The Net Pastor's Journal, Eng Ed, Issue 5 Fall 2012
Fall 2012 Edition
Produced by ...
Dr. Roger Pascoe, President,
The Institute for Biblical Preaching
Cambridge, Ontario, Canada
“Strengthening the Church in Biblical Preaching and Leadership”
Part I: The Message We Preach: The Message Of The Cross (1 Cor. 1:17-18)
By: Dr. Roger Pascoe, President,
The Institute for Biblical Preaching
Cambridge, Ontario, Canada
The truth is that neither eloquence nor prominence can overshadow the influence of the cross. The cross is the central message that we preach. In fact, as the apostle Paul indicates in 1 Corinthians 1:17-18, we preach, literally, the “word” of the cross – for the cross itself speaks. Therefore, for our purposes, we could say that “the primary ministry of every preacher is to proclaim the message of the cross.”
The apostle Paul is clear that, 17a ...Christ did not send me to baptize. He wasn’t going to be drawn into a popularity contest in the church at Corinth by being the leader of a select group whom he had baptized. His ministry was 17b... to preach the gospel (cf. Acts 20:24b). And we too must make sure that we keep the preaching of the gospel at the front and centre of our ministry.
It’s so easy to be distracted from our primary task, isn’t it? If we were more concerned with the message of the cross and the truth of the Bible, there would be less debate about unimportant issues, less promotion of personal opinions, less disunity in the church, and more results for the kingdom of God.
Our Ministry Is About Preaching The Gospel in such a way that the cross of Christ is prominent and effective. In order for the cross to be prominent and effective in our preaching, we must preach 17c not in the wisdom of words - not with cleverness of speech, not with wise eloquence, not with words of human wisdom. Or, as Paul puts it in the next chapter, “not with excellence of speech ... (nor) with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in the demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God” (1 Cor. 2:2-4).
Our preaching is not to be with words that appeal to the cultural mindset or worldview. The Greek culture of that day loved philosophy (“human wisdom”). But our message isn’t designed to appeal to the philosophical fads of the culture around us – indeed, our message is totally “counter-cultural.”
Our preaching is not to be with words that impress the intellect - not persuasive, high-sounding words, or clever arguments that impress or even deceive the mind. That’s not how we are called to present the gospel, for that approach runs the risk of making the cross of Christ…of no effect (17c) - actually working against the message of the cross and turning people away.
Clever words only demean the message of the cross. They disparage the meaning and purpose of the cross. They trivialize the gospel, make void the cross of Christ. They render it of no effect – take away its inherent power. They cause it to be of no importance in the lives of people. They make it have no impact, no effect – rendering it meaningless, invalid, vain, empty.
Our preaching ministry, then, is primarily to preach the gospel. What is the gospel? At its core, The Gospel Is The Word Of The Cross. 18 For the word (message) of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. That’s what we preach - the “word (message) of the cross”. The word of the cross is the core of the gospel; it is Christ crucified (23). Paul says: “I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2).
Notice that it’s the word of the cross – it’s not the event, not the experience, not the passion, but the word of the cross. It’s the word of the cross because the cross speaks. That’s what we preach - the word of the cross.
We preach the word of the cross because the word of the cross declares the truth about sin. The truth about sin is that we have rebelled against God’s law, we have fallen short of God’s standard of holiness, we have missed the mark of God’s requirements, we are incorrigible sinners by nature (by birth) and practice (by behaviour).
The word of the cross says loud and clear, that we are enemies of God by wicked works (Rom. 5:10; Col. 1:21), that we are enemies of the cross of Christ (Phil. 3:18). The word of the cross exposes the truth about the human heart, that the “heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked” (Jer. 17:9), that the heart of man vented all its fury against Christ at the cross, that the anger of man was hurled at God himself at the cross, for the cross declares how inexpressibly sinful the human heart is when rebellion goes unchecked.
We preach the word of the cross because it declares the truth about sin. And we preach the word of the cross because the word of the cross provides the answer to sin. Through the cross, we receive forgiveness of sins (Eph. 1:7) – our sins are blotted out like a thick cloud (Isa. 44:22). Through the cross, we are set free from the power and penalty of sin (Rom. 6:18, 22). Through the cross, God offers us the gift of eternal life (Rom. 6:23). Through the cross, we, who were enemies of God, have “peace with God” (Rom. 5:1). We are reconciled to God through the cross (Col. 1:20, 21). The word of the cross provides the answer to the sin problem, for at the cross, “God made him who knew no sin to be sin for us, so that we might be made the righteousness of God in him” (2 Cor. 5:21). “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us” (Gal. 3:13). He took on himself the curse of our sin and died in our place, thus redeeming us from sin’s curse.
That’s why we preach the word of the cross: (1) because the word of the cross declares the truth about sin; (2) because the word of the cross provides the answer to sin; and (3) because the word of the cross expresses the love of God for sinners. When Paul saw what God had done in his life, he could only attribute it to the love of God. In the cross, he saw the love of God told out in all its fullness – the love of God that “has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 5:5). In the cross, Paul saw the love of God from which nothing can separate us (Rom. 8:39).
In his hymn, “It is a thing most wonderful”, William How expressed it this way:
“I sometimes think about the cross and shut my eyes and try to see
The cruel nails and crown of thorns and Jesus crucified for me.
But even could I see him die, I could but see a little part
Of that great love, which, like a fire, is always burning in his heart.”
Thomas Kelly put it his way:
“Inscribed upon the cross we see,
In shining letters, God is love.
He bears our sins upon the tree;
He brings us mercy from above.”
That’s why we preach the word of the cross – because, firstly, the word of the cross declares the truth about sin; secondly, because the word of the cross provides the answer to sin; thirdly, because the word of the cross expresses the love of God for sinners in all its fullness; and, fourthly, because the word of the cross conveys new meaning for life. In the cross, Paul received new life in Christ (Rom. 5:18-21; 6:23) and in the cross, Paul undoubtedly saw new meaning for life, for once he had been a persecutor of the church, but then he began to serve Christ. Once he was proud of his Jewish heritage and religious zeal, but then he counted all that as rubbish in order to gain Christ. Once he treasured his earthly position and possessions above all else, but then he counted all these things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus, his Lord (Phil. 3:8).
In the cross, Paul was a new man in Christ for, he said, “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Cor. 5:17). Through the cross, he had been “raised to walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:4). So, the word of the cross conveys new meaning for our lives. That’s why we preach the word of the cross - because the word of the cross (1) declares the truth about sin; (2) provides the answer for sin; (3) expresses the love of God for sinners; (4) conveys new meaning for life.
And, further, we preach the word of the cross because the word of the cross declares God’s nearness to us. He is not distant from our pain and suffering, but rather he has done something about it by providing a Saviour. He has entered into our world of suffering and sorrow and he has conquered death. God is not disengaged from humanity but, in the cross, He has drawn near to us in all our conflicts and struggles. In the cross, God is not distant but has drawn near to us by embodying himself in human flesh and blood to communicate a word of hope, peace, forgiveness, and reconciliation to a world that yearns for his love. That’s why we preach the word of the cross!
With Paul we declare: “God forbid that I should glory save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me and I to the world” (Gal. 6:14). Our ministry is about preaching the gospel. The gospel is the word of the cross.
Now notice the effect of that word: The Word Of The Cross Divides The World. 18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. The cross of Christ divides the world into two groups – those who are perishing and those who are being saved. To those who are perishing the cross is “foolishness”. Why is the cross foolishness to them? The word of the cross is foolishness to them because they don’t believe the testimony of God. They know God, Paul says, through the testimony of creation in which “God’s invisible attributes are clearly seen... even his eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse. Yet although they know God, they do not glorify him as God... but are futile in their thoughts and their foolish hearts are darkened” (Rom. 1:19-21).
