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Category Archives: Steven J. Lawson

A Passion for Preaching: An Interview with Steven J. Lawson

Steve Lawson pointing

Tabeltalk (TT): How did you become a Christian, and how were you called to ministry?

Steven J. Lawson: I grew up in a Christian home and was brought to faith as a young boy through the consistent witness of my father and mother. Specifically, it was through the reading of the Bible by my father each night that the seed of the gospel was planted, which God caused to germinate in my heart. Regarding my call to the ministry, I actually began preaching and teaching while in college in various ministries and churches. Upon graduating, I sat under the strong preaching of Adrian Rogers at Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis, Tenn., and strongly felt God summoning me into full-time ministry. His bold preaching electrified my heart and served as the catalyst that launched me to seminary, where I would be prepared for a lifetime of ministry.

TT: What are the biggest challenges you have faced during your ministry? How have you faced these challenges?

SL: In my earlier years, the greatest challenges I faced were preaching the doctrines of grace to congregations that were theologically untaught. To say the least, it was difficult and demanding to try to establish God-centered truth and a biblical philosophy of ministry where there had previously been a stronghold of man-centered thinking concerning the work of God in salvation. Though it was obviously a painful process, the only way to meet such an obstacle was head-on, unashamedly preaching the full counsel of God. This required much prayer, pastoral discretion, patience, and perseverance, which God honored. Over time, God established His truth in the minds and hearts of many, though it came at a high price personally.

TT: What advice would you give to a young man who aspires to be a pastor?

SL: First, any man aspiring to the pastorate needs to be sitting under strong expository preaching. He needs a role model who exemplifies what is in his heart to do. Second, he needs a personal ministry whereby he can use what he is learning, test his giftedness, and cultivate what has been entrusted to him. Third, he should surround himself with a small circle of spiritually mature men who can provide wise counsel in helping steer his life and ministry as important decisions arise. Fourth, he must begin to inquire of various seminaries regarding his future theological education. He needs to contact some institutions, visit their campuses, and talk to some of the faculty. Fifth, he needs to become an avid reader of important Christian books, including the spiritual biographies of noted men who have been mightily used by God.

TT: How does a pastor remain faithful to his calling over the long haul?

SL: In order to persevere in ministry, a pastor needs to be, first and foremost, deeply rooted and anchored in God’s Word. The more he studies, learns, teaches, and preaches God’s Word, the greater will be his staying power in ministry. Further, reading Christian biographies of men who have faced great adversity in their ministries provides greater drive and endurance. Reading the heroic accounts of martyrs and missionaries who have faced great persecution should be at the top of his reading list. Likewise, being surrounded by a small group of laymen who will encourage him in God’s work is a necessity. Pastors can be vulnerable to severe bouts of discouragement. Having the edifying feedback of trusted individuals helps him remain steadfast in doing God’s work.

TT: Who has most influenced your preaching?

SL: There have been multiple influences upon my preaching—Adrian Rogers,W.A. Criswell, James Montgomery Boice, R.C. Sproul, John MacArthur, and S. Lewis Johnson. Each of these men has contributed something vitally important to my preaching ministry. Over many decades, John MacArthur has most shaped my approach to biblical exposition. He has influenced me in preaching through entire books of the Bible sequentially. I have learned from him the need for sound exegesis, word studies, historical background, crossreferences, theological precision, sermon outline, and manuscript writing. Moreover, Dr. MacArthur has demonstrated the need for guarding the gospel and teaching sound doctrine.

TT: Why have you focused so much of your attention to the practice of expository preaching and to helping both preachers and laypeople see its importance?

SL: I strongly believe that no church can rise any higher than its pulpit. As the pulpit goes, so goes the church. The deeper the preacher takes his flock into the Word of God, the higher they will rise in worship. The stronger they are in the Scripture, the stronger they will be in the pursuit of holiness. Likewise, strong preaching leads to sacrificial service in the Lord’s work. Strong exposition kindles hearts for the work of evangelism and the cause of worldwide missions. Every great movement of God in church history has been ushered in by a renewed commitment to solid preaching of the Word. If we are to see a spiritual awakening in our day, the church must recover the primacy of preaching. I desire to be used by God to help equip a new generation of preachers and laypeople in recognizing the importance of this primary means of grace.

TT: Can you describe for us what your sermon preparation looks like?

SL: I begin each week by photocopying everything that I need to read in order to prepare my sermon. This includes study Bibles, commentaries, expository sermons, linguistic and historical tools, and the like. I first read the passage and discover its literary unit, determining what verse or verses I will preach. After writing a block diagram and reading the passage in the original language, I identify the central theme of these verses. I then read all of my photocopied information, thoroughly marking it up. I draft the beginnings of a working outline for the sermon. I will start writing the sermon—with a fountain pen, I might add—beginning with the first homiletical point. I then move systematically through the text, creating a manuscript that explains and applies each successive part of the passage. I will then add transitions, illustrations, and quotations as needed. The final step is to write the introduction and conclusion. I will compose this manuscript as though I can hear myself preaching it. At last, I will review my manuscript for length, balance, and quality, praying over its truths.

TT: What is the purpose of OnePassion Ministries and how does it seek to accomplish its goals?

SL: OnePassion Ministries was created to help bring about a new reformation in this day. It has a website in which most all of my preaching and writing resources are found (www.onepassionministries.org). We are hosting conferences both nationally and internationally in order to train preachers, teachers, prospective pastors, and interested laypeople in the art and science of expository preaching and teaching. I want to define what it is, what it is not, and show how to effectively carry out this divine calling. I desire to help take people to the next level in their skills of handling and ministering God’s Word. Also, I want to motivate those who attend our conferences to be fully committed to preaching the Word expositionally. Moreover, we want to host conferences for all people in order to introduce them to Christ and encourage them in their Christian walk. Finally, we will be hosting church history tours in which I will take people to important historical sites around the world.

TT: Why did you decide to establish the book series A Long Line of Godly Men, and what other men do you hope to profile individually in this series?

SL: The Long Line series was birthed in my teaching ministry at the church that I pastor. As I was teaching the men of my church sound doctrine from Scripture, I wanted them to see that what we believe in the doctrines of sovereign grace has been the mainline position by great men and movements down through the centuries. Out of this Friday morning teaching series has arisen these books so that these essential truths may be made available to a wider audience around the world. There is much instruction and inspiration to be drawn from this profile study. In the future, I need to write volume three of the larger books, which will move from John Knox to this present hour. In the smaller books, there are other key figures who I want to address such as William Tyndale, John Wycliffe, Robert Murray M’Cheyne, D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, and, yes, R.C. Sproul.

Steven J. Lawson is founder and president of OnePassion Ministries, a ministry designed to bring about biblical reformation in the church today, and former senior pastor of Christ Fellowship Baptist Church in Mobile, Ala. He has served as a pastor in Arkansas and Alabama for twenty-five years and is author of many books, including The Evangelistic Zeal of George Whitefield and In It to Win It: Pursuing Victory in the One Race That Really Counts. He is a teaching fellow for and serves on the board of Ligonier Ministries and the Ligonier Academy of Biblical and Theological Studies, and is professor of preaching at The Master’s Seminary.

Source: www.ligonier.org (June 1, 2014)

 

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Fortress for Truth: Martin Luther

By Steven J. Lawson

Martin Luther was a giant of history. Some believe he was the most significant European figure of the second millennium. He was the pioneer Reformer, the one God first used to spark a transformation of Christianity and the Western world. He was the undisputed leader of the German Reformation. In a day of ecclesiastical corruptions and apostasies, he was a valiant champion of the truth; his powerful preaching and pen helped to restore the pure gospel. More books have been written about him than any other man of history except Jesus Christ and possibly Augustine.

