Antichrists and the Anointed

Mark 2 – Biblical Theology – Part 2

18 Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour. 19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us. 20 But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all have knowledge. 21 I write to you, not because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and because no lie is of the truth.

In this passage the Apostle John clearly warns us that in the last hour, i.e. the time between the Cross and the Lord’s return, that there would be many Antichrists.  These Antichrists are John’s description for the opponents of Christ and their false teaching, which is in opposition to the apostolic eyewitness testimony about who Jesus is (cf. 1:1–4).  The greater context indicates that they abandoned the true gospel because they departed from the fellowship, having denied the faith (God’s truth regarding Christ) and that their goal is to confuse the faithful.

In contrast to the antichrists are the Anointed, those who have been chosen by God and indwelled with the Holy Spirit.  As the anointed we are His possession and thus, because we are His children, we are christ’s in this world.  Not only are we uniquely set apart, but we have all been given unique knowledge which He wants us to lean on and live by.

It is to this body of “knowledge” about the Godhead (Father, Son & Holy Spirit) that we now turn: Who He is, What He has done, How He has done it and What He expects of us.

The Need for Biblical Theology

The question we must ask at the beginning of this discussion is this: “How do we distinguish ourselves from the cults, false teachers and anemic Christians?”  How are we different from…Mormons, Catholics, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Bahai, Unitarians, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindu’s, etc.

As we seek to answer that question please understand that it isn’t what we have in common that marks who we are but rather it is where we are different.  Think about it this way:

  • How would all those different groups describe God?
  • How would they describe Jesus Christ?
  • How would they describe the plight of man?
  • How would they describe the solution to man’s fallen condition?
  • How would they say we should live to please God?

Would you not agree with me that the answers to those questions would be far different?

Next however, many of those groups would say something like this: “Well, we may disagree on some points, but we are all Bible based in our beliefs.”  But friends, it is not enough to simply say, “We are Bible Based believers”!  Listen to the wisdom of Martin Lloyd-Jones on this topic…

‎Most of the cults which are so prominent in the world today claim that they are based upon the Bible. ‘Of course,’ they say, ‘we believe everything that the Bible says; our teaching is based upon it.’ Indeed, you will find that some of these people appear to know their Bibles very well. So it is no use just saying to them that you do not believe as they do because you believe the Bible. We must know how doctrine is to be found in the Bible if we hope to deliver these people in any way at all, if we are anxious to make them true Christians and to bring them to a real knowledge of God. We must be in a position to explain to them where they go wrong and where they are not biblical, and to help them to understand the source of their error. (Martin Lloyd-Jones, pg. 35)

Mark Dever also shares some helpful insights here…

“Today people believe to be true simply what they desire to be true.” Dever

“Long-held Christian beliefs about everything from the nature of God to morality have been reshaped and have been jettisoned in the name of making Christianity more relevant, more palatable, more acceptable to today’s hearer.” Dever pg. 58

Now friends, I think that Lloyd-Jones and Dever are absolutely right in their assessment.  Our view of God, our understanding of Biblical themes and doctrines is critical to our growth in Christ and to how we live our lives for His glory.

So, I ask the question again…”What makes us stand apart from all these different religions?”  The answer is rather simple, but extremely important…

  •  “We take Theology seriously.”

Now, that answer is dependent on our seriousness and our willingness to be diligent in pursuing theology as an ongoing activity of our daily walk with God.  Sadly, however, there is apathy among believers today regarding “theology” as if “theology” is a discipline held exclusively for Pastors and experts.  But, that kind of thinking runs contrary to the teaching of Scripture.

Listen, If I ask you to tell me about Jesus and your answer is, “Jesus is Love! He is the great example for us to follow.  He inspires us to live our lives using our gifts to do good to others and to leave a legacy for others to follow,”  here is what I would say.  “Regardless of whether that sentence is biblically true or not, you have just given me a theology.  You have formulated a doctrine of understanding about Who Jesus is.”  Friends, that is doctrine…that is theology.  Everybody has a theology, right wrong or confused!

I am encouraged again by Martin Lloyd-Jones’ words…

‎How are these doctrines to be found in the Bible? How is one to discover them? Now that is no idle question, as I think I can show you very easily. But it is never enough to say, ‘I am not interested in doctrines. I’m a Bible person. Let these clever people argue about doctrines if they like; you give me the Bible and I am satisfied.’ That is a very foolish (ouch), indeed, a ridiculous (yikes), statement to make, because people who come to the Bible must believe something as the result of reading it. The question is: Are they believing what they ought to believe?  (parenthetical commentary is mine)  (Lloyd-Jones, D. M. (1996). God the Father, God the Son (p 35). Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books.)

Theology

So, let’s first define the word “Theology”.  It comes from two Greek words – “theos” & “logos” which together mean “The Study of God.”  We can broaden the topic by saying that everything contained in the Bible is “about God”, so as we study the Bible we are studying God.  That study is also called “teaching” or “doctrine”.

Listen to what the Apostle Paul says to both Titus and Timothy in his Pastoral Epistles about the word “sound” as it complements the words, “doctrine, teaching, faith, etc.  The word “Sound” means reliable, accurate or faithful. At its root it is an image from the medical world meaning “to be whole or healthy”.

 the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine, ” (1 Timothy 1:10, ESV)

If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, ” (1 Timothy 6:3, ESV)

Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. ” (2 Timothy 1:13, ESV)

For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, ” (2 Timothy 4:3, ESV)

He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it. ” (Titus 1:9, ESV)

This testimony is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith, ” (Titus 1:13, ESV)

But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine. Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness. ” (Titus 2:1–2, ESV)

So, Paul is all about theology being present in the church in teaching, in living and as the basis for church and family life.

More to come…

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Biblical Theology Matters…

Mark 2 – Biblical Theology – Part 1

I’ve heard the statement hundreds of times coming from well meaning people, but I am saddened every time I hear it.  It goes something like this…

  • “Why are we so focused on doctrine when what we really need to do is focus on Christ?”
  • “I want to encourage unity in the church so I really don’t want doctrine to cause division.”
  • “We are all evangelical Christians and essentially believe the same things, right?”

Well, although I may have something to say on this topic in a later post, I thought that I would share an article by Albert Mohler, Jr., President of Southern Seminary, on this very topic.  Interestingly this article was written in 2003.

The 20th century witnessed an increasingly energetic revolt against doctrine. A denial of specific formulations of classical Christian doctrine has been evident in some quarters, while others have rejected the very notion of doctrine itself.

Doctrine has even fallen on hard times even among those who call themselves evangelicals. Some evangelical historians now argue that the defining principles of evangelical identity are not specifically theological–at least beyond the most general affirmations. If true, that judgment would be a disgrace to any people of God. As it is, however, evangelicals have a proud doctrinal heritage and have historically given careful attention to confessions of faith and doctrinal issues.

Doctrine is, quite literally, the teaching of the church–what the church understands to be the substance of its faith. It is no substitute for personal experience. Evangelical Christians have given clear witness to the necessity of personal faith in Jesus Christ, but that personal faith is based in some specific understanding of who Jesus Christ is and what He accomplished on the cross. After all, we do not call persons to profess faith in faith, but faith in Christ.

There is no Christianity “in general.” Faith in some experience devoid of theological or biblical content–no matter how powerful–is not New Testament Christianity. Those called to Christianity in general may believe nothing in particular. But faith resides in particulars.

Some churches seem to think that doctrine is a concern for those of a certain intellectual bent, but unnecessary for most Christians. Interest in doctrine amounts to something like an intellectual hobby. Others steer clear of doctrine for fear of argument or division in the church. Both factors indicate a lack of respect for the Christian believer and an abdication of the teaching function of the church.

Those who sow disdain and disinterest in biblical doctrine will reap a harvest of rootless and fruitless Christians. Doctrine is not a challenge to experiential religion; it testifies to the content of that experience. The church is charged to call persons to Christ and to root them in a mature knowledge of Christian faith.

Sociologists and historians observing the American church scene indicate that one of the first signs of denominational decline is a lessening of doctrinal attention. Many mainline Protestant denominations have followed this course, with a weakening concern for biblical doctrine followed by decline in membership and evangelistic outreach.

Yet, evangelicals should not recapture a healthy concern for biblical doctrine merely as a means of avoiding organizational or congregational decline. We must do so because nothing less is worthy of a New Testament people. The essential issue for the church is faithfulness.

Churches lacking an intentional and effective program of doctrinal instruction risk becoming the company of the confused. Charles Spurgeon told the painful story of the Irishman who attended a sectarian religious society meeting. Telling of the meeting, the man recounted: “Oh, it was lovely: none of us knew anything and we all taught each other.”

American evangelicals must curb the decline of doctrinal concern in our midst and recapture the teaching responsibility of the church. Doctrine without piety is dead, but piety without doctrine is immature at best, and inauthentic at worst. Faithful Christians are always concerned with the development of true Christian piety and discipleship in believers. Yet, as John A. Broadus commented over a century ago, doctrinal truth is “the lifeblood of piety.”

Those who call for a “doctrineless Christianity” misunderstand–or misrepresent–both doctrine and Christianity. Pragmatism and program concerns dominate the lives of many Christians and their congregations. The low state of doctrinal understanding among so many evangelicals is evidence of a profound failure of both nerve and conviction. Both most be recovered if there is to be anything even remotely evangelical about the evangelicalism of the future. (From http://www.crosswalk.com/news/al-mohler/why-doctrine-matters-1233547.html)

Thanks Dr. Mohler for your excellent insight and helpful words…Truly Doctrine and Theology are critical for the health of the church!

