Monthly Archives: February 2010

A Word for Ministers from Richard Sibbes

Christ chose those to preach mercy who had felt most mercy, as Peter and Paul, that they might be examples of what they taught.  Paul became all things to all mean (1 Cor 9:22), stooping unto them for their good.  Christ came down from heaven and emptied himself of majesty in tender love to souls.  Shall we not come down from our high conceits to do any poor soul good?  Shall man be proud after God has been humble?  We see the ministers of Satan turn themselves into all shapes to ‘make one proselyte’ (Matt 23:15).  We see ambitious men study accommodation of themselves to the humours of those by whom they hope to be raised, and shall not we study application of ourselves to Christ, by whom we hope to be advanced, nay, are already sitting with him in heavenly places?  After we are gained to Christ ourselves, we should labour to gain others to Christ.  Holy ambition and covetousness will move us to put upon ourselves the disposition of Christ.  But we must put off ourselves first (Richard Sibbes, The Bruised Reed, 27).

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Links to Help Your Grip (2.24.10)

Francis Chan puts forth some horrifying videos about persecution and murder of the Christians in India.  Those images will never leave my mind.  Ever.

Timmy Brister lists 21 questions he’s been asking himself as a pastor.  Here are four:

    • If our church would cease to exist in our city, would it be noticed and missed?
    • If all the pastors were tragically killed in a car accident, would the church’s ministry cease or fall apart?
    • If the only possible means of connecting with unbelievers were through the missionary living of our church members, how much would we grow? (I ask this because the early church did not have signs, websites, ads, marketing, etc.)
    • What are the subcultures within the church?  Do they attract or detract from the centrality of the gospel and mission of the church?

Read how one American Idol auditioner put Simon Cowell in his place—through Christ-like forgiveness.

Do the Five Love Languages really exalt the lordship of Christ?  David Powlison explains:

Like all secular interpretations of human psychology (even when lightly Christianized), it makes some good observations and offers some half-decent advice (of the sort that self-effort can sometimes follow). But it doesn’t really understand human psychology. That basic misunderstanding has systematic distorting and misleading effects. Fallenness not only brings ignorance about how best to love others; it brings a perverse unwillingness and inability to love. It ingrains the perception that our lusts are in fact needs, empty places inside where others have disappointed us. The empty emotional tank construct is congenial to our fallen instincts, not transformative. It leaves what we instinctively want as an unquestionable good that must somehow be fulfilled. It not only leaves fundamental self-interest unchallenged, it plays to self-interest. . . .

Sadly, Benny Hinn’s wife has asked for a divorce after 30 years of marriage.

Our church has started praying for our Resurrection Sunday services.  You can follow the 40 days prayer guide at our Casting in the Creek blog.

Feel free to listen to and read my sermon from this past Sunday on “Pure Churches are Investing Churches.”  I pray my legacy at Boone’s Creek Baptist Church is marked by this vision of ministry.

Lastly, I have set up (finally) my Amazon store, Gripped by the Gospel.  Come, take a look, and partake of the books! 

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Pure Churches are Investing Churches

(Feel free to listen to this sermon here.  It was preached on Sunday, February 21, 2010 at Boone’s Creek Baptist Church, Lexington, KY.)

When it comes to investing my family’s money, I find myself a bit anxious as well as ignorant. I have a number of friends who are very skilled at playing the stock market or investing in bonds, CDs, IRAs, mutual funds. I know a number of older adults who have planned well for their retirement.

What is my problem, you ask? My problems stems from turning loose of precious, hard-earned (and hard-to-come-by) money with a wife and four children counting on me to provide clothes and groceries and a home.

Not only that, my problem stems from a lack of trust in the institutions and corporations in which I’m considering investing. For every Wal-Mart, who entered the stock market 1970 at $14 which split and split and split into hundreds of thousands of dollars, there are other corporations that do well for a time, then fizzle out. If I’m going to invest in something, I want to make sure that investment is sound and give a good return.

You have seen the title of this chapter in 22-point Trajan Pro font that “Pure Churches are Investing Churches.” What type of investments are we as the Body of Christ to make? In my Southern Baptist background, we preach without apology that we are to tithe (2 Corinthians 9:6-7) and also give to those who preach the gospel—both minister and missionary (1 Timothy 5:17; Philippians 4:11-19). These are monetary investments that, through prayer and the Spirit’s leadership, will bring eternal dividends that we may never know of this side of heaven.

Yet, God has called us to invest—in people! What people? We are to invest in the people that are around you in this place of worship, as well as the people that God has placed in your circle of influence. If you are like me in regards to the financial investments, you may have some similar concerns.

  • “What am I to invest? I have no treasure to invest!”
  • “Why should I invest?
  • “What is the return I will receive on my investment?”

The issue is, it’s easier to maintain and invest structures and institutional systems than it is to invest in the spiritual growth of individuals. We invest in sound doctrine not simply to learn but to live. We invest in sound doctrine not only to know but to show and help grow a people. So let’s dig deeper into what God has in mind.

What am I to Invest?

What are we to invest? “The trustworthy word.” Look at Titus 2:1: “But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine.” Bookending our focal passage is Titus 2:10b: “. . . in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior.” Whenever we begin to wonder what we can invest and contribute to another person, the first place we often look is to ourselves—and then compare ourselves to others. “I can’t teach like James can.” “They have such a servant’s heart—I don’t think God has given me that, especially seeing how Kellyn is.” “I want to share my faith—I wish I had Tom’s boldness and passion.”

