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Author Archives: Gary E. Davenport

About Gary E. Davenport

Christian man, husband, father, father-in-law, and granddaddy

Lamentation – An acceptable response to life’s difficulties?


grief-927099_640Dictionary.com defines lament as “an expression of grief or sorrow. A formal expression of sorrow or mourning, especially in verse or song; an elegy or dirge.”

Lament is a Biblical concept often ignored by Christians…and looked upon as a negative in our spiritual walk. I wonder why? 

Is it because some of us are just too comfortable that we run away from cries of anguish. Is it because we have forgotten the Biblical injunction to mourn with those who mourn and weep with those who weep?

Mostly we avoid it, given a choice. At best we might sometimes pluck out of its context Lamentations 2: 22- 23: “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”

Are we shocked by the way Biblical laments point the finger of blame towards God? Is that why we find the topic of lamenting uncomfortable? 

Jesus: Hebrews 5:7-9 (NIV) During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. 8 Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered 9  and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him

He quoted from Psalm 22, showing His aloneness from God: Psalm 22:1-2(NIV)  My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning? 2  O my God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, and am not silent.

David in Psalm 13:1-6 (NIV) How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? 2  How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me? 3  Look on me and answer, O LORD my God. Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death; 4  my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,” and my does will rejoice when I fall. 5  But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. 6  I will sing to the LORD, for he has been good to me.

Wess Daniels has a helpful reflection on Psalm 13: “The important thing about Lament is that our suffering, our darkness, and disorientation is “brought to speech” in relationship with God. There is nothing you experience, no pain too deep, no sense of loss so tragic that you ought not to just take it to God but to make it God’s business to transform the situation.”

Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:8 (NIV) Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me.

2 Corinthians 12:9-10 (NIV) But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10  That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong

So even if we think the problem is God’s fault we should take it to God. And if we think the problem is an enemy’s fault we should take it to God. And if we think it’s our corporate or personal fault we should take that too to God and cry for restoration.
Let’s go to the book of JOB and see what we can learn there: What are we told about Job?

Job’s Prosperity: Job 1:1-5 (NIV) 1  In the land of Uz there lived a man whose name was Job. This man was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil. 2  He had seven sons and three daughters, 3  and he owned seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen and five hundred donkeys, and had a large number of servants. He was the greatest man among all the people of the East. 4  His sons used to take turns holding feasts in their homes, and they would invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them. 5  When a period of feasting had run its course, Job would send and have them purified. Early in the morning he would sacrifice a burnt offering for each of them, thinking, “Perhaps my children have sinned and cursed God in their hearts.” This was Job’s regular custom.

The heavenly ‘discussion:’ Job 1:6-12 (NIV) One day the angels came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came with them. 7  The LORD said thto Satan, “Where have you come from?” Satan answered the LORD, “From roaming through the earth and going back and forth in it.” 8  Then the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.” 9  “Does Job fear God for nothing?” Satan replied. 10  “Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. 11  But stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.” 12  The LORD said to Satan, “Very well, then, everything he has is in your hands, but on the man himself do not lay a finger.” Then Satan went out from the presence of the LORD.

Job’s first adversity: 1: Job 1:13-19 (NIV) One day when Job’s sons and daughters were feasting and drinking wine at the oldest brother’s house, 14  a messenger came to Job and said, “The oxen were plowing and the donkeys were grazing nearby, 15  and the Sabeans attacked and carried them off. They put the servants to the sword, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!” 16  While he was still speaking, another messenger came and said, “The fire of God fell from the sky and burned up the sheep and the servants, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!” 17  While he was still speaking, another messenger came and said, “The Chaldeans formed three raiding parties and swept down on your camels and carried them off. They put the servants to the sword, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!” 18  While he was still speaking, yet another messenger came and said, “Your sons and daughters were feasting and drinking wine at the oldest brother’s house, 19  when suddenly a mighty wind swept in from the desert and struck the four corners of the house. It collapsed on them and they are dead, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!”