Exegete This!

Mark 1 – Expository Preaching – Part 3

So, why Expository Preaching?  Why that distinction?  Isn’t all preaching that uses the Word of God simply biblical preaching?  Well, I want to look at a well-known definition of expository preaching and then tease out some of the implications of that definition onto the preaching task.  But before we do that I think that it is essential to make a distinction between two words – Exegesis and Eisegesis:

Exegesis means “to lead out”.  It is allowing the text to speak freely, so that what we say is what the text is saying. It is when the text of Scripture rules us and we stand humbly under the text of Scripture.

Eisegesis on the other hand means “to put into.” It is coming to a text with preconceived ideas and pressing those ideas on that text so that it says what you want it to say.  It is when the text of Scripture serves us and we stand arrogantly over the text of Scripture.  So, any faithful expository of the Word of God will do the hard work of going to the text of Scripture and allow the text to speak rather than force a preconceived idea on the text.  In other words, we want to be doing exegesis and avoiding eisegesis at all costs.  People don’t need our thoughts, they need God’s thoughts. They don’t need our creativity but they need God’s majesty, beauty and wisdom.

Now, here is a classic definition of Expository Preaching from Haddon Robinson:

“Expository preaching is the communication of a biblical concept, derived from and transmitted through a historical, grammatical, and literary study of a passage in its context, which the Holy Spirit first applies to the personality and experience of the preacher, then through him to his hearers.”

So, here are some basic elements of Expository Preaching that flow out of that definition.

  • The message finds its sole source in Scripture.  In other words, the point of preaching is to preach the Word, the Scriptures, to expose what is there.
  • The message is extracted from Scripture through careful exegesis. (Literal, historical & grammatical method of interpretation)  When the pastor has done a faithful job of mining the text through careful exegesis he will then come to a conclusion as to what the text is saying.
  • The message preparation correctly interprets Scripture in its normal sense and its context.  Scripture is not a book full of codes and allegories hidden from that masses that only a skilled person can unlock.  Scripture is normally plainly understood.
  • The message clearly explains the original God-intended meaning of Scripture.  What did God say to that original audience?  Who were they, why did He say it?  Whom is He speaking through, etc.
  • The message applies the scriptural meaning for today.  What timeless truth is God wanting me to personally consider and then what is it that I as a Pastor/Teacher am called to convey to the gathered worshippers?

The bottom line is that a faithful expository preacher is simply a “mouthpiece for the text”.  That’s what the Puritans would say and I agree.  God does use us, our personalities, our experiences, etc., but ultimately, He is speaking His Word through us.  It is His Word that we want people to remember and not our illustrations, stories, personal examples, etc.  This is truly an awesome privilege on one hand and a heavy responsibility on the other!

So, although this discussion is in no way exhaustive, here is a summary of Expository Preaching.

  1. Expository Preaching is the application of a philosophy of the mandate to “Preach the Word” given by God through Paul to all who handle God’s Word before a gathered flock.
  2. It encompasses all styles of preaching…Topical, biographical, Theological, Doctrinal, etc.
  3. It asks the question, “Is this what God says?” rather than “is this what I am saying?”
  4. It is authoritative, clear and connects from the text to contemporary life – how we live, think, behave, relate to and in this culture.
  5. Its goal is not an emotionalism, people coming forward for prayer, etc., but a growing repentance and strengthening from God which permeates a person’s everyday life.
  6. It is not “one part” of the Sunday Morning experience, but the central focus of the Gathered church.
  7. God has called Preachers to “Preach the Word” not “Communicators” to move the people.

Implications

Now, I know that I have only scratched the surface, but it should at least be evident that our attitude and approach to the Bible is critical for us to have a healthy opportunity to faithfully “Preach the Word.”  There are implications, however that we should consider.

First, as God’s people we should have a high view of Preaching.  We should guard against the eclipse of preaching due to all sorts of programs, ministries and ideologies.  God didn’t tell Timothy, “Get a worship band together, create a support group, journal or watch the latest cool video.”  No, he said, “Preach the Word”.  His activity as a Herald and the subject matter of the Word is very clear.

Next, as God’s people we should have a high view of Teaching.  Preaching is the dynamic that typically takes place when the corporate church is gathered.  It always includes teaching, but the teaching I am now referring to is the kind of activity that may take place during a Sunday School hour or at a seminar.  This kind of teaching should also be expository in nature, gleaning its findings, instructions and counsel from the Word.

Also, God’s people should have a high view of Application.  This is the great value of the small group.  As a pastor I cannot possibly give direct application to everyone who is present when I preach.  Careful and effective application can, however, take place in the context of a small group that values expository preaching/teaching so that correct application can take place.  Remember, however, it doesn’t matter what you think the text means, or what it means to you.  What matters is what it means, what God intended, what He was saying.

