Matthew R. Perry

Archive for the ‘Preaching’ Category

Jesus’ Poor Evangelism Techniques

In Church Life, Evangelism, For Preachers/Pastors, For Seminary Students, Preaching on December 5, 2008 at 11:29 am

When churches and church leaders begin studying methods and techniques of our culture rather than what God has laid out in His Word, even the best intentioned leaders will find themselves straying from God’s will–even when the numbers and results say otherwise.

I grew up on the tail end of a revivalism era where many evangelists would come into a church to conduct “revival services” asking those to “admit they were sinners” and to “come to Jesus” so you will “go to heaven.” Laced with tear-jerking stories and sparse exposition of Scriptures (which the Bible says in Hebrews 4:12 is living and active, sharper than any double-edged sword), many would be emotionally moved. Revival services were considered great successes when great numbers would come.

I wonder how many who subscribe to this would look at Jesus’ evangelism techniques and say, “Wow, Jesus really missed it this time.” I am thinking of the story of the Rich Young Ruler in Matthew 19:16-30. Notice a number of things:

1. Jesus had a willing seeker. “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Matthew 20:16). If that’s not a willing seeker, I don’t know what is! He clearly had a concern about his spiritual status before God. Jesus had someone ready.

2. Jesus had an influential seeker. This was a rich ruler, meaning he was part of the Sanhedrin, a.k.a. the Jewish Supreme Court. For many in our day, to have such an influential inquirer would be considered a great blessing. To those with questionable motives, this man needs to get into a church and learn the importance of giving to the Lord’s work!

3. Having such a convert would help make some in-roads into the Scribes and Pharisees world. No doubt that this would cause a stir.

But notice what Jesus does:

1. While many would be ready to bring them into the Kingdom right away, Jesus puts up roadblocks! “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments” (Matthew 20:17 ).

Two things to notice here. First, he puts the inquirer on his heels by questioning his notion of ‘goodness.’ Only God is good, and only God can save. In essence, Jesus is saying, “Are you approaching me because I am good or say good things? Are you attributing to me the trait of being able to give life? Are you saying I am the Son of God — because only God and His Son can do this?”

Secondly, he puts up the barrier of the commandments. “Keep the commandments,” Jesus tells him. If you want life, obey God to the fullest extent! Yet, the ruler questioned which commandments he should obey! Jesus lists off the Second Tablet commandments: “You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not bear false witness, honor your father and mother, and you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

What are the significance of these? These are relational commandments — how one deals with another human being. The Scribes and Pharisees struggled with this. They loved obeying the minutiae of the law, but felt themselves morally superior to the common folk of the day. These were serious issues, given how they were God’s covenant priests who represented Him.

The rich young ruler felt himself capable of entering the Kingdom due to his adequate keeping of the commandments. In other words, he did not see himself as “falling short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). He did not see himself as a sinner in need of a Savior. He saw himself as a good man in need of vindication of his good works.

3. Jesus dug deep to the true obstacle of his heart. “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me” (Matthew 20:21). Whereas many preachers and evangelists call for an easy-believism, Jesus rejected this notion and told the young man to come face-to-face with the core problem/sin that is the obstacle for eternal life. His possessions were his god — if he is not willing to give up his god, he cannot receive eternal life. If he wants the treasure of eternal life in heaven, yet will not give up the treasure here on earth, he cannot be a part of the Kingdom.

Many in our churches would never say that Jesus’ evangelism techniques were poor, but given how so few model him in showing how inquirers should count the cost of denying themselves and taking up their cross, we wonder why so few who say they are Christians really look very much like everyone else.

Right before dcTalk’s great song from 1995 called “What If I Stumble?”, a preacher (I believe it was Brennan Manning) spoke this: “The greatest single cause of atheism today is Christians, who mouth Jesus with their lips but deny him by their lifestyle. That’s what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.” Maybe its because many Christians have not learned the lesson of denying self and taking up the cross of Christ daily.

May that not be said of us!

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What is the Future of Expository Preaching? (Bryan Chapell)

In Preaching on September 23, 2008 at 10:10 am

(HT: Kenneth Clayton)

How Long Is Too Long for a Sermon?

