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The Conditional Texts

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There are over 85 New Testament passages that speak of conditional security of the believer.  The Church has struggled with what to do with them.  There are basically three approaches.  First, we make them all be only speculative.  They are not real.  They are just there to hypothetically warn us.  The second approach is to say that they speak to those who are not true disciples of Jesus.  These are false converts and the Lord is giving these warning texts to warn false disciples.  The final approach is to hold that the apostasy texts speak of very real warnings to disciples.  Disciples are to remain faithful to Christ Jesus from the beginning to end.

I hold to the final view.  Most Arminians do.  If you heard a sound Arminian preach the warning texts, they would sound very much like Calvinists do who hold to perseverance of the saints but we would differ with the Calvinists over whether apostasy is true or not.  Calvinists such as John MacArthur hold that true saints will perverse to the end but he believes that false converts will be shown by leaving the faith (1 John 2:19).  This is a popular view and I admit that I have more in line with this view then with the view of radical “once saved, always saved” teachers such as Charles Stanley or Tony Evans.  Ray Comfort, whom I greatly love, holds to MacArthur’s view.

The problem I have with this view (of perseverance of the saints) is twofold for me.  First, most Calvinists (and some Arminians who hold to eternal security) preach hard on the assurance of our salvation (Romans 8:16; Galatians 4:4-6) but they don’t preach as hard on the necessity of perseverance.  I fear that some do this wanting to promote assurance while failing to preach the full council of God.  The Scriptures are balanced in showing us that we are saved by faith and kept by faith (1 Peter 1:5), that we are secure in Christ Jesus (John 10:27-29; Romans 8:38-39) but we must remain in Christ (1 John 2:24-25; Jude 21).  The balance view of Scripture is that God saves us and He keeps us (Jude 24) but He also warns us to continue in the faith (Romans 11:20-22; 1 Corinthians 15:1-2; Colossians 1:21-23; 2 Peter 1:10-11).

The second problem I have with the view above of MacArthur or Comfort is that it doesn’t truly promote assurance.  A person would wonder each time they sin whether they are not elect or not.  After all, as MacArthur preaches, the true elect will persevere and those who fail to persevere were never saved to begin with.  How can one have assurance then apart from preaching necessary perseverance?  Surely we should preach as Paul the Apostle did in Acts 14:22?  The promise of Jesus in John 8:51 is that if we keep His Word, we will never see death.  We will die naturally in this world (Romans 5:12) but we will never die for eternity if we keep His Word (John 3:16-17).

The truth is that the conditional texts do not scare me.  They do not make me feel less saved.  They do not make me believe that i am working to keep myself saved.  In fact, just the opposite happens to me.  I thank God for the conditional texts.  I am thankful that God cares enough about my soul to warn me to continue in the faith.  I am thankful that God’s Word warns against sin (Galatians 6:7-9) and His Word calls me to forsake my sins while trusting in Christ and His grace to help me overcome sin (Titus 2:11-12; 1 John 2:1-2; 3:4-10).  I am thankful for the work of the Lord Jesus in saving me from sins by His grace and through faith in His blood (Romans 3:23-24).  Yet I equally fear Him just as He said (Luke 12:4-5).  I humble myself before the Lord Jesus and confess that I not only need Him for my salvation but I need Him for holiness as well (Luke 14:11).  Jesus alone is my salvation and I will never cease to need Him (1 Corinthians 1:30-31).

My advice is this: preach both the security and assurance we have in Jesus and preach the warning texts as well.  Preach the balanced view of Scripture.  Charles Spurgeon had written over his Pastor’s College: “Holding fast I am held.”  That should be our motto as well.  Jesus is our salvation.  We are not saved by faith in an ism but through faith in the living Person of the Lord Jesus (Romans 10:9-10).  Our salvation is not based on what I do but upon His works (Titus 3:5-7).  I am not striving to enter the kingdom by my works but His work (John 6:29).  I hold fast to Him.  I cling to Him.  I love Him above all others (Luke 14:25-27) and I pray to remain steadfast in faith in Him (Colossians 2:6-10).  I pray that nothing captivates me like Jesus (1 John 2:15-17).