Next, God’s people should have a high view of Biblical Counseling.  The kind of counseling that believes that God’s Word is sufficient and relevant will embrace expository preaching.  It will recognize that we don’t “use” God’s Word in counseling, but we minister or expose God’s Word in counseling so that the counselee can see what God says, what He demands, what He is calling them to.

Finally, as God’s people we should have a high view of Evangelism that is rooted in the Word of God.  It is not that we simply quote God’s Word, but that we explain God’s Word.  And when we do that, we are leaving our friends with a deposit of the Gospel to have an effect on their hearts.

Lord.  Keep us in your Word.  May it saturate our thoughts, our motives and affect our behavior as a living and active counselor and guide to our lives and ministries.

“Cake, Medium Rare!”

Mark 1 – Expository Preaching – Part 2

To begin with I want to draw your attention to two passages of Scripture that send chills up and down my spine as I imagine a world where what they express is true…

11“Behold, the days are coming,” declares the Lord God, “when I will send a famine on the land—not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord. 12They shall wander from sea to sea, and from north to east; they shall run to and fro, to seek the word of the Lord, but they shall not find it. Amos 8:11-12

And…

Now the young man Samuel was ministering to the Lord under Eli. And the word of the Lord was rare in those days; there was no frequent vision. 1 Samuel 3:1

So, the question is screaming at us…Is the Word of God “rare” in our day and age?

Think about it…we have tons of Bible’s don’t we?  I remember counting how many Bible’s I owned personally and it was staggering.  Then add to that how many I have in my home.  As I have worked with the people of Russia people have asked me, “Can we send over some Bible’s with you?” and I have to respond, “No, they have plenty of Bible’s”…and the people are shocked but it is true.  Bible’s we have…volumes and volumes of them.

So, I ask the question again, “Is the Word of God “rare”?”  And the answer to that question is, in one sense no, because we have so many Bibles and resources available to us on the internet, etc.  On the other hand the answer is yes.  We have the Word of God but does the Word of God have us?  What I mean is this: Do we love it, read it, study it, breathe it, live it?  Is it proclaimed from our pulpits? Is it truly our guide for living?

And friends, that is what brings us to this very important topic, Expository Preaching.

Listen to what Alistair Begg says…

“Large sections of the church are oblivious to the fact that they are being administered a placebo rather than the medicine they need.  They are satisfied with the feeling that it has done them some good, a feeling that disguises the seriousness of the situation.  In the absence of bread the population grows accustomed to cake!  Pulpits are for preachers.  We build stages for performers.” Begg, pg. 11

Those are some sobering thoughts from a pastor that believes wholeheartedly in the exclusivity of expository preaching.  Another pastor, John Piper, taking on contemporary preaching from a different angle says,

 “Laughter seems to have replaced repentance as the goal of many preachers.  Laughter means people feel good.  It means they like you.  It means you have moved them.  It means you have some measure of power.  It seems to have all the marks of successful communication – if the depth of sin and the holiness of God and the danger of hell and need for broken hearts is left out of account.”  (“The Supremacy of God in Preaching.” Pg. 55-56)

Again, listen to the wisdom and counsel given by C. H. Spurgeon, the Prince of Preachers on this subject…

“Evangelism of the humorous type may attract multitudes but it lays the soul in ashes and destroys the very germs of religion.”  (“Forgotten Spurgeon” by Ian Murray, pg. 38)

What is interesting is that Spurgeon balances out this statement in his “lectures to students stressing the need for and the proper place of humor in the life and ministry of the Pastor.  (Lectures, pg. 212.)

When people are nurtured on cake it is no wonder that they want the icing with all the sprinkles too.  You can’t blame them!  The fault doesn’t lie on the part of the listener but on the part of the man of God called with the task to “preach the Word.”  Either he is going to be faithful to that command or he is not.

This was such a serious matter that Paul’s last few words to Timothy emphasized this priority on the part of the pastor.  Here is what he says.

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. ” (2 Timothy 4:1–5, ESV)

It doesn’t take long for mature believers in Christ to look around at Christian culture and see that people are gathering to themselves teachers who will say what they want them to say.

Speaking personally from experience I have been told the following (and this is just a short list):

  • “Pastor, you talk way too much about sin!”
  • “It seems that every time you preach that you zing us with something.  What we need is to be encouraged.”
  • “Don’t you know that people’s attention span is only 20 minutes?  They can’t listen to you after that, so you have to say all you need to say in that amount of time.”
  • “Pastor, it is your job to send us away feeling good about our relationship with God, that we are under grace and with practical tools to face the world we live in.”
  • Etc.

Now, my first response to all of those comments is to humbly ask God to reveal too me if there is any way that I am being disobedient to Him in my manner, tone and expression of loving care for the flock.  I recognize that I am a sinful servant of God and that my sinfulness can get in the way of God’s people hearing God’s truth.  I want to know that and be teachable.  That, however, is not what is usually going on.

As I review 2 Timothy 4:1-5 I see expressions like, “people will not endure sound teaching” and the commands to “rebuke” and “reprove” as well as “exhort.”  To be faithful with the charge I have been given means that I must take seriously what God is saying to Timothy through Paul and to me through His inspired Word.  I have a God-given responsibility to “reprove” and “rebuke” just as much as I have the responsibility to encourage through exhortation.

The problem is, as Alistair Begg identified, that people are used to a diet of cake and don’t have the stomach to “endure” sound teaching.  They are offended by it.  Ultimately they don’t want to be told “Here is what God is saying to you through His Word!”  Oh, they want to hear about all the blessings, the parts about forgiveness & grace, promises and hopes…but when you start to meddle with their souls then they become uncomfortable, angry and are willing to confront the pastor when he is simply doing what God has called him to do.

That calling is to “Preach the Word.”  But what does that mean?  Well, first, let me highlight what Preaching the Word is not…

  • Preaching the Word is not entertaining the crowd so that they will like what you have to say and will respond according to a predetermined plan.
  • It is not using the pulpit to fight for political causes.  God is not a republican, nor is He a democrat.  God is sovereign and sits on His throne.
  • It is not conjuring up “new truths” that somehow only you have been able to glean from your own personal study of the Bible.  If that is true you may end up making multiple predictions of the Lord’s Judgment and return and ultimately have to live with eternal egg on your face.
  • It is not becoming a storyteller.  Certainly in preaching the pastor will use stories to illustrate, explain or apply what he is unpacking, but telling a story should not replace or becomes that substitute.
  • It is not “being real” in the pulpit.  Too often there is a feeling that the preacher needs to be authentic to be sure his hearers know that he is a sinful struggler just like them.  But friends, forced authenticity is very inauthentic, isn’t it.  At times a faithful Preacher will share how a certain passage or theme is working in his life.  That is a natural and, in my opinion, an appropriate use of authenticity.  However, when there is a goal of authenticity we run the risk of drawing attention to ourselves and not to Christ.
  • It is not sharing the latest pop-psychology.  Certainly some psychological insights can be helpful or may give some practical directions, i.e. a person suffering with depression needs to implement arenas of structure in their life, etc.  But that is simply not the Gospel or the Word of God.

Expository Preaching, however, looks at the preaching task in a far different manner.  It has a different attitude to God and His Word.  It approaches the task of preaching, the passage under consideration and the implications contained in that passage with a reverence that is rooted in the charge God has given.

To “preach” is to “Herald” (kerusso in the Greek).  It is a word that describes the role of a herald that is a representative of a king.  The herald is gathered to the king and is given a message to proclaim to the kingdom.  The herald is then tasked by the king to go as his mouthpiece and proclaim that message to the towns and villages of the kingdom.  His job is to speak the words of the king!  He is not to think about the message, change the words, judge whether the message is harsh, loving, helpful or could be said in a better way.  That is simply not his call.  He is not the king, but simply a representative of the king and his job is to be sure that the message is communicated clearly.

The preacher, then, is to herald.  But what is it that he is called to herald?  Paul identifies that as “The Word”, which is really a synonym for other descriptions used in the Pastoral Epistles, i.e. deposit, commandments, sacred writings, scriptures, the faith, the truth, the gospel, etc.

So far we have seen that God has charged the Pastor/Teacher with the incredible task of “Preaching the Word”, but why use the expression Expository Preaching?  Isn’t all preaching that uses the Word of God pretty much the same?

I will begin with that thought in my next article…

Camping on This…

There is a lot to say about a man who proposes to be a shepherd and a faithful teacher of God’s Word yet, himself, ignores it when it contradicts what he wants to say.  The simple answer to his delusional predictions is found in Matthew 24:36…

36 “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.  (Mt 24:36)

Now, for the purpose of edification and clarity I have collected a few blog articles that I think are helpful responses to the Harold Camping debacle.  And, may I say this.  This is just another reason why there is a huge need for Expository Preaching in our country, especially here in the Bay Area.

From Dan Phillips (no relation, but must be from good stock) at the Pyromaniacs blog and at his own:

Harold Camping, the True Gospel and Hedged Bets

Harold Camping Glorifies God: Seventeen Ways

Eric Landry from the Gospel Coalition writes…

The Pastoral Challenge and Opportunity When the Rapture Doesn’t Happen

From Reformaton 21 here is a message on The Folly of Setting Dates

The Folly of Setting Dates

Robert Godfrey, president of Westminster Seminary in CA has written a very sober accounting of Harold Camping’s theological demise.  You can either read the whole article as a pdf or in parts at his blog.

I was relatively young and in seminary when Harold Camping came out with his 88 Reasons Why the Lord is Coming in 1988.  I was horrified by his assertions then, as he sought to rebound by adding a miscalculation and am still horrified by how he has done so much damage to the body of Christ, especially in the Bay Area.  I personally people who have worked at Family Radio and have also been greatly troubled by his radical teachings of recent years.

May we learn all the lessons we can learn and do our best to wipe the egg off the face of Christianity because of such misguided teaching.  May we also learn the importance of sound hermeneutics and a faithful exposition of God’s Word.

Today’s Preacher Reviewed…

Mark 1 – Expository Preaching – Part 1

What is a healthy church?  What marks it out as being faithful to what God has commanded and established in His Word?

Well, the first mark, Expository Preaching, is this week’s topic.  So, a few articles may be helpful to set the stage and to draw our attention to God’s clear call to “Preach the Word.”  In this article, however, I want to take a snapshot of the kind of preaching that takes place in churches every Sunday.  I hope that you will understand that I am only seeking to paint a picture of the reasons why God centered preaching is so needed.  Listen to what Alistair Begg has said in his excellent little resource, Preaching for God’s Glory.

“Large sections of the church are oblivious to the fact that they are being administered a placebo rather than the medicine they need.  They are satisfied with the feeling that it has done them some good, a feeling that disguises the seriousness of the situation.  In the absence of bread the population grows accustomed to cake!  Pulpits are for preachers.  We build stages for performers.” pg. 11

So, what are these placebo’s?

  1. The Cheerleader – This particular pastor desperately wants to be liked and accepted.  No matter the text of Scripture he is going to find some way to positively inspirational.  As he reflects on his sermon he is more concerned as to whether people laughed a lot, were affirmed or went away more self-assured than when they arrived.  His goal is not holiness, but wholeness.
  2. The Conjurer – This pastor has the great ability to get out of Scripture truths that others seemed to have neglected or simply have not seen.  People often leave the service saying to themselves, “Wow, it is amazing what he got out of that text.”  Sadly, this is not due to a careful exegesis, but a manipulation of the text to say exactly what he wants it to say.
  3. The Storyteller – He has been convinced that “since people won’t listen to preaching anymore, and since they will listen to a good story” that he should stop trying to preach and, in stead, develop his storytelling gifts so as to convey God’s truth.  The subtlety here is that biblical preaching does include telling stories, but not to the neglect of careful and clear exegesis.
  4. The Entertainer – For this pastor, the preaching moment is a performance utilizing his varied gifts to impress the gathering that has been trained to sit back, relax and assess the effectiveness of his communication.  “He was a good communicator” is the common anthem in such cases.
  5. The Systematizer – This man uses the text of Scripture as a regular springboard into his specific theological or doctrinal system.  He speaks more to defend and define his system than to affect the hearts of his listeners.
  6. The Psychologist – This man can often have helpful and practical insights into life and how we live it, but he is usually not speaking with authority from the Word of God.  He is often mixing secular psychology with Scripture and coming to unscriptural, yet plausible conclusions such as “Man’s greatest problem is not his sin, but his low self-esteem.”
  7. The Naked Preacher – This teacher has as his core value the need to be authentic and “bare all” because he believes that it is the only way, or the best way, to be relevant.  His is the “real” deal, so to speak.  He is hiding nothing.  In taking this stance, however, he is neglecting to focus on God, His character and His glory.  It doesn’t take long for people to know that we are sinners struggling our way through our Christian lives.
  8. The Politician – This man can find the USA and the Republican Party in many texts of Scripture.  Depending on his culture he can be more concerned with the support of our president, the plight of minorities, standing up and marching for a particular agenda and our need to vote on proposition XYZ.  There is always a place for fair and healthy discussion regarding our country’s politics, but too often this preacher has saturated his role and every text with this concern.
  9. The End Time Guru – This specialist can find Israel, Russia, Lebanon and Gorbachev under every rock and bush of every Bible verse.  He is preoccupied with the “coming of the Lord” and is often quick to pounce on conspiracy theories.  Again, we are called to live in light of His coming, but not to neglect the rest of Scripture as we wait.  Neither are we called to force a passage to say something that it clearly isn’t.
  10. The Hobby Horse Rider – This man is stuck on one or two issues.  No matter where he may be in a text of Scripture he will always find a way to get back to his favorite topic.  In years past it has been things like KJV Onlyism, the evils of Rock-n-Roll, Y2K, etc.

Now, as I reflect on this list I am humbled to realize that I can so easily drift into one of these modes if I am not firmly and seriously committed to preaching the Word.  As a pastor I have often been under great pressure to shift my stance to accommodate someone or a group of disgruntled people in the church, yet, I have had Paul’s words to Timothy firmly screaming in my ear….

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. ” (2 Timothy 4:1–5, ESV)

“Lord, help me to be that man!”


