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Kevin DeYoung’s sermon from this year’s Together for the Gospel explores the important relationship between biblical inerrancy and evangelism. With eroding confidence in the truthfulness of Scripture, we need to hear his call to believe in the inspiration, authority, and sufficiency of the Bible.

Colossians“Grace to you and peace from God our Father. We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and increasing—as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth, just as you learned it from Epaphras our beloved fellow servant. He is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf and has made known to us your love in the Spirit.”

Colossians 1:3-8 begins Paul’s prayer for the Colossians believers. All but one of Paul’s letters begin with a prayer of thankfulness. These prayers at the beginning of his letters remind us of the importance or prayer and teach us the content of our prayers. We see the priority of praying for other Christians, not just praying for their physical well-being but also their growth into the image and likeness of Christ. Practically, I would encourage believers to have a list of people they want to pray for and pray for several people each day. If you are involved in a local church, pray regularly for those in your church and in your group. Also, take time to pray often for your neighbors.

The beginning of Paul’s prayer focuses on his thankfulness for God’s work in the lives of the people in Colossae. He thanks God three virtues being evidenced in their lives. Paul particularly mentions their faith, hope, and love. He does not leave the particular marks of these virtues undefined, as he specifically shows their character. They have “faith in the Lord Jesus Christ,” “love for all the saints,” and “hope laid up for you in heaven.”

The faith Paul thanks God for is not some nebulous believing that somehow everything will be okay. Our culture loves to talk about faith in this way. The Bible does not laud faith as a virtue for its own sake. The Bible praises those who have faith in the proper object. In this prayer Paul specifically mentions “faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.” What has made them Christians is their faith in Jesus who loved them and gave Himself up for them. When Christians talk about faith, we are talking about faith in Jesus alone who saves and brings us back to God.

Paul also mentions a specific type of love in this passage as well. He speaks of their “love for all the saints.” A simple reading of the New Testament demonstrates that Christians love each other as a result of their faith in Christ. Jesus said the world would know people were His disciples because of their love for each other. We have been changed by the love of God for them, and begin to demonstrate the love they have received to each other. It could be argued that the first distinguishing mark of a Christian is their growing love for other believers.

Finally Paul said he thanks God for the hope laid up for them in heaven. Hope is another explicitly Christian concept that has been hijacked by the world to refer to wishing for things to turn out well. The Bible uses hope in a completely different way. The Christian longs expectantly for that which they know they will receive. The return of Christ, our ultimate vindication before God, and sharing in the inheritance which Christ has earned constitutes the Christian hope. These things are certain for those who are in Christ, and this hope helps Christians work through difficulty and hardship because of the ultimate reward.

Paul’s prayer in Colossians shows his concern that Christians are marked out by these virtues and he thanks God when he sees it. In one sense, every Christian has these virtues already, but we pray they will be in us and continuing to grow.

Related Posts:
Colossians 1:1-2

For Further Reading:
A Call to Spiritual Reformation by D.A. Carson

A Few Good Reads

May 15, 2014
photo credit: solidether via photopin cc

photo credit: solidether via photopin cc

20 Time Management Lessons Everyone Should Learn in Their 20s
I loved this post from Business Insider and wish I would have read it fifteen years ago. “There have been academic studies that found the brain expends energy as it readjusts its focus from one item to the next. If you’re spending your day multitasking, you’re exhausting your brain.”

What We All Agree On, and What We (Probably) Don’t, In This Sanctification Debate
The role of the Gospel in sanctification will be a significant discussion over the next few years. Kevin DeYoung gives some background on the issue and states areas of known agreement and likely disagreement. “We all agree the differences are not mere semantics. We all agree the issues are of crucial importance for the church’s preaching, counseling, and overall health and vitality. So let’s move past boilerplate and try to get to the bottom of these critical disagreements.”

100 Bible Knowledge Questions
This is another good post from Kevin DeYoung. His church teaches a course for any men who might serve as elders and deacons one day. At the end of the class they give this one hundred question test to assess their knowledge of the Bible. You might enjoy testing yourself as well.

