Indicatives and Imperatives

The Bible is full of commands, Old Testament and New. Perhaps no issue confuses people as much as rightly determining which commands are for New Covenant people and how they are to obeyed.  Early in the history of our religion, an argument arose that continues still today: does almighty God command man to do that which he is unable to do? When Augustine wrote a prayer asking the Lord to command what He would and grant what He commanded, Pelagius went bonkers over the thought that God must grant the creature the ability to obey what God commanded. His view was that man must inherently be able to do what God commands him to do, as it violated his sense of “fairness” for God to command man to do what man could not.

In our day, many people think Matt 5:48 (be ye perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect) is a command we can perform. This perspective is fraught with an unreasonably high opinion of man, missing the point that Christ alone is perfect and we can only be acceptable in the Father’s sight by being found in Him – not by working real hard trying to be perfect.

To properly interpret and apply commands from God, one must understand the context (historical and theological) and getting things in their proper order – commands follow and are applied according to identity; imperatives follow indicatives. The command to repent and believe on Christ can only apply to and be obeyed by one who has been regenerated and raised from spiritual death by the Spirit of God.

While not anywhere close to a comprehensive lesson on this topic, it’s important to grasp it in order to see why what the preacher in the following sermon did was so wrong. This is not an uncommon error, but it’s one we must be on guard against – no matter who is preaching.

The title of this problematic sermon is good (available here): 4 Marks of a Hell-Bound Man. It sounds like a message about indicatives that reveal one bound for hell. But the way John MacArthur preaches this sermon is to present each of the 4 marks as something you can choose to do if you want to go to hell – “How is it that people die in their sins unforgiven? How does that happen? Unjustified, unconverted, unregenerated, unredeemed and bound for everlasting hell. Well, there are four attitudes that guarantee you will die in your sin, four attitudes. If you want to die in your sin then these four things will make that a reality.”  These four attitudes, self-righteousness, worldliness, ignorance, and unbelief are each presented with this assessment: “You want to die in your sin? Be selfrighteous, worldly, unbelieving and willfully ignorant.” Continue reading

Persuasive Preaching

Persuasive Preaching Overstreet revised3 (7-19-14)

A review by Stuart Brogden

R. Larry Overstreet has subtitled this book, A Biblical and Practical Guide to the Effective Use of Persuasion, and in his prologue (page 4) makes the case that in order for preaching to be persuasive it must include a public invitation. We will see, in chapter 12, that Overstreet is not a disciple of Charles Finney – he warns about the abuse that has followed after Finney’s “new methods”, comparing persuasion with manipulation. What, then, does our author mean by the term “persuasive preaching?” He defines it at the end of chapter 1, page 14:

“(a) the process of preparing biblical, expository message using a persuasive pattern, and

(b) presenting them through verbal and nonverbal communication means

(c) to autonomous individuals who can be convicted and/or taught by God’s Holy Spirit,

(d) in order to alter or strengthen

(e) their attitudes and beliefs towards God, His Word, and other individuals,

(f) resulting in their lives being transformed into the image of Christ.”

While I would combine (c) with (b) and (e) with (d), the overall point he is making is one I think any pastor could embrace. What pastor would not want his people to be transformed by the renewing of their minds as a result of the Spirit working through his preaching?

The bulk of this book, chapters 3 – 11, is an extensive, technical argument in favor of persuasive speech, from the Bible and pagan perspectives – heavily footnoted. I found this part of the book ponderous and laborious; perhaps because I am already convinced that the Lord has shown us we are to be persuasive in our presentation of His Word, while not trusting in our ability to persuade men as an effective means of building His people up.

I think chapter 13, “The Holy Spirit in Preaching”, is the most important part of the book. Overstreet rightly points out that He is the originator of God’s Word (page 172), the revealer of God’s Word (page 172), the communicator (page 175), and the propagator of God’s Word (page 177). We are reminded that the Holy Spirit equips the preacher (180) and the listeners (181). These are excellent reminders and much needed in these days, as so many people have apparently latched on to the notion that preachers are the ones who do these things! Our author instructs us to not grieve or quench the Spirit, but walk in the Spirit, be filled with the Spirit, and in prayer to the Spirit (pages 184 – 191). If the book had ended here, it would have been fine. But Overstreet told us in the prologue that persuasive preaching must include an invitation – so the last chapter, 14, is on that topic.