We are looking horizontally rather than vertically! Paul reminded Titus that God “manifested … his word through the preaching with which I have been entrusted by the command of God our Savior” (1:3). Then, in verse 9, Paul instructed Titus to find leaders in the church who have been taught “the trustworthy word… so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.”

Before we look to our supposed empty treasure chest and seeing no talent, no gifts, no courage, no anything to contribute, we must look to God and the trustworthy Word He gives in the gospel of Jesus Christ. We have that! We know that not only is that sound, its effect is limitless. We can be reminded from Isaiah that “The grass withers, and the flowers fade, but the Word of God stands forever” (Isaiah 40:8).

Yet, what is the point of this Word? Some believe and use the Bible as a book of answers—an encyclopedia if you will. Whatever your need, you just need to turn to the correct page and find the answers you need, they say. Paul Tripp makes a great observation in that this does not bring about the change that is really needed.

In this kind of ministry, self is still at the center, personal need is the focus, and personal happiness remains the goal. But a truly effective ministry of the Word must confront our self-focus and self-absorption at its roots, opening us up to the vastness of a God-defined, God-centered world.”[i]

You see, when we invest in sound doctrine both personally and as we invest in others, it produces sound living—living for which we were created. And God has progressively revealed Himself in His Word to show us Himself and His work in His world. No passage of Scripture stands on its own, but is interwoven throughout Old Testament and New Testament. We need to see where we fit in the drama of God’s history and find our identity in Him, not simply in what we think we need.

What is the Return?

If investing in sound doctrine is investing in sound living, what is the return? Do we simply feel better knowing we know more? Is it about learning? Is it about knowing? Again, investing is not just about learning, it’s about living. It’s not just about knowing, it’s about showing and growing!

As we read through verses 1-10, you notice that Paul instructed Titus to instruct in sound doctrine, and then he proceeds to tell them how to live. He addresses older men and women, younger men and women, as well as slaves. He identifies them by age and gender—and to a degree, cultural status. Why did Paul do this?

Remember from chapter 5 that Paul taught Titus to “rebuke them sharply.” Who was the ‘them’ to which Paul referred? In verse 12, he spoke of the Cretans; in verse 14, he spoke to those who were propagating Jewish myths, deceiving many. These were those who were outside the body of Christ trying to harm those inside the body. Part of loving his neighbor was growing in the grace of Christ (2 Pet 3:18) as well as understanding the vantage point from which his neighbor came (1 Pet 3:15-16).

Now Paul instructed Titus on how to deal with those inside the body of Christ. Paul counseled Titus to take the unchangeable and trustworthy word and apply it to their particular situations. Notice how he told Titus to minister to them based on age and gender—since each has a distinct vantage point as well.

Yet, here’s what Paul is getting at: we are to teach others how to apply sound doctrine for sound living. Everyone is in a position to learn, and everyone is in a position to teach. Older men should come together with younger men and show them how to be gospel-centered men for Christ. Older women should come together and show the younger women how to be mature wives, mothers, and Christians in this world.

You see, there is great confusion about the roles of men and women, the older and the younger. But through the gospel, order can be brought into that confusion! Recently on the Oprah Winfrey Show, a student was returning back to his high school for a class reunion. This student was the quarterback of the football team, very athletic and handsome. Yet, he was struggling with his sexual identity. So, this young man had a sex change operation because he felt he had to be true to himself. When Oprah asked the mother, a Christian, how she reconciled this with her faith, her response was, “I believe in my child. I just want to support her in what makes her happy.”[ii]

This is not the kind of Christian help people need. We do not affirm someone else’s pride and sinfulness, we point them to the God of the Scriptures, not the god of their own making.

4. How do we invest?

This morning, you heard about the importance of investing. Remember: Investing in sound doctrine is investing in sound living. What steps should we take when it comes to investing the gospel of Christ in people? So many of us do not know where to start—and if we figure that out, we do not know where to go! Here are some steps:

Ingest. We need to know and nourish ourselves on the things of God. If we are to invest, we will only invest what we ingest. We can’t lead people to the things of God if we do not know where we’re going. Just ask one of my members, Chris Marshall, about our trip back from Eric and Sarah Masters’ wedding rehearsal in December of 2009. Just because two people are helping each other navigate back from Point A (which, in this case, was Danville) to Point B (Lexington), does not mean that the road will be easy. One wrong turn, lots of back roads, no lights, and you’re in for an adventure. You will ingest sound doctrine so you know where you are going and can take others along!

Initiating: Help them Know About Christ

We need to be ones who know about Christ to help others know about Christ. And it starts with simply planting a seed—initiating the conversation. If you are talking to a FRAN (friend, relative, associate, neighbor), then hopefully you already have some sort of relationship with them. Ask them about their spiritual belief? Ask them what they think of Jesus Christ?

· If you are in a place a business you frequent (restaurant, bank, gas station), ask them if there’s any way you can pray for them. If you’re at a restaurant and leave a tip, leave a tract with a generous tip.