That’s why they are perishing – because they don’t believe the testimony of God, despite the evidence and despite His grace in manifesting himself clearly to them in creation. They would rather believe in evolution than believe in God. That’s how resolute they are in denying the God who made them.
The word of the cross is foolishness to them because they don’t believe the testimony of God. And the word of the cross is foolishness to them because they don’t understand the truth of God (cf. 1 Cor. 2:14). To the natural mind the whole notion of the cross makes no sense. How could one person pay for the sins of another? How could God be born of a virgin and become a man? How could God's Son die on a cross for our sins? Such notions are foolishness to those who are perishing. But that’s the means God chose to save us: “It pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe” (1:21). In other words, precisely because it is so foolish to the natural mind, the salvation of a soul through the cross can only be the work of God.
So, the word of the cross to those who are perishing is foolishness (1) because they don’t believe the testimony of God; (2) because they don’t understand the truth of God, and (3) the word of the cross is foolishness to them because they don’t trust the ways of God. God’s way is to choose the foolish things of the world to humiliate the wise (1 Cor. 1:27) – e.g. Naaman (2 Kgs. 5); the serpent on the pole (Num. 21). Man with his earthly knowledge alone can never find God, for such a discovery is a supernatural occurrence that only God can generate. Without the illumination of his Spirit, the natural person can never understand the truth and ways of God - cf. Felix (Acts 24:25); Festus (Acts 26:24); Agrippa (Acts 26:28). These were men of intelligence and high position, but none of them believed the truth or trusted the ways of God.
God has “hidden these things from the wise and prudent and revealed them to babes” (Lk. 10:21; 1 Cor. 1:19). God has “chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things that are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are” (1 Cor. 27-28). So, you see, that “not many wise people according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble are called” (1 Cor. 1:26). The mind unenlightened by the Spirit of God cannot comprehend the word of the cross, and the will uncontrolled by the Spirit of God will not receive it. Salvation is solely an act of God, so that “no flesh should glory in his presence” (1 Cor. 1: 29).
The bad news is that to those who are perishing the cross is foolishness and so they wilfully reject its message. Jesus said: “You will not come to me that you may have life” (Jn. 5:40). John the Baptist said: “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life but the wrath of God abides on them” (Jn. 3:36; cf. 1 Jn. 5:12). So, left to themselves, the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing. That’s the bad news.
But now the good news: to those who are being saved, the cross is “the power of God” (18c). The good news is that God loves those who are perishing. “He is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9; cf. Jn. 3:16). That’s why we preach the word of the cross – because it’s a word of good news to those who are being saved.
Salvation is spoken of as being past, present, and future. We have been saved by faith in Christ and the cross. We are being saved through progressive sanctification – made more like Christ. We will be saved when we are glorified and have new bodies. Here, Paul is talking about our present state of being saved - of working out our own salvation with fear and trembling. Those who are being saved are (a) those who have embraced Christ and the cross; (b) those whose sins are forgiven and, thus, sheltered from the wrath of God; (c) those who are on the journey to heaven; and (d) those who recognize the power of God in the cross. “For the gospel of Christ”, Paul says in Rom. 1:16, “is the power of God to salvation to everyone who believes.”
For us who are being saved the message of the cross is the power of God (a) because through it we have received the forgiveness of sins – that’s powerful!; (b) because through it we have been reconciled to God – that’s powerful!; (c) because through it we have been transferred from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light – that’s powerful!; (d) because through it we have been transformed from being “dead in trespasses and sins” to being “alive with Christ” (Eph. 2:1) - that’s powerful!; and (e) because it has brought us near to God when once we were afar off (Eph. 2:13) – that’s powerful!
That’s why we preach the word of the cross – because it is the power of God to salvation to everyone who believes. Our ministry is about preaching the gospel. Remember our thesis, that “the primary ministry of every preacher is to proclaim the message of the cross.”