In Preaching on September 19, 2008 at 12:36 pm

One of the standard jokes we have here at Boone’s Creek is the length of my sermons. I tend to preach about 35 minutes on average, which is a bit longer than some. I preach expositionally, which means that whatever the theme of the text is becomes the theme of my sermon. Whatever structure the biblical text is becomes the structure of the sermon. The Holy Spirit laid out the Scriptures this way, so who am I to do otherwise?

But getting back to the “joke,” we have some folks in our church who grew up with a preacher who preached two hours or more. Others grew up with a sermon lasting only 15 minutes or so. In fact, I had one person tell me a number of years ago, “If you preach past 12:00, they’ll tune you out” (this was after a Trinidadian preacher visited us and preached a God-glorifying sermon, but went until 12:30).

John MacArthur has a wonderful article entitled “Preaching and the Clock” (website/pdf) which begins as follows:

I do not think the length of the sermon is as important as its content. At times I have preached fifty minutes and it has been ten minutes too long. Other times, I have preached an hour and twenty-five minutes and it has been just right. The important thing is to cover the main point so that people are convinced of its truth and comprehend its requirements.

If you have nothing worthwhile to say, even twenty minutes will seem like an eternity to your people. If you are interesting, they will stay with you. Do not mistake persuasion for long-windedness, however. If you preach longer than you should, you will sacrifice persuasiveness.

Now, I will confess freely that I do not preach like MacArthur. God has not called me to preach like John MacArthur (God already gave us one of him), but to preach in the Spirit and His Word using me as his earthen vessel. Even so, I do understand that even with me preaching 35 minutes or so, I am just barely scratching the surface of what the Word is saying.

And fortunately for me, I do not have a “one-and-done” situation– I will have other Sundays! But I am with MacArthur: as a preacher, make sure your people know the principle of the passage on which you preach so they may grow in Christlikeness.

Calling Cards, iPods, and the Worth of our Words, Part I

In Culture, Politics, Preaching, Sermons on July 17, 2008 at 1:20 pm

(This sermon was preached on Sunday, July 13, 2008 at Boone’s Creek Baptist Church, Lexington, KY. To listen to the sermon in its entirety, click here.)

Truth is a rare commodity in our culture. We find ourselves searching high and low in our culture for truth. Not only do we not find it, we have grown cynical as to whether anyone can really tell us the truth at all. If the great Roman orator Cicero was right that “Nothing is sweeter than the light of truth,” then we are living in dark and bitter times. Daniel Webster noted once, “There is nothing so powerful as truth—and often nothing so strange.” Would we know what to do if we had a politician who told the truth? Would we know what to do with a car salesman who told us not only the good but also the bad of a car we are considering purchasing?

Even among our preachers, we hear of preachers and evangelists embellishing stories and statistics in order to (in theory) make their point more valid. Some have taken such liberties with the truth that some even joke about it while preaching that they are really telling them the truth with this.

This morning, we look at Matthew 5:33-37 and see that our words matter and our words count. What does our speech tell us about our hearts?

“Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’ But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.”

At first, this simply looks like Jesus is speaking of the making and taking of oaths, but he really goes deeper. Many in the Old and New Testament have made oaths to others. Hebrews 6:16 says, “For people swear by something greater than themselves, and in all their disputes an oath is final for confirmation” (Hebrews 6:16, ESV). All through the Sermon on the Mount, in fact, Jesus made an oath when he said, “Truly I say to you… .” In other words, he is giving an oath to help seal the truthfulness of an issue. To Jesus, words mattered to establish truth.

Yet some use words to manipulate. Does saying something, then swearing on a stack of Bibles or swearing on your Momma’s graves or, even more serious, swearing to God to help people believe what you are saying?

1. Our words are the calling card of our character.

I have on me a business card. This business card contains my picture, my name and title, the name of the church, my phone numbers, e-mail, and a short Bible verse. This is my business card that I give whenever I call of folks for a visit. That card, though it contains some great information, is only as good as the man behind it. So too is any oath and really any propositional statement you make is only as good as the character.