Calvinist Debates (And What We Can Learn From Them)

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Over the past year or so Calvinists have been debating one another more frequently.  There has always been some debating going on with both Arminianism and Calvinism among those who agree but disagree over minor points.  As of late, Calvinists have turned it up somewhat in their debating.

Most of their debating has been over theonomy.  Theonomy is the view that the law of God is still applicable to all cultures today and not merely for the Israelites.  Some Calvinists believe that every nation should be under the law as its basic structure and to follow the law as the Bible gives it to us.  This would include men such as the late Greg Bahnsen (whom I respect greatly) or Gary DeMar.  Other Calvinists argue against this and believe that the law of Moses was just for the Israelites and not for all nations under heaven.  They point out that Christ fulfilled the judicial and ceremonial law as well as being our Passover Lamb (1 Corinthians 5:7) for our moral sins.  They point to passages such as Galatians 4:1-6 or Hebrews 10:1-4.

I am not here to settle this issue.  I think we all agree that Jesus saves sinners and this should be the heart of our message and not side issues.  I welcome healthy debates but sadly these debates among Calvinists have turned pretty ugly with some on one side saying the other side is not even saved.  I have experienced these sort of attacks before.  It is not loving nor kind.  I have received e-mails from Calvinists who tell me I am lost, that I am going to hell along with John Wesley, that Arminius is in hell, that God will judge me by the “doctrines of grace” and whether I held to them.  I use to receive almost daily e-mails from a Calvinist from California who told me I was a puppet of Satan, that I was dead in my sins, that I was preaching a false Christ, that I rejected the Word of God, etc.  I would always reply, “Thank you for your love for me” or “Please pray that Jesus would be glorified through me and not through casting me in hell.”  After I starting just replying, “Romans 5:8″ he gave up.  I suppose he is still out there praying for us Arminians to be saved.

Another guy on Twitter use to send me tweets almost daily seeking to debate me over every little word that I wrote.  I could post on prayer and I would get a tweet from him wanting to debate the sovereignty of God.  If I posted something about my children he would tweet me and ask me about the doctrine of unconditional election.  I finally blocked him altogether.

In fact, on Twitter there are a group of Calvinists that spend their time watching Twitter for any tweets on Calvinism.  All you have to do is go onto Twitter and hashtag #Calvinism with something negative about the system and watch them come to life.  They will tweet you hundreds of times till you either block them or pull down the tweet.

Then there are the followers of Dr. James White.  Now I will admit up front that I regard Dr. White as a brother in the Lord.  I enjoy his works.  I listen to his podcasts (until he goes off on Arminianism).  His works on Mormonism have been a source of great help to me over the years.  He was one of the first apologists that I ever heard of and read as a young disciple of Christ over 20 years ago.  I was shocked to learn he was a Calvinist but this has not stopped me from loving him and appreciating him.  Yet Dr. White has an army of loyal followers who follow him completely.  If you ever question Dr. White, these folks will come out like ants to defend their man.  Dr. White will occasionally jump in with them but he normally stays out.  They are on Twitter and Facebook but they are out there defending Dr. White as the greatest apologist in the history of Christianity.

I suppose there are Arminians out there like these above.  I don’t know of any.  I am not one for sure.  I would disagree with Calvinists all day on Twitter or other forms of social media but my battle is not against Calvinists. I simply want to exalt Christ, see the gospel go forth, and yes, along the way, promote biblical theology as I see it and that would be Arminianism.  I have been called a raving Arminian only once and I believe this brother go me wrong (he lives in the UK and doesn’t know me).  Most who do know me including my Calvinist friends are often shocked to find out that I am an Arminian.  It is not what I seek to promote.  My agenda is not to exalt Arminius.  In fact, I don’t care if people know who is Arminius is or not.  I appreciate the man but he is not the one who is worth praising.  Jesus alone is!