Gospel-Driven Productivity: A Q&A with Matt Perman
I’ve been reading through Matt Perman’s book What’s Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done and hope to review it soon. The Resurgence interviews Matt about productivity and the Gospel. “So often when we are planning our days or weeks, we just take the things that are in front of us, prioritize those, and think that’s our work. But that’s really just prioritizing the urgent. What we need to do is prioritize the important. And the important things might not even be on our calendar yet or in our email.”

The Gospel: How the Church Portrays the Beauty of Christ
Rarely do I read a book that could be described as beautiful, but that is the best description of Ray Ortlund’s work on how the church shows Christ to the world. It can be read in a few hours and will bring great joy to your soul as you see what the church is and should be. Sacrifices must be made for this vision, but aren’t most things great things difficult. “Gospel doctrine creates a gospel culture. The doctrine of grace creates a culture of grace.

Taking God at His Word

May 13, 2014

takinggodathiswordEvery generation of Christians will face a battle over the value of God’s word. The challenges come in different forms and different ways, but they are every present. I see three in particular when I look across the evangelical landscape. Evangelical revisionists call into question the inspiration of all of God’s word and ask us only to focus on the “red letters,” yet when they finish talking about the “red letters” it doesn’t really sound like the Jesus of the Bible as much as it sounds like the musings of a disenchanted evangelical. Another segment gives lip service to the Bible while dealing with it and preaching it in piecemeal fashion that turn it into a life-coaching manual. Popularly, many Christians have given up on reading the Bible seriously and instead have turned to receiving “words from God,” whether they be in the form of spiritual impressions or books claiming to write down what a person has been told by Jesus.  Kevin DeYoung wades into this malaise and helps Christians gain a greater understanding for why they need God’s word in his new book Taking God at His Word: Why the Bible is Knowable, Necessary, and Enough, and What that Means for You and Me.

Summary
It is best to think about the structure Taking God at His Word like a sandwich. There are two introductory chapters and two concluding chapters of application. The middle chapters comprise the heart of what DeYoung wants Christians to understand about what the Bible is. Each chapter begins with reflections on a passage of Scripture about the nature and character of Scripture with theological and practical reflections along the way. Some may wonder how you can argue for the authenticity of the Bible from the Bible. DeYoung answers, “You can’t establish the supreme authority of your supreme authority by going to some other lesser authority. Yes, the logic is circular, but no more so than the secularist defending reason by reason or the scientist touting the authority of science based on science.”

The first chapter begins with a look at Psalm 119. The Bible’s longest chapter is about the beauty and perfection of God’s word. After working through what the Psalmist says about the Bible and how he feels about the Bible, DeYoung explains why he wrote this book. “The goal of this book is to get us believing what we should about the Bible, feeling what we should about the Bible, and to get us doing what we ought to do with the Bible.”

The middle chapters contain the heart of DeYoung’s argument. He shows the Bible’s argument for it’s sufficiency, clarity, authority, and necessity. He defines these terms the following way:
Sufficiency: The Scriptures contain everything we need for knowledge of salvation and godly living. We don’t need any new revelation from heaven.
Clarity: The saving message of Jesus Christ is plainly taught in the Scriptures and can be understood by all who have ears to hear it. We don’t need an official magisterium to tell us what the Bible means.
Authority: The last word always goes to the word of God. We must never allow the teachings of science, of human experience, or of church councils to take precedence over Scripture.
Necessity: General revelation is not enough to save us. We cannot know God savingly by means of personal experience and human reason. We need God’s word to tell us how to live, who Christ is, and how to be saved.

He closes with a plea to stick with the Bible. Working from 2 Timothy 3:14-17, he urges Christians to remember what the Bible is and what the Bible does to remain faithful to it in every area of life. His closing words are appropriate. “So let us not weaken in our commitment to our unbreakable Bible. Let us not wander from this divinely exhaled truth. Let us not waver in our delight and desire. God has spoken, and through that revelation he still speaks. Ultimately we can believe the Bible because we believe in the power and wisdom and goodness and truthfulness of the God whose authority and veracity cannot be separated from the Bible. We trust the Bible because it is God’s Bible. And God being God, we have every reason to take him at his word.”