Luther came from hard-working stock. He was born in the little town of Eisleben, Germany, on November 10, 1483. His father, Hans, was a copper miner who eventually gained some wealth from a shared interest in mines, smelters, and other business ventures. His mother was pious but religiously superstitious. Luther was raised under the strict disciplines of the Roman Catholic Church and was groomed by his industrious father to be a successful lawyer. To this end, he pursued an education at Eisenach (1498–1501) and then at the University of Erfurt in philosophy. At the latter, he received a bachelor of arts degree in 1502 and a master of arts degree in 1505.

Luther’s life took an unexpected turn in July 1505, when he was twenty-one. He was caught in a severe thunderstorm and knocked to the ground by a nearby lightning strike. Terrified, he cried out to the Catholic patroness of miners, “Help me, St. Anna, and I will become a monk.” Luther survived the storm and made good on his dramatic vow. Two weeks later, he entered the Augustinian monastery in Erfurt. His father was furious over Luther’s apparent wasted education, but Luther was determined to follow through on his vow.

Lost in Self-Righteousness

In the monastery, Luther was driven to find acceptance with God through works. He wrote: “I tortured myself with prayer, fasting, vigils and freezing; the frost alone might have killed me… . What else did I seek by doing this but God, who was supposed to note my strict observance of the monastic order and my austere life? I constantly walked in a dream and lived in real idolatry, for I did not believe in Christ: I regarded Him only as a severe and terrible Judge portrayed as seated on a rainbow” (Luther’s Works, Vol. 24, eds. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann [St. Louis: Concordia, 2002], 62). Elsewhere he recalled: “When I was a monk, I wearied myself greatly for almost fifteen years with the daily sacrifice, tortured myself with fastings, vigils, prayers, and other very rigorous works. I earnestly thought to acquire righteousness by my works” (Luther’s Works, Vol. 12, 273).

In 1507, Luther was ordained to the priesthood. When he celebrated his first Mass, as he held the bread and cup for the first time, he was so awestruck at the thought of transubstantiation that he almost fainted. “I was utterly stupefied and terror-stricken,” he confessed. “I thought to myself, ‘Who am I that I should lift up mine eyes or raise my hands to the divine majesty? For I am dust and ashes and full of sin, and I am speaking to the living, eternal and true God’” (Luther, cited in Bruce Shelley, Church History in Plain Language [Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1995], 238). Fear only compounded his personal struggle for acceptance with God.

In 1510, Luther was sent to Rome, where he witnessed the corruption of the Roman church. He climbed the Scala Sancta (“The Holy Stairs”), supposedly the same stairs Jesus ascended when He appeared before Pilate. According to fables, the steps had been moved from Jerusalem to Rome, and the priests claimed that God forgave sins for those who climbed the stairs on their knees. Luther did so, repeating the Lord’s Prayer, kissing each step, and seeking peace with God. But when he reached the top step, he looked back and thought, “Who knows whether this is true?” (Luther, cited in Barbara A. Somervill, Martin Luther: Father of the Reformation [Minneapolis: Compass Point Books, 2006], 36). He felt no closer to God.

Luther received his doctor of theology degree from the University of Wittenberg in 1512 and was named professor of Bible there. Remarkably, Luther kept this teaching position for the next thirty-four years, until his death in 1546. One question consumed him: How is a sinful man made right before a holy God?

In 1517, a Dominican itinerant named John Tetzel began to sell indulgences near Wittenberg with the offer of the forgiveness of sins. This crass practice had been inaugurated during the Crusades to raise money for the church. Commoners could purchase from the church a letter that allegedly freed a dead loved one from purgatory. Rome profited enormously from this sham. In this case, the proceeds were intended to help Pope Leo X pay for a new St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.

This horrible abuse enraged Luther. He determined that there must be a public debate on the matter. On October 31, 1517, he nailed a list of Ninety-five Theses regarding indulgences to the front door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg. Nailing such theses to the church door was a common practice in the scholarly debates of the time. Luther hoped to provoke calm discussion among the faculty, not a popular revolution. But a copy fell into the hands of a printer, who saw that the Ninety-five Theses were printed and spread throughout Germany and Europe in a few weeks. Luther became an overnight hero. With that, the Reformation essentially was born.

The Tower Experience

It is possible Luther was still not yet converted. In the midst of his spiritual struggles, Luther had become obsessed with Romans 1:17: “For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, ‘The righteous shall live by faith.” Luther had understood the righteousness of God to mean His active righteousness, His avenging justice by which He punishes sin. On those terms, he admitted that he hated the righteousness of God. But while sitting in the tower of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Luther meditated on this text and wrestled with its meaning. He writes:

Though I lived as a monk without reproach, I felt that I was a sinner before God with an extremely disturbed conscience. I could not believe that he was placated by my satisfaction. I did not love, yes, I hated the righteous God who punishes sinners, and secretly, if not blasphemously, certainly murmuring greatly, I was angry with God, and said, “As if, indeed, it is not enough, that miserable sinners, eternally lost through original sin, are crushed by every kind of calamity by the law of the Decalogue, without having God add pain to pain by the gospel and also by the gospel threatening us with his righteousness and wrath!” Thus I raged with a fierce and troubled conscience. Nevertheless, I beat importunately upon Paul at that place, most ardently desiring to know what St. Paul wanted.

At last, by the mercy of God, meditating day and night, I gave heed to the context of the words, namely, “In it the righteousness of God is revealed, as it is written, ‘He who through faith is righteous shall live.’” There I began to understand that the righteousness of God is that by which the righteous lives by a gift of God, namely by faith. And this is the meaning: the righteousness of God is revealed by the gospel, namely, the passive righteousness with which merciful God justifies us by faith, as it is written, “He who through faith is righteous shall live.” Here I felt that I was altogether born again and had entered paradise itself through open gates. There a totally other face of the entire Scripture showed itself to me. Thereupon I ran through the Scriptures from memory. I also found in other terms an analogy, as, the work of God, that is, what God does in us, the power of God, with which he makes us strong, the wisdom of God, with which he makes us wise, the strength of God, the salvation of God, the glory of God. (Luther’s Works, Vol. 34, 337)

The time of Luther’s conversion is debated. Some think it took place as early as 1508, but Luther himself wrote that it happened in 1519, two years after he posted his Ninety-five Theses. More important is the reality of his conversion. Luther came to realize that salvation was a gift for the guilty, not a reward for the righteous. Man is not saved by his good works but by trusting the finished work of Christ. Thus, justification by faith alone became the central tenet of the Reformation.

Attacking Papal Authority

Justification by faith alone clashed with Rome’s teaching of justification by faith and works. Thus, the pope denounced Luther for preaching “dangerous doctrines” and summoned him to Rome. When Luther refused, he was called to Leipzig in 1519 for a public debate with John Eck, a leading Catholic theologian. In this dispute, Luther affirmed that a church council could err, a point that had been made by John Wycliffe and John Hus.

Luther went on to say that the authority of the pope was a recent contrivance. Such religious superstition, he exclaimed, opposed the Council of Nicaea and church history. Worse, it contradicted Scripture. By taking this stand, Luther irritated the major nerve of Rome—papal authority.

In the summer of 1520, the pope issued a bull, an edict sealed with a bulla, or red seal. The document began by saying: “Arise, O Lord, and judge Your cause. A wild boar has invaded Your vineyard” (Pope Leo, Exsurge Domine, as cited in R.C.Sproul, The Holiness of God [Wheaton: Tyndale, 1998], 81).  With these words, the pope was referring to Luther as an unrestrained animal causing havoc. Forty-one of Luther’s teachings were deemed to be heretical, scandalous, or false.