Much of this last chapter presents the reader with the notion that chapter 13 was not for real – as men are presented as the change agents for “receiving Christ” and “committing themselves to full-time Christian service” (page 194). Overstreet acknowledges (195) that decisions are sometimes known only to God but tries to make the case for public invitations in order make them known to men. He quotes Faris D. Whitesell, who comes across as a Finney disciple: “Anything that helps us to carry out the principles and teaching of the Scriptures in a more effective and practical way is scriptural.” I cannot help but think of Eli’s children and wonder of Whitesell and Overstreet recall their doom.

As he pulls together his arguments in favor of public invitations within the local church, he draws on myriad passages of Scripture that show public invitations and exhortations being made without the local church. The invitations in the Bible are consistently “repent and believe!”, called out all men everywhere. Within the church, we see an intense struggle to stay faithful to the Word to equip the saints. Only once that I am aware of do we see unbelievers in the church – and they are not invited to the front. The focus from Paul is to be clear in the presentation of the Word of God, that the unbeliever might be convicted of truth (1 Cor 14:22 – 25).

While I am not in agreement with Overstreet’s premise – persuasive preaching does not have to end with a public invitation – I am encouraged by his counsel on the use and construction of the invitation:

Be Sensitive to Length

Be Clear in Appeal

Be Exact in Action

Be Loving in Presentation

Be Consistent with Message

Be Positive in Expectation

Be Earnest in Delivery

And he is wise in his warnings the problems one might face with the use of public invitations:

The Liability of Confusion

The Liability of Narrowness

The Liability of Weariness

The Liability of a “Canned” Invitation

The Liability of Unethical Behavior

The focus of this book is good – preachers ought to be persuasive in their preaching! Preachers ought to call men to repent and believe, to cast aside sin and press on with our eyes fixed on the Lord. But we find no biblical warrant for having a public invitation at the end of our sermons. I am thankful for men who understand the dangers of abusing the invitation system – though that abuse tends to be the model followed by most who use it. My prayer is that those who think it important would find in this book a sound argument for being sober and restrained in its practice, lest men think it’s the preacher upon whom all things depend.

Apocity: The Greatest Omission

In my book Apocity: The Greatest Omission I coin a word (apocity – pronounced uh-pa-city) to describe the sin of not evangelizing. This book not only coins a word, but it reveals the pandemic apparent within western Christianity. Moreover, this book not only diagnosis this sin (thoroughly), but it also provides a gospel centered remedy.

Sneak preview can be found here:

Interview on Janet Mefferd Show can be found here (skip to minute 20):

But selling books is not why I am writing. Since I don’t get a dime off of sales, money is not in the forefront of my concern.

As I have always said, it seems that the western, local churches have failed at the one command that Jesus imparted to us right before He ascended into heaven at the right hand of the Father. When Jesus gave us what is now known as the “great commission,” Jesus explicitly stated that we are to make disciples, and one of the components of doing so is “teaching them to observe all things I have commanded you…” (Matt. 28:20). The other component is “going” or “in your going” (as if that makes a difference). For some reason, however, we have not been consistent in teaching the last thing that Christ taught. What irony that the very commission Christ gave embodies the necessity for making disciples in the world, and yet we will teach others to obey everything else Christ taught, meanwhile dancing around this particular mandate to be regular, consistent, and purposeful witnesses for Christ!

What do we see in the news in America right now? Ebola, ISIS threat, homosexual agenda, feminism, Hollywood attacks on Christianity, false teachers getting the spotlight, pastors getting subpoenaed, violence, sexual immorality, and the list goes on! And what are the majority of local churches doing? Playing their apocitic fiddles while Rome burns! The current state of affairs in America right now is ripe for gospel preaching and we are sleeping (Prov. 10:5). Nevertheless, the LORD has His true laborers. Those that are not faithful workers in His field are going to be found out as frauds in the end (Matt. 25:29).