Paul the Apostle wrote in 1 Corinthians 1:12-13 words we need to read and hear:

12 What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” 13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?

I ask the same: Is Christ divided?  Was Arminius, Calvin, Edwards, Spurgeon, White, Campbell, Reasoner, Owen, Watson, etc. crucified for you?  Or were you baptized in the name of Bunyon, Ravenhill, Tozer, Lewis?

The reality is that we divide over issues that are not truly related to the gospel.  I know some will contend that Calvinists have the gospel messed up or that Arminians promote works-righteousness but if you stop and ponder these things you will learn that we both get the gospel right but we divide on how we get there and sometimes what takes place after.

I heard Dr. Douglas Wilson say to an atheist who asked him why if you gave five people each a Bible and put them in a room all by themselves and told them to just read the Bible, why would the five people come out with five different views.  Wilson answered that this is not an attack on the Bible nor upon the gospel but upon the sinfulness of man.  The fact is that five people with five different views shows us nothing about God nor His Word but rather it shows us that we should not trust people and their opinions.

I agree.  I am an Arminian in my soteriology but this does not define who I am.  I am much more than just Arminius and his works.  In fact, I don’t agree with all that Arminius wrote.  My Arminianism is not what defines me nor does it dominate me.  I read all sorts of Christian theology and I have hundreds of Calvinist books and commentaries.  One of my favorite study Bibles is The MacArthur Study Bible.  I appreciate many Calvinist theologians and preachers.  I am not blinded by my Arminianism to not appreciate Calvinism nor what they offer to me as a child of God.

The reality is that Jesus Christ is the One that I adore the most.  The sinless Son of God is the One whom I pray to, worship, long to be like, rejoice that He shed His blood for my sins.  I long to go to heaven to just be in His holy presence.  Heaven will be heaven because of Jesus and not because of any theologians who will be there.  When I was lost, Jesus found me!  When I was dead in my sins, Jesus gave me life!  When I was blind, He opened my eyes so I could see!  Jesus is my life (Colossians 3:4).

If people hear about Wesley, they might be smarter when they leave me but still dead in their sins (Ephesians 2:1-3).  If they hear about Arminius, they might be impressed with his life but they will not have eternal life (John 5:24).  If they hear me talk about John Calvin, they might agree that he was an exceptional expository preacher but they will walk away still under condemnation from sin (John 3:18).  If I explain to someone theonomy, they might agree that the law of God is good (1 Timothy 1:8-11) but if the law doesn’t show them their sins and lead them to Christ, what is the point (Galatians 3:22-24)?  I can possibly try to explain my view of the millennial reign of Christ but if they don’t know Christ, what is the point?

I am not demeaning the need for sound doctrine nor am I seeking to demean the need for theological debates. We need them (see Acts 15).  Yet at the same time, if Christ is not being preached, if His cross is not being lifted up (John 12:32; 1 Corinthians 2:2), what is the point?  Christ is the One who alone is worthy to be praised and sinners need to hear the truth of the gospel to be saved by His grace (Romans 10:14-17).  Christ is our salvation and not any theologian (1 Corinthians 1:30-31).

My earnest prayer is for the Church to exalt Christ.  We have over 35,000 denominations.  This doesn’t disprove the truth of the Bible nor does it disprove the validity of the existence of God (Romans 1:19-20) but it proves that man is fallible and sinful at heart (Jeremiah 17:5-9).  Most denominations started out simply longing to restore the Church back to the centrality of the gospel.  Somewhere along the way they became focused on man and his agenda took over.  This is why we have 35,000+ denominations.  Our hope, nonetheless, must be on Jesus Christ.  No church will save us.  Only Christ will save sinners (1 Timothy 1:15).  The reality is that Jesus has only one Church and it is those who are His true disciples (John 8:31-32).

Jesus Himself said in Luke 8:19-21:

19 Then his mother and his brothers came to him, but they could not reach him because of the crowd. 20 And he was told, “Your mother and your brothers are standing outside, desiring to see you.” 21 But he answered them, “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.”

