainly be convinced of the importance of preaching, the relevance of preaching, and become a better gospel empowered preacher as a result of reading this book.

What’s different about the 40th edition? Well, the 1972 version has been left in tact, but there are several very welcome features:

Several new essays by modern preachers who share what they have learned and applied from the Doctor – Ligon Duncan writes an essay entitled, “Some things to Look For and Wrestle With;” Tim Keller writes an essay called “A Tract for the Times;” John Piper writes on “Martyn Lloyd-Jones: The Preacher;” Kevin DeYoung writes an essay on “Preaching for Brand New and Tired Old Preachers;” Mark Dever writes on “What I’ve Learned about Preaching From Martyn Lloyd-Jones;” and lastly Bryan Chapell pens “Martyn Lloyd-Jones: An Uncommon Zeal.”

Another new feature is that each chapter contains several questions for study and discussion that can be useful for students, pastors, or church staffs to use in discussion or small group study. I am so glad that this new edition is finally here, and hope that it will inspire a new generation of preachers to proclaim the gospel from Genesis to Revelation with the unction of the Spirit, knowledge of the Scriptures, love for Christ, and passion of “the Doctor.”

 

*J.I. Packer first heard Dr. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones preach when he was a 22-year-old student in London. Upon hearing Lloyd-Jones, Packer remarked that he had “never heard such preaching…[delivered] with the force of electric shock, bringing to at least one of his listeners more of a sense of God than any other man.” As Packer’s statement suggests, Lloyd-Jones’s life-long ministry had a profound impact not only on lay-people, but on the very leaders of the Christian church as well.

Although Lloyd-Jones was to become one of the great Christian thinkers of the twentieth century, his career began far removed from the Church. Born in Cardiff, Wales in 1899, Lloyd-Jones moved to London with his family at the age of 14. He was driven by a strong desire to be a doctor and attended medical school at St. Bartholomew’s Teaching Hospital in London. A remarkably bright student, Lloyd-Jones earned his M.D. at the age of 22 and immediately began working as the chief clinical assistant to Sir Thomas Horder, who referred to Lloyd-Jones as, “The most accurate thinker that I ever knew.”

However, at beginning his medical career, Lloyd-Jones began reading the Bible and was soon gripped by the logic of the Christian gospel. In his early twenties, he underwent a quiet but profound conversion to Christianity. Feeling propelled by a new desire to share his faith with others, Lloyd-Jones began to think that preaching would provide the best avenue for him to promote the gospel of Christ. But, at the same time, Lloyd-Jones had fallen in love with a young medical student named Bethan Phillips. He felt torn, knowing that if she were to marry him she would need to share his vision of abandoning medicine to pursue the ministry, and he prayed hard for God to work in her heart. Bethan did come to share Martyn’s vision for preaching and she married him in 1927. Together they shocked the press by making a dramatic move from the elite medical community of Harley Street to a small house in Lloyd-Jones’s native country. There, Dr. D. Martyn Lloyd Jones began his preaching career at the Bethlehem Forward Movement Mission Church in Aberavon, Wales.

In 1938, G. Campbell Morgan, the Minister of Westminster Chapel, heard Lloyd-Jones preach and decided that he wanted to have him as his successor in London. In the following year, Lloyd-Jones, his wife, and two daughters, Elizabeth and Ann, moved to London. Although Lloyd-Jones began his ministry at Westminster on a temporary basis, his stay there would be anything but temporary. His preaching drew in thousands of people and the congregation responded enthusiastically to his sharp, analytical presentation of the Christian faith. He remained at Westminster for thirty years, faithfully preaching through even the bomb raids of the World War II, and retired from there in 1968. While in London, Lloyd-Jones also had a formative influence on the InterVarsity Fellowship of Evangelical Unions by serving as its President for many years. Even today InterVarsity is a thriving world-wide ministry and it owes a large portion of its success to the influential work of Lloyd-Jones.