With that, Luther had sixty days to repent or suffer excommunication. He responded by publicly burning the papal bull. This was nothing short of open defiance. Thomas Lindsay writes, “It is scarcely possible for us in the twentieth century to imagine the thrill that went through Germany, and indeed through all Europe, when the news spread that a poor monk had burnt the Pope’s Bull” (Thomas Lindsay, Martin Luther: The Man Who Started the Reformation [Ross-shire, Scotland: Christian Focus, 2004], 91). But though he was hailed by many, Luther was a marked man in the eyes of the church.

The Diet of Worms: Luther’s Stand

In 1521, the young Holy Roman emperor, Charles V, summoned Luther to appear at the Diet of Worms in Worms, Germany, in order to officially recant. The renegade monk was shown his books on a table in full view. Then Luther was asked whether he would retract the teachings in the books. The next day, Luther replied with his now-famous words: “Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Scriptures or by clear reason (for I do not trust either in the pope or in councils alone, since it is well known that they have often erred and

contradicted themselves), I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience. I cannot do otherwise, here I stand, may God help me, Amen” (Luther’s Works, Vol. 32, 113). These defiant words became a Reformation battle cry.

Charles V condemned Luther as a heretic and placed a hefty price on his head. When Luther left Worms, he had twenty-one days for safe passage to Wittenberg before the sentence fell. While he was en route, some of his supporters, fearing for his life, kidnapped him and took him to the Wartburg Castle. There, he was hidden from public sight for eight months. During this time of confinement, Luther began his translation of the Bible into German, the language of the commoners. Through this work, Reformation flames would spread even swifter.

On March 10, 1522, Luther explained the mounting success of the Reformation in a sermon. With strong confidence in God’s Word, he declared: “I simply taught, preached, and wrote God’s Word; otherwise I did nothing. And while I slept … the Word so greatly weakened the papacy that no prince or emperor ever inflicted such losses upon it. I did nothing; the Word did everything” (Luther’s Works, Vol. 51, 77). Luther saw that God had used him as a mouthpiece for truth. The Reformation was founded not on him and his teachings, but on the unshakeable footing of Scripture alone.

In 1525, Luther married Katherine von Bora. This amazing woman was an escaped nun committed to the Reformation cause. The two repudiated their monastic vows in order to marry. Luther was forty-two and Katie was twenty-six. Their union produced six children. Luther had an extremely happy family life, which eased the demands of his ministry.

Till the end of his life, Luther maintained a heavy workload of lecturing, preaching, teaching, writing, and debating. This work for reform came at a high physical and emotional price. Each battle extracted something from him and left him weaker. He soon became subject to illnesses. In 1537, he became so ill that his friends feared he would die. In 1541, he again became seriously ill, and this time he himself thought he would pass from this world. He recovered yet again, but he was plagued by various ailments throughout his final fourteen years. Among other illnesses, he suffered from gallstones and even lost sight in one eye.

Faithful to the End

In early 1546, Luther traveled to Eisleben, his hometown. He preached there and then traveled on to Mansfeld. Two brothers, the counts of Mansfeld, had asked him to arbitrate a family difference. Luther had the great satisfaction of seeing the two reconciled.

That evening, Luther fell ill. As the night passed, Luther’s three sons—Jonas, Martin, and Paul—and some friends watched by his side. They pressed him: “Reverend father, do you stand by Christ and the doctrine you have preached?” The Reformer gave a distinct “yes” in reply. He died in the early hours of February 18, 1546, within sight of the font where he was baptized as an infant.

Luther’s body was carried to Wittenberg as thousands of mourners lined the route and church bells tolled. Luther was buried in front of the pulpit in the Castle Church of Wittenberg, the very church where, twenty-nine years earlier, he had nailed his famous Ninety-five Theses to the door.

Upon his death, his wife, Katherine, wrote concerning his lasting influence and monumental impact upon Christendom: “For who would not be sad and afflicted at the loss of such a precious man as my dear lord was. He did great things not just for a city or a single land, but for the whole world” (Katherine Luther, cited in Martin E. Marty, Martin Luther: A Life [New York: Penguin, 2008], 188). She was right. Luther’s voice sounded throughout the European continent in his own day and has echoed around the world through the centuries since.


Source: Excerpted with edits from Pillars of Grace, © 2011 by Steven J. Lawson. Published by Reformation Trust Publishing, a division of Ligonier Ministries. http://www.ligonier.org/blog/fortress-truth-martin-luther/October 17, 2011.

 

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Steven J. Lawson on The Great Significance of Preaching the Word

“Preach the Word”

Bounty Bible image

by 

Every season of reformation and every hour of spiritual awakening has been ushered in by a recovery of biblical preaching. This cause and effect is timeless and inseparable. J.H. Merle D’Aubigné, noted Reformation historian, writes, “The only true reformation is that which emanates from the Word of God.” That is to say, as the pulpit goes, so goes the church.

Such was the case in the Protestant Reformation of the sixteenth century. Martin Luther, John Calvin, and other reformers were raised up by God to lead this era. At the forefront, it was their recovery of expository preaching that helped launch this religious movement that turned Europe and, eventually, Western civilization upside down. With sola Scriptura as their battle cry, a new generation of biblical preachers restored the pulpit to its former glory and revived apostolic Christianity.

The same was true in the golden era of the puritans in the seventeenth century. A recovery of biblical preaching spread like wildfire through the dry religion of Scotland and England. A resurgence of authentic Christianity came as an army of biblical expositors — John Owen, Jeremiah Burroughs, Samuel Rutherford, and others — marched upon the British Empire with an open Bible and uplifted voice. In its wake, the monarchy was shaken and history was altered.

The eighteenth century witnessed exactly the same. The Bible-saturated preaching of Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield, and the Tennents thundered through the early colonies. The Atlantic seaboard was electrified with the proclamation of the gospel, and New England was taken by storm. The Word was preached, souls were saved, and the kingdom expanded.

The fact is, the restoration of biblical preaching has always been the leading factor in any revival of genuine Christianity. Philip Schaff writes, “Every true progress in church history is conditioned by a new and deeper study of the Scriptures.” That is to say, every great revival in the church has been ushered in by a return to expository preaching.

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, preacher of Westminster Chapel London, stated, “The most urgent need in the Christian Church today is true preaching; and as it is the greatest and the most urgent need in the Church, it is the greatest need of the world also.” If the doctor’s diagnosis is correct, and this writer believes it is, then a return to true preaching — biblical preaching, expository preaching — is the greatest need in this critical hour. If a reformation is to come to the church, it must begin in the pulpit.

In his day, the prophet Amos warned of an approaching famine, a deadly drought that would cover the land. But not an absence of mere food or water, for this scarcity would be far more fatal. It would be a famine for hearing God’s Word (Amos 8:11). Surely, the church today finds itself in such similar days of shortage. Tragically, exposition is being replaced with entertainment, doctrine with drama, theology with theatrics, and preaching with performances. What is so desperately needed today is for pastors to return to their highest calling — the divine summons to “preach the word” (2 Tim. 4:1–2).

What is expository preaching? The Genevan reformer John Calvin explained, “Preaching is the public exposition of Scripture by the man sent from God, in which God Himself is present in judgment and in grace.” In other words, God is unusually present, by His Spirit, in the preaching of His Word. Such preaching starts in a biblical text, stays in it, and shows its God-intended meaning in a life-changing fashion.