Praise God for the word of the cross. It is “the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Cor. 1:24). It is the good news of our salvation by grace through faith (Eph. 2:8). May we boldly proclaim, as the hymn writer put it: “To the old rugged cross, I will ever be true, its shame and reproach gladly bear.”
Our primary ministry is to preach the word of the cross, for “it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe” (1 Cor. 1:21). This is what the great commission is all about – “preaching the gospel to every creature” (Mk. 16:15). The apostle Paul could say: “I have fully preached the gospel of Christ” (Rom. 15:19). Can you say that?
May we never shrink from our duty to preach the cross. May it ever be the hallmark of our ministry. When many today (even those who call themselves evangelicals) are watering it down and giving it up, may we “cling to the old rugged cross” which someday we’ll “exchange for a crown.”
Part II. Leadership: Being A Godly Role Model
“Being a Personal example in Thought, Word, and Deed”
By: Dr. Roger Pascoe, President,
The Institute for Biblical Preaching
Cambridge, Ontario, Canada
We come now to the last of the nine aspects of displaying a godly character to others. In previous editions of this NET Pastors Journal, we have looked at being an example of commitment, consistency, confidence, consecration, compassion, competence, conduct, and conversation. Lastly, we are looking at what it means to be...
An Example In Character
Credentials seem to have taken the place of character in our culture - i.e. what you know and what you can do instead of who you are. Unfortunately, few churches seem to focus on godly character when they are looking for church leaders, ministry leaders, pastoral candidates etc.
What is “character”? Character has to do with your values, ethics, standards, priorities, goals, uprightness. Character is your unshakeable foundation when things get tough or when temptations assail you. Character is who we are when no one is looking. Christian character has to do with holiness, righteousness, godliness.
Christian ministry demands the development of godly character and yet ministry often seems to impede it. Aubrey Malphurs writes:
“Our gifts and abilities coupled with our ministry accomplishments present us with both an opportunity and a temptation. On the one hand, the opportunity is to have maximum kingdom impact while here on earth. On the other hand, the temptation is to allow our hearts and souls to shrivel as our gifts and talents grow and accomplish much … For leaders to be effective, however, character development is as important as their ministry success.” 1
Often the pressures to “do” overcome and outweigh our need and desire to “be”. There is a gap between our walk with Christ and our work for Christ. The time we put into practising ministry exceeds the time we put in to developing our spirituality and character. But the latter must precede the former; “being” comes before “doing”. If you aren’t who God wants you to be, you can’t do what God wants you to do. Hence, the character qualifications for elders and deacons (1 Tim. 3:1-13; Tit. 1:6-9).
Again, Aubrey Malphurs writes: “Character always precedes ministry” 2. Philips Brooks writes: “What the minister is, is far more important than what he is able to do, for what he is gives force to what he does. In the long run, ministry is what we are as much as what we do” 3
We need to consciously work on being Christ-like. It doesn’t just happen because you’re in ministry or because you are a church leaders or Bible teacher. Godly character stems from spending time with God. There is no substitute for this. That’s why busyness is so destructive to effectiveness in ministry. Busyness is probably one of Satan’s masterpieces in attacking the church, our ministry, our testimony. If Satan can weaken our relationship with the Lord, he has weakened our ministry and the impact we can have for God. Disciples spend time with their leader (cf. Mk. 3:13-14).
Developing character is the result of being an example in commitment, consecration, consistency, confidence, consecration, compassion, competence, conduct, and conversation. Our character is to be an expression of Christ’s character - “until Christ be formed in you” (Gal. 4:19). How we live (what we do) and who we are (our values) are to reflect how Christ lived and who He is – i.e. we are to be the presence of Christ on earth. We can only reflect Christ’s character if we know him intimately. Therefore, the apostle Paul says, “set your mind on things above not on things on the earth” (Col. 3:2). Be Christ centred; live in submission to the Holy Spirit and in Christ-likeness. Is the fruit of the Spirit evident in your life (Gal. 5:22f.)? Are you bearing the image of God in your life? Are you known for godly character and conduct – e.g. hospitality, gentleness, humility, meekness, holiness, self-discipline? Are you “beyond reproach” in your reputation? Or, are you known as someone who lives to satisfy the works of the flesh (Gal. 5:19-21)?
