If you could choose between the two, who would you rather be Saul or David? If you know much of the Old Testament story of these two men I imagine you would reply David pretty quickly. Me too. I mean who doesn’t want to be the guy that drops a 9 foot tall giant with a rock to the forehead? Who doesn’t want to be the guy who’s considered to be the man after God’s own heart? Most would say, “sign me up,” right away.
The following is an article that Temple Semenary graciously invited me to submit for publication in the Aletheias Theological Journal. If you’d like to read the journal click here.
We are living in a day in our country and culture when there is as much uncertainty and fear as any time this generation has ever known. It is a generation of rhetoric. Truth has been relegated to post-modern relativity while political leaders have learned, since truth is relative, if you repeat something enough times, someone will believe it to be true—even when the person declaring it knows it to be false. What is all this causing? More than a divided country, it is also causing an unwillingness to try. Why? Because, in our day, if you try to do anything worth doing, it will be adjudicated in the court of public opinion, which for many is a frightening prospect.
In the beginning, God… These words probably seem familiar because they are the beginning of the Bible. And, what great words they are–of beginnings. I can think of no better place to begin reading on the first day of the year than Genesis 1:1.
Every now and then the question comes up: why do you preach the way you do? The question is never about style, it’s always about content. Like, why do I preach series instead of just stand alone messages and why do I preach through books of the Bible?
The reason comes from my own conviction which comes from the Bible itself. Paul warned Timothy in 2 Timothy 4 that the day was coming when people with their ears itching would “heap” up for themselves teachers and try to persuade them to tell them what they want to hear; “suit their own passions.” But, Paul tells Timothy not to fall for that but instead preach the inspired Word of God. And by the way, it’s all inspired. I read today a blog post that explains very well why I do what I do, so let me share it with you.
This is straight from the “Grace to You” blog and is written by John MacArthur. I have copied the post titled “Preach the Word: Because It Brings Depth and Balance to Ministry”in it’s entirety because it explains as well as I ever could why I do what I do:
“One frequently overlooked benefit of consistent Bible exposition is that the preacher’s faith and practice is tested by every text. Over the long haul, everything I have ever taught has had to survive the scrutiny of the Scriptures. By God’s grace, I’ve been able to teach through every verse of the New Testament (using the Old Testament as support and examples). Both my doctrine and my life have been radically shaped by the Word of God, as they have had to stand the test of every single text.
In the big picture, preaching verse by verse, book by book brings a divine balance to ministry. It keeps the preacher from leaving things out or from getting on a hobby horse and riding it to death. It forces him to deal with topics he might not naturally be drawn to if not for the fact that the next verse he is preaching addresses them. Put simply, it requires him to teach God’s truth in the way God revealed it. And that’s the best way to teach.
Some preachers allow their audience to determine what topic they will address. As one popular pastor has written:
Adapt your style to fit your audience. . . . The ground we have in common with unbelievers is not the Bible, but our common needs, hurts, and interests as human beings. You cannot start with a text, expecting the unchurched to be fascinated by it. You must first capture their attention, and then move them to the truth of God’s Word. By starting with a topic that interests the unchurched and then showing what the Bible says about it, you can grab their attention, disarm prejudices, and create an interest in the Bible that wasn’t there before.
But such a bait-and-switch approach is really just a recipe for compromise—tempting pastors to tickle the ears of their audience or water down the gospel in an effort to be more appealing. In essence, this approach says that God’s Word is irrelevant, and makes human ingenuity the key to getting sinners interested in the gospel. It is therefore an approach that should be categorically rejected. As James Heidinger writes
Evangelical pastors and theologians can learn from the mainline experience of placing relevance above truth. We must avoid the lure of novelty and soft sell, which, we are told, will make it easier for moderns to believe. Methods may change, but never the message. . . . We are called to be faithful stewards of a great and reliable theological heritage. We have truths to affirm and errors to avoid. We must not try to make these truths more appealing or user friendly by watering them down. We must guard against a trendy “theological bungee jumping” that merely entertains the watching crowd.
We are called to preach the Bible consistently and accurately, fixed on the text as the revealed Word of God which, through the work of the Spirit, alone has the power to save and sanctify souls. When we do this, we can be confident that God is pleased, since our preaching will be in keeping with His Word (cf. 2 Timothy 2:15; 4:2).”
This past Sunday I preached the second message out of the Armor of God in Ephesians 6. The critical truth of this armor is two-fold. First, this is God’s armor, God’s strength and God’s protection for us. Secondly, knowing that it’s imperative that we have it to protect us from the Devil’s schemes, we must put it on. That’s our part. So the question arises; how do you put on the armor? Here’s a brief explanation of all six pieces of armor Paul describes in Ephesians 6:
- There’s no value in unapplied truth. Jesus said, “and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32) Seek the truth but put on the armor of truth by applying it.
- Putting on this piece of armor is as much about what you don’t do. Remember, that our righteousness does not come by way of anything we can do. Only true righteousness is imputed (put on us) by God through Jesus. Paul wrote, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21) How do you put on the armor of righteousness? Stop trying to be righteous on your own. (We mostly do this through religious yet un-scriptural works.) God is not impressed by us, He’s impressed when He sees the Son’s righteousness on us by faith.
- Gospel (Good News) of peace
- Even in the midst of the spiritual battle that Paul warns us about, and the one that we know’s going on deep down, we can have peace. How? Jesus said, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) Jesus promised that we can have peace, deep, soul-quenching peace even in the midst of the battle; in Him.
- This piece of armor deflects the “fiery darts” of the devil. How do we have it? By continually and deliberately placing the full weight of our faith in Jesus’ ability and not our own. That’s what faith is. So, continue in the process to which Jesus has called you and learn to take faith from your own ability and place it in Christ.
- I know what you’re thinking; how do you put on salvation? Salvation is of the Lord! That is correct, it is. You put it on, not in any way trying to save yourself, but living as though it matters. You put on salvation by remembering that there’s more to life than just this life. The Apostle John said, “For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world.” (1 John 2:16) If you’re only tied to the stuff of this world, Satan will use that against you. Make sure you’re tied to the next life, store up your treasure there as you live fully here.
- The Word
- This is how God instructs in truth. Just like the armor of truth, it must be applied. But, you will never apply it if you don’t read it. Whatever you do, don’t let everything you know, or even most of what you know about the Bible be second hand. Read it for yourself.
Make sure you put on the whole armor today and live in the protection and security of the Lord!
Below is a link the the full sermon from Sunday: