I encourage all of you who are ministers or aspire to the ministry to watch and listen to Matt Chandler preach in Southern Seminary’s chapel. I’ve had a lot of seminary (MCM, MDiv, and DMin work at Southern), but I’ve never heard a sermon this powerful.
“Whatever you do, let the people see that you are earnest . . . You cannot break men’s hearts by jesting with them, or telling them a smooth tale, or patching up a gaudy oration. Men will not cast away their dearest pleasures upon a drowsy request of one that seemeth not to mean as he speaks, or to care much whether his request be granted” (Richard Baxter, The Reformed Pastor–spoken in 1656).
When churches and church leaders begin studying methods and techniques of our culture rather than what God has laid out in His Word, even the best intentioned leaders will find themselves straying from God’s will–even when the numbers and results say otherwise.
I grew up on the tail end of a revivalism era where many evangelists would come into a church to conduct “revival services” asking those to “admit they were sinners” and to “come to Jesus” so you will “go to heaven.” Laced with tear-jerking stories and sparse exposition of Scriptures (which the Bible says in Hebrews 4:12 is living and active, sharper than any double-edged sword), many would be emotionally moved. Revival services were considered great successes when great numbers would come.
I wonder how many who subscribe to this would look at Jesus’ evangelism techniques and say, “Wow, Jesus really missed it this time.” I am thinking of the story of the Rich Young Ruler in Matthew 20:16-30. Notice a number of things:
1. Jesus had a willing seeker. “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Matthew 20:16). If that’s not a willing seeker, I don’t know what is! He clearly had a concern about his spiritual status before God. Jesus had someone ready.
2. Jesus had an influential seeker. This was a rich ruler, meaning he was part of the Sanhedrin, a.k.a. the Jewish Supreme Court. For many in our day, to have such an influential inquirer would be considered a great blessing. To those with questionable motives, this man needs to get into a church and learn the importance of giving to the Lord’s work!
3. Having such a convert would help make some in-roads into the Scribes and Pharisees world. No doubt that this would cause a stir.
But notice what Jesus does:
1. While many would be ready to bring them into the Kingdom right away, Jesus puts up roadblocks! “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments” (Matthew 20:17 ).
Two things to notice here. First, he puts the inquirer on his heels by questioning his notion of ‘goodness.’ Only God is good, and only God can save. In essence, Jesus is saying, “Are you approaching me because I am good or say good things? Are you attributing to me the trait of being able to give life? Are you saying I am the Son of God — because only God and His Son can do this?”
Secondly, he puts up the barrier of the commandments. “Keep the commandments,” Jesus tells him. If you want life, obey God to the fullest extent! Yet, the ruler questioned which commandments he should obey! Jesus lists off the Second Tablet commandments: “You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not bear false witness, honor your father and mother, and you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
What are the significance of these? These are relational commandments — how one deals with another human being. The Scribes and Pharisees struggled with this. They loved obeying the minutiae of the law, but felt themselves morally superior to the common folk of the day. These were serious issues, given how they were God’s covenant priests who represented Him.
The rich young ruler felt himself capable of entering the Kingdom due to his adequate keeping of the commandments. In other words, he did not see himself as “falling short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). He did not see himself as a sinner in need of a Savior. He saw himself as a good man in need of vindication of his good works.
3. Jesus dug deep to the true obstacle of his heart. “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me” (Matthew 20:21). Whereas many preachers and evangelists call for an easy-believism, Jesus rejected this notion and told the young man to come face-to-face with the core problem/sin that is the obstacle for eternal life. His possessions were his god — if he is not willing to give up his god, he cannot receive eternal life. If he wants the treasure of eternal life in heaven, yet will not give up the treasure here on earth, he cannot be a part of the Kingdom.
Many in our churches would never say that Jesus’ evangelism techniques were poor, but given how so few model him in showing how inquirers should count the cost of denying themselves and taking up their cross, we wonder why so few who say they are Christians really look very much like everyone else.
Right before dcTalk’s great song from 1995 called “What If I Stumble?”, a preacher (I believe it was Brennan Manning) spoke this: “The greatest single cause of atheism today is Christians, who mouth Jesus with their lips but deny him by their lifestyle. That’s what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.” Maybe its because many Christians have not learned the lesson of denying self and taking up the cross of Christ daily.
May that not be said of us!
In A.W. Tozer’s classic and life-changing work, The The Pursuit of God, he noted the role that religious leaders must place in recognizing the need for a hunger and thirst for God.
There is today no lack of Bible teachers to set forth correctly the principles of the doctrines of Christ, but too many of these seem satisfied to teach the fundamentals of the faith year after year, strangely unaware that there is in their ministry no manifest Presence, nor anything unusual in their personal lives. They minister constantly to believers who feel within their breasts a longing which their teaching simply does not satisfy. …
Sound Bible exposition is an imperative must in the Church of the living God. Without it no church can be a New Testament church in any strict meaning of that term. But exposition may be carried on in such a way as to leave the hearers devoid of any true spiritual nourishment whatever. For it is not mere words that nourish the soul, but God Himself, and unless and until the hearers find God in personal experience they are not the better for having heard the truth. The Bible is not an end in itself, but a means to bring men to an intimate and satisfying knowledge of God, that they may enter into Him, that they may delight in His Presence, may taste and know the inner sweetness of the very God Himself in the core and center of their hearts (pp. 8-10).
What is interesting is that Tozer wrote this in 1948. What do you think? Is Tozer on to something here?
(This sermon was preached on Sunday, July 6, 2008, as part of our VBS Kickoff at Boone’s Creek Baptist Church, Lexington, KY. To listen to the entire sermon, click here.)
This morning serves as our VBS Kickoff. All this week, children from all over will march in to say their pledges, sing their songs, enjoy the puppets, do the Penny March, guess in the Mystery Box, have snacks, make crafts, and learn about the Gospel of Jesus Christ. As you have seen from everyone wearing T-Shirts, the theme is “Outrigger Island: Living God’s Unshakable Truth.”
What a great theme. Living God’s Unshakable Truth! How does one go about this? What’s interesting is that when many read this, they have a hard time reconciling this statement. When people read the word ‘truth,’ they begin to this of principles and ideas that can be thought, but it does not have to affect their living. It is a truth that 2+2=4, but how does that truth change my life? We can know that Johannesburg is the capital of South Africa. That’s true, but so what?
What we are seeing is that there are truths put out in the Scriptures that we cannot just take or leave. We have to deal with them and have a choice of accepting them or rejecting them. And left to our own devices, we will reject the great truths that God puts forward in his Word and his world. But God works in us to help us not only know the truth but to live out that truth. You see, we live out what we believe… you cannot separate the two.
So what does your life speak about how you live? Is it on the shifting sand of the here and now? You’ll never get your footing that way.
1. We have a desire to love the only true God.
In Psalm 86:10, we read, “For you are great and do wondrous things; you alone are God.” Isn’t it wonderful that we can go to God in prayer? “For you…” David says. He’s not just simply stating how great God is and how wonderful his acts are — he’s addressing them to God. We see even Jesus doing this: “Our Father who heaven, hallowed be your name, your Kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” He puts before God his attributes in order to glorify him. Again, Jesus does this in John 17:3: “And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”
Some may ask, “Why would you spend time in prayer telling God about Himself? Wouldn’t it stand to reason that if he is God, he already knows?” To answer this, Charles Spurgeon said when writing about prayer that we should learn to pray with arguments. He said that we should “sharpen our thinking by learning to express the reasons why God should answer our prayers affirmatively.” So this method of praying is not simply for his benefit, but for ours. We pray out of love for God so that his glory may spread in our hearts.
David does this all through Psalm 86. He tells God all about … God! God is “gracious” (v. 3), “good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon you” (v. 4), and that in the day of trouble he calls upon him, “for you answer me” (v. 7). He tells God that there is none other God like him (v. 8). Later, he calls God “gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” (v. 15).
So back in verse 10, David starts by calling God “great.” David realizes that God is the only one… he is exclusive. “There is none like you among the dogs, O Lord, nor are there any works like yours” (86:8). David knows that even though he is “poor and needy” (v. 1) and is pleading for grace (v. 6), he is able to obtain an audience with the great God of the universe because he knows that, even though he is God over all, he “will answer” (v. 7).
God is great and does great things. He is unshakable. And since God is truth and his Word is truth, we know that there is a sure anchor in this world. In fact, he is the only anchor we have. He knows that there is only one true and living God who is worthy of our praise and adoration. In theory, many of us believe there is just one God who made and sustains all. Some say, “Since there is just one God, then all religions lead to that one God. After all, all religions basically say the same thing.” This is silly, of course, because there are clearly marked differences.
Let me ask you this: do you have an issue with prayer? Do you find yourself not knowing what to say in prayer? Then come before God and pray back to him his attributes. Pray back to him the Scriptures. Do we struggle with coming before him in prayer? Maybe it’s because instead of telling God how great he is and how wonderful he does things, we in our heart of hearts want to see that!
But part of loving the true God is getting to know him and his attributes. Paul said he would rather know Christ than have all the accolades of the world. For Peter, who in the flesh longed to be first and rely on his own strength in obedience, noted in 1 Peter 2:6 that Jesus is our cornerstone and that he is “precious.” He paved the way to heaven by his death, burial, and resurrection. Christ not only died for our sins but was raised for our sins as well. He intercedes even now. The only way we can truly love God is by loving Jesus who shows us his greatness and shows us the wondrous things he has done.
Our gracious God and Father. I approach Your throne
today, knowing that it is only through the name of Jesus that I can
stand before You. I thank and praise You for Your goodness in allowing
me to do so. I recognize very well that I am unworthy of this honor,
this privilege, apart from Your unmerited favor and grace. I come
before You to seek Your blessing on the service on Sunday.
Grant that the Word will come to us with power and with great
freedom. Be near to our Pastor and his family. Keep the family close as
they serve You together. Protect them from dangers both seen and
unseen. May our pastor know great wisdom as he plans his day and his
week around the priorities You lay before him. May his schedule allow
him much time to study Your word and to pray. May he know that he is
serving You and all of us very well as he makes these a high priority.
May our pastor’s family time also be protected. Grant that he would be
free from all unnecessary busy-ness in ministry. Also grant our pastor
sufficient rest and sleep.
Grant our pastor humility before Your Word as he finishes his
preparations and grant that he may be filled with a holy dread and
gravity as he stands before Your people. May he know what it is to be
filled afresh with the Holy Spirit. May we truly know what it is to sit
under the preaching of the Word. Speak to us, we pray. Speak to our
hearts through the words we hear. May we never be the same.
Be with those who will lead us in worship. Be near to those who will
sing or play instruments. Grant that in all things they may seek to
serve You. May songs be selected that will bring glory and honor to
Your name. May they lead us in singing songs that celebrate the beauty
of the Savior and sing of Your wonders, Your glory, Your triumphs, Your
holiness, Your majesty and Your great gospel. Let everything that has
breath in that place praise the Lord together. May our worship be a
sweet and fragrant offering to You. Accept it Lord, though we know it
is poor and imperfect. Accept it through Your grace.
Be with the men and women who will be serving this week – those who
are responsible for hospitality, greeting and ushering; those who will
work in the sound booth, in the bookstall, in administration, and with
those who will minister to our precious children and youth. Even now
Lord, please fill all of these people afresh with Your Spirit. We thank
you for the servant’s hearts You have given to them. I ask that You
will allow them to be a blessing to many this week, even to those who
do not yet know You. May the service run smoothly and may Your hand be
evident in all that transpires. May Your love truly flow amongst us.
May each of us be sensitive to the needs of others.
Bless our church’s outreach this week, through the words we speak,
the love we show and the help we give to others. Bless the proclamation
of Your gospel both by word and by life. In Your goodness, bring many
to repentance. Direct our conversations, and help each of us to be bold
in sharing the good news of Christ with others. Use me and all of our
church in outreach this week I pray.
Would you help all who attend to come to the Sunday service as true
worshippers–as those who worship You in spirit and in truth. Remind us
that the gathering of Your people to worship is something You have
ordained for us. It is a holy and sacred time. Help us to take the
Lord’s day seriously. Prepare my heart and each of our hearts even now
for what You will say to us then. Grant that we may not come before you
as frauds, standing in Your presence filled with unconfessed sin. Give
us the strength and wisdom to reconcile ourselves to our brothers and
sisters before we come before You in worship. Give us discerning hearts
that we may see and confess our sin before You. Open our eyes to see
and to know You in a new way. Help us to worship You, not only with our
lips, but with our hearts, our souls, and all that we are. Accept the
gift of worship we will bring to You. May it please You.
Be with our pastor as he prepares to preach Your Word on Sunday.
Grant that his time of preparation will be fruitful and that You will
stir His heart with the great news of the gospel, of the precious truth
of justification by grace alone through faith in Christ alone, all to
the glory of God alone. May all of us at our Church live in the power
of this gospel always. Protect us from the devil’s lies and help us to
never be bored by the wonderful doctrines of grace, but grant that they
may be the joy and delight of our hearts. Open our eyes Lord to see
just how Your glorious gospel affects each and every area of our lives.
Grant that our pastor or any guest minister may preach with great power
and passion on Sunday morning. May the preaching be God centered, cross
centered and gospel centered.
Be with me Lord. Prepare my own heart for Sunday morning when You
speak to us as Your people. I confess that already my heart is polluted
with sin. As I think about worshipping You, already I wonder how other
men may perceive me. Already I sin against you. Extend Your gracious
forgiveness to me that I may come before You with a clean heart. Renew
a right spirit within me. Keep the truth ever before me that to obey is
better than sacrifice. Help me to be obedient to You in all things.
Fill me with Your Spirit. Grant that I may serve You by serving others.
Grant traveling mercies as men and women, boys and girls come to our
Church on Sunday. Keep us safe this week and as we gather together in
We pray for peace and unity while we gather together. We ask that
there will be mercy and understanding. We ask that there will be a
great outpouring of your Spirit. We ask that you will bless us for the
sake of the glory of Your great name.
I ask these things humbly and in the name that is above all names,
the Lord Jesus Christ. Grant that I may be expectant and observant in
seeking answers to this prayer so that I may praise You for Your
goodness. May we all seek Your presence and glory in it together as we
worship You this week.
Has God called you to ministry? Though all Christians are called to serve the cause of Christ, God calls certain persons to serve the Church as pastors and other ministers. Writing to young Timothy, the Apostle Paul confirmed that if a man aspires to be a pastor, “it is a fine work he aspires to do.” [I Timothy 3:1, NASB] Likewise, it is a high honor to be called of God into the ministry of the Church. How do you know if God is calling you?
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Recently, in response to a letter submitted to our Kentucky state Baptist paper‘s Baptist Forum section that seemed to say “No creed but the Bible,” I felt the need to respond to this mindset. Given how many Southern Baptists are straying to other cults such as Mormonism and the Jehovah’s Witnesses because of the lack of biblical depth they possess, I wrote the following.
I am saddened and stunned at the outcry of those who lament how Southern Baptists seek to clarify doctrinal issues concerning the Scriptures, God, Christ, the church, and family. And yet all of us show the same type of shock when we see that of all the denominations from which the cults steal their sheep, Southern Baptist are their primary source of growth. Why is this?
It is because we Southern Baptists define ourselves more by what we do than by what we believe. Look back over older Western Recorder editions: they spent more time teaching what the Scriptures say rather than talking about missions and church growth almost to the exclusion of doctrinal beliefs. In fact, when Southern Baptists take a stand, they are derided as uncaring, academic, and divisive.
I am all for loving Jesus, but I believe creeds are just as valuable as the deeds. Both must be present — both the content of Scripture as well as the fruit of obedience to the Scriptures. I am for loving the Jesus of the Bible who has clear attributes and had a clear mission for His people. Until Southern Baptist rigorously study who Jesus is, what He has done, what the implications are for us who claim to be Christ-followers, what he expects from His Church and its individual members, we will continue to be fodder for those who deny the faith as we will cease to grow in any significant and spiritual way. Numbers are not the only way to grow a church — we need to be sure there are enough faithful in the church already as well!
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Tonight, I’ll be speaking to the Campus Crusade students on the campus of Eastern Kentucky University in Richmond, KY. I would appreciate your prayers. It is a rush, really, to see over 250 students come on a Thursday night to fellowship with God’s people and hear God’s Word. Adam Dixon is the new leader of the EKUCRU, so please keep Adam in your prayers.
A number of these college students come to Boone’s Creek — and I must say they have really helped my preaching. College students are inundated with so many philosophical, spiritual, and social worldviews that we preachers need to be aware of these issues and speak directly to them from a biblical perspective. I’m becoming more and more convinced that we must know and study our people as well as know and study the Word. Graham Johnston, in his book Preaching to a Postmodern World, notes that we cannot expect that our regular church listeners “subscribe to a Christian worldview” (p. 14). Listen to this quote:
When the speaker demonstrates an understanding of contemporary concerns and issues as well as the pressures to reject a biblical worldview, listeners will sense a personal interest. Listeners today will have their antenna up, looking for the speaker’s personal agenda or angle. Is the speaker’s desire to wield influence or chalk up another notch on the response list? When compassion and mercy flow from the messenger, people may walk away having listened and be unwilling to embrace the message and yet still maintain an openness because they perceived genuine concern (p. 69).
Having been preaching for five years and in ministry for fifteen, I’m just now starting to understand that we must love the truth and love our doctrine as well as love our people (hmm, Ephesians 4:15 still applies, yes?). Some have said that we evangelicals care more about the Bible than we do people. While the Bible is certainly our authority, we must remember why God left us here — as a salt-and-light witness to those around us (Matthew 5:13-16).
“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.  “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.  Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
I do not think that this sermon for tonight will be recorded, but I’ll try and fill you in as best as I can.
As a preacher and a speaker, I see how crucial it is in our day to speak with conviction and authority — to state clearly and unapologetically what I believe and why I believe it. Taylor Mali speaks here on conviction and authority — watch it to the end!
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