Posts Tagged With: expository preaching

His Blessing, His Comfort, His Glory: How Paul Shepherds With God’s Sovereign Purpose

(Below is the manuscript of the sermon preached on July 5, 2015:  “I Never Reconcile Friends: Predestination and Free Will” from Ephesians 1:3-14.  Note: if you listen to the sermon, don’t try to follow along with the manuscript.  Really.  Don’t. Seriously.)

Remember when I said that you all asked major league questions for this Summer Playlist series?  Absolutely!  If you’re a guest with us, about two or three months ago, I asked our people what questions you have of the Bible that you’d like answered.  Here’s what you’ve asked so far:

The next question?  What About Predestination and Free Will?, in which we will look at Ephesians 1:3-14.   If we have free will, how can we be predestined?  If we are predestined, how can we have free will?”

Whenever this conversation takes place, it’s like oil and water as far as how people deal with this.  Those who hold strongly to free will have their verses, and those who hold to predestination have their verses.  We then load it up in our theological gun and shoot them at each other.  For those who are new to the faith, you may wonder, “What in the world are you talking about?”  But for those who may have been in Baptist world for any amount of time know how contentious this topic can be.

But it doesn’t have to be.  A few years ago, I was talking to a pastor of an evangelical church in Trinidad & Tobago who never shied away from preaching on this topic.  I’ll never forget what He said:  “Our people need to see God’s side of salvation as well.”  I never forgot that.  The Father wants us to see that!  Christ explicitly spoke of this.  The Spirit inspired the writers to talk about this.  So let’s not shy away from what God has spoken.  We didn’t last week—nor should we this week.

Turn with me to Ephesians 1:3-14:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insightmaking known[b] to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will,12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. 13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit,14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

We as Americans trumpet freedom.  So when we see that God chooses or predestines or elects, what happens in our hearts when we hear this?  If you’re like most Americans or even Western Europeans, you feel this is God infringing upon your autonomy and upon your freedom.  Yet, other countries who have a monarch and who endure much persecution have little trouble with this doctrine of predestination.

My aim is to show you that the doctrine of predestination is not only biblical, but is necessary for us to have any hope of holiness, comfort, and perseverance.  For the Apostle Paul and all other writers of Scripture, preaching and teaching on this topic was not simply a theological exercise, but a pastoral exhortation.  It extols the sovereignty of God—His rule and reign over all things in His creation—including us. Every part of our spiritual lives revolves around two words:  “in him” or “in Christ.”

Let’s take a look at this and numerous other passages.

The greatest spiritual blessing He gives:  “in Christ.”

Verse 3 says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.”  Paul starts this off with a prayer:  “Blessed be… .”   All prayer is grounded in a belief in the sovereignty of God.

So, before he mentions His choosing or predestinating believers, we reminds us that, through Christ, the Father has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.  Yet, none of those blessings would be possible without the greatest spiritual blessing He gave—His chosen Son, Jesus.  And since God rules and reigns over every molecule, every atom, every electron, He is most able to deliver, even when it seems a tall order.

How did He choose us?  In verse 4, it says:  “even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world.”  This speaks to a number of things.  First, we are chosen/predestined in Christ, not in ourselves One, that God did not wait for us to choose Him, but chose us even before we were born—even before the world began.  We even see this in Revelation 13:8 as the beast who would come and many would worship.  But who would worship him?  “And all who dwell on earth will worship it, everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain.”  God has called out a spiritual blessing in Christ for protection and a maintenance of a witness in the world.

It was not based on our obedience.  Look with me at Deuteronomy 7:7-8:

It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples,but it is because the Lord loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.

It’s not due to numbers.  Were chosen not because of how obedient we were or how many we were.  In fact, that’s where free will comes in.    We were chosen in spite of our disobedience and in spite of our lack of number.  He did this because he resolved before one ray of light broke through the darkness of the universe.  And as we read through the books of Exodus through Deuteronomy, we see that God did not choose them due to their obedience.  Repeatedly, God gave spoke of how “stiffnecked and stubborn” they were, but they remained His people through the covenant He made through Abraham:

Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

So us being predestined in Him brings about a great comfort to us.  We are chosen in him, therefore, His calling and choosing are what keeps us.  This is where the free will comes in.  What do we mean by free will?  What we usually mean is that we are autonomous individuals who make our own choices and decisions without any coercion from anyone—even God.  God may nudge, but ultimately it’s our decision.