Inviting: Help Show Them Christ

Two types of evangelism: go and tell evangelism, and the come and see evangelism. Invite them to listen to your hope in Christ. Use a tract or the Romans Road to walk them through the gospel (and to help keep you on track). Invite them to church so they can meet other Christians and see what a body of Christ is all about. This will help all of us “get ready for company” in making God’s house inviting and welcoming. (A word here: invite them not only a special service, but also to regular services so they see how we are from week-to-week.)

Increase: Help Them Grow in Christ

· We must not be concerned about growing numbers in the pews, but by growing the people in the pews—notice the difference.

· Disciple them by meeting with them over coffee, chat over the Internet, call them on the phone. But how?

· Go back to Titus 2:1-10. Older Christian men, you’ve got to grow, but also help the younger men grow. Older Christian women, you’ve got to come and train the younger women. God has provided two venues for that to happen: the home front and the church front.

· Have a system: Bible reading plan, go through a Bible study, read a Christian book together about a specific topic.

· Go over what I preached on this past Sunday—take notes. Find out what I’m preaching in the weeks ahead and begin looking over that, so you’ll be ready for the sermon and the ensuing discussion with your friend.


[i]Paul David Tripp, Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 2002), 24-25.

[ii]The Oprah Winfrey Show, http://www.oprah.com/oprahshow/Transgender-Womans-High-School-Reunion-Video.

 

(Copyright © 2010 by Matthew Perry. All rights reserved.)

Categories: Church Life, doctrine, evangelism, sermons | 1 Comment

When the One Bible Brings Different Conclusions

Mark Noll’s wonderful book The Civil War as a Theological Crisis has a rather disturbing beginning.  It’s only disturbing to those who hold to the inerrancy and sufficiency of the Bible. 

In the antebellum  era of the United States, representation of Protestant Christianity was very strong.  Yes, it was found in various forms: Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, Congregationalism, etc., but by and large they sought to be led in faith and practice by the Word of God. 

Yet, as the Civil War (1861-1865) approached, tensions rose high between the northern and southern United States over the issues of the institution of slavery, state sovereignty, and whether the new territories recently acquired by the United States would be free or slave.  Given the great influence the church had in the United States at that time, many were honestly searching for what God had to say on the matter.  And it was at this point that America lost its grip on being a Christian nation.  Here’s why:

Henry Ward Beecher, the  most renowned preacher in the North, and pastor of the Plymouth Congregational Church in Brooklyn, NY, preached that slavery was “the most alarming and most fertile cause of national sin.”  The Bible was clear that no government could thrive for any length of time if slavery were legal.

James Henley Thornwell believed differently. . . from the Word of God.  Slavery was “good and merciful” and that the Scriptures did not go against the institution of slavery.  Slavery must not be done maliciously but from principle.  Noll notes that Thornwell was “so confident that, like Beecher, he did not engage in any actual biblical exegesis” (2). 

Henry Van Dyke at the First Presbyterian Church in Brooklyn believed that the true evil was in the heart and activity of the abolitionists.  The “tree of Abolitionism is evil, and only evil—root and branch, flower and leaf, and fruit; that it springs from, and is nourished by, an utter rejection of Scripture.”  Van Dyke believed men like Beecher were going against the Scripture’s authority.

Rabbi Morris J. Raphall believed that, due to the curse of Noah’s son Ham, who saw the nakedness of his drunken father and, they say, was cursed with black skin (which, I must say, is not biblical at all), the black race was consigned due to this curse to servitude throughout its existence.  Raphall was against the institution as practiced in the USA, but believed that as an institution, slavery was permitted by Scripture

Lastly, Tayler Lewis, a Dutch Reformed layman who, since 1838, was a professor of Greek and oriental studies at NYU then at Union College in New York, believed that since the New Testament said nothing about buying and selling slaves, and since this was key to the American slave system, then the New Testament did not permit this system. 

What is a person to think about all this?  If the Bible is a unity without any mistakes, as the Word says and so many believe, how could so many clergy come to such different conclusions? 

We forget how much our culture influences and filters our thinking.  But should we try to fit in the Bible with our “story” or should we fit in to the grand redemptive theme and “story” of the Scriptures?  For many (maybe myself included) this would be a strange transition. 

  • In what way would you say your American culture (or whatever culture you may be in) has affected how to look at the Scriptures?  Do you see personal liberty, at the expense of community or the “one anothers?”
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The Fallibility of Ministers (J.C. Ryle)

The example of the Apostle Peter at Antioch is one that does not stand alone. It is only a parallel of many a case that we find written for our learning, in Holy Scripture. Do we not remember Abraham, the father of the faithful, following the advice of Sarah, and taking Hagar for a wife? Do we not remember Aaron, the first high priest, listening to the children of Israel, and making a golden calf? Do we not remember Solomon, the wisest of men, allowing his wives to build their high places of false worship? Do we not remember Jehosaphat, the good king, going down to help wicked Ahab? Do we not remember Hezekiah, the good king, receiving the ambassadors of Babylon? Do we not remember Josiah, the last of Judah’s good kings, going forth to fight with Pharaoh? Do we not remember James and John, wanting fire to come down from heaven? These things deserve to be remembered. They were not written without cause. They cry aloud, "No infallibility!"

