Made Sufficient: A Theology of Preaching

preachMade Sufficient: A Theology of Preaching

INTRODUCTION

Life in our culture today has one very common personal philosophy that will be heard anywhere you go: “You can be anything you set your mind to.” Our school systems, parental urgings, and media culture all cheer us on with shouts of “be all we can be, “just do it,” and “you can make friends and influence people!” We live in a world of driven and purposeful self-sufficiency. If you are a doctor and you find a new condition you are not familiar with, you study, research, prepare, and build the knowledge base and skill set within yourself to accomplish the task. You work hard to achieve the skills required for the task. If an engineer is faced with a new complicated project, they also turn to the books and the training. Study, prepare, practice, test, do all things to develop the personal skills to become competent and capable.

Coming to scripture with this worldview is dangerous enough for the average Christian, but it’s a death wish for those aspiring to the pulpit. In so many ways, our career success cultural handicap has created “you can achieve anything you set your mind to” preaching. Young men feeling the call to preaching start with the philosophy that hard work and personal development of precise skills is all that is needed to assume the pulpit and to receive the celebration and cheers of men. This is why Paul’s words to the Corinthians regarding the ministry of the New Covenant is so shocking.[1] You can just about hear the needle scratching across the record as our culture engages with Paul’s words from 2 Corinthians 2:16b-17,

…who is sufficient for these things? For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ[2]

and 2 Corinthians 3:5-6,

Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit.

The World’s response to Paul is: “Who is sufficient for these things? I am of course! I can do anything I set my mind to. I will work hard and become sufficient to preach.” This response, whether voiced or felt secretly deep in our heart is the issue at hand. The biblical act of preaching is not a calling that can be professionalized. Preaching is not something that can be undertaken or mastered by sheer personal will. Preaching is an act like no other. Preaching is not a career choice. Preaching is a supernatural calling to proclaim God’s Word as a reconciled ambassador for Christ. It is only through God that we are made sufficient to speak on His behalf.

MADE SUFFICIENT

Preaching the Word of God is every bit as challenging as walking a tightrope hundreds of feet above the ground. Lean too far in one direction and you fall to a certain death. Overcorrect and lean too far the other direction and you experience the same results. One missed step and you are in great danger. Preaching is similar, not in physical balance and concentration, but in spiritual balance and humility. On one side we can fall into the certain dangers of self-sufficiency and on the other, the certain peril of lazy unpreparedness. The rope itself, on which we safely traverse to the other side, is humility grounded in the knowledge that we are not sufficient to accomplish this task in our own strength and skills, but we are made sufficient by the power of the one of whom we speak. To make the point of how God accommodates our weakness by providing preachers to speak on His behalf, Peter Adam[3], in his little book, Speaking God’s Words, quotes John Calvin, from his Institutes, on the power of God in preaching through the man, rather than the power coming from the man himself:[4]

it forms a most excellent and useful training to humility, when he accustoms us to obey his word though preached by men like ourselves, or, it may be, our inferiors in worth. Did he himself speak from heaven, it were no wonder if his sacred oracles were received by all ears and minds reverently and without delay. For who would not dread his present power? Who would not fall prostrate at the first view of his great majesty? Who would not be overpowered by that immeasurable splendour? But when a feeble man, sprung from the dust, speaks in the name of God, we give the best proof of our piety and obedience, by listening with docility to his servant, though not in any respect our superior. [5]

All men would fall on their faces in reverence if God came down from Heaven and preached to us. However, God chose to use feeble broken men sprung up from the dust to deliver His message to the World (Ex 4:10-12, 1 Cor 1:17-21,1 Thes 2:1-4, 1 Tim 1:12-15). To understand how this feeble, unremarkable, inferior  man can faithfully represent the infinite, holy, omnipresent God of the universe, we must understand the theology of preaching.

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Drama in the SBC over Calvinism.

john-calvin-speaking-at-the-councilThis article is worth the time to read. We find a great internal battle brewing in the Southern Baptist Convention over the Doctrines of Grace, Calvinism, and Reformed thought. This is a debate that needs to occur from a Biblical perspective and not from a tradition or opinion perspective. This open letter calls for the resignation of Dr. Albert Mohler and others. Here is a quote to give you a taste of the tone:

“Those responsible for these self-produced changes need to go. Make no mistake about it, the change that has been brought on the SBC by the efforts of a few Calvinists is what is causing the divisiveness in the convention today.