I believe that’s how we process it.  But we need to turn to the Scriptures and look at Romans 3:9-10:

For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, 10 as it is written:

“None is righteous, no, not one;
11     no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one.”

The Bible tells us three chapters later in Romans 6 that we are either slaves to sin or slaves to righteousness.  So if we talk about free will in any sense at all like what was up top, how is our will free?  It’s not.  It’s either coerced by sin and self, or it’s coerced by the Spirit.  Who has free will?  It’s here we find our greatest spiritual comfort.

The greatest spiritual comfort He gives:  “according to the purpose of His will.”

This is first found in verse 5:  “In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of His will.  What affects God’s will? Nothing at all.  This is a big God we serve, dear Christian!

In James 1:17-18:

17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. 18 Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.

God’s nature, will, and his purpose do not change.  He is the only truly free being.   And His will

The next place is in v. 9 where he makes known to us the purpose of His will.  Set forth in Christ as far as how and when the fullness of time would occur.  So God even predestined how long the world would last.  He ordained when he would let us know the fullness of his will through Christ.

Lastly in verse 11:  Then our inheritance that we have obtained because it was “predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will.”

So you say, how is this comforting?  In the same way that so many find comfort in Romans 8:28:  “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”  That’s right: purpose.  And what’s the purpose?  Romans 8:29-30:

29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

Through all of what God intends for us is found in verse 29 that also connects with Ephesians 1:4:  The purpose is to conform us to the image of His Son (the “in him”).  When we go back to Ephesians 1:4: “Even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.” Through God’s work, he seeks to work in us and move in us.  Even as we are not righteous, not seeking after him, after all of us going astray—God worked before the foundation of the world to set apart a people (holy), to purchase the sins of those people whom God called out, and then the Father by the Spirit moves in us to conform us to the image of His Son! It’s all of grace!  It’s all of God.

  1. The greatest spiritual response we give:  “to the praise of His glorious grace.”

We’ve spent much time talking about God predestining, choosing, and electing.  So am I saying that there’s no need for us to respond?  No, no, and no!  In Ephesians 1:13-14, we read this:

13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit,14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

 So much of the NT, we see that when belief and response come, it’s from the work that God already has done in our hearts.

For instance: Jesus said in John 6:37:  “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.”  All that the Father gives to me will come to me, which means there’s a certain number that God has called out—and they will respond.  Seven verses later in John 6:44, we again see Jesus say, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.”  God is the great initiator—and give us the gift of faith and belief!

In Matthew 11:28, we read of how Jesus tells us to, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn of me.”  But what about Matthew 11:25-27:

25 At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding andrevealed them to little children; 26 yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.[a] 27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

Folks come and say, “What about John 3:16?”  “Whosover believes.”  That is absolutely true!  Whosover believes.  But who are the ‘whosoever’?  Earlier, Jesus said that one had to be ‘born of the Spirit’ or ‘born again.”  In John 3:5-8:

Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.[c] Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You[d] must be born again.’ The wind[e] blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

So is the ‘whosoever’ in John 3:16 anyone, or those whom God is working and calling?  And those who are born of the Spirit, are sealed by the Spirit—protected and preserved!  No emperor, no unbelief, no Satan can take them out of his hand.

In John 1:12-13:  “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.”

So one may say, “Then why should we share the gospel if God is working and saving without our aid?”  For one, he commands us.  For two, it fuels our evangelism to know that we aren’t the ones doing the saving—that’s God’s job.  We are called to plant the seeds for which God will bring the growth (1 Corinthians 3:8).  When someone asked Charles Spurgeon how he reconciled the doctrine of God’s sovereignty in election and predestination with preaching the gospel and calling people to repentance, he said in the way only Spurgeon could:

“I never have to reconcile friends. Divine sovereignty and human responsibility have never had a falling out with each other. I do not need to reconcile what God has joined together. Where these two truths meet I do not know, nor do I want to know. They do not puzzle me, since I have given up my mind to believing them both.”

Do you understand it?  Probably not!  Do I understand it?  I still struggle with it.  But I’m not called to preach and teach and embrace that which I understand, but also that which I do not completely comprehend!  But God has revealed it in His Word.  He has spoken, and we must listen.  What a big God we serve to send Christ to continue and complete a work that took place before anything was around, to have a purpose put forth and completed, and to have a big God in Christ worthy of our praise!  This is the goal:  total glorification and satisfaction in Him!  Are we satisfied?

Categories: 2008 Presidential Election, Arapahoe Road Baptist Church, Ephesians 1:3-14, free will, Paul, predestination, Romans 6, sermons, sovereignty of God | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

The Need for a Holy Disruption in our Churches

The Bible is all about disruption.  The purpose of the preaching of the Word and the mission of the church in general is to disrupt. 

Fellowship is not simply about connection, it’s also about protection from the enemy and about disruption in the heart of God’s people.  As we fellowship in union with Christ and in communion with each other to build up each other in Christ, we connect to protect each other from the enemy

In Titus 1:9, we read about  giving instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it?  This is the point of 10-16.  In our fellowship, our protection radar is out.  Then in verse 10:  “For there are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers an deceivers, especially those of the circumcision party.”  Circumcision party are those called Judaizers, who insisted that in order to follow Christ, you must still keep the law of Moses.

In connecting with a body of believers, elders are not only to inspect those wanting to connect, but also do detect false doctrine and false living among God’s people in a three-fold process:  identify, silence, and rebuke.  We inspect to detect because others will be affected.

We identify them by their insubordination.  Paul commanded Titus to place elders in each town to keep the church in order.  The order is that of a doctrinal, purity order.  These folks were adding much to the pure gospel of Christ and telling them, “You are to stay true with sound ‘words’ (doctrine), but you’re coming in denying the sound words the elders preach (subordinate) with ‘useless words’ and lies.”  Our heavenly status is not secured by human accomplishments.

First Corinthians 11 contains a passage I read most every time we partake of the Lord’s Supper. In outlining some of the sinful issues, Paul noted, “For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you. And I believe it in part, for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized” (1 Corinthians 11:18-19).  God brings necessary divisions to identify fractious people.

We silence them for the flock’s protection (11-12).  Paul warned them that they upset whole families for personal gain.  Our teachings and thinkings, if you will, have consequences, both good and bad.  Trustworthy teaching from sound doctrine provides a protective and helpful consequence.  Empty talking and Christ-plus teaching does not.

Paul includes a curious statement by a Cretan ‘prophet’ who noted, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.”  This is a difficult assessment of the culture in which Paul is in—his agreement (tongue in cheek, possibly)—but

Kent Hughes tells of the time when a faithful pastor went on vacation, and in his place a nationally known speaker filled his pulpit.  At first, the man talked plainly about the gospel and faith in Jesus Christ, but then went on to suggest that anyone whose faith was genuine also had a particular view about American history and a certain political party.  The damage done was significant, and this caring pastor let him know.  Why?  The pastor responded,

“You may think that courtesy would restrain me from speaking strongly to you about what was said in my absence, but when it comes to protecting my people from a gospel polluted by human conditions, I am like a she-bear protecting her cubs.”1

The same could be said of heresy, preaching one end times view over another as a test of faith, church attendance, denominational affiliation, the type of Bible you must read—these matters must be identified and silenced!  This is adding to the requirements of being a believer in Christ.

We rebuke for the believer’s salvation (13-14).  Why would we rebuke?  Shouldn’t we simply leave them laying in the dust?  No, we rebuke so “that they may be sound in the faith.”

What’s sad is how many churches run away from these principals!   For many, the worst thing that can happen to a church is for disruption to take place.  The avoidance of leaders inspecting the belief’s of members before connecting is not Christ’s idea of protecting His church or His flock.  When Mark Twain observed the church, he noted that the church is about nice people hearing a nice sermon about how to be nice.

In 2 Timothy 4:3-4:

3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.

The tonic?  Preach the Word (2 Timothy 4:2).  Listen to the commands of God, not of people.  Listen to truth, not to myths.  Listen to the message of Christ, not Christ-plus.  Yes, the Word disrupts.

And that’s a good thing!  The message of the cross is scandalous, an offence!  It disrupts.  But a disruption will take place one way or the other.  Either the truth will disrupt the sin and falsehood, or (if we ignore the truth), sin and falsehood will disrupt the body.

May God bring us those much-needed holy disruptions.

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What is the Antidote to Anemic Worship? The Answer May Surprise You

Albert Mohler of Southern Seminary gives the answer, and it’s a good one: expository preaching.

If most evangelicals would quickly agree that worship is central to the life of the church, there would be no consensus to an unavoidable question: What is central to Christian worship? Historically, the more liturgical churches have argued that the sacraments form the heart of Christian worship. These churches argue that the elements of the Lord’s Supper and the water of baptism most powerfully present the gospel. Among evangelicals, some call for evangelism as the heart of worship, planning every facet of the service—songs, prayers, the sermon—with the evangelistic invitation in mind.

Though most evangelicals mention the preaching of the word as a necessary or customary part of worship, the prevailing model of worship in evangelical churches is increasingly defined by music, along with innovations such as drama and video presentations. When preaching the word retreats, a host of entertaining innovations will take its place.

Music touches the emotions like few things can.  Songs are packed with chord constructions and changes that can move the heart; they contain numerous memories attached; and they have been used as ammunition in the dreaded ‘worship wars’ that take place among God’s people.

Oftentimes, we come to worship with an idea of what we want, but God in His word tells us what we need—a steady diet of His whole counsel (Acts 20:24-28). 

Pray that your pastors have time to study so that you and the church may be well-fed. 

Pray they would have clear thoughts and clear speech in which to convey His Word.

 

Categories: Expositional Preaching, preaching | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Preaching From Your Head, Heart and Toes

Over and over, I hear that preachers need to preach from their heads (meaning that the content found in sermons needs to be weighty with Scripture) and/or from their hearts (sermons need to be passionate and compassionate, showing the shepherd’s heart for his people). 

While head and heart receive the majority of the press, I believe the toes need their 15 minutes of fame.  What do toes have to do with preaching?

  1. Preachers need to preach on their toes.  Preachers who preach on their heels or in a ‘settled’ position convey the lack of importance and urgency in proclaiming God’s Word.  Preaching ‘on your toes’ in the ready position conveys that the sermon is not something you are simply preaching, but has captured you as well. 
  2. Preachers need to be on their toes regarding biblical worldview (and other competing worldviews).  I’ve said elsewhere that pastors and preachers need to be the most well-read individuals on the planet.  Pastors must not settle on their heels education-wise.  We must not simply draw from past wells that may go dry, but continue to dig new wells that bring new water to nourish in the now.  Stay on your toes in what you believe, but also in what your parishioners are being exposed to as well. 
  3. Preachers need to stand on their tiptoes to learn from the rarefied air of pastoral giants gone by.  Oftentimes, we have to stand on our toes to reach up for that book or commentary (at least this 5’8” preacher does), and what an apt metaphor.  While the Scriptures must be our first and last textbook we use in our preparation and devotion, we can learn from the men of faith from days gone by.  Richard Baxter lived in the 1600’s, but what a glorious pastoral ministry he had that still speaks today.  John Calvin lived in the 1500’s, but his systematic theology puts the doctrines of the faith on the bottom shelf for us to still draw from.  Even Martyn Lloyd-Jones, John Stott, Charles Spurgeon, and A.W. Tozer (among scores of others) bring much to the table from which we may dine and be nourished. 
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Another Case For Expositional Preaching

This morning, I had the privilege of preaching from Matthew 6:25-34 on the subject of anxiety.  I mentioned that faith cures anxiety, but anxiety kills faith.  This sermon landed on a Sunday when our church will have a Q&A time concerning the possibility of a new building.  As you can imagine, a lot of anxiety comes with that.  Do we have the money?  Is it really necessary?  With the economy the way it is, is it wise?  The questions and concerns can pile up.

This passage, though next in line in the series on the Sermon on the Mount, landed perfectly because of our God’s sovereign providence.  If we seek primarily the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, then God will take care of the necessities of our life.

Last week, I preached on Matthew 6:19-24 on a sermon I titled “A Better Economic Plan.”  You see, all that week, we saw the Dow drop, and drop, and drop.  God tells us the futility of laying up our treasures on earth because we allow those treasures to govern who we are and what we do.  I did not change my sermon for the occasion–God knew from eternity that our people would need to hear that message that Christ preached on the Sermon on the Mount.

We may believe we know what our people need to hear, but don’t give up on expositional preaching through the text of Scripture.   The Holy Spirit laid out the Scriptures in a certain way for a certain reason, so it would behoove us as preachers to preach them from that inspired layout.

I hope to post more in the future (been a bit sparse over the last two months).  Thanks to those of you who have inquired about this.  It’s encouraging.

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What is the Future of Expository Preaching? (Bryan Chapell)

(HT: Kenneth Clayton)

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How Long Is Too Long for a Sermon?

One of the standard jokes we have here at Boone’s Creek is the length of my sermons. I tend to preach about 35 minutes on average, which is a bit longer than some. I preach expositionally, which means that whatever the theme of the text is becomes the theme of my sermon. Whatever structure the biblical text is becomes the structure of the sermon. The Holy Spirit laid out the Scriptures this way, so who am I to do otherwise?

But getting back to the “joke,” we have some folks in our church who grew up with a preacher who preached two hours or more. Others grew up with a sermon lasting only 15 minutes or so. In fact, I had one person tell me a number of years ago, “If you preach past 12:00, they’ll tune you out” (this was after a Trinidadian preacher visited us and preached a God-glorifying sermon, but went until 12:30).

John MacArthur has a wonderful article entitled “Preaching and the Clock” (website/pdf) which begins as follows:

I do not think the length of the sermon is as important as its content. At times I have preached fifty minutes and it has been ten minutes too long. Other times, I have preached an hour and twenty-five minutes and it has been just right. The important thing is to cover the main point so that people are convinced of its truth and comprehend its requirements.

If you have nothing worthwhile to say, even twenty minutes will seem like an eternity to your people. If you are interesting, they will stay with you. Do not mistake persuasion for long-windedness, however. If you preach longer than you should, you will sacrifice persuasiveness.

Now, I will confess freely that I do not preach like MacArthur. God has not called me to preach like John MacArthur (God already gave us one of him), but to preach in the Spirit and His Word using me as his earthen vessel. Even so, I do understand that even with me preaching 35 minutes or so, I am just barely scratching the surface of what the Word is saying.

And fortunately for me, I do not have a “one-and-done” situation– I will have other Sundays! But I am with MacArthur: as a preacher, make sure your people know the principle of the passage on which you preach so they may grow in Christlikeness.

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Five Questions For Tim Keller About Expository Preaching Answered

keller.jpgEven with his busy schedule, Dr. Tim Keller, pastor of the Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York took time to answer briefly five question we had for him concerning the role of expository preaching. In case you’ve been living in a cave for the last few months, Dr. Keller has written a book “The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism” published by Penguin Books.  Thank you, Dr. Keller, for your time!

MRP: What role do you see expository preaching playing in the life and ministry of the local church?

TK: Very, very important. One of the essentials of vital church ministry, though not the only one.

MRP: Who has been your greatest influence as an expository preacher?

TK: John Stott, Dick Lucas, D.M.Lloyd-Jones, about equally.

MRP: Do you believe that expository preaching can be inductive as well as deductive?

TK: Of course. In some ways, those are not that different. In each case you are slowly rolling out the solution from the text to a problem that you pose early on. In inductive preaching you are posing a question ‘e.g. how should we handle suffering?’ which you then answer from the text. In deductive preaching you say–‘this is what we believe about suffering, but is there anyway to justify it?’ and then you go on to answer that question from the text.

MRP: What role does the local church play in training preachers? Should they farm this training out exclusively to the seminaries?

TK: Probably not. I don’t have strong feelings about that. Working preachers have things to teach. Preacher-professors, who specialize in the subject, have things to teach as well.

MRP: What would be some of the basic areas you would cover in training lay preachers who have had no theological training whatsoever?

I’d follow the curriculum of the ‘Corn Hill Course’ in London that does this very thing. They simply provide English Bible training, surveying every part of the Bible and drilling down into specific books and requiring expository messages as homework for every course.

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