When the test comes in times of pressure and difficulty, godly character and biblical values will set you apart and keep you on course, so that you make the right decisions for the right reasons.
There are four particular areas of character that are vital for Christian ministry and testimony:
Integrity is openness, honesty, righteousness, impartiality. Why does the apostle Paul urge us to “pay close attention to yourself” (1 Tim. 4:16)? Because you cannot lead others to faith, or lead the people of God in worship, or intercede on behalf of others, or appropriately instruct others, unless your own life is upright, clean, honest, open. A Christian leader must have integrity. Your whole life must hold together – no gaps, no inconsistencies – but a unified whole.
Integrity is never making decisions to please people but to please God (Eph. 6:6-7; Col. 3:22-23). Integrity is doing what is right, regardless of the cost. Integrity is never being caught in a conflict of interest. That may mean turning down someone’s kind intent so that you are not beholden to that person.
Integrity goes hand-in-hand with sincerity – not being phoney but transparent, open, without guile.
2. Values (Ethics)
Set high standards. Establish a code of ethics. Define your values. What things are important to you? What doctrines are important to you? What ways of life and ideas are important to you, that you won’t compromise or negotiate? In other words, what are your core values?
Your values are most clearly defined by your practices:
· What do you spend your money on?
· How do you spend your time?
· Who are your friends?
· What do you talk about?
· What do you think about?
· What would you risk your job for?
· What would you go to prison for?
Courage is doing what’s right; pressing on in the face of opposition, criticism, or failure. Remember: “God has not given us the spirit of fear…” (2 Tim. 1:7). Oswald Sanders wrote: “Courage is that quality of mind that enables people to encounter danger or difficulty firmly, without fear or discouragement.” 4
Christian leadership isn’t easy. It takes courage. It takes courage to make tough decisions, to do what is right regardless of the consequences. Clear, good decision-making made in dependence on God is the hallmark of a good spiritual leader - e.g. (1) Abraham during the crisis of Sodom and the rescue of Lot (Gen. 14:14f.); (2) Moses when he decided to give up Egypt’s pleasures and power; (3) Paul in the storm (Acts 27).
Every time you face a crossroad in decision-making, you will be an example of either courage or cowardice. David was an example of courage when he faced a lion and a bear when tending the sheep. Later, David was an example of courage when he faced Goliath. Jonah, however, was an example of cowardice. He made the wrong choice and went the wrong way. Nonetheless, God restored him and used him courageously. Daniel was an example of courage, experiencing a fiery furnace rather than compromising his faith in God.
It takes courage to make tough decisions and it takes courage to deal with difficult situations - to face obstacles and attacks from other people and from Satan. It takes courage to handle personal criticism and opposition. It takes courage to preach when you’ve been soundly criticized during the week. God said to Jeremiah,
“Therefore, prepare yourself and arise, and speak to them all that I command you. Do not be dismayed before their faces, lest I dismay you before them. For behold, I have made you this day a fortified city and an iron pillar and bronze walls against the whole land – against the kings of Judah, against its princes, against its priests, and against the people of the land. They will fight against you but they shall not prevail against you. For I am with you,” says the Lord, “to deliver you.” (Jer. 1:17-19)
Our courage to handle criticism and opposition comes from the Lord. Criticism is the worst enemy to wear you down. It amplifies your insecurities; it takes your eyes off the task at hand and onto yourself; it depletes your energy and enthusiasm; it makes you defensive; it isolates you.
That’s why negative, destructive criticism is a tool of Satan. I believe in biblical correction, rebuke, and exhortation (2 Tim. 4:2), but destructive criticism isn’t listed there. Criticism is usually about what people don’t want and dislike, not about what is honouring to God or beneficial to his people. Criticism can distort your view of ministry and of the people you minister to.
