Loving God and Our Minds – R.C. Sproul

TT-June2017-BeatitudesIn the new issue of Tabletalk, Ligonier Ministries’ devotional magazine, R.C. Sproul, Sr. has an edifying article on “Loving God with Our Minds.”

After pointing out the effects of sin on our minds, Sproul reminds us that our salvation by grace involves the renewal of our minds, and that this is in part why God calls us to love Him with all our mind.

For this Monday, as we begin our work week and the use of our minds and our hands in our God-given callings in life, Sproul’s thoughts are useful in guiding us in how to love God with our minds.

Jonathan Edwards once said that seeking after God is the main business of the Christian. And how do we seek after God? By pursuing the renewal of our minds. We don’t get the love of God from a hip replacement, a knee replacement, or even a heart transplant. The only way we can be transformed is with a renewed mind (Rom. 12:1–2). A renewed mind results from diligently pursuing the knowledge of God. If we despise doctrine, if we despise knowledge, that probably indicates that we’re still in that fallen condition where we don’t want God in our thinking. True Christians want God to dominate their thinking and to fill their minds with ideas of Himself.

Isn’t it strange that our Lord says that we are called to love God with our minds? We don’t usually speak of love in terms of an intellectual activity. In fact, most of our understanding of love in our secular culture is described in passive categories. We speak not of jumping in love but falling in love, like it was an accident.

But real love is not an involuntary thing. It is something we do purposefully based on our knowledge of the person we love. Nothing can be in the heart that is not first in the mind. And if we want to have an experience of God directly where we bypass the mind, we’re on a fool’s errand. It can’t happen. We might increase emotion, entertainment, or excitement, but we’re not going to increase the love of God because we can’t love what we don’t know. A mindless Christianity is no Christianity at all.

If we want to love God more, we have to know Him more deeply. And the more we search the Scriptures, and the more we focus our minds’ attention on who God is and what He does, the more we understand just a tiny little bit more about Him and the more our souls break out in flame. We have a greater ardor to honor Him. The more we understand God with our minds, the more we love Him with our minds.

To read the rest of the article, follow the link provided in the title above.

And, as you will see, this month’s issue is on the Beatitudes of Jesus. I have started to read those, including this one – “To Be Blessed” by Dr. Brandon D. Crowe.

A (New) Little Book on the Christian Life – J. Calvin

Reformation Trust (part of Ligonier Ministries) has recently issued a fresh translation and edition of John Calvin’s short work on the Christian life, which they have titled A Little Book on the Christian Life (2017). They sent me a review copy, and today I make you aware of it by way of this post.

Drawn from his larger work, the Institutes of the Christian Religion, this book has gone through several editions and translations over the years, perhaps most popular the one by Henry Van Andel (former professor of Dutch at Calvin College), an English translation of a Dutch edition titled Golden Booklet of the True Christian Life (Baker, 1952). This one remains in print from Baker (2004). More recently The Banner the Truth has also published a fresh edition under the title A Guide to Christian Living (2009).

In their “Preface” to this new edition from Reformation Trust, the editors, Aaron C. Denlinger and Burk Parsons, briefly trace the history of this fine little book, explaining why a new translation was made. They also intend this popular work to be issued in connection with the 500th anniversary of the great Reformation celebrated this year.

For our purposes today, we quote from the first chapter, which is titled “Scripture’s Call to Christian Living.” Here is Calvin in his own words:

To begin with, what better foundation can Scripture give for the pursuit of righteousness than to tell us we should be holy because God Himself is holy? Moreover, when we were scattered and wandering like sheep, lost in the maze of the world, God found us and gathered us to Himself. When we contemplate this relationship between ourselves and God, let us remember that holiness is the bond of our union with Him. Not, of course, because we enter into fellowship with Him by the merit of our own holiness. Rather, we first of all cling to Him, and then, having received His holiness, we follow wherever He calls us. For it is characteristic of His glory that He has no fellowship with sin and impurity. Holiness is the goal of our calling. Therefore we must consistently set our sights upon holiness if we would rightly respond to God’s calling. To what purpose did God pull us out of the wickedness and pollution of this world – wickedness and pollution in which we were submerged – if we allow ourselves to wallow in such wickedness and pollution for the rest of our lives? [pp.6-7]

If you have never read this classic of the Reformed Christian faith, you are urged to do so this year as part of your Reformation heritage reading. The book is reasonably priced and may be found in multiple formats on the Reformation Trust website. Highly recommended – a must for every true believer.