Reflection
Taking God at His Word appeared at an important time in the history of the Christian church in America. The endless slogans and debating about the Bible that come at us one blog post and 140 characters at a time do not help us to think through all of the issues related to our view of the Bible. We need to hear the Bible speak about itself and thoughtfully reflect on it. Christians need to be reminded that it is a privilege to hear from God and know Him through His word. DeYoung does this so well in Taking God at His Word that I cannot think of one quibble I have with it. It is brief enough to be read in a couple of sittings and long enough to provide much food for thought.

The importance of Taking God at His Word cannot be overstated. This book is not an apologetic to those who are skeptical about the Bible as much as it is a call to those who should believe and treasure the Bible. Christians need a renewed commitment to the Bible because we have lost confidence in it. This lost confidence has not come from problems within the Bible itself, but from our neglect of it and intoxication with the spirit of the age. If we return to the Bible, hearing it as it was meant to be heard, believed, rejoiced in, and acted upon, we will not find it lacking.

(I received a copy of this book from Crossway Books through the Beyond the Page program in exchange for an honest review.)

You can read other book reviews and notes here.

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Living in Alabama can sometimes be a strange thing.  Every election cycle, commercials air for political candidates that you probably would not see in any other state.  Judicial candidates list teaching Sunday School as one of their qualifications for office.  Men running for State Senate show video of their families walking out of church with a Bible under their arm.  Even though Alabama is becoming increasingly unchurched, the state is still quite conservative and candidates know that showing their religious side will benefit them.  This is why three recent events in the Alabama politics have perplexed, saddened, and infuriated me.

The Ten Commandments
Thursday morning Representative DuWayne Bridges, a Republican from Valley, introduced a bill which would allow the citizens of Alabama to vote to allow the display of the Ten Commandments in government buildings in the state.  This is no new issue for Alabamians, as this issue has come up from time to time since Judge Roy Moore displayed the Ten Commandments in his courtroom in the late 1990’s and later in the Supreme Court building when he was the Chief Justice.  Representative Bridges bill led to a long debate on the floor of the House of Representatives.  The debate, which Kyle Whitmire summarized, was bizarre and revealed that many of our Representatives do not know the Bible as well as they would have us think they do.

My issue with this debate is that I’m not sure what our Representatives hope to accomplish by displaying the Ten Commandments in our public buildings.  There are several options.  The first is that they are pandering to conservative Christians in the state and this just happens to be an election year.  I hope this is not the case, but we are a cynical people and many will believe that this is the motivation.  It is also possible that our Representatives want to pay homage to the Christian roots of our nation. (This is a huge debate too.  We are on pretty safe ground though if we acknowledge that our nation has foundations that were borrowed from both Christianity and the Enlightenment.)  If this is the motivation, it is a nice gesture, but it doesn’t make sense to take up the House’s time when there are some really pressing matters facing our State.  The final possibility for their motivation is their desire to fight back at the perceived alienation of religious people in our culture.  There are too many examples of this phenomenon to list, so we know what they could be pushing back against.  Again, if this is the motivation, our Representatives spent precious time trying to make a point in the culture war instead of working on some systemic issues in our State.

What could be accomplished by the public display of the Ten Commandments?  The answer is nothing that is the role of the State Government.  Some people will read the Ten Commandments and resolve to be more moral.  This sounds nice, but the Bible is clear that no one can keep the commandments apart from the work of the Spirit in their lives.  The person reading the Ten Commandments and resolving to be more moral will be greeted with frustration and despair.  There will be others who will read these commandments and have the opposite reaction.  The Apostle Paul said he did not know what coveting was until he read “do not covet,” and reading these words produced all types of coveting in his life.  Therefore it is possible that reading the Ten Commandments could make some people worse.  The best case scenario would be if people read the Ten Commandments, realize how they fail at them, and recognize their need for Jesus.  This is one of the Law’s chief functions.  We see how we have failed to live up to God’s standard, feel deep inward remorse, and trust in Jesus who gave His life for our sins.  That would be a fantastic thing to happen, but that is not the role of the government.