This was the final charge of Paul to young Timothy: “Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching” (2 Tim. 4:2). Such preaching necessitates declaring the full counsel of God in Scripture. The entire written Word must be expounded. No truth should be left untaught, no sin unexposed, no grace unoffered, no promise undelivered.

A heaven-sent revival will only come when Scripture is enthroned once again in the pulpit. There must be the clarion declaration of the Bible, the kind of preaching that gives a clear explanation of a biblical text with compelling application, exhortation, and appeal.

Every preacher must confine himself to the truths of Scripture. When the Bible speaks, God speaks. The man of God has nothing to say apart from the Bible. He must not parade his personal opinions in the pulpit. Nor may he expound worldly philosophies. The preacher is limited to one task — preach the Word.

Charles Haddon Spurgeon said, “I would rather speak five words out of this book than 50,000 words of the philosophers. If we want revivals, we must revive our reverence for the Word of God. If we want conversions, we must put more of God’s Word into our sermons.” This remains the crying need of the hour.

May a new generation of strong men step forward and speak up, and may they do so loud and clear. As the pulpit goes, so goes the church.

Article above from the January 1, 2010 issue of © Tabletalk magazine

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About the Author:

Steve Lawson pointing

Dr. Steven J. Lawson is the Senior Pastor of Christ Fellowship Baptist Church in Mobile, Alabama, having served as a pastor in Arkansas and Alabama for the past twenty-nine years. He is a graduate of Texas Tech University (B.B.A.), Dallas Theological Seminary (Th.M.), and Reformed Theological Seminary (D. Min.).

The focus of Dr. Lawson’s ministry is the verse-by-verse exposition of God’s Word. The overflow of this study and preaching has led to his authoring fifteen books, including In It to Win It, The Kind of Preaching God Blesses,  & The Unwavering Resolve of Jonathan Edwards. His other recent books include The Gospel Focus of Charles SpurgeonThe Expository Genius of John Calvin, The Heroic Boldness of Martin Luther,  Foundations of Grace 1400 BC-AD 100, volume one of a multi-volume series & Pillars of Grace AD 100 – 1564, also, three volumes in the Holman Old Testament Commentary Series, Job, Psalms Volume I (Psalms 1-75), and Volume II (Psalms 76-150).

He has contributed to John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine, and Doxology, work celebrating the 500 year anniversary of the birth of John Calvin. He is the Series Editor for A Long Line of Godly Men Profile, a series of biographies of noted Christian leaders.

Dr. Lawson has also authored Famine in the Land: A Passionate Call to Expository PreachingMade In Our ImageAbsolutely SureThe LegacyWhen All Hell Breaks Loose, and Faith Under Fire. His books have been translated into various languages around the world, including Russian, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, German, Albanian, Korean, Dutch, and the Indonesian language.

He has contributed several articles to Bibliotheca Sacra, The Southern Baptist Journal of Theology, The Faith and Mission, Decision Magazine, and Discipleship Magazine, among other journals and magazines.

Dr. Lawson’s pulpit ministry takes him around the world, preaching in such places as Russia, the Ukraine, Scotland, Wales, England, Ireland, Germany, Japan, New Zealand, Switzerland, Italy and many conferences in the United States, including The Shepherd’s Conference and the Resolved Conference at Grace Community Church, Sun Valley, California, the Ligonier National and Pastor’s Conference, and the Philadelphia Conference on Reformed Theology.

He is president of New Reformation, a ministry designed to bring about biblical reformation in the church today. He serves on the Executive Board of The Master’s Seminary and College and is a Teaching Fellow with Ligonier Ministries and a Visiting Professor at the Ligonier Academy, teaching Expository Preaching and Evangelism and Missions in the Doctor of Ministry program. Dr. Lawson taught in the Distinguished Scholars Lecture Series at The Master’s Seminary, lecturing in 2004 on “Expository Preaching of the Psalms.” He also serves on the Advisory Council for Samara Preachers’ Institute & Theological Seminary, Samara, Russia.

Steve and his wife Anne have three sons, Andrew, James, and John, and a daughter, Grace Anne.

 

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Dr. Steven J. Lawson on What To Do, When You’d Rather Die Than Live!

[The article below is adapted from the fantastic book of sermons on the Book of Job by Steven J. Lawson entitled When All Hell Breaks Loose: You May Be Doing Something Right – Surprising insights from the life of Job. Colorado Springs: NavPress, 1993, pp. 57-70]

 

“I Just Want To Lie Down and Die”

 [Based on The Book of Job Chapters 1-3]

 Have you ever had a time in your life when you wished that you could die? I sure have.

For me, one of those times occurred when I graduated from college. I was twenty-two years old and had just moved back home for the summer. While away at college, I had become used to coming in late at night. There would be many nights—now, I never got in any trouble, mind you—that I would just drive around late with my buddies. We would go to a drive-through, order food, cruise around town, and listen to music.

So when I moved back home, it was a difficult adjustment to live under the same roof with Mom and Dad again. Very likely an adjustment for them, as well!

I remember one night. I was on a date. Not just any date. A very special date. This girl was a knockout. (Can I say that in a Christian book [article]) She had been our homecoming queen in high school and our head cheerleader. I had waited five or six years to have a date with this girl, just waiting for the competition to kill itself off. Finally, the opportunity was there to go out with her and, needless to say, I was walking on clouds. So it was late at night—well past midnight—and we went to her parents’ house. We were just talking, listening to music, and sitting on the sofa I her den with the lights down low. (Honest, we were just talking!)

As we were sitting on the sofa together. I heard a rustling in the bushes outside. Hmmmm. It stopped, so I didn’t think anything about it. Probably just the wind blowing. We kept talking, but, in a little bit, I heard some more rustling in the bushes. I thought. I think there’s something in the bushes.

In a few seconds, I heard a knock on the pane-glass window. “Tap, tap, tap.” Like someone knocking on it. “Tap, tap, tap.” There it was again. “Hey,” I said, “Somebody is knocking on your window.”

So I turned around, pulled back the curtains, and looked through the large, plate-glass window over the sofa. There, to my total astonishment, was the head of a man peering through the hedges and looking right at me. It was . . . my father! And he was pointing to his watch.

Here it is after midnight and this grown man—a professor in medical school mind you—looking like a camouflaged “tree man” with his head peering out of the hedge. He is motioning in the direction of our house, “informing” me of the lateness of the hour and that I needed to head home!

I can’t tell you how embarrassed I was. Humiliated! (For some reason, it’s funnier now then it was then.) I could have just died. If I could have been raptured to Heaven at that moment, I would have gladly gone. “Beam me up, Scottie!”

I remember turning back around to my date, shrugging my shoulders and saying, “I’ve never seen that man before in my life!”

Well, I think that is something of how Job is now feeling. He just wants to die. Not out of embarrassment. But out of deep pain and acute suffering. In a far greater way than my embarrassment—in a way that’s really not funny—Job felt as if he wanted to die.

For Job, his life has gone up in smoke. Satan has burned him. Well-done and crisp. The Devil has inflicted him with adversity that few of us can fully fathom. In one fell swoop, his family has been stripped away, his possessions reduced to rubble, and his fortune decimated. Then—as if that were not enough—Satan, with permission from God, has ravaged his skin from the top of his head to the bottom of his feet. The man is devastated financially, physically, and emotionally.

When the first onslaught occurred, Job responded with faith. ‘The Lord gives and the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord.”

But, with blast after blast, his strength has been eroded and his soul eaten away. All his suffering has not been without profound impact. Job is down; he is discouraged; he is ready to throw in the towel.