Look with me at verse 33 once again: “Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’” Up until this point, Jesus brings up two of the Ten Commandments (anger and murder), but here Jesus goes a little further into the particular traditions set up by the rabbis. What Jesus sets up here is a combination of verses found in the Old Testament. For instance, Leviticus 19:12 says: “You shall not swear by my name falsely, and so profane the name of your God: I am the Lord.” Numbers 30:2 says, “If a man vows a vow to the Lord, or swears an oath to bind himself by a pledge, he shall not break his word. He shall do according to all that proceeds out of his mouth.” Deut. 23:21 says, “If you make a vow to the Lord your God, you shall not delay fulfilling it, for the Lord your God will surely require it of you, and you will be guilty of sin.”

These are the verses Jesus has in mind. He puts before them the commands not to swear falsely, or to perjure oneself. But even with religiously minded people, they would find loopholes. Jesus gave the teaching correctly, but there is one clause that we must see: “You shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.” In other words, they taught, “If make a vow or taken an oath swearing by God’s name, then it is permissible and you have to honor it. But if you swear by any other name or by anything else, it could be broken.”

Jesus comes along and says in verse 34-35, “But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King.” Again, Jesus here is not forbidding the taking of oaths. He is forbidding taking oaths in such a careless manner that they are rendered meaningless. Jesus takes umbrage in other areas in which we use words carelessly.

In October, we shall spend four weeks looking at the Lord’s Prayer and our prayer before the Lord. In Matthew 6:7-8, Jesus says, “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. [8] Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” The New American Standard version puts it nicely, “Do not use meaningless repetition.” Our words have to have weight!

Same principle here. Some made vows to heaven thinking that conveyed a seriousness, but still gave them an out to be at odds with the truth. But Heaven is God’s throne. Earth is God’s footstool. Jerusalem is his city. But it went even further. In Matthew 23:16-22, Jesus said:

“Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it is nothing, but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath.’ [17] You blind fools! For which is greater, the gold or the temple that has made the gold sacred? [18] And you say, ‘If anyone swears by the altar, it is nothing, but if anyone swears by the gift that is on the altar, he is bound by his oath.’ [19] You blind men! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that makes the gift sacred? [20] So whoever swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it. [21] And whoever swears by the temple swears by it and by him who dwells in it. [22] And whoever swears by heaven swears by the throne of God and by him who sits upon it.

What’s the point? It is all part of God’s created order. Every lie brings shame upon the name of God ultimately. Just because we say certain things about stacks of Bibles and momma’s graves does not mean that God gives us a free pass to play fast and loose with our words.

Do You Have a Kingdom Longing?

In Church Life, Culture, Evangelism, Missions, Preaching, Sermons on April 16, 2008 at 9:39 pm

(If you want to listen to this sermon in its entirety, click here. This sermon was preaching on Sunday, April 13, 2008, at the Boone’s Creek Baptist Church, Lexington, KY. Click here for the archive.)

The introduction continues: “He went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him” (Matthew 5:1b). Jesus didn’t just see the crowds and then give a simple gesture or a nod. He went up to a place where he could be seen, sat down as if he planned on staying a while a communing with them, and the people came to him.

Do we have this Kingdom longing? John Piper in his book The Supremacy of God in Preaching wrote:

“People are starving for the greatness of God. But most of them would not give this diagnosis of their troubled lives. The majesty of God is an unknown cure. There are far more prescriptions on the market, but the benefit is brief and shallow. Preaching that does not have the aroma of God’s greatness may entertain for a season, but it will not touch the hidden cry of the soul which cries, ‘Show me thy glory!’

Jesus understands this longing — and Jesus is the only one who can satisfy that longing. Over and over, they were stunned by an authority coupled with compassion. The Pharisees wouldn’t give those the time of day! They were more interested in their traditions than in God’s creation!

All of us, dear friends, are looking for something we can count on. And the world is searching and scraping to fill a void that nothing in this world can fill. But for you who are Christians, let me ask you: do you long for God’s kingdom to be a reality within you and within this church and within this community? To put it another way, do you and do I long for God’s rule and will to be done, regardless of the pain or cost?

Art Azurdia in a sermon I heard on the radio this past week that the biggest turnaround in our churches over the past fifty years is that the average person looks at the church and asks, “How can the church serve me?” What has happened? We have fallen into the trap of our selfish flesh in that we desire to be our own kings where everyone around us caters to us.

What has happened? Does this not sound like Jesus’ words? Mark 10:42-45

And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. [43] But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, [44] and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. [45] For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Do you have a kingdom longing this morning? Do you long for false idols that try to capture your attention to be knocked over by the one True and Living God?