Reset by Rethinking about Ourselves

Reset-DMurray-2017We continue to consider the helpful thoughts of Dr. David Murray in his newly published book Reset: Living a Grace-Paced Life in a Burnout Culture (Crossway, 2017).

Having us take the car of our lives into “Repair Bay 6” (remember, the author is writing mainly with men in view) Murray calls us to “rethink” our identity, that is, the way we think about ourselves.

After going through a number of ways in which we might see ourselves (“Andrew the Adulterer,” “Fred the Failure,” “Simon the Strong,” “Peter the Perfectionist,” and so on), the author points us to the proper way to “recover our true identities.” Part of that process (looking at ourselves biblically in Christ) means that we must “reframe” our failures.

As Murray points out, we men do not like to talk about our failures, but we have all experienced them and we need to look at them properly if we are to see ourselves in the right way. Here’s part of what he has to say about this sensitive subject:

Learning to fail well is a vital part of the Christian life. A pastor said to me recently, ‘The first ten years of ministry is all about being broken and stripped!’ I must have had a crash course, because it took me only five years to be broken, stripped, and branded a failure in the ministry! These were dark, dark days. Yet I know that my ten months in the school of ministry failure gave me my most valuable degree – a master’s in how to fail well. As one man admitted to me, ‘I shudder to think where I would be today if God had not let me fail. My failures may have been painful, but unbroken success would have been deadly. Failure is one of God’s greatest gifts to me.’

In that light, Murray goes on to say,

If we have failed well, we have realistic expectations of ourselves and our callings. We do not soar too high on success, and we do not sink too deeply upon setbacks. We take all our failures to our unfailing Lord for his full and free forgiveness, and we experience his unchanging and unconditional love. Then we reemerge – humbler and weaker, but wiser and happier too. And eventually we see how God can transform our ugly failures into things that are profitable and even beautiful. Breakdowns can become breakthroughs. [p.118]

Reset: Relax by Reading

Reset-DMurray-2017Yes, Dr. David Murray does indeed recommend reading (daily!) as a way to relax in the next chapter of his book Reset: Living a Grace-Paced Life in a Burnout Culture (Crossway, 2017).

Taking us into “Repair Bay 5”, Murray points to the importance of taking time to relax in order to prevent burnout in the mad rush of life we experience in our modern culture. His call is to experience the reality of God’s Word in Psalm 46:10 – “Be still, and know that I am God.”

But how can we experience this stillness and silence of God’s presence with so much pressure on us from work, family, and church, so many activities screaming for our attention, and such great noise and distraction from our technological world?

Murray does indeed tell us to mute our phones and device notifications, to limit our use of social media, texting, and emails, and to shut things down in the evening and weekends. But he also points us to the benefits of reading in order to experience true relaxation. Here is part of what he says:

The last daily bump I want to recommend is reading, which may sound strange given that we are trying to rest and relax the mind. There is something about reading, however, especially reading real paper books, that can be especially health giving. In “How Changing Your Habits Can Transform Your Health,” Michael Grothaus says, ‘Reading doesn’t just improve your knowledge, it can help fight depression, make you more confident, empathetic, and a better decision maker.’

…But Grothaus’ further research revealed that such transformation through reading wasn’t weird, but was ‘the norm for people who read a lot – and one of the main benefits of reading that most people don’t know about’ (97-98).

And so Murray gives us his own reading regimen and experience:

I try to set aside thirty minutes each evening for reading non-work-related books – usually biographies, works on history or fitness, New York Times nonfiction bestsellers, and so on. It’s amazing how many fantastic books you can get through – maybe two or three a month – with just that short time every day. And for all my fellow type A’s, remember that the point is not to chalk up ‘books read’ or to use the time for sermon prep if you’re a pastor, but to relax and enjoy (p.98).

There is no question that as Christians we ought to read for a variety of reasons. But let’s not forget this one either – simply to slow down and relax. And if we are reading for the growth of our souls, for knowing and drawing near to God, then by all means let us keep our mind’s eye on Psalm 46:10.

Spiritual Disciplines of the Christian Life: Reading

Today on the RFPA Blog Rev. Ryan Barnhill had a fine post on the importance of Christians being readers, as part of the spiritual disciplines that mark the believer’s life and walk with the Lord.

After explaining what kind of reading makes for a spiritual discipline, Pastor Barnhill gives three reasons why we should read and read diligently:

Why do we read? Why do we read when Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, podcasts, Snapchat, and games seem so much more exciting, real life, and convenient? I provide three reasons below, readily recognizing that these reasons can be multiplied.

First, we read to sharpen our Reformed, biblical worldview: a worldview that includes doctrine, application of doctrine, and history. Do we not want to learn more about the signs of Christ’s coming, or justification by faith alone (two recent RFPA publications)? Do we not desire to evaluate world events through a Reformed, biblical lens (“All around Us” rubric in the Standard Bearer)? Do we not love our brothers and sisters overseas, longing to become better acquainted with them (recent article on Myanmar in Beacon Lights)? What do we believe? Are we anchored in it? Are we able to teach it to the generation following? Reading is crucial!

Second, and closely related to the first, is that reading is a means God uses for growth in godliness. Whatever we take in shapes our thinking. How blessed is the man, then, who enjoys a steady diet of sound, God-glorifying literature! These books and magazines edify, instruct, warn, comfort, and encourage. Reading holds an integral place in our life of sanctification.

Third, we read to become better readers of the Bible. Reading more makes us better Bible interpreters. This is not to minimize the work of the Holy Spirit, but only to say that reading helps our ability to comprehend words and thoughts, sharpens our grammatical skills, and improves our critical thinking. If only for this reason, reading is important!

You may read the rest of this blog post at the RFPA link below. And while you are reading about this spiritual discipline, check out Rev. Barnhill’s other posts on this vital subject.

Source: Reformed Free Publishing Association — Spiritual Disciplines of the Christian Life: Reading

Published in: on May 9, 2017 at 10:36 PM  Leave a Comment  

Two New Crossway Books for Review: Reformation Theology and Reading the Bible Supernaturally

In the last month I have received for review (by request for the Standard Bearer) from Crossway Publishing two new titles. Both are significant and should be of interest to our readers. If you are interested in reviewing either, contact me here or by email.

reformation-theology-barrett-2017The first is a major work on the theology of the Reformation – Reformation Theology: A Systematic Summary, edited by Matthew Barrett, with contributions from Gerald Bray, Carl Trueman, Mark Thompson, Michael Reeves, Cornelis Venema, et al. (Crossway, 2017; hardcover, 784 pp.).

The publisher gives this description on its website:

Five hundred years ago, the Reformers were defending doctrines such as justification by faith alone, the authority of Scripture, and God’s grace in salvation—some to the point of death. Many of these same essential doctrines are still being challenged today, and there has never been a more crucial time to hold fast to the enduring truth of Scripture.

In Reformation Theology, Matthew Barrett has brought together a team of expert theologians and historians writing on key doctrines taught and defended by the Reformers centuries ago. With contributions from Michael Horton, Gerald Bray, Michael Reeves, Carl Trueman, Robert Kolb, and many others, this volume stands as a manifesto for the church, exhorting Christians to learn from our spiritual forebears and hold fast to sound doctrine rooted in the Bible and passed on from generation to generation.

Want to know more of what is inside? Here is the Table of Contents:

Prologue: What Are We Celebrating? Taking Stock after Five Centuries
 Michael Horton
Abbreviations

Introduction

  1. The Crux of Genuine Reform
    Matthew Barrett

Part 1: Historical Background to the Reformation

  1. Late-Medieval Theology
    Gerald Bray
  2. The Reformers and Their Reformations
    Carl R. Trueman and Eunjin Kim

Part 2: Reformation Theology

  1. Sola Scriptura
    Mark D. Thompson
  2. The Holy Trinity
    Michael Reeves
  3. The Being and Attributes of God
    Scott R. Swain
  4. Predestination and Election
    Cornelis P. Venema
  5. Creation, Mankind, and the Image of God
    Douglas F. Kelly 
  6. The Person of Christ
    Robert Letham
  7. The Work of Christ
    Donald Macleod
  8. The Holy Spirit
    Graham A. Cole
  9. Union with Christ
    J. V. Fesko
  10. The Bondage and Liberation of the Will
    Matthew Barrett
  11. Justification by Faith Alone
    Korey D. Maas
  12. Sanctification, Perseverance, and Assurance
    Michael Allen
  13. The Church
    Robert Kolb
  14. Baptism
    Aaron Clay Denlinger
  15. The Lord’s Supper
    Keith A. Mathison
  16. The Relationship of Church and State
    Peter A. Lillback
  17. Eschatology
    Kim Riddlebarger

For a recent review of this work at the “Reformed Reader” blog, visit this post.

 

Reading-Bible-Supernaturally-Piper-2017The second is a major contribution to the doctrine of Scripture by John Piper. Reading the Bible Supernaturally: Seeing and Savoring the Glory of God in Scripture is a follow up to Piper’s other recently published book on Scripture – A Peculiar Glory: How the Christian Scriptures Reveal Their Complete Truthfulness (Crossway, 2016). The publisher gives this brief description:

Does it take a miracle to read the Bible?

God wrote a book, and its pages are full of his glory. But we cannot see his beauty on our own, with mere human eyes.

In Reading the Bible Supernaturally, John Piper aims to show us how God works through his written Word when we pursue the natural act of reading the Bible, so that we experience his sightgiving power—a power that extends beyond the words on the page.

Ultimately, Piper shows us that in the seemingly ordinary act of reading the Bible, something miraculous happens: we are given eyes to behold the glory of the living God.

But perhaps this quote from Piper’s Introduction will give you a better idea of what this book is about. After stating how Scripture reveals the incredible glory of the majestic God, but then showing how natural man is blind to this glory in his sinful state, Piper says this:

If we are on the right track, the only hope for seeing the glory of God in Scripture is that God might cut away the diamond-hard, idolatrous substitutes for the glory of God that are packed into the template of our heart. The Bible speaks of this supernatural act in many ways. For example, it describes this supernatural in-breaking as a shining into our hearts of divine glory (2 Cor.4:6), and as a granting of truth and repentance (2 Tim.2:25), and as the giving of faith (Phil.1:29), and as raising us from the dead (Eph.2:5), and as new birth by the word (1 Pet.1:23; James 1:18), and as the special revelation of the Father (Matt.16:17) and the Son (Matt.11:27), and as the enlightening of the eyes of the heart (Eph.1:18), and as being given the secret of the kingdom of God (Luke 8:10).

When this miracle happens to us, the glory of God cuts and burns and melts and removes from the template the suicidal cement of alien loves and takes its rightful place. We were made for this. And the witness of this glory to the authenticity of the Scriptures is overwhelming. Where we only saw foolishness before, we now see the all-satisfying beauty of God. God has done this – supernaturally.

No one merely decides to experience the Christian Scriptures as the all-compelling, all-satisfying truth of one’s life. Seeing is a gift. And so the free embrace of God’s word is a gift. God’s Spirit opens the eyes of our heart, and what was once boring, or absurd, or foolish, or mythical, is now self-evidently real [p.25].

Good thoughts. Good for us to remember as we continue reading and studying and meditating on God’s holy Word. For one thing, that truth certainly implies that we read our Bibles in humble dependence on the Holy Spirit, the Author of our spiritual sight. But Piper lays out many more in this important book. For more on its contents, visit the link above.

Available for any who wants to read a deep but practical book on how to read the Bible.

Reformed Piety and Practice – R. Scott Clark

Today I read the third and final featured article on this month’s Tabletalk theme, which covers the 17th century of church history. This third article is “Reformed Piety and Practice,” written by Dr. R. Scott Clark, professor of church history and historical theology at Westminster Seminary (west).

In the article, Clark contrasts the prevailing view of the Christian life as taught by and found in the Roman Catholic Church during the Middle Ages (the monastic life) with the view that Martin Luther and the other Reformers rediscovered and taught during the Reformation period – true, biblical piety and practice.

Below I quote a few paragraphs from his profitable description of this proper view of the Christian life, significant too as we begin a new work week on the morrow. For the full article, visit the Ligonier link at the end.

As we celebrate the five-hundredth anniversary of the Reformation, much is rightly made about the recovery of the biblical doctrines of salvation sola gratia, sola fide. The recovery of a biblical piety and practice is less well known but no less essential to the Reformation. When Luther left the monastery, he left behind Antony’s assumptions about the world, grace, and the Christian life. He recovered the biblical and ancient (anti-Gnostic) Christian doctrine of the essential goodness of creation. He recovered the biblical and Christian doctrine that every Christian, not just the priest and the monk, has a vocation from God. According to Luther, we are not called to flee the material world. We are called to flee sin but to serve Christ in God’s world as sinners freely forgiven for Christ’s sake alone.

In that connection, he points to a number of specific “reformations” the Reformers brought to the Christian life, especially in the area of worship. That included the place of God’s written Word in the lives of God’s people.

Following Luther’s translation of the Greek New Testament into German, the Reformed theologian William Tyndale (c. 1494–1536), a martyr for the gospel, translated the New Testament into English in 1525. Ten years later, Robert Olivetan (1506–38) produced a French translation of Scripture. The Reformed devoted themselves to this work so that God’s people could have Scripture in their own language that they might read it, pray over it, and teach it to their children at home. These translations also enabled families to hold devotions during the week, and the metrical Psalters gave them God’s Word for singing at home.

And Clark closes with these pertinent thoughts:

When, in 1517, Luther complained about the abuse of indulgences, he began a movement back to Scripture and toward a biblical understanding of piety in which Christ’s grace received in public worship overflows into private prayer and family devotions. He repudiated the error that there are two classes of Christians, and he repudiated their spiritual exercises. The Reformed followed him back to Scripture. But history tells us that there is a monk within each of us, continually looking for new ways to corrupt Christian piety, seeking to draw our eyes away from Christ, His grace, and His piety.

Source: Reformed Piety and Practice by R. Scott Clark

Reset: Take Time to Rest

Reset-DMurray-2017We have been calling attention to a new book from local author David Murray (Puritan Reformed Seminary) published by Crossway – Reset: Living a Grace-Paced Life in a Burnout Culture (2017). It is written with men especially in view, men in danger of burnout, as the title hints.

After chapters on doing a “reality check” (repair bay 1) and performing a “review” of our lives (repair bay 2), Murray takes us into repair bay 3, where he points us to the need for “rest.” And the rest he has in mind in chapter 3 is that of sleep – real, physical, lasting, fulfilling sleep. Which is deeply spiritual at the same time.

For as Murray points out, there is a “sermon we preach in our sleep,” and “few things are as theological as sleep” (p.54). To demonstrate this, he states that if we are boasting about being able to get by on five hours of sleep a night, for example, we are proclaiming the following five point “sermon”:

  1. I don’t trust God with my work, my church, or my family.
  2. I don’t respect how my Creator has made me.
  3. I don’t believe that the soul and body are linked.
  4. I don’t need to demonstrate my rest in Christ.
  5. I worship idols [p.55].