By the way, the House of Representatives approved the measure by a vote of 77-19, and Alabama voters will have the final say.  You can read more about this debate here and here.

Payday Loans
Last week, a House of Representatives Committee entertained a bill that would cap the amount of interest on Payday Loans at thirty-six percent.  Currently, Payday loans can charge interest up to four-hundred fifty-six percent  and Title loans can charge up to three-hundred percent. Typically these establishments are found in poor communities where residents are more likely to need short term loans.  However, once they receive them they have to pay interest rates that would make the mob jealous.  The result is the most vulnerable among us are trapped by a system that the House had an opportunity to put an end to. (Yes, I realize people should know not to get one of these loans, but some people do and our government should protect vulnerable citizens from businesses who are entrapping people in a difficult position.)

The committee considering this bill consisted of nine people who are part of the same body that spend several hours discussing the Ten Commandments.  This committee would have done well to think about another passage in the Bible.  While Nehemiah was rebuilding the Wall around Jerusalem, some concerned members of the Jewish community visited him. Some had to mortgage their fields because of a famine and others needed to do so to pay the King’s tax. Some of their children were being forced into slavery as a result and they had no means to do anything because other men now had their fields. He brought together the nobles and officials. He confronted them for exacting interest from their brothers.  They had just returned from exile and now the nobles were making their fellow citizens into slaves again.  He commanded them to abandon the exacting of interest and to restore the lands they had taken away.  In this, He also charged them with failing to fear the God of Israel.

What did the House Committee do with the bill to limit the interest on Payday loans?  They did not let the bill out of committee.  That action is inexcusable in and of itself, but a report in The Montgomery Advertiser reveals something more sinister which could have been in play.  Seven of the nine committee members received campaign contributions from these businesses.  Some of the contributions were as high as $4,500.  Instead of protecting the vulnerable, it appears that some of our Representatives sacrificed them to the highest bidder.  Thankfully Senator Scott Beason is introducing a form of this bill in the Senate and we pray for it to pass.  At the same time, it is hard to take seriously a body that one day votes to display the Ten Commandments and another day refuses to protect the poor from their campaign contributors.

Tutwiler Prison
TRIGGER WARNING: The following section deals with content that may be difficult for some readers.

Tutwiler Prison in Wetumpka has been the subject of Federal attention in recent months.  In fact, the Justice Department sent a letter to the Governor last month detailing problems and abuses.  You can read the entire letter here, but this is the most disturbing paragraph and summarizes one of the main issues there.

“For nearly two decades, Tutwiler staff have harmed women in their care with impunity by sexually abusing and sexually harassing them. Staff have raped, sodomized, fondled, and exposed themselves to prisoners. They have coerced prisoners to engage in oral sex. Staff engage in voyeurism, forcing women to disrobe and watching them while they use the shower and use the toilet.”

Those words should send shivers down the spine of every person reading them. Thankfully, some members of the Alabama Legislature, like Senator Cam Ward, have advocated for changes at the Prison.  Can I ask a question on behalf of all Alabama citizens- Why on earth are we not hearing about this every single day?  Why would our House of Representatives discuss any other issue, much less displays in buildings, when men in positions of authority are abusing female prisoners?

Since our Representatives like talking about the Bible, lets talk about the words of Jesus in Matthew 25.  Jesus discusses the Day of Judgment, when the sheep are on Jesus’ right hand and the goats on his left.  What is one of the things that distinguishes the sheep from the goats?  It is their mercy and compassion for prisoners, knowing that what is done for the least of these has been done to Jesus himself. Our Representatives want us to believe they really believe the Bible, and these issues put them to the test.  Instead of showing us how much they believe the Bible by displaying it in public places, they have the opportunity to obey it by putting an end to predatory lending and prison rape.