Do You Have Kingdom Lenses?

In Church Life, Evangelism, Gospel, Missions, Preaching, Sermons on April 15, 2008 at 9:38 pm

(If you want to listen to this sermon in its entirety, click here or here to read the Introduction. This sermon was preaching on Sunday, April 13, 2008, at the Boone’s Creek Baptist Church, Lexington, KY. Click here for the archive.)

The first portion of this introduction is three simple words: “Seeing the crowds… .” There is a difference between seeing a crowd and seeing a crowd. When I first moved to Lexington, I was warned right away, “If you plan on driving on Nicholasville Road, do not drive when there’s a ball game letting out, or when it’s rush hour. Why? Because of a crowd of cars filled with a crowd of people. You can see that crowd and get annoyed.

Or you can go out to eat and find yourself avoiding certain places because of a line rolling out the door. Or you can be the head of a company or a department and see the crowd of people working under you, but you can use those people simply to advance your own agenda.

I’m glad Jesus doesn’t fit into this category. While this little portion seems to convey a simple looking at the crowds, we get a glimpse into the heart of Jesus as he looks at the crowd in Matthew 9:36, “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” The key word to all of that is “compassion.” Sympathy. Having pity. He put himself in their place and began taking time to see life through their eyes.

It reminds me of a story I read about a man who put up a sign in his yard that read: “Puppies for Sale.” Among those who came to inquire was a young boy. “Please, Mister,” he said, “I’d like to buy one of your puppies if they don’t cost too much.” “Well, son, they’re $25.” The boy looked crushed. “I’ve only got two dollars and five cents. Could I see them anyway?” “Of course. Maybe we can work something out,” said the man. The lad’s eyes danced at the sight of those five little balls of fur. “I heard that one has a bad leg,” he said. “Yes, I’m afraid she’ll be crippled for life.” “Well, that’s the puppy I want. Could I pay for her a little at a time?” The man responded, “But she’ll always have a limp.” Smiling bravely, the boy pulled up one pant leg, revealing a brace. “I don’t walk good either.” Then, looking at the puppy sympathetically, he continued, “I guess she’ll need a lot of love and help. I sure did. It’s not so easy being crippled.” “Here, take her,” said the man. “I know you’ll give her a good home. And just forget the money.”

The situation for the people in Jesus’ time was one perpetual limp after another. John MacArthur noted that the religious factions of the day were leading the people astray. The Pharisees believed in keeping all the law and traditions in great detail. The Sadducees were religious liberals who rejected all things supernatural and changed the Scripture and tradition to fit their worldview. The Essenes separated themselves from everyone, like the monks. The zealots were activists who sought to overturn the political system. MacArthur wryly notes, “The Pharisees said, ‘Go back”; the Sadducees said, “Go ahead”; the Essenes said, “Go away”; and the Zealots said, “Go against.” They truly had no shepherd they could count on.

Let me ask you: when you see the people around you, what do you see? Do you see people as a way to be avoided, exploited, changed, or as many churches and cults do and aim to indoctrinate? It’s time to see people where they are. It’s time to take time to see the crowd around us. And many, whether they realize it or not have a longing for something more. No matter how hard they try, this world cannot meet their true longing for more, for better, for something to grant them purpose.

How To Pray For Next Sunday’s Preacher

In Church Life, For Preachers/Pastors, Preaching on February 23, 2008 at 2:25 pm

Unashamed Workman gave this quote found on the Reformation Theology Blog:

Our gracious God and Father. I approach Your throne
today, knowing that it is only through the name of Jesus that I can
stand before You. I thank and praise You for Your goodness in allowing
me to do so. I recognize very well that I am unworthy of this honor,
this privilege, apart from Your unmerited favor and grace. I come
before You to seek Your blessing on the service on Sunday.

Grant that the Word will come to us with power and with great
freedom. Be near to our Pastor and his family. Keep the family close as
they serve You together. Protect them from dangers both seen and
unseen. May our pastor know great wisdom as he plans his day and his
week around the priorities You lay before him. May his schedule allow
him much time to study Your word and to pray. May he know that he is
serving You and all of us very well as he makes these a high priority.
May our pastor’s family time also be protected. Grant that he would be
free from all unnecessary busy-ness in ministry. Also grant our pastor
sufficient rest and sleep.