It takes courage to persevere in times of spiritual discouragement - to stay the course when discouragement sets in; when you think you’re a failure; when you work hard but it seems no one is listening or responding.
Christian humility is reflected in servant-hood, meekness, gentleness, fallibility. It’s the attitude of John the Baptist who in comparison to Jesus said, “He must increase but I must decrease” (Jn. 3:30). Paul put it his way: “I am the least of the apostles and do not deserve to be called an apostle” (1 Cor. 15:9; cf. Eph. 3:8; 1 Tim. 1:15). Paul’s admonition to us is, “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself” (Phil. 2:3).
It’s easy to become proud in ministry, particularly if there are outward signs of success in worldly terms (e.g. increase in numbers; new buildings). Preaching, in particular, can be a prideful experience and people’s affirmation of your preaching can go to your head. The minute we begin to think it has anything to do with us (our credit; our merit) we are in trouble. “God resists the proud and gives grace to the humble” (Ja. 4:6; 1 Pet. 5:5). “Humble yourself therefore under the mighty hand of God that he may exalt you in due time” (1 Pet. 5:6). When it’s time, He will exalt you – not yourself.
Conclusions About Character 5
Five character traits to avoid (Tit. 1:7-8)
1. Not self-willed (this is usually the underlying characteristic of criticism)
2. Not quick tempered
3. Not given to wine
4. Not violent
5. Not greedy for money
Seven characteristics to adopt (Tit. 1:8-9)
2. A lover of what is good
3. Sober-minded / sensible
5. Holy / devout
7. Holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught
Challenge: What kind of role model are you? When others look at you, what do they see? – an example of consistency? holiness? prayerfulness? When you examine yourself, what do you see?
Part III. Church History: “Remembering The Past”
By: Dr. Michael Haykin
Professor of Church History and Biblical Spirituality
The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky
Remembering Adoniram And Ann Judson
Of all the lands where English-speaking Baptists have sought to plant churches, Burma, now known as Myanmar, has turned out to be one of the most fruitful. Undoubtedly the central figures in this church-planting endeavour in its early years were the Judsons, Adoniram (1788–1850) and his courageous wife Ann (1789–1826). When one considers their labours and incredible trials in that far eastern land, the patience that they showed in the six years that passed before they saw the first convert, Moung Nau, their careful translation of the Scriptures into Burmese—a translation that is still the standard version—it is no surprise that the lives of the Judsons have been an inspiration to Baptists for the past century and a half. It is two hundred years exactly this year since the Judsons set out for Burma: what can we learn from them?
It has been rightly said that when Christ calls a man or woman to follow him, he calls them to die—to die to self, to die to worldly ambition, and to die to the goals of this present age. The lives of Adoniram and Ann Judson are a vital reminder of the nature of Christian discipleship and they can help Christians rediscover the cost of making one’s Christian commitment a concrete reality.
Then, living as we do, in a day increasingly fascinated with all types of “spirituality,” the Judsons’ piety can encourage believers to focus on what is the “real thing.” Forged in the crucible of the Second Great Awakening and matured in the fire of persecution in Burma, their piety was rooted in a balance of Word and Spirit, a balance desperately needed in all of our churches.
Finally, Ann’s life especially is of interest for the simple reason that she was a woman. Ann’s letters and diary entries show us what it was like to be a Christian woman in the early nineteenth century. Now, the position of women in western society has changed radically since Ann sailed in 1812 from Salem, Massachusetts, for Calcutta in India. In her day there was a very limited range of vocations for women. And the fact that there were relatively few biographies of women was a given. How different the picture is today. Yet, despite the massive changes that have taken place in the status of women, Ann’s life can still be instructive to modern Christian women, not least in her God-given courage.