The Need for Revival

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It doesn’t take much to look around at the wickedness that abounds and to know that we need revival.  So many don’t care about the Lord nor give thought to Him.  Even as I have preached in the open air that all people will die (Hebrews 9:27), so few take thought of their lives and the fact that we are but vapors (James 4:14).  Every person living today will be dead yet they don’t stop to consider this fact even as people die all around them.  So few take the time to consider their lives and to see that they have violated the law of God and deserve His just punishment against sin (James 2:10-12).  They don’t know what awaits them when they die and they don’t seem to care.

Even worse is the state of the Church.  So many are just showing up for their “Sunday services” and give no thought to God during their week.  They don’t pray.  They don’t share their faith.  They don’t worship the Lord Jesus in all they say and do (Colossians 3:17).  They say they love the Lord Jesus and are thankful for His saving work on the cross but they don’t live their lives reflecting HIs grace nor His love (John 14:21).  They would claim heaven but they don’t live like heaven (Matthew 1:21).  They would say that Jesus saved them from their sins while still living in sin (1 John 3:4-10).  The “preachers” are not preaching the gospel but are often found preaching peace and prosperity in the midst of sin.  These preachers are not preaching repentance nor holiness but are preaching a “happy clappy” message that does not save nor sanctifies its hearers.  Jesus is the offended One in their midst and He is often shunned in favor of being popular (Luke 6:26).  The burden for the lost is largely missing.  Where are the tears for the lost?  Where are the tears for those who have not repented of their sins?  Where are those who will call out to God for the lost (Romans 10:1)?

We also lack the urgency in prayer for the lost.  Where are the intercessors for the lost?  Jesus said in Matthew 9:38 that we are to pray to the Lord of the harvest that He might send out laborers in His harvest.  Where are those who will do this, who will pray for the workers to work the harvest fields?  Paul the Apostle urged prayer for the lost in 1 Timothy 2:1-7.  Where are those who would obey the words of the Apostle and pray?  We are taught by the Lord Jesus in Matthew 6:10 to pray for His kingdom to come and for His will to be done on earth as it is in heaven yet where are those who do this besides those who just repeat the words over and over again without pondering them?  When was the last time you spent hours in prayer just praying for the lost?  Where are the tears for the lost who are bound for hell apart from the grace of God?  Paul the Apostle said he had great sorrow and continual grief in his heart for the lost (Romans 9:2).  Do you?  Do I?

In Ezekiel 9 we read how Ezekiel saw a vision in his time of a man clothed with linen (an angel) and an inkhorn at his side and the Lord told him to go through the midst of the city (Jerusalem).  The Angel of the Lord (the pre-incarnate Christ) goes through the city and makes the people of God.  We read in Ezekiel 9:4 that He did this to those who “sigh and cry over all the abominations that are done within it” (NKJV).  What a picture!  The elect of God here are those who are within the city of God who are weeping and crying and detest the wickedness that is around them.  These elect do not share in their sins nor do they face the judgment coming (Ezekiel 9:5-7).

I don’t know what the future holds for our wicked world.  I have optimism that  the Lord will send a revival and that many will be saved from the wrath to come.  I pray Psalm 110:1 for the world.  Yet I also know that God is a holy and righteous God who cannot tolerate wickedness.  His grace and mercy are evident around us while people go on sinning.  I believe 1 Peter 4:17.  I believe that the Lord is calling to His faithful to abandon sin, to live lives of holiness (Hebrews 12:14).  I believe the will of the Lord is for His people to be holy people who love Him and worship Him in all we do.  I believe the Lord is gracious to send a heart for repentance to His people.  I pray that I would be one of those as in the time of Ezekiel 9:4 who sigh and cry over all the abominations.  I pray that I don’t join in with the sinning of the world.  I long to be holy and pure.