Grant our pastor humility before Your Word as he finishes his
preparations and grant that he may be filled with a holy dread and
gravity as he stands before Your people. May he know what it is to be
filled afresh with the Holy Spirit. May we truly know what it is to sit
under the preaching of the Word. Speak to us, we pray. Speak to our
hearts through the words we hear. May we never be the same.

Be with those who will lead us in worship. Be near to those who will
sing or play instruments. Grant that in all things they may seek to
serve You. May songs be selected that will bring glory and honor to
Your name. May they lead us in singing songs that celebrate the beauty
of the Savior and sing of Your wonders, Your glory, Your triumphs, Your
holiness, Your majesty and Your great gospel. Let everything that has
breath in that place praise the Lord together. May our worship be a
sweet and fragrant offering to You. Accept it Lord, though we know it
is poor and imperfect. Accept it through Your grace.

Be with the men and women who will be serving this week – those who
are responsible for hospitality, greeting and ushering; those who will
work in the sound booth, in the bookstall, in administration, and with
those who will minister to our precious children and youth. Even now
Lord, please fill all of these people afresh with Your Spirit. We thank
you for the servant’s hearts You have given to them. I ask that You
will allow them to be a blessing to many this week, even to those who
do not yet know You. May the service run smoothly and may Your hand be
evident in all that transpires. May Your love truly flow amongst us.
May each of us be sensitive to the needs of others.

Bless our church’s outreach this week, through the words we speak,
the love we show and the help we give to others. Bless the proclamation
of Your gospel both by word and by life. In Your goodness, bring many
to repentance. Direct our conversations, and help each of us to be bold
in sharing the good news of Christ with others. Use me and all of our
church in outreach this week I pray.

Would you help all who attend to come to the Sunday service as true
worshippers–as those who worship You in spirit and in truth. Remind us
that the gathering of Your people to worship is something You have
ordained for us. It is a holy and sacred time. Help us to take the
Lord’s day seriously. Prepare my heart and each of our hearts even now
for what You will say to us then. Grant that we may not come before you
as frauds, standing in Your presence filled with unconfessed sin. Give
us the strength and wisdom to reconcile ourselves to our brothers and
sisters before we come before You in worship. Give us discerning hearts
that we may see and confess our sin before You. Open our eyes to see
and to know You in a new way. Help us to worship You, not only with our
lips, but with our hearts, our souls, and all that we are. Accept the
gift of worship we will bring to You. May it please You.

Be with our pastor as he prepares to preach Your Word on Sunday.
Grant that his time of preparation will be fruitful and that You will
stir His heart with the great news of the gospel, of the precious truth
of justification by grace alone through faith in Christ alone, all to
the glory of God alone. May all of us at our Church live in the power
of this gospel always. Protect us from the devil’s lies and help us to
never be bored by the wonderful doctrines of grace, but grant that they
may be the joy and delight of our hearts. Open our eyes Lord to see
just how Your glorious gospel affects each and every area of our lives.
Grant that our pastor or any guest minister may preach with great power
and passion on Sunday morning. May the preaching be God centered, cross
centered and gospel centered.

Be with me Lord. Prepare my own heart for Sunday morning when You
speak to us as Your people. I confess that already my heart is polluted
with sin. As I think about worshipping You, already I wonder how other
men may perceive me. Already I sin against you. Extend Your gracious
forgiveness to me that I may come before You with a clean heart. Renew
a right spirit within me. Keep the truth ever before me that to obey is
better than sacrifice. Help me to be obedient to You in all things.
Fill me with Your Spirit. Grant that I may serve You by serving others.

Grant traveling mercies as men and women, boys and girls come to our
Church on Sunday. Keep us safe this week and as we gather together in
Your name.

We pray for peace and unity while we gather together. We ask that
there will be mercy and understanding. We ask that there will be a
great outpouring of your Spirit. We ask that you will bless us for the
sake of the glory of Your great name.

I ask these things humbly and in the name that is above all names,
the Lord Jesus Christ. Grant that I may be expectant and observant in
seeking answers to this prayer so that I may praise You for Your
goodness. May we all seek Your presence and glory in it together as we
worship You this week.