And who does not see, when he reads the history of the Church of Christ, repeated proofs that the best of men can err? The early fathers were zealous according to their knowledge, and ready to die for Christ. But many of them advocated ritualism, and nearly all sowed the seeds of many superstitions. The Reformers were honored instruments in the hand of God for reviving the cause of truth on earth. Yet hardly one of them can be named who did not make some great mistake. Luther held tightly to the doctrine of consubstantiation. Melancthon was often timid and undecided. Calvin permitted Servetus to be burned. Cranmer recanted and fell away for a time from his first faith. Jewell subscribed to Roman Catholic Church doctrines for fear of death. Hooper disturbed the Church of England by demanding the need to wear ceremonial vestments when ministering. The Puritans, in later times, denounced Christian liberty and freedoms as doctrines from the pit of Hell. Wesley and Toplady, last century, abused each other in most shameful language. Irving, in our own day, gave way to the delusion of speaking in unknown tongues.

All these things speak with a loud voice. They all lift up a beacon to the Church of Christ. They all say, "Do not trust man; call no man master; call no man father on earth; let no man glory in man. "He who glories, let him glory in the Lord." They all cry—"No infallibility!" The lesson is one that we all need. We are all naturally inclined to lean upon man whom we can see, rather than upon God whom we cannot see. We naturally love to lean upon the ministers of the visible Church, rather than upon the Lord Jesus Christ, the great Shepherd and High Priest, who is invisible. We need to be continually warned and set on our guard.

(J.C. Ryle, The Fallibility of Ministers)

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Book Review: Schulz and Peanuts by David Michaelis

  As a huge fan of Peanuts (not the legumes but the long-running comic strip by Charles M Schulz), I nevertheless had put off reading this book Schulz and Peanuts by David Michaelis.  Fortunately, I found it on sale for $6.98 (retail $34.98) at my local Barnes & Noble, so I purchased it and finally got around to reading it.

Let me state the punchline first.  As fascinated as I was with Schulz, I found myself growing progressively sadder as the book went on.  I recognize how biographical Peanuts was and how the different characters represented not only different people in his life, but also different aspects to his uber-guarded personality.  He never felt loved nor worthy of love growing up.  In a life where men aimed to work a trade with their hands, Sparky’s lifelong ambition was to draw a comic strip. 

He struggled with every relationship he had growing up, and wanted so much to be a success in the eyes of his parents.  His mom never  saw him succeed, dying of cancer at the age of 44—hours before Sparky was to go off into the Army and hip deep into World War 2.  His guardedness in his relationships stemmed some from his sense of being a “nothing” (as he would describe himself), but also of a belief that he was seldom understood due to his talent that few could see or appreciate. 

After coming back from the war, he worked at the Art Instruction School in Minneapolis.  After numerous submissions of his work (and numerous rejections), United Syndicate gave young Sparky a chance.  His philosophical musings through a children’s only, minimalistic comic strip was so different and fresh that soon “Charlie Brown” was a sensation—one that lasted past Schulz’ death in 2000.  This “nothing from Minnesota” was soon bringing in salaries that few could fathom from a comic strip. 

From this book, I would like to glean a few insights that are lessons in what to do and what not to do. 

Focus

For Charles “Sparky” Schulz, the comic strip was the end all-be all of his life.  Nothing could intrude, no one else could contribute, nothing would be allowed to interfere with the dynamic of the characters.  When an interviewer asked Schulz about his kids, he began speaking of Charlie Brown and Lucy, Linus and Schroeder—only to be corrected: the interviewer wanted to know about Schulz’ children! 

Family

Coming from a family who showed very little affection, he grew up as one showing little affection as well.  His lack of desire to confront his fiery first wife, Joyce, and to contribute in the discipline of the children and family life in general stemmed, according to many who knew them well, of Sparky not only feeling unable to love, but feeling unlovable.  He would not allow anyone into the world of Peanuts, never allow anyone to contribute an idea, and would as a result exclude himself from the particulars of anything regarding the household.  This manifested itself in some very sad and unimaginable ways. 

The divorce from his first wife, Joyce, is especially heart-wrenching.  How important is it for married couples to be involved and supportive of each others’ endeavors!  How important is it for fathers to be actively involved physically and spiritually in the lives of their children. 

Fear

Sparky had a fear of intimacy at every level.  Anxieties riddled his life, but he refused to seek out help because was afraid that any change in him would change the dynamic of the strip, and thus its ultimate success.  In fact, the more depressed and anxiety-ridden his life was, he believed the more depth the strip had.  He remained secluded, guarded, and never feeling safe in his clear status as the most influential cartoonist in American history as well as a sought-out philosopher and commentator of the age.   Charlie Brown never kicked the football, never spoke to the little red-headed girl, and only until the end had he actually won a baseball game.  Schulz once said that “Nice is not funny.”  This fear of intimacy and closeness bled profusely into his strips.

Yet, I am grateful for his inclusion of the Luke 2 birth narrative in A Charlie Brown Christmas—the most enduring and endearing of all Christmas specials, having run for 45 years consecutively!  I wish Schulz had recognized the gospel power at the core of his life.

Faith

At one point after the War, Sparky joined the Church of God and was very involved in church—only in later years to turn his back on fundamental orthodoxy.  His progressive liberalism was kept under wraps, for fear of hurting the influence of his comic strip which sought to appeal to everyone.  Schulz had a high regard for Jesus and the Bible, but did not believe that any absolute truth existed.  Seeing his decline from being one strong in the matters of faith to being one who all but abandoned it is a tragedy to see.  Moving away from this base truly affected some decisions Schulz made in his personal life.