If you are a busy man who is sleep-deprived (self-induced, that is!), that theology of sleep hurts. Because the truth always hurts. And those five points convict us of what is going on in our souls while we are depriving our bodies of the rest we need and were created for.

But Murray carefully eases the pain by directing us to the benefits of longer sleep (physical, intellectual, emotional, financial, moral, and spiritual, etc.) and providing some helpful “sleeping pills” (discipline, routine, exercise, contentment, faith, humility, napping [that’s one of my favs – the “power nap” after supper!].

And he ends where he started, with “sleep theology.” Here, I will quote the author more extensively, for this too we (I!) need to hear:

Ultimately, sleep, like everything else, should lead us to the gospel and the Savior. First, it prompts us to think about death, that we all shall close our eyes in sleep, and wake up in another world (1 Thess.4:14).

It also teaches us about our Savior. The fact that Jesus slept (Mark 4:38) is as profound as “Jesus wept” (John 11:35). It reminds us of Christ’s full humanity, that the Son of God became so frail, so weak, so human that he needed to sleep. What humility! What love! What an example! What a comfort! What a sleeping pill!

It illustrates salvation. How much are we doing when we sleep? Nothing! That’s why Jesus used rest as an illustration of his salvation. ‘Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest’ (Matt.11:28).

It points us toward heaven. There remains a rest for the people of God (Heb.4:9). That doesn’t mean heaven is going to be one long lie-in. It means it will be a place of renewal, refreshment, comfort, and perfect peace [p.70].

Isn’t this a much-needed tonic for us as we end this week? After a busy week and a beautiful spring day today in which I again tried to cram too much in, my body – and soul! – are crying for rest. Yes, I did have my power nap. But I need more. More sleep and physical rest. But also, more of the theology of sleep. I need the gospel of grace. I need Jesus. I need His rest. I need heaven. What about you?

Which reminds us that tomorrow is God’s wonderful rest day. The Lord’s Day! Precious, wonderful rest is waiting for us in Christ. A glimpse of glory.  A foretaste of our forever with the Lord. Will we enter into it by faith and receive and rejoice in its benefits?

It will help us to spend tonight in sweet sleep.

I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for thou, LORD, only makest me dwell in safety. Psalm 4:8

It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows: for so he giveth his beloved sleep. Psalm 127:2

Reset: Reality Check and Review – D. Murray

Reset-DMurray-2017A few weeks ago I first pointed to a new book from local author David Murray (Puritan Reformed Seminary) published by Crossway – Reset: Living a Grace-Paced Life in a Burnout Culture (2017).

I have been making my way through it, reading with profit and pain because Murray puts his finger on the problems we men get ourselves into before we “crash and burn” from overworking, stress, exhaustion, etc. In the first two chapters Murray calls us to pull the “car” of our lives into the “repair bay” for a careful checkup and diagnosis. Those chapters are titled “Repair Bay 1; Reality Check” and “Repair Bay 2: Review.”

That first chapter was especially revealing because Murray has you face several sets of soul-piercing questions about your life. Answering those questions is certainly a “reality check.” In the next chapter (“review”) he has us go deeper into the reasons why we so bury ourselves in our work, etc. Some of these reasons are theological, as the following quotes will show.

The first theological reason Murray has us face is the truth that we are God’s creatures, that is, finite, limited, dependent human beings. Here is what he says:

At the root of many of the issues we identified in chapter 1 is a wrong view of God. And it’s not just a slightly wrong view; it’s  a fundamental and foundational error, because it concerns the fundamental and foundational truth that God is our Creator. That’s the very first truth revealed to us in Scripture. And it’s first for a reason: if we go wrong there, we run the risk of going wrong everywhere else. Forgetting we are Christians has serious consequences, but so does forgetting we are human.