How To Pray For Next Sunday’s Preacher

In Church Life, For Preachers/Pastors, Preaching on February 23, 2008 at 2:25 pm

Unashamed Workman gave this quote found on the Reformation Theology Blog:

Our gracious God and Father. I approach Your throne
today, knowing that it is only through the name of Jesus that I can
stand before You. I thank and praise You for Your goodness in allowing
me to do so. I recognize very well that I am unworthy of this honor,
this privilege, apart from Your unmerited favor and grace. I come
before You to seek Your blessing on the service on Sunday.

Grant that the Word will come to us with power and with great
freedom. Be near to our Pastor and his family. Keep the family close as
they serve You together. Protect them from dangers both seen and
unseen. May our pastor know great wisdom as he plans his day and his
week around the priorities You lay before him. May his schedule allow
him much time to study Your word and to pray. May he know that he is
serving You and all of us very well as he makes these a high priority.
May our pastor’s family time also be protected. Grant that he would be
free from all unnecessary busy-ness in ministry. Also grant our pastor
sufficient rest and sleep.

Grant our pastor humility before Your Word as he finishes his
preparations and grant that he may be filled with a holy dread and
gravity as he stands before Your people. May he know what it is to be
filled afresh with the Holy Spirit. May we truly know what it is to sit
under the preaching of the Word. Speak to us, we pray. Speak to our
hearts through the words we hear. May we never be the same.

Be with those who will lead us in worship. Be near to those who will
sing or play instruments. Grant that in all things they may seek to
serve You. May songs be selected that will bring glory and honor to
Your name. May they lead us in singing songs that celebrate the beauty
of the Savior and sing of Your wonders, Your glory, Your triumphs, Your
holiness, Your majesty and Your great gospel. Let everything that has
breath in that place praise the Lord together. May our worship be a
sweet and fragrant offering to You. Accept it Lord, though we know it
is poor and imperfect. Accept it through Your grace.

Be with the men and women who will be serving this week – those who
are responsible for hospitality, greeting and ushering; those who will
work in the sound booth, in the bookstall, in administration, and with
those who will minister to our precious children and youth. Even now
Lord, please fill all of these people afresh with Your Spirit. We thank
you for the servant’s hearts You have given to them. I ask that You
will allow them to be a blessing to many this week, even to those who
do not yet know You. May the service run smoothly and may Your hand be
evident in all that transpires. May Your love truly flow amongst us.
May each of us be sensitive to the needs of others.

Bless our church’s outreach this week, through the words we speak,
the love we show and the help we give to others. Bless the proclamation
of Your gospel both by word and by life. In Your goodness, bring many
to repentance. Direct our conversations, and help each of us to be bold
in sharing the good news of Christ with others. Use me and all of our
church in outreach this week I pray.

Would you help all who attend to come to the Sunday service as true
worshippers–as those who worship You in spirit and in truth. Remind us
that the gathering of Your people to worship is something You have
ordained for us. It is a holy and sacred time. Help us to take the
Lord’s day seriously. Prepare my heart and each of our hearts even now
for what You will say to us then. Grant that we may not come before you
as frauds, standing in Your presence filled with unconfessed sin. Give
us the strength and wisdom to reconcile ourselves to our brothers and
sisters before we come before You in worship. Give us discerning hearts
that we may see and confess our sin before You. Open our eyes to see
and to know You in a new way. Help us to worship You, not only with our
lips, but with our hearts, our souls, and all that we are. Accept the
gift of worship we will bring to You. May it please You.

Be with our pastor as he prepares to preach Your Word on Sunday.
Grant that his time of preparation will be fruitful and that You will
stir His heart with the great news of the gospel, of the precious truth
of justification by grace alone through faith in Christ alone, all to
the glory of God alone. May all of us at our Church live in the power
of this gospel always. Protect us from the devil’s lies and help us to
never be bored by the wonderful doctrines of grace, but grant that they
may be the joy and delight of our hearts. Open our eyes Lord to see
just how Your glorious gospel affects each and every area of our lives.
Grant that our pastor or any guest minister may preach with great power
and passion on Sunday morning. May the preaching be God centered, cross
centered and gospel centered.