These issues will demonstrate whether Christians in Alabama have genuinely believed the Gospel or have bought into a superficial facade of religion.  Are we going to choose Representatives who will display the Ten Commandments but ignore prison rape and the exacting of four-hundred percent interest?  Or will we begin to ask people to be our leaders who will not line their pockets at the expense of the poor and who will make serious strides to reform our prisons even though it won’t garner a lot of votes.  Then again, if Christians take their Bibles seriously, maybe we will consider Prison reform and protecting the poor to be more important than displays in public buildings.

photo credit: Ella's Dad via photopin cc

photo credit: Ella’s Dad via photopin cc

This past week I wrote a summary of Genesis 2.  The writer of Genesis introduces readers to the first marriage in this passage.  God looks on Adam alone in the Garden and says that it is not good for him to be alone.  After bringing every animal to Adam and having him name them, God sets out to create a helper suitable for Adam.  He causes Adam to fall into a deep sleep and removes one of his ribs.  God fashions the rib into a woman and presents her to Adam.  Adam, overcome with the moment, exclaims “this is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.  She shall be called woman, for she was taken out of man.”  His statement means that he saw her as being the same as he is and she is part of him.  The writer of Genesis concludes by saying, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”

This last verse becomes foundational for the Bible’s understanding of marriage.  When Jesus is asked about divorce, he appeals to this verse to show that marriage is a permanent union.  The Apostle Paul quotes this verse in his teaching on marriage in Ephesians 5:22-33.  Marriage is a permanent union, broken only by the death of one of the members in the covenant union.  This lifelong union reflects God’s covenant commitment to His people.  The Bible pictures God as a husband who is fiercely committed to His bride and who will never abandon her.  He will be faithful to His people until they are ultimately welcomed into His eternal presence.

In addition to the biblical and theological arguments for the permanence of marriage, there are two practical reasons why you should be committed to your marriage until the end of your life:

To experience genuine, lasting joy in your marriage, you will need to change a lot.  The Bible calls this sanctification and it is an important part of marriage.  A person who trusts in Christ puts to death the remaining sin in their lives and grows in likeness to the character of Jesus.  If you and I are honest, we will admit that we are the biggest problem in our marriages..  (Yes, there are some exceptions to this.)  You will recognize that there is indwelling sin that is affecting your marriage and there are deficiencies in your character where you need to grow.  The process of facing both our sins and the areas where grow is needed can be difficult and painful.  You will only put in the hard work of making these changes if you are committed to your marriage for the rest of your life.  When you are committed to the good of your spouse and the glory of God for the rest of your life, then you will be committed to change.

Your spouse needs to change a lot as well.  Your spouse will sin against you and disappoint you.  Therefore, you will have to learn to be patient with them, love them where they are, and forgive them when they wrong you.  Harboring bitterness and unforgiveness will rot your marriage from the inside out.  It will sap your joy and bleed over into the way you treat your spouse.  When you are committed to the long-term health of your marriage, you will recognize how much God has forgiven you and will find it a joy to forgive your spouse as well.

Related Posts:
How I Learned about Forgiveness

For Further Reading:
When Sinners Say “I Do” by Dave Harvey
The Meaning of Marriage by Timothy and Kathy Keller

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photo credit: Thomas Hawk via photopin cc

Yesterday I was listening to a conversation about the Jameis Winston case on a national sports talk radio station.  Winston is the Quarterback for Florida State and is considered to be the favorite to win the Heisman Trophy.  Last month the public learned that a young woman reported Winston to the police for allegedly assaulting her last December.  After looking over all of the evidence, the Florida State Attorney’s Office announced last week there was not sufficient evidence to charge him with this crime.  (Because of this, we should assume that Winston is not guilty of this allegation.  Plus his guilt of lack there of is outside the scope of this post.)

Since the entire scenario surrounding the Winston case involved the college bar scene, the host of the talk radio show asked the audience what advice they would give to their daughters about drinking in college.  The callers began to offer their collective wisdom.  “I would tell my girls that they do not need to get so drunk that they are not aware of their surroundings.”  “The daughter of one of my friends always goes out with a group and they agree not to leave each other the entire night, especially if they are going to drink a lot.”
Is this where we have arrived as a culture?  We send our sons and daughters off to college assuming that they are going to spend their weekends in a drunken stupor, so we just need to give them advice on how not to get sexually assaulted when they do it?  We have to do better for our sons and daughters than this.