I am thankful for the goodness of God revealed in Christ Jesus.  I am thankful that Christ came to save sinners (1 Timothy 1:15).  I am thankful that Jesus saved me (Galatians 1:4) and that He saves me from the wrath to come (1 Thessalonians 1:10). I am thankful that Jesus is my salvation (1 Corinthians 1:30-31).  I rejoice that I am saved by the grace of God through faith in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:8-9) and not by my works of righteousness (Titus 3:5).  I worship Him who alone is worthy for His intercession for me before the Father (Hebrews 7:25).  This salvation is not by my doing but by His going (Colossians 1:13-14; 2:12-13).

Yet I see the need for revival.  I see the great need for the people of God to pray for revival.  What will turn the lost back to the gospel will not be our creativity but the Lord Himself.  What will stir the hearts of those who sit in the churches but are lost will be the Spirit of God.  I pray that the Holy Spirit moves in power upon His Church and that many sinners will hear the gospel and be saved (Romans 10:17).  Jesus came to save sinners (Luke 10:19) and I pray that He glorified in the saving of sinners.  Jesus can truly save a sinner.  He saved this sinner.  Jesus is still saving this sinner from sin.

Oh join with me in praying for revival!  Join with me in praying for the gospel to transform the saints of God.  Join with me in allowing the Holy Spirit to stir your heart toward revival.  Pray for God to be glorified among His saints and for sinners to hear the gospel and be saved.  Rejoice in the mercy of God that saved us and rejoice that God is merciful toward sinners (2 Peter 3:9).  Rejoice that He is patient with the lost (and the saints) and He wants to call all to repentance.  Pray for the Lord to be praised by His saints without fear and with great boldness even before sinners (Acts 4:29).  Pray for the kingdom to come (Matthew 6:10).

Written by The Seeking Disciple

05/19/2015 at 1:36 PM

Life Gets Busy

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My blog use to be a strong passion of mine.  Now it is a hobby.  A distant hobby.  While trying to work, enjoy my three little boys and my wife, and just live my life to the glory of God, the blog has been on hold a bit.  This is not to say that I won’t be posting or that I am now ending the blog.  I still plan on blogging but it will be slow.  I hope you will understand.  There was a time when I would sit down for hours at my computer to blog.  It was (and remains) fun to me.  I don’t have lots of readers but I don’t blog per se for readers. I blog as my own diary of sorts.  Before blogs, I use to keep notebooks with my thoughts in them.  My notebooks are the same as my blog, focused on the Lord and on what it means to follow Jesus.

Over the next few weeks I plan on getting some posts out.  I have a review of John Wagner’s book, Grace For All, coming out this week.  My heart has been praying for revival in the United States and I would like to spend some time blogging on revival and what revival is and what revival is not.  I also want to post on the Calvinist debates I see taking place almost on a daily basis among themselves on social media.  Calvinism, like all other systems, is not congruent.  If one Calvinist says that what they teach is true Calvinism, another person will come along and challenge that and there is nothing wrong with that.

I remain in love with Jesus, not going anywhere, and thankful our God reigns.  I will blog more soon.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

05/18/2015 at 10:04 AM

Looking For Ourselves or Christ in Scripture?

We live in a narcissistic age when everything is aimed at us.  Commercials are aimed at us.  Even religion is aimed at us.  The seeker movement and the new “vision casting” movement (along with the now dying emergent movement) is all aimed at us.  The church exist for us.  The church exist to please us.  The church is here to help us.  Even God Himself is being cast now as the One who exists to help us.  God wants our lives to be happy, joyful, fun, full of money and stuff.  We are told that if God had a refrigerator, we would be on it with our selfies.  God created the world for us.  God sent His Son for us.  God loves us and has a wonderful plan for our lives (or so we are told).

In the midst of this are preachers who preach to this age.  Like those in 2 Timothy 4:3, these teachers teach what this generation wants to hear: that we are special and unique and all.  The seeker churches now cater not just to the lost (unchurched – sorry about that) but now to the selfies folks as well.  The music is aimed to please.  The sermon will not be theological at all and will be so relevant because it is aimed at you.  The prayers will be short and sweet and to the point with their good friend God listening in.  You won’t hear words such as repentance, forsaking sin, holiness, intercession, seeking God, treasuring Christ, the inerrant and infallible Word of God.  You’ll just hear cool, hip preachers who tell story after story about what they do, what they are like, their stories, their humor.  After all, the preacher (while trying to be real to the folks) must also bear the burden of being part of the selfie generation.  So roll out the Nintendo’s and roll out the movie screens and get ready to watch the vision-casting leader promote themselves while trying to connect to the selfies in the crowd.