Be with me Lord. Prepare my own heart for Sunday morning when You
speak to us as Your people. I confess that already my heart is polluted
with sin. As I think about worshipping You, already I wonder how other
men may perceive me. Already I sin against you. Extend Your gracious
forgiveness to me that I may come before You with a clean heart. Renew
a right spirit within me. Keep the truth ever before me that to obey is
better than sacrifice. Help me to be obedient to You in all things.
Fill me with Your Spirit. Grant that I may serve You by serving others.

Grant traveling mercies as men and women, boys and girls come to our
Church on Sunday. Keep us safe this week and as we gather together in
Your name.

We pray for peace and unity while we gather together. We ask that
there will be mercy and understanding. We ask that there will be a
great outpouring of your Spirit. We ask that you will bless us for the
sake of the glory of Your great name.

I ask these things humbly and in the name that is above all names,
the Lord Jesus Christ. Grant that I may be expectant and observant in
seeking answers to this prayer so that I may praise You for Your
goodness. May we all seek Your presence and glory in it together as we
worship You this week.

Has God Called You? Discerning the Call to Preach (Mohler)

In For Preachers/Pastors, For Seminary Students, Preaching on February 11, 2008 at 9:53 pm

Al Mohler, President of Southern Seminary, gives a great post on how to discern God’s call to preach. Below is an excerpt:

Has God called you to ministry? Though all Christians are called to serve the cause of Christ, God calls certain persons to serve the Church as pastors and other ministers. Writing to young Timothy, the Apostle Paul confirmed that if a man aspires to be a pastor, “it is a fine work he aspires to do.” [I Timothy 3:1, NASB] Likewise, it is a high honor to be called of God into the ministry of the Church. How do you know if God is calling you?

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When a Good Sermon Turns Ugly, Part I

In Preaching, Sermons on February 5, 2008 at 12:36 pm

(This sermon was preached on Sunday, February 3, 2008, at Boone’s Creek Baptist Church, Lexington, KY. To listen to this sermon in its entirety, click here. You can also read over the Introduction.)

Young ministers make the hometown people so proud, don’t they? Some of you know firsthand how that is. You see a young man from the community, whether they are raised in the church or live in the community, and then God places the call not only of salvation but also of ministry on their lives. From that point on, you keep seeing how God is powerfully moving in them.

Jesus was that young minister who made them so proud. Luke 4:14-15 says,

And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, and a report about him went out through all the surrounding country. [15] And he taught in their synagogues, being glorified by all.

By the time Jesus came to preach at his hometown, he had been ministering for about a year. Word had gotten around about his powerful preaching in the synagogue. In Jesus’ time, the synagogue system was firmly established. Synagogues were referred to as “houses of instruction” because rabbis (either a full-time one for that synagogue, or a part-time traveling one) would stand up, read through a passage, and then exposit and explain what this passage referred to! Jesus began doing this in Galilee and word of Jesus spread around.

‘And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up.’ He’s a pretty powerful expositor! And the reading for the day is a good one! One of the promised Messiah who would come to deliver his people. In fact, this reading was from Isaiah 61:1-2 — a highly-charged passage prophesying about the Messiah coming and what he would accomplish.

In this, he addresses four areas: the poor, the captives, the blind, and the oppressed. Each of these areas deal with a spiritual issue. One of the verses to the hymn Just As I Am describes these issues perfectly.

Just as I am, poor, wretched, blind;
Sight, riches, healing of the mind,
Yea, all I need, in thee to find,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

We understand that the issues Mrs. Elliot refers to are spiritual issues. Same with this passage that Jesus read from. Yet, the people listening to him thought he may be talking of cultural and political issues of the time. They were monetarily poor because of the oppressive nature of the Roman government’s taxation. They were captive to Roman law, which they resented. And this deliverer would come along and help them. So naturally, when Jesus read this, they were glad.

That is until Jesus began to interpret what it meant. In verse 20-22, we read: Luke 4:20-22

And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. [21] And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” [22] And all spoke well of him and marveled at the gracious words that were coming from his mouth. And they said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?” (Luke 4:20-22, ESV).

The sad thing about our fleshly inner workings is that we tend to look more at the messenger than we do the message. Their first reaction was right — what gracious words he spoke! Then they thought about who He was — and a path was laid before them. Continue to accept the words He spoke and allow them to probe, or reject.

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