Once these individuals have stepped aside, the divisiveness could begin to subside and hope for cooperation could begin once again between Calvinists and non-calvinists in the SBC. One thing is clear; if these individuals are allowed to maintain the status quo, the divisiveness will only get worse as non-calvinists are made aware of what has actually taken place and what will no doubt continue to transpire until the goal of a Reformed SBC is indeed a reality.”

These are bold assertions. We know that revival and reformation come with pain and, yes, with division. I look forward to the response from Mohler, Dever, Ascol, and the others. Stand firm in the Lord, Gentleman.

READ THE WHOLE ARTICLE HERE

 

 

Sermon of the Week – Crisis of Faith and the Goodness of God by Brian Borgman (Conclusion)

This week’s Sermon Feature is the conclusion to the 4 part “Crisis of Faith and the Goodness of God” by Pastor Brian Borgman of Minden, NV.

If we haven’t had a Crisis of Faith yet in our walk with God, we will someday. Pastor Brian addresses the heartache and struggles in this encouraging and edifying sermon series from Psalm 73. Enjoy Part 4 of 4 as this week’s Sermon of the Week. Be sure to listen to Parts 1, 2, and 3 as well.

Play MP3 for Crisis of Faith – Part 4 of 4

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Pastor Brian’s Church: Grace Nevada

Sermon of the Week – Crisis of Faith and the Goodness of God by Brian Borgman (Part 3)

Crisis of Faith and the Goodness of God – Part 3 of 4

by Pastor Brian Borgman.

Continuing on this week with part 3 of this 4 part sermon series. If we haven’t had a Crisis of Faith yet in our walk with God, we will someday. Pastor Brian addresses the heartache and struggles in this encouraging and edifying sermon series from Psalm 73. Enjoy Part 3 of 4 as this week’s Sermon of the Week.

Play MP3 for Crisis of Faith – Part 3 of 4

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You may have to click “maybe later” past the “sign up” page on Sermon Audio for the download the audio file.

Pastor Brian’s Church: Grace Nevada

The Bible For Bloggers – By Bryan Chapell

Wise words by former Covenant Theological Seminary President, Bryan Chapell. This was posted on the Gospel Coalition website and has a little something for everyone of us who write blogs, read blogs, and comment on blogs. Enjoy this read, it is very profitable for our approach to the written word on the internet and seeks to glory Christ in all we do as our first and foremost function.

The Bible for Bloggers

Bryan Chapell | Aug 27, 2012

What biblical principles should guide Christian bloggers? I am increasingly thinking about this question because maintaining the mission and reputation of the institution I lead increasingly requires me to respond quickly and frequently to questions, assertions, and criticisms from the unjuried world of the blogosphere.

I do not think I have always responded well. Defending truth may well require correction and rebuke (2 Tim. 4:2). Still, I confess discomfort with the ready sarcasm and flip accusations that seem so prevalent in the world of blogs and but so foreign to the biblical ethic of esteeming others more highly than ourselves (Phil. 2:3-4).

Listening to the “ouch” from others about things I have written, and feeling the “ouch” from what others have written, have convicted me of the need to think more seriously about the biblical benefits and boundaries of such words—a task also urged by leaders with similar concerns at a recent meeting of The Gospel Coalition’s Council.

I am particularly concerned about two issues: What general principles should guide Christians in distributed communication, and what special principles should guide Christians when they address issues about and to the church in such communication?

Some may shrug off the question of what is proper Christian communication on the internet, saying it is hardly likely that all internet dialogue will honor the rule of Christ. Even Christians may argue that internet sites and social media create something of a digital lunchroom where participants not only expect the conversation to be free flowing but also less accountable to the standards of traditional media.

Of course, the context and genre of communication properly influence our judgment of what Christians can or should say. We do not expect a stage play to sound like a Sunday sermon, or a website to be as careful as a catechism. But if Christians are to be salt and light in every sphere of life, then they must also consider what should characterize internet communication that honors Christ.

The present era is not the first in which Christians have considered whether the Bible’s standards apply to new forms of communication. Gutenberg, Marconi, Coughlin, Hearst, Limbaugh, Drudge, Huffington, and Zuckerberg represent waves of new communication approaches that have changed the shoreline of expectations regarding what utterances can or should be distributed. Still, we limit our God if we presume that he cannot establish transcendent standards of truth and love that supersede changing communication expectations.