Conclusion

In conclusion, one must recognize that God gives enormous talents and ambition to some that, when harnessed, prove very influential.  Even in 2010, Charlie Brown is still known, loved, and understood.  Yet, Michaelis has given such a thorough account of this iconic cartoonist, author, philosopher, and (we must remember) a human being.  We must beware of projecting our own conceptions of an individual on that individual.  I’m thankful for his contribution in Peanuts.  His insights made (make) me think and observe the world much differently!

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Spurgeon: Winner of Souls, Trainer of Ministers

As the pastor of the great Metropolitan Tabernacle, Spurgeon felt the responsibility to invest in the lives of those who aspire to the preaching ministry both inside and outside his church. This post demonstrates from Spurgeon’s ministry the rationale for the role of pastors in the local church mentoring and training young aspiring ministers. By examining Spurgeon’s books, sermons, and lectures to his pastoral students, this chapter critically examines and reconstructs his model for training young ministers in preaching as well as other areas of pastoral ministry which were bolstered by his powerful preaching ministry.

Biography

Mostly commonly known as “The Prince of Preachers,” Charles Spurgeon was born in Kelvedon, Essex, in Great Britain on June 19, 1834, and died on January 31, 1892 at the age of 57 in Menton, France, while recovering from a number of ailments that plagued him in his final years. A well-read young man who poured over many volumes of the great Puritans, his quest for Christ’s mercy in salvation consumed him for years. Lewis Drummond notes how Spurgeon’s spiritual quest took a marked turn as he read over the classic book by John Bunyan, The Pilgrim’s Progress: “The lad poured over the pages, and that classic book of Bunyan sparked a deep concern in the boy. It launched another pilgrim on its way.” When Spurgeon attended a Primitive Methodist church on a snowy, wintry day in January, 1850, an uneducated deacon stood up, with the pastor absent, and preached Isaiah 45:22: “Look unto me and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth” (KJV). The Spirit quickened Spurgeon’s heart and he came to Christ.

Spurgeon became pastor of a small Baptist church in rural Waterbeach at the age of 17. Two years later, he was called as pastor of the New Park Street Chapel in Southwark, which became the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London. He followed in the line of such renowned pastors as Benjamin Keach, John Gill, and John Rippon. Eventually, Spurgeon’s church became the largest in the world, having over 10,000 in attendance each Sunday. Newspapers in Great Britain as well as America published his sermons continuously for years after his death. Although Spurgeon’s fame escalated, so did the criticisms. Comparing his messages to the educated oration coming from the majority of prominent pulpits, many criticized Spurgeon’s plainspoken preaching. Yet Spurgeon felt the need to preach the gospel plainly and clearly, for all to understand.

On Spurgeon’s fiftieth birthday, someone read a list of the sixty-six organizations Spurgeon founded and administrated. Spurgeon typically labored eighteen hours per day for the Kingdom, bearing the fruit of more than 140 books. In attendance at his birthday celebration was Spurgeon’s best friend, Lord Shaftesbury, who noted, “This list of associations, instituted by his genius, and superintended by his care, were more than enough to occupy the minds and hearts of fifty ordinary men.”

Spurgeon’s Pastors’ College

In 1857, at the age of 24 and while serving at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Spurgeon began a Pastors’ College. Spurgeon noted that the Pastors’ College was his life’s object and aim, alongside the preaching of the Word. Biographer Charles Ray elaborates:

The College was the first important institution commenced by the pastor, and it remains his first born and best beloved. To train ministers of the Gospel is the most excellent work, and when the Holy Spirit blesses the effort, the result is of utmost importance both to the Church and to the world.

Spurgeon sought to emulate the example that the Apostle Paul modeled in investing his life in young Timothy. Paul had urged Timothy to invest his life in other young, faithful men: “You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Tim 2:1-2). He admitted that this college was not begun out of any particular scheme he had in mind, but out of a lack of proper ministers to the common people. Zack Eswine observed:

The uniqueness of Spurgeon’s College did not lie in the fact that it was the only Baptist option for ministerial training. . . . But what Spurgeon longed for were ‘ministers suitable for the masses.’ By ‘the masses,’ Spurgeon meant everyone, including the common people and the poor.

Spurgeon was out of step with the other preachers of his day. While many of his contemporaries sought to be aristocratic orators with great academic credentials, Spurgeon possessed no formal education, though he was well-read on a variety of subjects. Lewis Drummond observes Spurgeon’s desire for education in regards to the ministry. Indicative of the breadth of Spurgeon (only in his early twenties himself) was his grasp of the importance of education for the ministry. He well understood that those who would faithfully preach the Word of God must be prepared to do so. Although Spurgeon received no formal theological education himself . . . he studied long and hard. Spurgeon reflected on this apparent lack of education by saying, “I had no college education. I do not say this by way of boasting, far from it, I would have learned more if I had had the opportunity, but, that not being the case, I made the very best of the opportunities I had.”

