Faithful for the Future Day Four

Over the past few days we have been exploring what it means to display God’s glory. First of all, we glorify our sovereign God as a 24-7 lifestyle of worship as individual Christians. Second, we glorify the Lord corporately as we gather each Sunday for worship. We come to Sunday mornings prepared and expectant for God to act in power because we have spent time with Him in personal worship all week.

 

Read 2 Timothy 3:16-17 and 4:1-3

 

Paul charges Timothy to preach “the Word,” which contextually links back to 2 Timothy 3:16 as the God-breathed written Scriptures.

 

John MacArthur claims, “The God-ordained means to save, sanctify, and strengthen His church is preaching.”[1]

 

Do you truly believe this? Do you believe in the power of the preached Word to strengthen our church? To save the lost? To grow you in Christ?

 

Many times pastors may become tempted to rely on other means or sources besides the sufficiency of Scripture to motivate and lead the church to fulfill its mission. As such, he may preach personal opinion, trite stories, political speeches, motivational talks, or casual conversations, which unfortunately, serve as the main diet of many evangelical pulpits.

 

Instead, the content of expository preaching must include the bold proclamation and clear explanation of the sacred text of Scripture.

 

Thomas Oden says,“There is no hint here that preaching is thought of primarily as self-expression or subjective experience or feeling-disclosure or autobiography or ‘telling one’s story’ so as to neglect Scripture. . . . The whole counsel of God is to be preached, without fanciful, idiosyncratic amendment or individualistic addition.[2]

 

Let me remind you of another aspect related to our mission statement of displaying God’s glory.

 

Since our chief aim is to glorify God, we should not be driven by pragmatism, popular opinion, or passing fads, but instead we should be driven by what brings the most honor and glory to the Lord.

 

What do I mean by pragmatism?

 

John MacArthur defines it this way, “Basically it is a philosophy that says that results determine meaning, truth, and value — what will work becomes a more important question than what is true. As Christians, we are called to trust what the Lord says, preach that message to others, and leave the results to Him. But many have set that aside. Seeking relevancy and success, they have welcomed the pragmatic approach and have received the proverbial Trojan horse.”[3]

 

A church driven by pragmatism always does what gets the best results by any means necessary through human ingenuity. A church driven by God’s glory remains faithful to the Bible and trusts God for the results that can only be accomplished through His supernatural power.

 

  1. W. Tozer said, In my opinion, the great single need of the moment is that light-hearted superficial religionists be struck down with a vision of God high and lifted up, with His train filling the temple. The holy art of worship seems to have passed away like the Shekinah glory from the tabernacle. As a result, we are left to our own devices and forced to make up the lack of spontaneous worship by bringing in countless cheap and tawdry activities to hold the attention of the church people.”[4]

As your pastor, I don’t want to be driven by fads or popular opinion. I am not called to preach what you necessarily WANT to hear, but what we all may NEED to hear. I don’t preach to win a popularity contest, but to proclaim the truth and let God sovereignly work on your hearts. I pray that I do this with compassion and sensitivity, but it does none of us any good if I don’t preach the whole counsel of God’s Word—even the controversial and harsh portions that make us uncomfortable.

I’ve given this quote before by Leonard Ravenhill, but I think it needs repeating: “The New Testament church did not depend on a moral majority, but rather on a holy minority. The church right now has more fashion than passion, is more pathetic than prophetic, is more superficial than supernatural. The church that the apostles ministered in was a suffering church; today we have a sufficient church. Events in the Spirit-controlled church were amazing; in this day the church is often just amusing. The New Testament church was identified with persecutions, prisons, and poverty; today many of us are identified with prosperity, popularity, and personalities.”[5]

 

We don’t need the greatest technology. We don’t need the greatest techniques and programming. We don’t need the most dynamic personalities in leadership. We don’t need a marketing plan or a church growth scheme. We don’t need opinion after opinion after opinion. We really don’t even need our building. What we desperately need is the solid rock promise that God indeed will be with us.

Where else are we going to hear from the Lord than through the preaching of the Word?

On a daily basis we are bombarded with multiple voices that vie for our attention. The talking heads on your favorite news channel. Televsion, the Internet, Sirius XM Radio, Pandora, Spotify, Talk Radio, podcasts, video games, and any other media you can think of! We have no shortage of voices, opinions, prognosticators, experts, and people who think they know everything. They speak with such authority. And some of what they say may be in fact true.

But we desperately need more. We need to hear a Word from the Lord Himself. God speaks to His people through the faithful preaching of the Word.

The Second Helvetic Confession teaches, “The preaching of the Word of God is the Word of God. Wherefore when this Word of God is now preached in the church by preachers lawfully called, we believe that the very Word of God is proclaimed.[6]

When you come to listen to a sermon at Emmanuel, as your pastor, I better have a word from the Lord or you’ve been short-changed. You don’t need to hear my opinions. I’m not an expert. I am just your shepherd who wants to know the Scriptures so accurately that I can communicate them to you in a way that impacts your soul. I hope I teach so that you can grow in knowledge, but I also hope to aim for your heart so that you are gripped by God’s glory and you desire to display His glory in your daily life when you leave the service.

One my wall in front of my computer in my study is one of my favorite quotes. It is by an old Baptist preacher from South Carolina named Vance Havner.

It says this: “God is on the lookout today for a man who will be quiet enough to get a message to him, brave enough to preach it, and honest enough to live it.”

The Westminster Longer Catechism provides a helpful explanation in Question 160 of the responsibility of those who sit under expository preaching by asking,

What is required of those who hear the word preached? Answer: It is required that they attend upon it with diligence, preparation and prayer . . . receive the truth with faith, meekness, and readiness of mind, as the Word of God; meditate and hide it in their hearts and bring forth fruit of it in their lives.[7]

Would we truly bring forth fruit in our lives that display God’s glory! Would you value the preaching of God’s Word to display His glory. Would you pray that we would always be driven by what brings most honor to God instead of what produces the most man-made results.

[1]MacArthur, “Preaching,” in Pastoral Ministry: How to Shepherd Biblically, ed. John MacArthur and The

Master’s Seminary Faculty (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2005), 204.

 

[2]Thomas Oden, First and Second Timothy and Titus (Louisville: John Knox Press, 1989), 135.

[3]https://www.gty.org/resources/print/articles/A333 (accessed January 2nd, 2017)

 

[4]A. W. Tozer, Keys to the Deeper Life (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1957), 87-88.

[5]Leonard Ravenhill, Revival God’s Way (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 1983), 57.

 

[6]Creeds of Christendom, “The Second Helvetic Confession,” accessed May 20, 2015, http://www.creeds.net/helvetic/index.htm.

[7]“The Westminster Larger Catechism” (1648), in Thy Word is Still Truth: Essential Writings on the

Doctrine of Scripture from the Reformation to Today, ed. Peter A. Lillback and Richard B. Gaffin Jr. (Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R Publishing, 2013), 232.

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