Have you ever felt that way? Have you ever hurt so bad that you simply wished you could go to Heaven? I have.

Every person has a breaking point. A point at which he or she can become deeply discouraged. Even depressed. Such despair can cause a person to want to give up on life. Either we want Jesus to come back right now and take us home, or we want to give up on life and die. Either way, we just want to graduate to glory to escape life’s pain.

Maybe this is where you are. Maybe you are tired of the constant pain and suffering. Maybe you are worn down by the heaviness of trials. It just won’t go away.

That is precisely where Job is. He is longing for relief. Any kind of relief. He just wants to get out of this life and into the next. Job doesn’t want to take his own life. Instead, he wants God to take his life.

Job has no life left in him. Except pain, torment, suffering, and misery. No reason to live.

He is looking for immediate relief.

I WISH I WAS NEVER BORN!

In Job 3 we now see what it’s like for a person who loves God to go through the dark night of his soul. The downward spiral begins when Job says, “I wish I had never been born.”

It has been a period of time since we last saw Job. Perhaps weeks. Maybe months. But sufficient time for his faith to begin to erode. Remember, his three friends have been sitting there with him, silently observing, waiting for Job to break his silence:

Afterward Job opened his mouth and cursed the day of his birth.

And Job said,

“Let the day perish on which I was to be born,

And the night which said,

‘A boy is conceived.’” (Job 3:1-3)

Job is undergoing the darkest of miseries in his innermost heart. He literally thinks, I wish I had never been born so I wouldn’t have to experience the suffering that I am going through. He wants to give up on life. For him, the day he was conceived should never have existed.

Job wishes to eradicate his very conception. Erase his beginning. If God would take that date off the calendar, it would be all right with him. For Job, that day should be annihilated. Obliterated. If only that day had never existed, all this misery would go away.

Then Job’s mood takes a step into the abyss of despair. Notice the rejoicing in hell. The evil prince and his hideous hordes think they have him.

Let that day be darkness!

May God above not seek it,

nor light shine upon it.

Let gloom and deep darkness claim it.

Let clouds dwell upon it;

let the blackness of the day terrify it.

That night—let thick darkness seize it!

Let it not rejoice among the days of the year;

let it not come into the number of the months. (Job 3:4-6)

Five times in this brief comment Job speaks of darkness, black gloom, or blackness. That precisely reflects his feelings on the inside. Who can blame him? To have never been born would have been fine with Job. God should have just skipped that day and gone on to the next. Ripped it out of the eternal calendar.

Behold, let that night be barren;

let no joyful cry enter it.

Let those curse it who curse the day,

who are ready to rouse up Leviathan. (Job 3:7-8)

Job summons the ancient soothsayers to curse his birthday. I don’t believe Job personally believed in their mystical power, nor was he committing himself to them. Rather, he is simply communicating vividly: “I wish I could call upon those who make their living pronouncing curses to put a curse on the day I was born. I wish they would rouse Leviathan [a monster that devoured great objects in the sea]. I want a sorcerer to conjure up a sea monster that would gobble up that day from the past so that I could have not been born.”

Have you ever been that low? So low that you are ready for any way out, desperately grabbing for any relief?

Let the stars of its dawn be dark;

let it hope for light, but have none,

nor see the eyelids of the morning, (Job 3:9)

Job wishes that the day on which he was born had just waited and waited and waited. He wishes the sin had never come up. That the light of day had never broken. Why?

because it did not shut the doors of my mother’s womb,

nor hide trouble from my eyes. (Job 3:10)

Job’s reaction is not uncommon. Pain, tragedy, and suffering can cause us to lose perspective on life. We make exaggerated comments we don’t really mean, but we feel: “Nobody loves me. This isn’t worth it. Nobody cares about me. If I died, nobody would come to my funeral.” Job’s emotional state has now come to acute depression.

I WISH I HAD DIED AT BIRTH!

Job now goes a step further.

First, he says, I wish I had never been born.” Now, he says, “All right, I was conceived. Since I had to be born, that day is on God’s calendar. But I wish I had died at birth. If I had to born, then I wish I had died at birth.”

“Why did I not die at birth,

come out from the womb and expire? (Job 3:11)

Job now shifts gears and asks God why. Have you ever asked God why? Job did.

It’s not wrong to ask the Lord why. It’s only wrong to demand that God answer you. God may choose to reveal His reason. Or He may not. But he doesn’t owe you an answer.

Jesus Himself asked God why. When He died on the cross, He asked the Father why. “My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46).

Why is a very natural question to ask the Lord—especially in a time of heartache. But it is a question that must be asked humbly, without a demanding spirit toward God. It’s a request for hope. Not a demand for relief.

The amazing thing throughout Job’s entire experience is that God never does give him an explanation. All God does is reveal Himself. He shows Job who, not why. Knowing God is what we need to endure the crunch. Not why.

Let me illustrate. When you break a leg and they rush you into the emergency room of the hospital, they take an x-ray of your broken limb. There you are, lying in one of those cubicles, in deep pain. The doctor brings the x-ray of your broken limb. There you are, lying in one of those cubicles in deep pain. The doctor brings the x-ray and puts it up on the screen. He flicks on the light and shows you why the break occurred. Does knowing why really take away the pain? No, not really. But so often, we think if we just knew why, our heart would be healed. But really, we need to know who and not why.

As Warren Wiersbe says, “We don’t live our Christian lives on explanations; we live them on promises.”

Job continues,

“Why did the knees receive me?

Or why the breasts, that I should nurse?” (Job 3:12)

It was common practice during Job’s time to take a little child, just from the womb, and put him on his father’s knee. “Why did that ever happen to me?” Job asks. “Why dod my mother continue to give me nourishment and life only for this to happen to me? I’ve been set up for a fall.”

Job gives us his multifaceted view of death. A profound thinker. Job views death as a rest (verse 13), a reunion (verse 14-15), a relief (verses 17-19), and a reward (verse 21). You know what? Job is right. Death is each of these realities.

First, Job begins by picturing death as a rest.

“For then I would have lain down and been quiet;

I would have slept; then I would have been at rest,” (Job 3:13)

He is saying, “If I could have just died when I was born, I could have lain down and gone to sleep and found rest. But instead of rest, I get only misery, affliction, and torment. Death would have an afternoon nap.”

Second, he pictures death as a reunion. With whom?

“with kings and counselors of the earth

who rebuilt ruins for themselves,

or with princes who had gold,

who filled their houses with silver.” (Job 3:14-15)

Job reasons, “If I could have just died at birth, I would have graduated to glory. I would have been promoted to glory. I would have been promoted onto the same level with kings and princes in the next world. There would have been a reunion in Heaven with all the mighty kings, counselors, and princes.

Third, Job views death as a relief.

Or why was I not as a hidden stillborn child,

as infants who never see the light?

There the wicked cease from troubling,

and there the weary are at rest.

There the prisoners are at ease together;

they hear not the voice of the taskmaster.

The small and the great are there,

and the slave is free from his master.” (Job 3:16-19)

Job wishes he had been stillborn at birth. He says death would have brought him relief from the pain and the torment of this life. The wicked cease from raging in death. In death man ceases from sinning. That’s true. In Heaven, our sin nature will be eradicated. And we will be like our true image in Christ.

In death, the Job says there will be relief from punishment because then “the prisoners are at ease together.” In other words, death is like a jailbreak from the imprisonment of suffering. Right now, we are imprisoned in our circumstances. Only death will free us from this prison house. Only in death will we have relief.