After leaving the church at the age of 69, Lloyd-Jones was unwilling to simply relax in retirement and he continued to work as hard as he had while he was at Westminster. He published some of his best work during that time and he continued to travel and preach at various engagements. Dr. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones worked until in 1981, weakened by illness, he died quietly in his sleep at the age of 82.

 

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Book Review: Preaching Christ in All of Scripture By Edmund P. Clowney

How To Preach Sermons Leading You to Worship Jesus

I was trained in an Evangelical University and Seminary where I had an excellent Biblical education and training in Systematic Theology. After being a preaching pastor for about five years I realized that the best preachers I was admiring had been trained in Biblical Theology and so I enrolled in the Doctor of Ministry preaching program at Westminster Theological Seminary in Escondido, California.

I vividly remember one of my professors talking about how the story of David and Goliath wasn’t just about “David and Goliath” but pointed to the greater David – Jesus. It’s taken me years to learn how to preach Christ and not just moralistic sermons. However, one of the masters of preaching Christ from all of the Bible is Edmund P. Clowney. As a matter of fact a lot of preachers today are excited about the teaching ministry of Tim Keller in New York – who really learned most of what he knows (that’s what he will tell you) from the author of the sermons of this book – Dr. Edmund Clowney.

One of the first things I learned about at WTS was Redemptive Historical Preaching – which essentially follows the “big story line” of the Bible with an eye on Jesus and His Person and redemptive work in history. In my opinion, what Clowney does teaches and models in this book is the greatest need of the 21st century – getting back to preaching Christ from all of Scripture.

If you are a pastor who like me – has had trouble with “getting to Christ” from the passage – especially in the Old Testament – you will find some great examples of how to do this from the various genres in the Old and New Testaments from a brilliant and humble preacher who knew the Bible and the “big story” well.

Edmund Clowney’s book is an outstanding contribution in helping preachers do what the prophets and the apostles did – preach Christ. Clowney begins with a chapter demonstrating how all of the Scriptures point to Christ – and he makes a wonderful case for this reality. In the second chapter he gives his methodology for “preparing a sermon that presents Christ.”

The remaining chapters are sample sermons from different genres in the Old and New Testaments showing the application of the principles articulated in the first two chapters. The sermons are as follows:

“Sharing the Father’s Welcome” based on Luke 15:11-32

“See What It Costs” based on Genesis 22:1-19

“When God Came Down” based on Genesis 28:10-22

“The Champion’s Strange Victory” based on Genesis 32

“Can God Be Among Us?” based on Exodus 34:1-9

“Meet the Captain” based on Joshua 5:13-15

“Surprised by Devotion” based on 2 Samuel 23:13-17

“The Lord of the Manger”

“Jesus Preaches Liberty” based on Luke 4:16-22

“The Cry of the God-Forsaken Savior” based on Psalm 22:1

“Our International Anthem” based on Psalm 936:3

“Jesus Christ and the Lostness of Man”

“Hearing Is Believing: The Lord of the Word”

As of the writing of this review you can still hear Edmund P. Clowney and Tim Keller co- teach a class for free called “Preaching Christ in a Postmodern World.” It has 37 lectures and question and answers sessions from RTS and covers the full gamut of issues related to Christ–centered preaching. I highly recommend that you download this course and listen to it until you get it. It will make a huge difference in your teaching and preaching – and you will see real life change in yourself and your hearers as a result.

If you are a preacher, or teacher of the Bible you will definitely benefit from this book. More importantly, I hope that you will be influenced and impacted by this book so that your sermons and Bible lessons will be filled with Christ, lead to Christ, and bring glory to Christ in a way that articulates with passion and excitement – the greatest story ever told. I have been blessed in my own worship of Christ, understanding of Christo-centric preaching, and have become a better preacher and teacher as a result – going from teaching moralistically to Biblically and thus leading others to worship Christ the Lord.

 

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