But what if Scripture is not about us?  What is Scripture is about Jesus instead?  Me just writing those words probably sends chills through the selfies.  The thought that Jesus should be the focus of God or the Bible is something we simply don’t want to hear.  We want to believe that the promises of God are for us.  We want to believe that the Bible is “God’s love letter to us.”  We want to believe that the Bible is written for us and about us.  So no wonder we have preachers preaching from 1 Samuel 17 and finding parallels between David’s fight with Goliath and our own fights with giants (depression, a move, a marriage, etc.).  We have preachers preaching that the resurrection of Jesus was not just about Jesus rising from the dead but our own resurrections as well such as the death of a dream, the death of relationship, or the death of our businesses.  God wants to raise them too just as He did Jesus!

What if all that is wrong?  What is the story of David and Goliath is about, well David?  What if the resurrection of Jesus is not about us per se but about Jesus rising from the dead to the glory of the Father?

Jesus makes a statement in John 5:39-40 that we don’t want to read but need to.  The text says:

39 You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.

Notice that Jesus says the Scriptures reveal Him!  One can read the Bible (just as the Pharisees did whom Jesus was address in this text) and miss Jesus!  In this generation, selfie preachers focus on themselves with clever stories about themselves yet they (and their hearers) miss Jesus.  In reality, most seeker preachers these days are not even preaching the Bible anymore but instead are preaching their journey stories.  They are not even trying to pretend to be preaching the gospel.  Gone are the days of the 1990’s when seeker preachers at least mentioned Jesus and perhaps tried to teach a text of Scripture.  Now it just stories about the preacher and props to help the hearers connect with the story.

Yet Jesus said that Scripture is about Himself and not us.

In Luke 24:27 Jesus taught His disciples that Scripture was about Himself.  In Luke 24:44 Jesus even says words that the selfies would not want to hear: that the Scriptures are written about Himself.  John writes that when we read the Scriptures, they are written so that we might believe in Jesus (John 20:31).

So what about the promises?  2 Corinthians 1:20 says that they are about Jesus.  The focus of the Bible is on Jesus.  The focus of the Bible is not on us.

How should this effect our Bible reading?  It should make us focus on Christ and His glory.  When we read the Old Testament: look for Christ.  When we read the New Testament: look for Christ.  Christ is the glorious One.  Christ is the exalted One (Philippians 2:5-11).  Christ is our salvation (1 Corinthians 1:30-31).  Christ is the One who speaks to the Father in our defense (Romans 8:34; Hebrews 7:25; 1 John 2:1).  Christ is our everything!  In Christ is hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Colossians 2:3).

So many go to the Bible looking for themselves or even a theology.  I use to read the Bible looking for Arminianism or even passages against Calvinism.  Now I just want to know Christ and Him crucified (1 Corinthians 2:1-5).  I don’t want to see this system or that.  I want to know Christ.  I want to love Him more and be closer to Him (Luke 14:25-35).  I want to be like Christ but I know this only comes through knowing Christ.  I do see myself as I draw closer to Christ and I see what selfies would not want to hear: that I am a sinner in need of this Savior (Romans 7:7).  The more I read and study of Jesus the more I see that He came to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10) and I am the chief of sinners (1 Timothy 1:15) so I know He came to save a wretch like me.  Oh I see myself as I read but it is not good (Romans 3:23).  Thankfully God is good and I see His goodness in the person and work of Jesus Christ (Colossians 1:15; 2:9-10).  That God loves this flea is amazing to me!  The lower I see myself going, the higher I see the glory of Christ Jesus!