Death blots out the voice of the slave driver. We hear pain’s voice no longer. In death, we prisoners no longer hear the voice of our cruel taskmaster. Only in death do we have relief from pain. We will be no longer enslaved to life’s torment. Both the small and the great will have the relief of death one day. We will be free from the affliction of this life. If we can just escape, we will have relief from life’s pain.

But Job has not yet hit the bottom. First he says, “I wish I had never been born.” Next, he says, “I wish that I had died at birth.” Since neither of those has happened, he wishes for today—“I wish I could die right now.”

I WISH I COULD DIE NOW!

I don’t believe Job is saying, “I want to commit suicide.” Not at all. He doesn’t want to take his own life. He wants God to take his life. There is a vast difference.

Have you ever felt such despair? Have you ever thought, I just wish Jesus would come back today and rapture me out of this dilemma? I have. You may have thought that this morning. I think that’s where Job is. He’s not contemplating suicide. He just wants to check out of this life. This world is full of misery, suffering, and heartache. The longer we live, the more pain we suffer. That is what Job is saying. That’s what most of us feel at one time or another.

Maybe you heard about the man who went to his doctor for a checkup. He came back the next day to get the results from the tests.

“Doc, how do I look?”

The doctor said, “I have good news and bad news and bad news. Which do you want first?”

The man said, “Let me hear the good news first.”

The doctor said, “Well, the good news is, you have twenty-four hours to live.”

“Good grief! That’s the good news?” The man gasped. “I’ve got twenty-four hours to live? Then, what’s the bad news?”

The doctor replied, “The bad news is I was supposed to tell you yesterday.”

That’s where Job is. This is bad news to Job. Why? Because Job wants to die today. He has sunk so low as to say,

“Why is light given to him who is in misery,

and life to the bitter in soul,

who long for death, but it comes not,

and dig for it more than for hidden treasures,

who rejoice exceedingly

and are glad when they find the grave?” (Job 3:20-22)

Again, Job asks God why. “Why does God continue to give light to the one who suffers?” To give extended life to one who suffers seems cruel and pointless.

Job is a candidate for Dr. Doom’s Death Machine. Death would be a welcome release. If it could be found, it would be better than discovering a valuable treasure chest in the ground. That’s why Job is aggressively pursuing death. If he could just find it, there would be riches of relief for him.

A casket in the ground would be like a treasure chest buried beneath the surface. Death is that treasure chest—that welcomed reward.

Why is light given to a man whose way is hidden,

whom God has hedged in? (Job 3:23)

Why does God continue to give life to a man who can’t even see his way to navigate through his affliction? He’s trapped in an intricate maze with no way out. Whichever way he turns, he runs into a wall. No way out. Why does God hedge him in? To Job, it seems that God is cruel to keep him alive in this inescapable maze.

Before Job’s catastrophes, Satan said, “God, no wonder Job serves You. You’ve built a hedge, a wall of protection, around him. I can’t get to him.” God said, “All right, I’ll remove the hedge. You can come at him. You can do anything except take his life.”

As Satan invaded Job’s life and brought great harm, God had built another hedge around Job’s life. But this hedge is to keep Job from escaping his trials. He is now locked in. Instead of a wall of protection to keep Satan out, now there is a wall of affliction that keeps Job in.

Have you ever wanted your problems to just go away? Surely you have. So did Job. But God had hedged Job into his problems and he couldn’t get out.

For my sighing comes instead of my bread,

and my groanings are poured out like water.” (Job 3:24)

Job’s stomach is in such a knot, he can’t even eat. He has lost his appetite and food is repulsive. He can’t eat, he is so eaten up with despair. He “cries” like a lion (Job 4:10). He sounds like a roaring lion in the jungle as he groans in the night and pours out his anguished heart to God. The anguish pours out.

“For the thing that I fear comes upon me,

and what I dread befalls me.” (Job 3:25)

Job fears that there is “no escape” from his misery. “I wake up in the morning hoping that this was just a nightmare, and I wake up to the grim reality that, yes, my children were taken. Yes, my fortune was taken. Yes, my health has been taken. Yes, I am hurting very deeply. And there is no end in sight and no way out of my problems. My worst fears have become a reality.”

I am not at ease, nor am I quiet;

I have no rest, but trouble comes.” (Job 3:26)

In the aching of his heart, Job says, “I have no peace and I have no rest. All I have are problems and heartaches and despair.”

Have you ever been there?

Maybe that’s where you are right now. Or, perhaps somebody you know. Take heart, all is not lost. I want to give you some steps to overcome such despair. I don’t want to leave you here.

OVERCOMING DESPAIR: GOD’S WAY

Despair is very real. I’ve been there and so have you. How can we overcome deep discouragement? Let me give you some steps.

First, realize that even the strongest believer can become discouraged. Not one of us is Superman. Nor the Bionic Woman. None of us is exempt from such discouragement.

Remember, Job was the most righteous man on the earth when God said to Satan, “Have you considered Job? There is no one like him.” I think He was saying, “Listen, Job is my Mount Everest. He stands taller than anyone else on the earth in his love and devotion to Me.”

Job has sunk into a dark, black pit of depression. Despite being strong in his faith, he bears all the marks of someone who is depressed: gloom, anger, anxiety, bitterness, confusion, fatigue, cynicism, fear, hopelessness, insomnia, dejection, sadness, pessimism.

Can a believer be depressed? Yes. Most of us have been or will be depressed.

The Apostle Paul experienced it. In 2 Corinthians 1, he says, “We were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life; indeed, we had the sentence of death within [us]” (verses 8-9). King David of Israel enjoyed the heights of worship. But he also hit the valleys of despair.

Warren Wiersbe, who has written some great biographical books on walking and talking with giants of the faith, points to a clear theme woven through the lives of many devout servants of God. At times they all were overcome with oppression and discouragement and even depression in their ministry and service for God.

Even such a stalwart of the Christian faith as Martin Luther experienced such deep depression. He wrote of his grief: “For more than a week I was close to the gates of death and hell. I trembled in all my members. Christ was wholly lost. I was shaken by desperation and blasphemy of God” (Roland Bainton. Here I Stand. Nashville: Abingdon, 1950, page 36).

Second, we can suffer deeply on many levels at one time. I see Job suffering on four different levels simultaneously. He’s suffering physically. We know that from the end of the previous chapter. Added to that, Job says, “I can’t eat and I’m crying. I’m knotted up, physically, on the inside.”

He is suffering intellectually as his mind is flooded with “Why? Why?, Why, God?” He is confused and bewildered.

He is suffering emotionally. He says in verse 26, “I am not at ease, I am not at rest, I am not quiet in my heart, I am full in turmoil.”

Job is suffering spiritually as well. He is realizing that God has hedged him in, and he wishes God had never allowed him to be born.

There are times in our lives when we will go through the dark night of adversity in which we suffer physically, intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually all at the same time—and this will touch the deepest recesses of our souls.

Third, discouragement can cause us to lose perspective. That’s what is happening to Job here. He is losing his perspective of God. He is overreacting and making exaggerated statements. He is jumping to wrong conclusions and he has lost sound judgment.

Depression affects your whole view of life. It gives a twisted perception of reality. It produces a distorted view of God and self, often yielding an inaccurate and unhealthy negative self-image.

When you and I become discouraged over an extended period of time, we can lose perspective on life and we, too, can begin to draw wrong conclusions, to make exaggerated statements, and to see life in an irrational perspective that is not right.

Often when people are discouraged they say, “I’m going to quit and go to another church” or “I’m going to divorce my wife” or “We’re just going to leave town.” In the midst of your discouragement when you have lost perspective, you’ll make your worst decisions.