(
Thanks Alistair Begg for your insights on this in Preaching for God’s Glory)

Marks of a Healthy Church

This past year I sat in on a meeting as a consultant for a church that was considering the possibility of closing for the purpose of a “church replant”.  I met with the leadership of that church and delegates of another much larger and “successful” church from outside the area interested in assuming control and thereby establishing a replant.  The delegation came with great motives and a genuine desire to reach people for Jesus.  They walked us through their impressive church planting/replanting manual and asked us to prayerfully consider them as partners for the establishing of a new church.

As a guest, and since I was in a consultant mode, I kept quiet, simply taking in the presentation.  Eventually, however, when the delegation had gone, I was asked to evaluate the meeting and I confess that I had a mouthful to say.  Sadly, this delegation was so in love with their own personal DNA they were under the delusion that simply injecting it into a new facility in a new context was all that was necessary.  They boasted that they would provide a vibrant and exciting worship experience, an atmosphere of complete acceptance that was free from any legalism, a context of authenticity where people would be real and would not be preachy, and the energy needed to reach that region and bring in new attendees quickly – even suggesting that there would likely be at least 200-400 on the first Sunday.  (There was more that they said, but I will leave it at that)

So, when I responded to my friends question about my evaluation of the meeting I simply said the following.  “Did you notice that the only reference to the Bible and the preaching of the Word was when they said in passing that they were a “biblical” church? And, did you notice that there was no mention of the power of the Gospel and the need for it, Jesus and the cross to be central to what they wanted to do.?”

Honestly, I was shocked at their presentation.  It was all about the bells and whistles of a Church Growth mentality that has gone the way of marketing and has abandoned the central truths of biblical Christianity.  What they proposed may have brought people in, and those people may be brought to a form of the gospel, but friends, what they were proposing is not what Scripture describes as a healthy church.  It was lacking in significant core ingredients that are absolutely necessary.

But, who am I to say what a healthy church should look like?  You might be saying, “Who died and made you the judge and jury of church life?  Isn’t it arrogant to accuse another ministry of falling short of what it means to be a healthy church?”  And friend, the honest answer to the last question is simply and humbly, a resounding “yes”.  I don’t want to be the one making that kind of judgment in my own thinking.  However, I am confident that God has something to say about it.  In fact, His Word is very clear on many key DNA issues of church life, and He calls me (and us) to be discerning so as to understand what He has to say and then to apply it to our lives and our church.

So, to that end and simply focusing on the one church that I (we) are responsible for, Gateway Bible Church, it will be a good exercise for us to identify and discuss some of the “Marks of a Healthy Church”, and in so doing seek to be the kind of church God is calling us to be.

We have already determined that “we exist to glorify God by building a community of beleivers who are actively committed to knowing, applying and proclaiming the Word of God and the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”  However, as we seek to implement that vision we will also need to be reminded of some of the core ingredients or marks of a healthy church.

Here is where we will be headed:

  • Mark 1: Expository Preaching
  • Mark 2: Biblical Theology
  • Mark 3: The Gospel
  • Mark 4: A Biblical Understanding of Conversion
  • Mark 5: A Biblical Understanding of Evangelism
  • Mark 6: A Biblical Understanding of Church Membership
  • Mark 7: Biblical Church Discipline
  • Mark 8:  A Concern for Discipleship and Growth
  • Mark 9: Biblical Church Leadership
  • Mark 10: Practicing Strategic Hospitality
  • Mark 11: Investing in the Next Generation
  • Mark 12: Prayer

Now, let me say up front that I am going to be leaning on the wisdom of Mark Dever and the 9Marks that he determined.  There are some key ingredients that are not on the list, i.e. Baptism, the Lord’s Supper, Giving, etc. that are also extremly important, but the ones he and I am selecting are especially necessary to point out as there has been a neglect in these areas in our American Christian church culture.

So, I invite you to join me to study these Marks with vigor and to dialogue on what we find and their implications on our lives and ministry.

I ask for your prayers that God would guide me by His Spirit in His Word so as to be faithful to expose to you what He says and not what is simply Rod’s opinion.

May this be a loving and healthy foundation for God’s church being established on the 580 corridor in Castro Valley, Gateway Bible Church.

Talking About My Generation!

I am still confused as to what Generation I fit into.  Some say I am a boomer and others say I am part of Generation X.  Well, until recently I really couldn’t tell the difference between Boomers, Busters, Gen X, Y or Z.  Well, not until I heard the “Generation Experts” teach how each generation can be understood by asking two questions:

  • What is the kernel of common experience?
  • To what do they aspire?  Or, What or who are they looking up to?

So, here is a really easy way to understand what generation you belong to.  Ask, what was the  format of music that you listened to?