In 1857, Spurgeon led a young man named Thomas William Medhurst to Christ through letters of correspondence concerning Medhurst’s eternal standing before God. Soon after his baptism, Medhurst began preaching. He was serious in his desire to preach and his ministry began to bear some fruit, but he possessed—as some of Spurgeon’s parishioners explained—a “want of education.” This lack caused so much embarrassment to the Christians who heard him preach that they implored Spurgeon to make him stop. When confronted by Spurgeon, Medhurst replied, “I must preach, sire; and I shall preach unless you cut my head off.” Those who had previously implored Medhurst to stop took his claim literally and felt that Medhurst’s preaching would be far better than his decapitation. Spurgeon felt the obligation and desire to train him in preaching. At this point, Spurgeon spent what meager finances he had to help Medhurst in his ministry training. After seeing how God’s hand was upon him, Spurgeon felt God’s call to continue the work of training other aspiring ministers.

Soon after Medhurst was secure in a ministry situation, Spurgeon indicated in a letter to him, “I have been thinking that when you are gone out into the vineyard, I must find another to be my dearly beloved Timothy just as you are.” Biographer Charles Ray noted, “He forthwith commenced to get together a set of text-books and works on divinity which became the nucleus of the splendid library now in possession of the Pastors’ College.”
Once he secured George Rogers, a Congregationalist minister, as principal, the Pastors’ College was set into motion. Though they held different views of baptism, they did share a common affection for the doctrines of grace. The crest chosen as the college symbol was a hand gripping a cross with the motto, “et Teneo, et Teneor,” or “I hold and I am held.”

Spurgeon wanted men who were born again, who had experienced God’s call into the ministry, and had started preaching (preferably two years). Spurgeon insisted that the college served to train ministers, not make them. Spurgeon looked for men who possessed a deep conviction of the heart that God had called them to the task of preaching.

—-

  1. Lewis Drummond, Spurgeon: Prince of Preachers (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1992), 20.
  2. Arnold Dallimore, Spurgeon: A New Biography (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, 1985), 173.
  3. Charles Ray, The Life of Charles Haddon Spurgeon (London: Passmore and Alabaster, 1903), 27.
  4. Zack Eswine, Kindled Fire (Ross-shire, Scotland: Mentor, 2006), 16.
  5. Drummond, Spurgeon, 408.
  6. W.Y. Fullerton, C. H. Spurgeon: A Biography (London: Williams and Norgate, 1920), 227.
  7. Ray, The Life of Charles Haddon Spurgeon, 321.
  8. Drummond, Spurgeon, 406.
  9. Ray, The Life of Charles Haddon Spurgeon, 323.
  10. Drummond, Spurgeon, 408.

Copyright (c) 2010 by Matthew Perry.  All rights reserved.

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How Do We Invest the Gospel in Others?

This coming Sunday morning, you will hear about the importance of investing. You will hear that investing in sound doctrine is investing in sound living. What steps should we take when it comes to investing the gospel of Christ in people? So many of us do not know where to start—and if we figure that out, we do not know where to go! Here are some steps:

1. Initiate: Help them Know About Christ

  • If you are talking to a FRAN (friend, relative, associate, neighbor), ask them about their spiritual belief? Ask them what they think of Jesus Christ?
  • If you are in a place a business you frequent (restaurant, bank, gas station), ask them if there’s any way you can pray for them. If you’re at a restaurant and leave a tip, leave a tract with a generous tip.

2. Invite: Help Show Them Christ

  • Invite them to listen to your hope in Christ. Use a tract or the Romans Road to walk them through the gospel (and to help keep you on track);
  • Invite them to church so they can meet other Christians and see what a body of Christ is all about. This will help all of us “get ready for company” in making God’s house inviting and welcoming. (A word here: invite them not only a special service, but also to regular services so they see how we are from week-to-week.)

3. Increase: Help Them Grow in Christ

  • We must not be concerned about growing numbers in the pews, but by growing the people in the pews—notice the difference.
  • Disciple them by meeting with them over coffee, chat over the Internet, call them on the phone. But how?

4. Instruct:  Help Them Show Christ

  • Have a system: Bible reading plan, go through a Bible study, read a Christian book together about a specific topic.
  • Go over what I preached on this past Sunday—take notes. Find out what I’m preaching in the weeks ahead and begin looking over that, so you’ll be ready for the sermon and the ensuing discussion with your friend.
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Will You Contend With the Almighty?

Jean-Paul Sartre, an atheist French Philosopher of the last century who held to the theory of evolution throughout his life. He made such sad statements such as, “Man is a useless passion,” and more famously, “Everything that exists is born for no reason, carries on living through weakness, and dies by accident.” Yet, near the end of his life, Sartre told Pierre Victor: "I do not feel that I am the product of chance, a speck of dust in the universe, but someone who was expected, prepared, prefigured. In short, a being whom only a Creator could put here; and this idea of a creating hand refers to God." 

Protested fellow philosopher and long-time companion Simone de Beauvoir: "How should one explain the senile act of a turncoat?" 

As we conclude this series, my ultimate aim and prayer for these sermons is that you would realize you are the product of a Creator, just as the Scriptures say. Also, I pray that this series helped you to gain a greater trust in the Scriptures from beginning to end. We can trust the creation account in Genesis 1, the Flood account in Genesis 6-8, and see how God’s work of grace is such a common thread with it all.

Those who reject the Scriptures must understanding one thing: they are not simply contending against another theory or story about how things began. They are not contending against religion. They are not contending against another piece of literature (which they believe the Bible is just that, another piece of man-made literature among many pieces of man-made literature).