Fourth, don’t keep your deep pain to yourself. Share your hurt with someone else.

One of the things that crushed Job’s spirit as he and his friends sat in the garbage dump was his own silence. All they have done so far is simply to stare at one another. All the while, Job could have been pouring out his heart and sharing his burdens with them. But he kept it on the inside. And Job became like a teakettle on a stove and the pressure built up and up and up so that when finally released, it came spewing out. Eruption. Gusher. Explosion. Job could have prevented this by exposing his heart all along. We need our friends to help us bear our heavy loads.

Galatians says, “Bear one another’s burdens.” Romans says, “Weep with those who weep.”

Job should have freely shared what he was going through. So should you.

Fifth, remember that God always has a purpose behind suffering.

As long as you are alive, God has a purpose for your being here on the earth. And until the moment we die, we are still in the process of fulfilling that purpose. Therefore, we need to stay here upon the earth until God determines our time is over. God will not take us home until we have fulfilled our purpose.

Jesus said, “We must work the works of Him who sent Me, as long as it is day; night is coming, when no man can work” (John 9:4). While we have life and while we have opportunity, we need to do what God has called us to do.

Sixth, when discouraged, take proper steps to avoid depression.

May I give you several things that I share with counselees who are deeply afflicted and discouraged and even depressed? These are practical steps on how to overcome deep discouragement.

Memorize and meditate on Scripture. The Word of God can be a soothing balm to a breaking heart.

Listen to Christian music. God inhabits the praises of His people (so try some praise music). And God has designed us so that praise should lift our hearts to God. One of the greatest things you can do is listen to Christian music that elevates God and Christ with celebration. David played the heart for Saul. It softened, if only for a time, Saul’s bitter soul. I’d wager David also played his heart for himself. And it was a soothing comfort.

Stay plugged in to Christian fellowship. You need the strength that others provide. Don’t isolate yourselves from others. You need to allow others to affirm you and to communicate value to you. We all need to be around others as they laugh and enjoy life. Charles Swindoll has said that the Christian life should include some outrageous joy. Look for that kind of contagious fellowship.

Find someone else to encourage. One way to work through problems is take your focus off yourself and put it onto others. Begin to serve others who are in need, and it will help heal your own heart.

Have a prayer partner. Find someone you can pour your heart out to and share your needs with. Someone who will pray for you and with you. Someone who is truly trustworthy. There is something powerful about hearing another person’s voice pray for you and offer your requests up to God, perhaps at a time when you are so weak you can barely even bring your heart before God’s throne. To hear someone else pray on your behalf can lift your battered spirit.

Remember that God is sovereign. He is in control. As we see in Job’s life, God was in control of Satan and He had a master plan. He allows our suffering for a greater purpose to help weave that marvelous tapestry that He will one day reveal and that will bring glory to Himself. Remember that nothing will come into your life except that which is either allowed or sent by a sovereign God.

Maintain physical exercise. You need to walk, you need to jog, you need to ride a bike, you need to plant a garden, you need to go walk the golf course (then again, that may be why you’re depressed—that back none). Physical exercise is critical.

HELP IS ON THE WAY

Long ago, in the very days of sailing ships, a terrible storm arose and a ship was lost in a very deserted area. Only one crewman survived, washed up on a small, uninhabited island. In his desperation, the castaway daily prayed to God for help and deliverance from his lonely existence.

Each day, he looked for a passing ship and saw nothing. Eventually, he managed to build a very crude hut in which he stored the few things he had recovered from the wreck, and those things he was able to make to help him.

One day, as the sailor was returning from his daily search for food, he saw a column of smoke. As he ran to it, he saw that it was arising from his hut, which was in flames.

All was lost.

Now, not only was he alone, but he had nothing to help him in his struggle for survival. He was stunned and overcome with grief and despair. He fell into a deep depression and spent many a sleepless night wondering what was to become of him and questioning whether life itself was even worth the effort.

Then one morning, he arose early and went down to the sea. There to his amazement, he saw a ship lying offshore, and a small rowboat coming toward him.

When this once-marooned man met the ship’s captain, he asked him, “How did you know to send help? How did you know I was here?

The captain replied, “Why, we saw your smoke signal last week. But, by the time we could turn our ship around and sail against the wind, it had taken us several days to get to you. But here we are.”

Calamity may strike, but we must remember that God can use that calamity as means to bring greater blessing to our lives.

Right now, you may feel as if your life has gone up in smoke. You may feel as if your heart is going through fiery trials. I want you to know that your trial may be used by God as the very instrument that will bring you closer to Him and bring blessing from His hand.

That reality would eventually become true in Job’s life. God drew Job closer to Himself than ever before.

God will use our times of testing and trials to bring us even closer to Himself.

About the Author: Dr. Steven J. Lawson is the Senior Pastor of Christ Fellowship Baptist Church in Mobile, Alabama, having served as a pastor in Arkansas and Alabama for the past twenty-nine years. He is a graduate of Texas Tech University (B.B.A.), Dallas Theological Seminary (Th.M.), and Reformed Theological Seminary (D. Min.).

The focus of Dr. Lawson’s ministry is the verse-by-verse exposition of God’s Word. The overflow of this study and preaching has led to his authoring fifteen books, his newest being The Unwavering Resolve of Jonathan Edwards. His other recent books include The Expository Genius of John Calvin, Foundations of Grace 1400 BC-AD 100, volume one of a multi-volume series, and three volumes in the Holman Old Testament Commentary Series, Job, Psalms Volume I (Psalms 1-75), and Volume II (Psalms 76-150).

He has contributed to John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine, and Doxology, work celebrating the 500 year anniversary of the birth of John Calvin. He is the Series Editor for A Long Line of Godly Men Profile, a series of biographies of noted Christian leaders.

Dr. Lawson has also authored Famine in the Land: A Passionate Call to Expository Preaching, Made In Our Image, Absolutely Sure, The Legacy, When All Hell Breaks Loose, and Faith Under Fire. His books have been translated into various languages around the world, including Russian, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, German, Albanian, Korean, Dutch, and the Indonesian language.

He has contributed several articles to Bibliotheca Sacra, The Southern Baptist Journal of Theology, The Faith and Mission, Decision Magazine, and Discipleship Magazine, among other journals and magazines.

Dr. Lawson’s pulpit ministry takes him around the world, preaching in such places as Russia, the Ukraine, Scotland, Wales, England, Ireland, Germany, Japan, New Zealand, Switzerland, Italy and many conferences in the United States, including The Shepherd’s Conference and the Resolved Conference at Grace Community Church, Sun Valley, California, the Ligonier National and Pastor’s Conference, and the Philadelphia Conference on Reformed Theology.

He is president of New Reformation, a ministry designed to bring about biblical reformation in the church today. He serves on the Executive Board of The Master’s Seminary and College and is a Teaching Fellow with Ligonier Ministries and a Visiting Professor at the Ligonier Academy, teaching Expository Preaching and Evangelism and Missions in the Doctor of Ministry program. Dr. Lawson taught in the Distinguished Scholars Lecture Series at The Master’s Seminary, lecturing in 2004 on “Expository Preaching of the Psalms.” He also serves on the Advisory Council for Samara Preachers’ Institute & Theological Seminary, Samara, Russia.

Steve and his wife Anne have three sons, Andrew, James, and John, and a daughter, Grace Anne.