  • The “Silent Generation” born between 1925-1942 grew up listening to the Radio
  • The “Boomer” Generation born between 1943-1960 grew up listening to LP’s (76’s & 45’s) also known as Vinyl Records.
  • The “Generation X’rs” born between 1960-1981 had both Radios and LP’s but listened mostly to Cassette Tapes.  This was my generation and I had hundreds of cassette tapes all over my car and was notorious for putting the wrong cassette with the wrong cover, but I knew my filing system…but I digress.
  • The “Generation Y’rs” were born between 1982-2001 and grew up listening to CD’s and were a part of the birth of Mp3’s, itunes and the ipod.
  • Finally there are the “Generation C’s who were born between 2001-2025.  They are all internet browsing guru’s and download their music, watch their music and share their music online.

But, regardless of the generation of choice, God’s timeless truth gives us a picture of our responsibility to each and every upcoming generation.  One of those passages is Psalm 78:1-8 that says…

 [1] Give ear, O my people, to my teaching; incline your ears to the words of my mouth! [2] I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings from of old, [3] things that we have heard and known, that our fathers have told us. [4] We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the LORD, and his might, and the wonders that he has done.

[5] He established a testimony in Jacob and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers to teach to their children, [6] that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children, [7] so that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments; [8] and that they should not be like their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation, a generation whose heart was not steadfast, whose spirit was not faithful to God.

This Psalm is all about teaching the future generations about the history of Israel, but verses 5-8 are particularly helpful as we consider investing in the Next Generation.

First, notice God’s Plan. “He established a testimony… and appointed a law”.  Here we have two sides of the same coin expressed in testimony on the one hand and law on the other.  Both are incredibly important as we seek to invest in future generations.

A testimony is what God’s word reveals about the character of God – the fact that He is trustworthy, gracious, holy, omnipotent, dependable, faithful, etc.  Every time we read an account of God’s dealings with people He is screaming at us and future generations that He is a God with impeccable character.  He is living out His resume for all to see.  He is reminding us of His track record.

A law is referring to the Commands of Scripture.  This is God’s transcendent truth, the standard that we are to build our lives on and view the world from.  God’s commands are a tsunami against the “pick and choose – al la carte” attitudes toward Christianity.

We can live our lives as we see fit, but at the end of the day we will all come under the evaluation and judgment of the Law.

Next notice God’s Process.  We are to teach about God’s character and His commands to our children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.  The point is that as we teach the generation before us we must recognize that we are also laying the foundation of teaching for the generations still unborn.

Someone has said, “If you want to leave footprints in the sands of time you will have to wear work boots.”  These boots are the heavy imprint of your life on the next generation…

  • What difference are we making?
  • What do we want the next generation to look like?
  • How will we impact them?

Finally, Asaph gives us God’s Product.  Here we are given four attitudes that underpin any future generation.

 [7] so that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments; [8] and that they should not be like their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation, a generation whose heart was not steadfast, whose spirit was not faithful to God.

When we are faithfully teaching generation after generation about the character and commands of God He says it will result in them…

1. Having a sense of confidence in the character of God.  Because they have set their hope in God they can now trust fully in who He is.

2. Having a sense of providence in the purposes of God.  God is not some distant being that is unrelated to our lives.  No.  He is very much at work accomplishing His purposes through us, our trials, struggles, joys and relationships.  He is in everything that we are doing.

3. Having a desire for obedience to the commands of God.  The commands of God have become a priority.  They are loved and appreciated.  They are listened to and embraced.

4. Having a sensitivity toward sin.  Scripture is replete with negative examples warning us that we who know God can so easily ignore, forget and rebel against His will.  When we take those warnings lightly there are always serious consequences.

God has called us to invest in the next generation, to preach and teach them about the character and commands of God and to do so with passion and joy.

[4] One generation shall commend (or “Praise” – NASB) your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts. (Psalm 145:4 ESV)

That is what God is calling us to do.  To commend God’s works to the next generation who will in like fashion commend God’s works to the next generation, and so on.  When we do that, we will instill in the next generation a confidence in God and His providence and a desire for active obedience rather that the entanglements of Sin.

I love what John Piper says on this same subject…

It is the Biblical duty of every generation of Christians to see to it that the next generation hears about the mighty acts of God. God does not drop a new Bible from heaven on every generation. He intends that the older generation will teach the newer generation to read and think and trust and obey and rejoice. It’s true that God draws near personally to every new generation of believers, but he does so through the Biblical truth that they learn from the preceding generations. The Spirit comes down vertically (you might say) where the truth of God is imparted horizontally.

May we humble ourselves before our sovereign God and seek to invest in the Next Generation for His glory.

Below are some other “Generational” videos.  One instructional and the other, entertainment.  I would go with the entertainment first!

Here is a good, helpful and short instruction on the differences between the four generations (Silent, Boomer, X & Millennium)

Finally, and just for fun, some generation entertainment by the Zimmers…you will enjoy this…