This has amazing results.  Prayer is no longer about me.  Worship is no longer about me.  Evangelism is no longer about me or even the people I witness to.  Church is no longer about me.  Creation itself is no longer about me.  The Bible is not about me!  Everything is focused on One: the Lord Jesus Christ.  All of creation, everything in creation is focused on Christ and His glory!  I want to preach Christ (2 Corinthians 4:5).  I want others to join in and worship the only One who is worthy to be worshiped!  Christ is the highest philosophy.  Christ the greatest study of science.  Christ is the One who is adored in true art.  Christ is the greatest example of a Man.  Christ is God.  Christ is worthy to be praised and adored and worshiped.  I want to know Christ more.  Not me.

5 Reasons for the Accusation of Misrepresentation when Debating Calvinism

The Seeking Disciple:

Great post that is worth reading.

Originally posted on SOTERIOLOGY 101:

After reading countless articles on soteriology for my doctoral studies and listening to every online debate over Calvinism that I can get my hands on in preparation for my upcoming debate, I have come to this very firm conviction:

It is impossible to rightly represent a view with which you disagree to the satisfaction of every opponent.

misrepresentation

Now, to be fair, this happens both ways. I have witnessed well intending Calvinists attempt to fairly restate their opponents view only to be met with ridicule as well (though it does seem to be more rare from my biased vantage point).  Being a former Calvinist (I know, I know,  IMPOSSIBLE!) and having many close friends and family members who affirm the doctrines of TULIP, this issue has really bothered me. I want to be fair to my Calvinistic friends and I know many of them want to be fair to me and my…

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Written by The Seeking Disciple

04/20/2015 at 3:14 PM

Signs of a Good Sermon

I listen to preaching a lot.  I mean a lot!  I drive for a living so I spend hours on the road so I fill my phone with preaching.  I listen to all types of preaching from Pentecostals to hard core Calvinists.  I subscribe to a few podcasts but I don’t mind finding a sermon title and just downloading it onto my phone and off I go.  While I am not a perfect critic of sermons, I have listened enough to know when I am about to hear a good sermon.  A few have surprised me along the way and started out bad but turned good or vise versa.  Yet I still enjoy listening to good preaching.

So what does it take for me to say a sermon is good?  Let me just run through some points.

1.  The Text of Scripture.

First, does the teacher open with the text of Scripture.  Seeker guys and poor preachers often open with goofy skits, clips from television shows or movies, man-centered stories, or just an illustration that is neither good nor bad.  They just don’t start with the text.  A good teacher will always begin with the Bible, stay true to the Bible, and teach the text.  The text dominates.  The text is the focus.  The text produces the points.

Secondly, the Bible remains the focus throughout the sermon.  The focus is not on pleasing flesh.  The focus remains from the start to the end, the glory of God in His Word (2 Corinthians 4:5).  The Scriptures alone speak for God (2 Timothy 3:16-17).  A good sermon will stay focused throughout on the Word of God.  The focus is not on “seven points to your joy” but the focus is the text to the glory of the King.

2.  Knowledge of the Text.

Does the teacher own the text?  Is it clear that the teacher has studied the text and they know it?  I love it when a good Bible teacher has even memorized the text because they have poured over the text over and over and over again.  Lazy teachers don’t do that.  They just pick out their title, find their points, find their proof-texts, and go.  The faithful Bible teacher (2 Timothy 2:2) will study the text until he has drained every ounce of life from it (and he will still find more when he comes back to it).  The faithful Bible teacher is hungry to hear from God in His holy Word (Psalm 1:1-2; 119:30).  The good Bible teacher will draw from the text, teach the text, show the context of the text, use proper exegesis to teach from the text, and never uses his text as a pre-text.

3.  Few Illustrations.

Illustrations are fine but some rob God of His glory.  Some illustrations make the illustration the focus rather than the text of Scripture.  The good Bible teacher wants you to remember his text and the teaching from the text instead of their illustrations.  This is why I think illustrations should be few and never take away from the glory of God in His Word.  Further, a good sermon will have biblical illustrations that show how the text is revealed in other parts of the Word of God.  Biblical illustrations are timeless while others often are not.  And again, you want people to hear the Word of God and not your word.  Your word doesn’t save sinners.  God’s Word saves sinners (Romans 10:17).