We must teach our daughters that their beauty is not found in how they look outwardly, but in their heart toward the Lord, in their character, and in how they treat other people.  What if we showed them that finding unconditional approval before the Lord was better than seeking the conditional approval of teenage boys?  Can we not show them the blessing of self-control and the foolishness of drunkenness?

And then for our sons, can we stop treating them as if they are genetically wired to be drunken slobs and perverts?  Isn’t there room to teach our sons that they are defined by who they are in Christ and not by what they achieve?  Shouldn’t we show them that other young women are to be treated as sisters who are to be honored rather than objects to be conquered?  What about teaching our sons self-control as well?  They are not slaves to their biology and impulses, but instead can be slaves to Christ who frees those that belong to him.

We can and must do better for our sons and daughters.  We sit passively while the world defines who they should be and what they should do.  Armed with nothing more than their personal passions and desire to be liked, they are being sent out like lambs into the slaughter.  We must begin to go on offense with these issues and help them find their identity in the only one who gives them true freedom and fulfillment.  Our offensive on this front must start sooner rather than later.

A Few Good Reads

December 4, 2013

Books
Crazy Busy by Kevin DeYoung
From the Amazon Description:
I’m too busy. We’ve all heard it, we’ve all said it. Sometimes being busy seems like the theme of our lives. Yet this frenetic pace poses a serious threat to our physical, social, and even spiritual well-being. In this mercifully short book about a really big problem, best-selling author Kevin DeYoung rejects the “busyness as usual” mindset, arguing that a life of constant chaos is far from what God intends. DeYoung helps us figure out a better way forward as he strikes a mature and well-reasoned balance between doing nothing and doing everything. With his usual warmth, humor, and honesty, DeYoung deftly attacks the widespread “crazy busy” epidemic and offers up the restful cure we’ve all been too busy to find.”

Just Do Something by Kevin DeYoung
From the Amazon Description:
“Hyper-spiritual approaches to finding God’s will don’t work. It’s time to try something new: Give up. Pastor and author Kevin DeYoung counsels Christians to settle down, make choices, and do the hard work of seeing those choices through. Too often, he writes, God’s people tinker around with churches, jobs, and relationships, worrying that they haven’t found God’s perfect will for their lives. Or-even worse-they do absolutely nothing, stuck in a frustrated state of paralyzed indecision, waiting…waiting…waiting for clear, direct, unmistakable direction.  But God doesn’t need to tell us what to do at each fork in the road. He’s already revealed his plan for our lives: to love him with our whole hearts, to obey His Word, and after that, to do what we like. No need for hocus-pocus. No reason to be directionally challenged.  Just do something.”

Articles
Themelios 38.3
Themelios is my favorite theological journal.  The Gospel Coalition just published the most recent volume, numbering over 200 pages.

Stopping an Affair Before It Begins
From Tim Challies: “At one time or another, most of us witnessed the devastation that comes through infidelity in marriage. We have seen marriages stretched almost to the breaking point and we have seen marriages destroyed by an unfaithful husband or unfaithful wife.”

maskWe’ve all heard it before, especially in the South.  “I don’t want anything to do with the church because so many of them are hypocrites.  I don’t go to church and I live a better life than they do.”  It’s a difficult if not impossible charge to dispute.  There are many who claim the name of Christ whose example does not match what they profess to believe.  The problem of hypocrisy in the church is real, and it is one of the chief issues facing local churches, particularly those in the Deep South.

Why do so many Christians seem to be hypocritical?  Here are three short answers.

Christians are Christians by Grace and not by Their Works
It is important to remember that Christians do not believe that God rewards those who are good in this life.  When you read the Bible, you quickly begin to realize that there is no such thing as a person who is “good” in and of themselves.  We all bear God’s image, but we have all sinned and stand guilty before God for our sins.  It is only through faith in Jesus, who gave His life for us and was raised from the dead, that people are declared right with God and forgiven of their sins.  Since this is by faith alone, it is not by good works and so Christians who carry themselves with a sense of moral superiority are betraying the very Gospel that they claim to believe.