But then the author anticipates our objections, such that we say, “Of course I know that God is my Creator! Don’t insult my intelligence and my spiritual knowledge!” But as Murray points out, we are “creationists living like evolutionists.” Here’s how he explains that:

Lots of people call God Creator but live like evolutionists. It’s as if life is about the survival of the fittest rather than about living like a dependent creature – trusting our Creator rather than ourselves – and according to our Maker’s instructions.

To which he adds a great illustration and application:

How would you feel if you built a remote-control model car for your children, only to come home a few days later to hear that they had broken it trying to use it as a plane? You’d say, ‘I gave you a car, and I gave you car instructions; why did you ignore them and treat the car like a plane?’ Similarly, God has given us instructions about how to live as his creatures, as the finite body-and-soul beings he has made us to be. But some of us are trying to live as if we are infinite. It’s hardly surprising that we are breaking down [p39].

Good points to ponder as we start our work week.

Listen Up! How to Listen to Bad Sermons (2)

listen-up-ashWe have now finished going through the seven main points of Christopher Ash’s booklet, Listen Up! A Practical Guide to  Listening to Sermons (Good Book Co., 2009), on how to listen to good (that is, biblically faithful) sermons (cf. my Saturday and Sunday posts in January and February of this year).

But, as we pointed out at the beginning of this series of posts, Ash also has an “appendix” section in which he deals with “how to listen to bad sermons” (pp.24ff.). Ash recognizes that sometimes God’s people are subjected to bad sermons, and he wants us to understand  that in these cases too we have a responsibility to listen well. So, it is worth our time to face this as well, since we have all heard at one time or another bad sermons.

Let me add this disclaimer at this point. It has been a long time since I heard a bad sermon. The PRC is blessed with good preachers and preaching, something I am thankful for each Lord’s Day. Today, too, we heard two wonderful sermons – one from our pastor (Rev. C. Spronk) and one from Seminarian Joe Holstege.

With that understanding, let’s return to Ash’s counsel about “bad sermons.” You may recall that at the outset of this section, the author divides “bad” sermons into three types: sermons that are “dull,” sermons that are “biblically inadequate,”and sermons that are “heretical.” Having considered “dull” ones last time, we turn to “biblically inadequate” ones in this post.

According to Ash, this is the kind of sermon in which you as a listener question where the the pastor got his thoughts from. “Somehow, the sermon seems to import all sorts of things not in the passage, or to screen out important things in the passage that do not feature in the preacher’s understanding of biblical truth. The sermon seems to be wrong in places, and to lack the Bible’s balance in other” (p.26).

How do we respond to such sermons? Ash advises us to avoid two dangers:

  1. “The first danger to avoid is developing a critical spirit.” Here, he references those in Jesus’ time who listened to Him, but only because they were trying to catch him i his words (Luke 11:54). We don’t want to be like that, “fault-finders”, because then we will only “feel good about ourselves, how clever we are or how well we know our Bibles; but it will never move us to repentance and faith.”
  2. “The second danger to avoid is being gullible and credulous, believing whatever any preacher says, so long as they say it plausibly and well.” Here, Ash references the Bereans, who tested even what Paul said by the Scriptures (Acts 17:11). But here, too, he advises us not to dwell on the parts of the sermon that were wrong, but on  those areas where the preacher was correct, biblically: “Let’s pray for God to apply the bits that came from the passage to our hearts and lives” (p.26).

Does that mean the minister is above questioning or beyond being helped? No, says Ash. If Priscilla and Aquila could help Apollos (Acts 18:27,28), then we may be used by God to help even a pastor grow to be a more biblical preacher. And, as he adds, ” a wise preacher will always be glad to be gently challenged and questioned by honest enquirers” (p.27).

Which also leads us to ask, Are we praying as diligently for our pastors as we ought? Do you want better (more biblical) sermons? Pray for your preacher daily! Listen well to what he brings each week! And encourage him in his work. What a calling he has as the mouthpiece of Jesus Christ!

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