In giving the sin of not evangelizing a name, it is my hope that many will consider the linguistic power of being able to put a name to this detrimental and once nameless sin. Not only that, to provide a talking point concerning the evangelistic efforts (or lack thereof) in our own lives. In this post, and in future posts to come, I pray that we all can demolish all the sorry excuses we make that keep us from being regular, consistent, and purposeful in fulfilling the command of Christ to make disciples. If you are, or if you know anyone, that is negligent in going out into the world to make disciples (an apocite) toward family, friends, co-workers, AND strangers, I pray this post (and the book) will revive and reveal the greatest omission in our evangelical churches today.

If you wish to purchase a copy of “Apocity”, go here:–Apocity-The-Greatest-Omission_p_274.html

Call Sinners to Respond to the Gospel!

Geoffrey R. Kirkland, Elder-Shepherd
Christ Fellowship Bible Church

Someone once said that Christians should learn to plead with sinners to embrace Christ and escape hell. A child of God could faithfully give the gospel, speak of God and His character, man and His desperate need, Christ and His sufficient atonement, repentance and faith in clear terms, but one element that evangelists seem to omit is the urgent call for sinners to respond to the gospel! Paul said that he was not ashamed to beg! He pleaded with sinners to come to Christ. Whitefield loudly and lovingly wept as he urged sinners to turn to Christ and live! Spurgeon spoke of this kind of urgent pleading with frequency. The Puritan preachers spent a good deal of time in their sermons exhorting sinners to embrace Christ and follow Him. We should learn from these examples and do the same. We must call sinners to respond to the gospel.

How should Christians ‘call for a response’ when speaking the gospel?

1. Call for a response in OBEDIENCE TO SCRIPTURE.
Elijah called the pagans to ‘choose whom they would serve’: if Baal was god, follow him; if Yahweh was god, follow Him. Joshua told the children of Israel to ‘choose whom they would serve’ and he modeled it by saying that he and his household would serve the LORD. Jesus pleaded with His disciples to ‘compel sinners’ to come to the wedding feast. Paul pleaded with Herod to repent and come to Christ. As ambassadors of God Almighty, believers must take Paul’s words and beg for men and women to be reconciled to God. We must call for a response! We must plead with folks to embrace Christ! We must follow the example set before us by the Apostles: “Repent and believe the gospel!”

2. Call for a response in FOLLOWING CHRIST’S EXAMPLE.
The life and ministry of Christ unveils His heart as He pleaded with sinners repeatedly and patiently to come to Himself for salvation. Often, in the Temple against the backdrop of the hypocritical, works-righteousness system of Judaism, Christ would teach how He came down from heaven as the living Bread, as the water of life, as the door to heaven, as the Shepherd for the sheep, as the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and he invited all to come to Him. If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me. He exemplified not only the clear and bold proclamation of gospel-truth, but he also modeled urgent and compassionate exhortations to respond to the gospel. We must do the same.

3. Call for a response in WARNING AGAINST UNBELIEF.
The gospel of Jesus Christ is a gospel that saves. The gospel of Jesus Christ delivers from hell. No other message on the planet can save from eternal perdition. No other Name given to sinners can deliver from damnation. No other substitutionary work can atone for sins and remove God’s just fury. The good news of Jesus Christ and His cross-work and His imputed righteousness is what saves. It is for this reason that every evangelist should incorporate into his gospel conversations a warning against unbelief. Repeatedly, Jesus said that whoever does not have the Son does not have the Father. Whoever rejected the Apostles in their itinerant preaching rejected the Son and whoever rejected the Son rejected the Father. No one can have the Father without the Son. None can say yes to the Son and say no to the Father. There is no way to come to the Father but through the one door: Jesus Christ. He alone is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No other path exists whereby one may come to God the Father. Tellers of the gospel must warn sinners of this! To not believe is to commit the sin of unbelief. To live in unbelief is to persist in willful sin. To refuse to bow the knee to Christ now is to live in unbelief and sin now. Christians should faithfully proclaim the gospel, diligently call sinners to respond to the gospel, and boldly warn sinners against rejecting the gospel and dying in the state of willful rejection of the truth (even after having heard the faithful gospel presented to them). Warn the sinner, O Christian!

4. Call for a response in COUNTING THE COST.

Jesus did not preach a gospel akin to many of the popular evangelists in the 21st century today. He never told His followers that they would enjoy wealth, happiness, better health, and certain peace in and of themselves. Rather, he told them to die to themselves. He commanded them to lose their lives. He told them to hate everything on earth in comparison with the supreme love they must have for Him alone. He required exclusive allegiance. He demanded that they forsake any and all other options of attaining righteousness. He warned them that they would die for the faith. He informed them that suffering would certainly come upon them. He spoke that they would be rejected, despised, mocked, and endure much hardship for the gospel. Yet he still called for sinners to respond to the gospel. Perhaps this is why many of the ‘followers’ (=disciples) of Jesus heard his teachings and then ‘left him and followed Him no more.’ A faithful gospel proclamation that models the heralding of Christ should include a plea to count the cost. Unless one gives up all his possessions (that is, a willingness to renounce everything and anything for the cause of Christ), he cannot be Christ’s disciple. O Christian, include this in your gospel call!

5. Call for a response in RELIANCE ON THE SPIRIT.

Jesus Himself preached that the Spirit gives life. No one can come to Me, Jesus said, unless the Spirit of God draws Him. One must be born from above and be born of the Spirit. Jesus believed that new life eternal does not come at a sinner’s own whim. No one enters heaven because of his own freewill. No one chooses Christ because he desires the fire insurance so as to escape hell merely. O Christian, evangelize with such a reliance on the Spirit that you understand that no dead sinner can come to life unless the Spirit of God regenerates him first. Life must first enter the sinner before he can call out to Christ in saving faith and be justified. Rely on the Spirit in all your gospel conversations! Pray passionately! Pray persistently! Pray constantly! Pray believingly! Call sinners to respond to the gospel with all the persuasive mechanisms you have — and yet realize that you can’t do anything in the slightest to save someone, or even make them desire it more. It fully rests on the sovereignty of the Spirit. So call for a response as you confidently trust in the Sovereign grace of the Spirit of God to take your words and bring life.

6. Call for a response in COMPASSION FOR THE SINNER.
A sick patient sitting in the doctor’s office may hear the news of a life-threatening illness that has come into his body and as the doctor gives him the news and the grave consequences, the doctor who really loves his patient will offer the one medicine that can deliver the person from death. He not only describes the only solution available; he urges the patient to receive it — immediately. The physician does this because he cares for his patients. And how much more must the child of God proclaim the gospel to the lost and hellbound out of great love for their immortal souls! The Christian has the only solution to escape hell. The child of God knows the only path to escaping the tidal wave of God’s rage. The believer possesses the only shield and refuge to protect from the flaming and soul-piercing darts of God’s eternal fury. In telling the good news of salvation, the Christian should call for a response out of deep compassion for the sinner. O may the sinner escape hell. O call for the rebel to run for refuge to Jesus Christ! O plead with the transgressor to come to Christ, the wrath-bearing sacrifice who died for His people and offers them His righteousness through repentance and faith in Him. O may the evangelist’s compassion boil! O may the proclaimer run after sinners and plead with them, hold to them, persuade them, and urge them to flee from the wrath to come with a Christ-like and a Christ-pursuing passion!

Reposted by Permission from Pastor Geoffrey Kirkland
HT: Vassal of the King

Baptist – What does it mean and why is it important?

It was my privilege to preach at a small country Baptist church this past Sunday. My sermon for that eveningBaptists-logo  was to help them better understand why being a Baptist church matters. The outline for the sermon is this:

Baptists – where did the name come from?
Four Distinctives:
1) Baptism: Mode, Candidates, Significance
2) Nature of the local church: Local autonomy, Offices, Membership, Relation to civil governments
3) Liberty of Conscience
4) Authority of Scripture: Individual responsibility to know the Word of God and live in light of eternity.