 

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Jonathan Edwards “Resolved” by Dr. Steven Lawson

For the last seven years, I have spoken at a conference on the West Coast called “Resolved.” The name is drawn from the Resolutions of Jonathan Edwards and is aimed at college students and “twenty-somethings” in the next generation. As an eighteen and nineteen year old, young Edwards wrote seventy resolutions, which became his personal mission statement to guide his life. To launch the first conference, I spoke from Edward’s first resolution, what Edwards determined would be the single most important pursuit in his life — the glory of God.

Edwards began his Resolutions with what he desired to be the driving force of his life — an all-absorbing passion to pursue the glory of God. “Resolved: that I will do whatsoever I think to be most to God’s glory and to my own good, profit, and pleasure, in the whole of my duration, without any consideration of the time, whether now or never so many myriads of ages hence. Resolved: to do whatever I think to be my duty, and most for the good and advantage of mankind in general. Resolved: to do this whatever difficulties I meet with, how ever so many and how ever so great.”

With this before his eyes weekly, this first resolution set the tone for his entire life. In every arena, he resolved to honor God supremely. Everything else in his life would be subsidiary to this one driving pursuit.

What is the glory of God? The Bible speaks of it in two ways. First, there is His intrinsic glory, the revelation of all that God is. It is the sum total of all His divine perfections and holy attributes. There is nothing that man can do to add to His intrinsic glory. Second, there is God’s ascribed glory, which is the praise and honor due His name. This is the glory that man must give to God.

For Edwards, to be resolved to live for God’s glory means to exalt His most glorious name. It means to live consistently with His holy character. It means to proclaim and promote His supreme greatness. This is the highest purpose for which God created us.

Why did Edwards place this resolution first? He understood that Scripture places the glory of God first in all things. Edwards was gripped with a transcendent, high view of God. As a result, in writing his “resolutions,” he knew he must live wholeheartedly for this awesome, sovereign God.

Thus, Edwards intentionally chose to “do whatsoever I think is most to God’s glory.” Here is the interpretive principle for everything in life. You want to know what God’s will is? You want to know whom to marry? You want to know what job to take? You want to know what ministry to pursue? You want to know how to invest your resources? You want to know how to spend your time?

There it is! Everything in life fits under this master theme. Anything out of alignment with this principle pursuit is in dangerous territory. Sometimes our decisions are not between right and wrong. Sometimes they are between good, better, and best. These are sometimes the hardest decisions. Edwards said that he would not live for what is merely good. Nor for what is better. He purposed to live only for what is best. Whatever is most to the glory of God — that is what is best!

Edwards believed that God’s glory was inseparably connected with his “own good, profit, and pleasure.” Whenever he sought God’s glory, he was confident that it would inevitably yield God’s greatest good for his life. The glory of God produced his greatest “pleasure.” So it is with us. Would you know unspeakable joy? Abundant peace? True contentment? Then pursue God’s glory.

With unwavering determination, young Edwards chose this first resolution to mark “the whole of my duration.” As long as he was alive, this was to be the driving thrust of his life. He must always live for God’s glory. He would never outgrow this central theme. He must never exchange it for a lesser glory.

Also, Edwards’ believed that his commitment to God’s glory would bring the greatest “good of mankind.” By seeking God’s honor, the greatest advantage would accrue to others. Thus, living for the glory of God would lead to the greatest influence of the Gospel upon the world. Souls would be converted. Saints would be edified. Needs would be met.

Would you have maximum impact upon this world? Would you lead others to Christ? Would you live for eternity? There it is! Live for God’s glory.

No matter what, Edwards resolved to live for God’s glory despite “whatever difficulties I meet with, how ever so many and ever so great.” Regardless the cost, despite the pain, he would pursue God’s honor. Even if it meant persecution or poverty, his mind was made up, his will resolved. He would pay any price to uphold the glory of God, regardless of the hardship that awaited him.

This is my challenge to the next generation: Would you seek the highest goal? Would you know the deepest joy? Would you realize the greatest good? Would you cast the widest influence? Would you overcome the greatest difficulties?

Then make this first resolution of Jonathan Edwards your chief aim. Be resolved to live for God’s glory.

*Article originally appeared in Tabletalk Magazine, August 1, 2008. Dr. Steven J. Lawson is the senior pastor of Christ Fellowship Baptist Church in Mobile, Alabama. Dr. Lawson serves on the board of directors of The Master’s College and on the ministerial board for Reformed Theological Seminary, and teaches with Dr. John MacArthur at the Expositor’s Institute. In addition, Dr. Lawson has written numerous books, including Foundations of Grace and Famine in the Land: A Passionate Call for Expository Preaching, The Unwavering Resolve of Jonathan Edwards, and his recent offering The Gospel Focus of Charles Spurgeon.

 

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Let’s Call A Spade a Spade – Man and God on “Sin”

Steven J. Lawson on Man vs. God on the Subject of Sin

Man calls it an accident;

God calls it an abomination;

Man calls it a blunder;

God calls it a blasphemy;

Man calls it a chance;

God calls it a choice;

Man calls it an error;

God calls it an enmity;

Man calls it a fascination;

God calls it a fatality;

Man calls it an infirmity;

God calls it an iniquity;

Man calls it a luxury;

God calls it leprosy;

Man calls it a liberty;

God calls it lawlessness;

Man calls it a trifle;

God calls it tragedy;

Man calls it a mistake;

God calls it madness;

Man calls it weakness;

God calls it willfulness.

(Steven J. Lawson, Psalms 1-75, Holman OT Commentary, p. 175)

 
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Posted by on June 29, 2011 in Quotes, Steven J. Lawson

 

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Commentary Review: Holman 2 Volume OT Psalms 1-75; & 76-170 by Steven J. Lawson

Steven J. Lawson is one of the best God-centered and Christo-centric expository preachers of our time. He is like a cross between John Piper, James Montgomery Boice and R.C. Sproul. Therefore, if any of those names mean anything to you – you will love this commentary by Lawson.

All the commentaries in the Holman series are concise, homiletical in orientation, and immensely practical for teachers and preachers of God’s Word.

Volume one contains an excellent and brief introduction to the Psalms with discussion and explanations of the unique features of the Psalms, including it’s title, authors, time period, literary types, book divisions, literary style, figures of speech, acrostics, and why and how they are so life-changing.

In volume one the first 75 Psalms are covered and in volume two he covers Psalms 76-150 and each are broken down in 75 individual chapters in the following manner:

1)    A title that summarizes the topic of the Psalm.

2)    A helpful quote that delineates the theme of the Psalm – usually from a great Christian from the past – Lawson is a very knowledgeable Church historian.

3)    A commentary on the chapter from the Bible which contains – the main idea of the passage and the supporting ideas written out in an expository outline with explanation, grammatical help, and exegetical insights.

4)    A main idea review and a conclusion for the chapter.

5)    A Conclusion – usually an excellent illustration of the passage.

6)    A Life Application – typically questions, commands, and principles to be applied from the passage.

7)    A prayer based on the passages truths and applications – all very God-focused and oriented toward praise.

8)    A section on “deeper discoveries” – usually key word studies, theological insights, and historical, cultural, and textual facts & helps.

9)    A teaching outline for the passage.

10) Lastly, issues for discussion taken from the passage.

I highly recommend this commentary on the Psalms – especially if you are only going to have one or two commentaries on the Psalms. Lawson is practical, theological, and does a superb job of getting to the heart of each passage without too much discussion of the details. I find that the devotional and practical nature of the commentary makes it very suitable for personal study, as well as the communal study of God’s Word.

Dr. Steven J. Lawson is the Senior Pastor of Christ Fellowship Baptist Church in Mobile, Alabama. Max Anders – the editor of the series is the Senior Pastor of Castleview Baptist Church in Indianapolis, Indiana.

 

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