Job 40:2 says, “Will the faultfinder contend against the Almighty?” In essence, any issues we have about the order and origin of things comes down to a fight with God Almighty. They miss the beauty, the grandeur, and even the purpose of creation.

Before we get into what God has for us in Job, take a look at Col. 1:15-17:

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. [16] For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. [17] And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

These are our Fighter Verses for the week. Why? I had one preacher give me a priceless piece of advice. He said, “Son, never preach a sermon that a Jew, Mormon, or Muslim could agree with from front to back.” What did he mean? He was saying, “Preach Christ crucified in every sermon. If you just preach principles, then you could be a motivational speaker or a psychologist, but not a preacher. We need to see that Christ was not only involved in all of creation, we see a number of things. He created all things. All things were created through Him, for Him, and in him all things hold together. So the majesty of Jesus Christ, “the image of the invisible God,” created all there is and holds it all together even now. This understanding must be firmly in place as we survey Job 38-42 to see the majesty of our Lord Jesus Christ!

One of the great fallacies about the Creationism v. Darwinism issue is that the Creationists are all about distorting issues to bend everything to religion in spite of the evidence. The truth is, everyone has the same amount of evidence to look at—the difference is the foundation on which you build the case.

Psalm 11:1-3

To the choirmaster. Of David.

In the Lord I take refuge;

how can you say to my soul,

"Flee like a bird to your mountain,

[2] for behold, the wicked bend the bow;

they have fitted their arrow to the string

to shoot in the dark at the upright in heart;

[3] if the foundations are destroyed,

what can the righteous do?"

Darwinists come at it with this foundation: nobody times nothing equals everything. Nobody (that is, no Creator God) times nothing (that is, an empty universe) equals everything that is in the universe in all its complexities just randomly coming together. No Creator, no design, no point to any of it.

Creationists approach the same evidence from an entire different foundation as we have seen. Genesis 1:1 says, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” He systematically and beautifully created all things in six 24-hour days, resting on the seventh. Why does this foundation help?

Let’s return to Job. What do we know about Job. We know that Job was a righteous man who lost everything: his livestock, his children—every asset he had. He also suffered great health issues. Why? Because Satan approached God in heaven, saying to God that the only reason Job serves and worships him was because of what God did for him, but once those things left, he would abandon him. His friends come along for seven days to comfort, but remain in silence. Then each of them tries to tell Job, “You’ve sinned. That’s why this is happening to you.” The more Job told them he was blameless before God, the more they were convinced he was trying to hide something. In the process, they made many speculations about how God acts. Their foundation was faulty.

God appears in the form of a whirlwind. God appears personally. This is an act of grace, is it not? Even though they misrepresented God (a serious offense known as blasphemy), God came personally to reveal Himself and His attributes—a foreshadowing of how Christ was God the Son who came personally to reveal Himself and His attributes.

So how does God reveal Himself? We know from Isaiah 55:8-9

For my thoughts are not your thoughts,

neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.

[9] For as the heavens are higher than the earth,

so are my ways higher than your ways

and my thoughts than your thoughts.

So what does God do? He goes to areas that we can grasp. He basically tells Job and his friends, “Take a look around.” God then goes into some of the most beautiful imagery found in any piece of literature. Will you join me as we go through some of this?

God begins by showing Job the heavens. Look at Job 38:4-11

"Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?

Tell me, if you have understanding.

[5] Who determined its measurements—surely you know!

Or who stretched the line upon it?

[6] On what were its bases sunk,

or who laid its cornerstone,

[7] when the morning stars sang together

and all the sons of God shouted for joy?

[8] "Or who shut in the sea with doors

when it burst out from the womb,

[9] when I made clouds its garment

and thick darkness its swaddling band,

[10] and prescribed limits for it

and set bars and doors,

[11] and said, ‘Thus far shall you come, and no farther,

and here shall your proud waves be stayed’?

In essence, God says, “I laid the foundations of the earth.” When God created the earth, He did so perfectly, arranging the earth and all the planets, the sun, and the moon in perfect order and harmony. Did you know that the earth is 93,000,000 miles from the sun on average? Did you know that if on average the earth were just 1,000,000 miles closer that it would burn up? A million miles away from it would make her freeze? Even the earth’s axis at 23 ½ degrees is just right to help maintain the right temperatures for life. God gives us a lesson in the harmony of these things. What’s the lesson?

“I am in such control of the situation. I can contain the oceans and seas where they belong, and even tell them how far to go and no more.” How much have we heard about this global warming business, where the temperature will increase that the ice caps will melt, raising the levels of the oceans and thus covering the populated land! So many are concerned, even evangelical Christians. But God tells us here in His Word that He will keep things harmonious until He sees fit—until that day when He comes back for His children and establishes His Kingdom with a New Heaven and New Earth (Revelation 20-22). Will they contend with the Almighty’s orders that he will not allow the shorelines to go further than he sees fit?

God goes on to tell Job that He commands the mornings, directs the lights, dwells in the recesses of the dark. He even handles the weather with a word. Look at Job 38:22-30:

Have you entered the storehouses of the snow,

or have you seen the storehouses of the hail,

[23] which I have reserved for the time of trouble,

for the day of battle and war?

[24] What is the way to the place where the light is distributed,

or where the east wind is scattered upon the earth?