Courage has been likened to the discovery of new lands—one must be willing to lose sight of the shore if they are ever going to be found. By this standard, Adoniram and Ann Judson were indeed people of courage. There is a tremendous statement by Adoniram Judson about the sort of men needed to be missionaries in a letter he wrote to his friend Luther Rice. He said this about the sort of men they needed—and in a way he was describing himself and his wife:
Humble, quiet, persevering men; men of sound, sterling talents (though perhaps not brilliant,) of decent accomplishments, and some natural aptitude to acquire a language; men of an amiable, yielding temper, willing to take the lowest place, to be the least of all, and the servant of all; men who enjoy much closet religion, who live near God, and are willing to suffer all things for Christ’s sake, without being proud of it—these are the men.6
Part IV. Devotional Thoughts: “Why The Priority Of Humility?” 7
By: Dr. John MacArthur, Pastor,
Grace Community Church, Sun Valley, Calif.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:3)
This beatitude was uttered first because humility is the foundation of all other graces and a crucial aspect to salvation (cf. Matt. 18:3-4). The door into Christ’s kingdom is narrow and low, and no one who sees himself or herself too large or too tall will ever pass through. It makes about as much sense to attempt to grow fruit apart from a tree and its branches as to expect the other graces of the Christian life to grow apart from humility.
Until we humble ourselves to recognize our own spiritual poverty and our need of Christ, we cannot see and experience His gracious, saving riches. Jesus said of the contrite tax collector, “I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other (the Pharisee); for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 18:14).
No person can receive the kingdom of God until he or she realizes they are unworthy of that kingdom. The proud Laodicean church declared collectively, “I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,” but in reality the members were “wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked” (Rev. 3:17). People like the Laodiceans remind us of the story of the Roman slave girl who would not recognize her blindness, insisting that her world was just permanently dark.
Until the proud are willing to be poor in spirit, they can’t receive the King or enter His kingdom.
We see that pride is the chief barrier between people and God, between sinful souls and Christ’s glorious salvation. But what else does pride restrict us from experiencing and enjoying? What other residual costs does it incur in our lives?
Part V. Sermon Outlines
By: Dr. Roger Pascoe, President
The Institute for Biblical Preaching
So far, I have published in this journal, a series of sermons from John’s gospel concerning Jesus’ supernatural deeds, or miracles:
1. John 2:1-11, Changing water into wine: The best is yet to come
2. John 4:46-54, Healing the nobleman’s son: Our extremity is God’s opportunity
3. John 5:1-47, Healing the lame man: Walking away from your Bethesda
4. John 6:1-14, Feeding the five thousand: How big is your God?
5. John 6:16-21, Jesus walking on water: Rediscovering Jesus
6. John 9:1-41, A man called Jesus
Now, here are four more sermons for the seventh and final supernatural deed recorded by John:
Sermon Outline #9
John 11:1-44, Raising Of Lazarus, Pt. 1, 2, 3, 4
Subject: God’s delays are not necessarily denials
Point #1: Sometimes God delays to show us his love (1-3)
Point #2: Sometimes God delays to show us his glory (4-6)
Point #3: Sometimes God delays to show us his purposes (7-16)
Point #4: Sometimes God delays to teach us truth about him (17-27)
Point #5: Sometimes God delays to teach us passion for him (28-37)
Point #6: Sometimes God delays to teach us faith in him (38-44)
1 Aubrey Malphurs, The Dynamics of Church Leadership (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1999), 21.
2 Malphurs, 34.
3 Phillips Brooks, cited by MacArthur in Rediscovering Pastoral Ministry, 114.
4 Oswald Sanders, Spiritual Leadership, 59.
5 See MacArthur, Rediscovering Pastoral Ministry, 95-101.
6 Letter to Luther Rice, November 14, 1816 (The American Baptist Magazine and Missionary Intelligencer, 1 [1817–1818], 185).
7 John MacArthur, “Why the Priority of Humility?” in Daily Readings from the Life of Christ (Chicago: Moody Publisher, 2008), February 12.
Related Topics: Pastors