4.  Exaltation of Christ and Deification of Man.

The good sermon will always focus on the glory of Jesus Christ.  Jesus showed His disciples how He was revealed in all of Scripture (Luke 24:27).  From Genesis to Revelation, the focus is on the Lord Jesus Christ.  Jesus is our everything!  Jesus is the very reason we live and breath and He is our life (Colossians 3:1-3).  Jesus is the wisdom of God (Colossians 2:3).  Jesus must be the One that we want people to adore and honor.

And yet poor sermons will focus on man.  They will focus often on the teacher with the teacher constantly telling you stories about themselves or other people.  The sermon is full of points aimed at us rather than Christ.  The poor sermon will focus on how the text helps us.  The poor sermon will focus on flesh rather than the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Was this the preaching of Paul (1 Corinthians 2:1-5)?  Was this the preaching of Peter (2 Peter 1:16-21)?

Sermons should focus on Jesus and honor Him as Lord and Savior.

5.  Is the Gospel Preached?

Many sermons start off good but turn to law.  The well-meaning teacher wants to help us pray more, to witness more, to love our wives more, to honor God with our money more, to help us to sing more, etc. yet they turn to law instead of gospel to produce this.  The motivation for the disciple of Jesus is not law but gospel.  Every sermon should focus on the gospel and how the gospel helps us along the way.  None of us are capable of perfectly pleasing the Father.  Jesus did that for us.  None of us are perfectly able to keep the law.  Jesus did that for us.  Jesus is our salvation and when He said, “It is finished” (John 19:30), it was done!  We now keep the law of Christ but not out of works mentality trying to produce righteous from God (Romans 4:5) but out of love for the Savior (John 14:15).  And yet we still struggle to perfectly obey Christ (1 John 2:1).  Thankfully, Jesus is our salvation and He is our high priest before God the Father (1 John 2:2).

The gospel then must take precedence over the law.  The law reveals my sinfulness before a holy God (1 Timothy 1:8-11) but the grace of God is what helps (or assists me in the words of Charles Wesley) to obey the Lord God (Titus 2:12).  Because we are now under grace and not law, we aim to please the Lord (Romans 6:1-4).  The gospel is our focus and Jesus is our perfect example that we walked after (1 John 2:6).  However, we are not saved by our works but by the grace of God given to us freely in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:8-9) so that we might now do good works (Ephesians 2:10).  To quote the Lutherans: God doesn’t need your good works, your neighbor does.  Grace works in us (1 Corinthians 15:10).  Grace is what the good sermon must proclaim!

6.  A Call to Repent.

I think a good sermon should also include a call to repent.  Not all agree with me here.  I have heard many good sermons that didn’t end with a call to repent.  Some just end.  Yet I think that we should always call people to forsake their sins and place their faith in Christ alone for salvation.  We don’t have to do an altar call but we should call people to repentance.  The Lord may be gracious to save the humble (2 Timothy 2:24-26).  I understand that not every text of Scripture is dealing with salvation but if our focus is on Christ (as it should be), then we will glorify Christ who is the Savior of all men but especially of those who believe (1 Timothy 4:10). If Christ is truly glorified, how can we not proclaim that He will save sinners who come to Him (Luke 19:10)?  How can we preach Christ but miss calling people to repent of their sins (Acts 17:30-31)?

Conclusion

I suppose I could write more (and I know I could).  Good sermons are hard to find.  The seeker church has destroyed good preaching.  Since pragmatism now reigns in the Western Church, poor preaching is often passed along as good preaching (because of the crowds).  Good expository preaching is hard to find.  I have been asking the Father to raise up more and more faithful Bible teachers who will be expositors of His inerrant and infallible Word.  The duty of the Bible teacher is not to entertain.  It is to train (Ephesians 4:11-16; 2 Timothy 4:2).  I pray that you don’t find yourself in Luke 6:26!

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