[25] "Who has cleft a channel for the torrents of rain

and a way for the thunderbolt,

[26] to bring rain on a land where no man is,

on the desert in which there is no man,

[27] to satisfy the waste and desolate land,

and to make the ground sprout with grass?

[28] "Has the rain a father,

or who has begotten the drops of dew?

[29] From whose womb did the ice come forth,

and who has given birth to the frost of heaven?

[30] The waters become hard like stone,

and the face of the deep is frozen.

Snow, hail, wind, rain, dew, ice, frost—all at his beckoned command. So we must be careful when we complain about the weather, right? The next time say, “I cannot believe it snowed. Why did it have to snow?” God ordained it. Why did that wind and those hurricanes and tornados have to hit? God brought it to bear! Even the rain, the dew, ice, frost! So no longer can we say, “It’s raining.” We say, “God brought some rain.”

This was helpful for Job. Remember his story: he lost everything! Possessions (home, livestock) as well as his family! Why? Job had no idea, but Satan had challenged God, saying that Job only loved him because not only of his possessions but also because of his health. So God allowed Satan to remove that for a time. God tells Job that just as the snow, hail, wind, rain, and all other weather that comes about in a purposeful fashion, so do the issues of life. Nothing is random—God is in perfect and complete control.

He goes on to say He even tames the constellations:

Job 38:31-34

"Can you bind the chains of the Pleiades

or loose the cords of Orion?

[32] Can you lead forth the Mazzaroth in their season,

or can you guide the Bear with its children?

[33] Do you know the ordinances of the heavens?

Can you establish their rule on the earth?

So now God is even getting into the constellations! So from Job 38:4-37, God shows Job the things that are around him to teach him a lesson within him! We become so fixated on our problems and our circumstances that seem so out of our control, that all of creation is screaming at us: “God is in control! God is in control!” He makes all this move and hum!

But then in the next section, he goes further. I challenge you this afternoon to finish reading this portion. From Job 38:39 through Job 39:30, God challenges Job regarding some specific wild animals such as the lion, the raven, the mountain goats, the wild donkey, the wild ox, the ostrich, the horse, and the hawk. Each of these animals are wild and seemingly untamable for the average man. Yet God has no trouble with these animals. They submit to His rule and direction. Each of God’s creation is varied and distinct and gives great evidence of His creative work.

But it’s more than that, isn’t it? Does this have anything to do specifically with believers? Yes.

Go back to Colossians 1. I read to you how Christ was the agent of creation. He is the reason why we have this creation. He’s the reason why creation itself holds together. But look at verses 18-20:

And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. [19] For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, [20] and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

Dear Christian, see the glory of your Lord who is the head of the church! The Son of God, in whom all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, became part of His Creation! This is not Someone who is the “meek and mild” Jesus of the flannelgraphs. This is not like the depictions we’ve seen in so many pictures where Jesus blonde-haired, blue-eyed individual with an angelic face who doesn’t look like he could harm a fly. This is not the Jesus that exists in heaven simply waiting around to make us happy with our lives.

This is holy, mighty, creator God who came willingly to become part of His creation. Why? Because as He came in power to save His people from their sin, this was the only way that we may be reconciled to Him as sinners. This is the only way we can have peace. Christ is Lord over the old creation of Genesis 1, and is Lord over the New Creation, that is the Church. We see His majesty and glory

Psalm 8:1-9

To the choirmaster: according to The Gittith. A Psalm of David.

O Lord, our Lord,

how majestic is your name in all the earth!

You have set your glory above the heavens.

[2] Out of the mouth of babes and infants,

you have established strength because of your foes,

to still the enemy and the avenger.

[3] When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,

the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,

[4] what is man that you are mindful of him,

and the son of man that you care for him?

[5] Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings

and crowned him with glory and honor.

[6] You have given him dominion over the works of your hands;

you have put all things under his feet,

[7] all sheep and oxen,

and also the beasts of the field,

[8] the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea,

whatever passes along the paths of the seas.

[9] O Lord, our Lord,

how majestic is your name in all the earth!

Conclusion

In 1715 King Louis XIV of France died after a reign of 72 years. He had called himself "the Great," and was the monarch who made the famous statement, "I am the state!" His court was the most magnificent in Europe, and his funeral was equally spectacular. As his body lay in state in a golden coffin, orders were given that the cathedral should be very dimly lit with only a special candle set above his coffin, to dramatize his greatness. At the memorial, thousands waited in hushed silence. Then Bishop Massilon began to speak; slowly reaching down, he snuffed out the candle and said, "Only God is great."

May we see the greatness of our God in creation and how through Christ we are made a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17).  How great is our God!

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“Saying God Loves the Sinner But Hates the Sin is Stupid”

My friend Mark Combs passed along a very powerful quote from Mark Driscoll’s “Death by Love.”

Sadly it is commonly said among Christians that "God hates the sin but loves the sinner." This is as stupid as saying God loves rapists but hates rape, as if rape and rapists were two entirely different entities that could be separated from one another. Furthermore, it was not a divinely inspired author of Scripture but the Hindu Gandhi who coined the phrase "Love the sinner but hate the sin" in his 1929 biography.

Agreed!  As Driscoll says below, we do what we do because we are what we are: sinners—by nature and by choice. 

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