As a Christian who believes in the lordship of Christ over the whole of life, I know that I have a responsibility to discern what the Bible requires of me in all aspects of life—even those of the web. [1] I also know that I cannot here address all possible issues (such as those faced by bloggers in lands of persecution). Still, I hope the following discussion of biblical principles will make all of us who engage in internet communication more conscious of applicable biblical principles—and also a bit more reflective before hitting the “post” button.

I. Christian Communication Must Be True

Christian communication that purports to be true, should be. That’s obvious, but some additional specificity may be helpful—and challenging. The third commandment (which requires care for God’s name, particularly in taking oaths and vows in support of the truth) and the ninth commandment (which is more narrowly concerned with malicious slander) plainly forbid spreading falsehoods in either personal or public communication. [2]

The Bible repeats the requirement of guarding the truth many times and in many ways in both the Old and New Testaments (e.g., Ex 23:1; Lv 19:11-16, 35-36; Ps 82:2-3; Prv 23:10; 31:8-9; Rom 12:9-10; 2 Cor 12:20; Eph 4:25; 2 Tm 3:3; Jas 3:17; 1 Jn 4:20). The judgment of charity binds us not only to tell the truth but also to seek to interpret other’s statements and actions in the best light (Mt 7:12; 1 Cor 13:6-7). We are also obligated to protect the reputations of others against slander, innuendo, false implication, and even the damage to truth caused by inappropriate silence (Zech 8:16; Prv 17:15; 1 Tm 6:4; 2 Tm 4:16).

These standards of truth are high, but they merely form the ground floor of the biblical architecture for communication that honors God. Simply telling the truth is not enough.

II. Christian Communication Must Be Provable

The Bible does not allow us to publish what we think is true if we cannot prove it. Before we disseminate favorable or unfavorable information we are required to ensure and evidence its accuracy.

Continue reading here: The Bible for Bloggers On Gospel Coalition website

Sermon of the Week – Crisis of Faith and the Goodness of God by Brian Borgman (Part 2)

Crisis of Faith and the Goodness of God – Part 2 of 4

by Pastor Brian Borgman.

If we haven’t had a Crisis of Faith yet in our walk with God, we will someday. Pastor Brian addresses the heartache and struggles in this encouraging and edifying 4 part sermon series from Psalm 73. Enjoy Part 1 of 4 as this week’s Sermon of the Week.

Play MP3 for Crisis of Faith – Part 2 of 4

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You may have to click “maybe later” past the “sign up” page on Sermon Audio for the download the audio file.

Pastor Brian’s Church: Grace Nevada

Vaughan Roberts Fighting His Battle without Compromise

The web lit up this evening on Facebook and Gospel Coalition due to this important interview with Vaughan Roberts posted by blogger David Ould. I believe it is an important contribution to the current discussion of the Christian faith and homosexuality. As you’ll see when you read this article, Vaughan Roberts has enter the discussion of same-sex attraction from the INSIDE rather than commenting from the usual faith-based outside position. I was very uneasy in just reading the headline because I have great respect for Roberts as a pastor and theologian. But I must say, I was encouraged by Roberts uncompromising Biblical stance on his own very real battle of which he goes into very personal detail. Be sure to read the full interview by Julian Hardyman at the link below.

From davidould.net”

“In a tremendously brave move Vaughan Roberts, rector of St Ebbe’s, Oxford, and a prominent leader amongst English evangelicals has announced that he experiences same-sex attraction and yet he remains celibate since this is the clear teaching of Scripture.

It’s helpful for background to understand that in the Church of England, in which Vaughan is an ordained minister, we have had increasing interventions by theological liberals over this issue, advocating for the acceptance of homosexuality in general and the blessing of same-sex relationships. Vaughan’s statement and interview ought to be read not least as a contribution to that debate.

Vaughan has issued the following press release,

In the preface to a new edition of my book “Battles Christians Face”, which features eights areas of struggle, including homosexuality, I write that, to a greater or lesser degree, I face them all myself. Close family and friends have known for a considerable time that I experience same sex attraction. None of the issues in the book define me. As a single man I am celibate, because I believe the Bible teaches that the right context for sex is only in marriage between a man and a woman.

My motivation for writing the preface and answering the questions in the interview in “Evangelicals Now” is pastoral. I believe there is value in a greater openness to talk about these issues in evangelical churches. I hope to encourage those who experience same sex attraction and yet believe that fulness of life is to be found in Christ and holding to his teaching. Singleness can be challenging at times, but I have many good friends, and a loving family, and I thank God for the blessings and opportunities it offers.”

Continue reading here: David Ould’s Blog Post

Full interview by Julian Hardyman here with more questions and answers