Christians Are a Work in Progress and Have not Arrived
One thing that the Bible teaches about Christians is that they are in a constant state of growth and change.  A person who is a Christian has not arrived spiritually, but will continue to wrestle with sin and have areas where they need to grow.  They stand forgiven before God and right with Him, but their practice has a way to go before it matches their position before God.  A Christian who acts like they have already arrived at where they should be is betraying the Gospel that they claim to believe.
This is not an excuse for Christians to wallow in sin and hypocrisy.  You should not be surprised when you meet a Christian who struggles with sin, but they should also be people who are repenting and growing.  The evidence that they are Christians is not in one moment, but how their life changes over the course of years.  There will bad moments, but you should see their character changing and growing as you observe them through time.

Some People Think They Are Christians, But They Are Not
This is probably the most difficult of the truths about this, but it is a real problem.  The Bible makes it clear that there will be those who claim the name of Christ who aren’t really Christians.  Many well-meaning pastors who want to help people have unwittingly created methods that make it easy for people to think that they have become Christians when there has been no real change of heart.  Becoming a Christian is not a matter of going to church on Sunday or repeating a prayer, it is a complete inward change of heart and life through faith alone in Jesus.  Unfortunately, much of the seeming hypocrisy in churches comes from those who claim to be Christians when they do not have the inward reality.

PreachingBooks on preaching are legion.  When a new book on preaching comes out there are usually two questions that I ask.  Is the author a respected voice whose pulpit ministry makes me interested in what he has to say about preaching?  Or is the author making a unique contribution to the field of literature?  Preaching?: Simple Teaching on Simply Preaching by Alec Motyer falls into the first category.  Having devoured several of his commentaries, I was excited to hear his approach to preaching and his thoughts on preparation in particular.

The first few chapters are a short introduction to preaching and a theological discussion of what preaching is.  The last two-thirds of the book takes the reader on a tour of how to prepare to preach from examining the passage through developing illustrations.  There were three takeaways for me from Preaching?.

Alec Motyer says that the first and most basic task of the preacher is “to understand each word, sentence and verse in a passage, each section of a narrative or book.”  In doing so, he puts the preacher under the authority of God’s word and directs the preacher to begin with the Bible.  He believes that the preacher is called not to come to the Bible with a sermon in search of a text.  Instead, he comes to the text ready to hear what it has to say and to shape the sermon from that.

In the same chapter I benefited from his discussion of how he keeps up with his notes.  “My original single loose-leaf notebook (when I was working on expositions of 2 Timothy in 1964) has grown into about 250 notebooks, a continuing resource for sermon preparation (and also a quick ‘refresher course’ alongside daily Bible reading). Record everything, lose nothing, whether from concordances and commentaries, from your own thinking, or from listening to other peoples’ sermons. Bend everything to the task of an accurate, thought-out understanding of the Word of God.”  This is a reminder to those who preach that we need to keep what we have been studying either written down or saved somewhere.  You do not want to lose the hours that you have spent researching a passage.

Finally, Alec Motyer’s chapter on presentation is worth the price of the book.  Coming from years of experience with expositional preaching, he walks through the options for presenting memorable outlines and varying styles of doing so in order to make our preaching memorable. The advice that he offers at the end needs to be heard by all who preach.  There must be a back room and a show room.  The preacher must study so that there is a back room full from study, prayer, and meditation.  The proper material is then brought out from the from the back room and placed in the show room in a manner that helps people understand and experience change.

Preaching? by Alec Motyer serves well as an introduction to preaching for those who are new and as a helpful refresher for those who are more experienced.  His years of experience and wisdom shine throughout this volume.  It will be of great benefit to those who will read it.

(I received a copy of this work through the Cross Focused Review program in exchange for an honest review.)

See other book reviews and takeaways here.