Job’s response: Job 1:20-21 (NIV) 20  At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship 21  and said: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised.”

Notice what he did: first, he looked back to his birth. Then he looked ahead to his death.

Finally, Job looked up and uttered a magnificent statement of faith “The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised.“ (vs. 21).

“In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.” (vs. 22).

We see a good explanation of God’s sovereignty: He gives and He takes away. God either causes or allows all events in our life. I believe much of it falls into the category of “allows.” He allows nature to reign. He allows natural law to reign..explaining hurricanes, floods, sickness and disease.

Job’s second adversity: The voice of the accuser: Job 2:1-8 (NIV) On another day the angels came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came with them to present himself before him. 2  And the LORD said to Satan, “Where have you come from?” Satan answered the LORD, “From roaming through the earth and going back and forth in it.” 3  Then the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil. And he still maintains his integrity, though you incited me against him to ruin him without any reason.” 4  “Skin for skin!” Satan replied. “A man will give all he has for his own life. 5  But stretch out your hand and strike his flesh and bones, and he will surely curse you to your face.” 6  The LORD said to Satan, “Very well, then, he is in your hands; but you must spare his life.” 7  So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD and afflicted Job with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the top of his head. 8  Then Job took a piece of broken pottery and scraped himself with it as he sat among the ashes.

The voice of the quitter (2:9).  His wife said to him, “Are you still holding on to your integrity? Curse God and die!”

This was exactly what Satan wanted Job to do, and Job’s wife put the temptation before her husband.

Job 2:10 (NIV) “He replied, “You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?”

In all this, Job did not sin in what he said. “

With God’s permission, Satan afflicted Job with a disease we cannot identify. Whatever it was, the symptoms were terrible: severe itching (Job 2:8), insomnia (v. 4), running sores and scabs (v. 5), nightmares (vv. 13-14), bad breath (19:17), weight loss (v. 20), chills and fever (21:6), diarrhea (30:27), and blackened skin (v. 30).

When his three friends first saw Job, they did not recognize him! Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar come to offer comfort and they spend most of their time telling Job that he is a terrible sinner due to this pain he is going through. Elihu, the younger of the four, grows impatient near the end of the book because they do not do a very good Job convicting Job.

In this marvelous book, we see Job in a variety of postures with very specific words being said:

Job 3:1-3 (NIV) After this, Job opened his mouth and cursed the day of his birth. 2  He said: 3  “May the day of my birth perish, and the night it was said, ‘A boy is born!’

 

Job 3:11 (NIV) “Why did I not perish at birth, and die as I came from the womb?

Job 3:16 (NIV) Or why was I not hidden in the ground like a stillborn child, like an infant who never saw the light of day?

Job 23:1-5 (NIV)  Then Job replied: 2  “Even today my complaint is bitter; his hand is heavy in spite of my groaning. 3  If only I knew where to find him; if only I could go to his dwelling! 4  I would state my case before him and fill my mouth with arguments. 5  I would find out what he would answer me, and consider what he would say.

Job 23:10 (NIV) But he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold.

God speaks: Job 38:1-3 (NIV) Then the LORD answered Job out of the storm. He said: 2  “Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge? 3  Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me.

jobheadingJob 40:1-2 (NIV) The LORD said to Job: 2  “Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct him? Let him who accuses God answer him!”

Job 40:8 (NIV) “Would you discredit my justice? Would you condemn me to justify yourself?

Job 42:1-17 (NIV) Then Job replied to the LORD: 2  “I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted. 3  You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my counsel without knowledge?’ Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know. 4  “You said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak; I will question you, and you shall answer me.’ 5  My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. 6  Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.”

 7  After the LORD had said these things to Job, he said to Eliphaz the Temanite, “I am angry with you and your two friends, because you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has. 8  So now take seven bulls and seven rams and go to my servant Job and sacrifice a burnt offering for yourselves.

My servant Job will pray for you, and I will accept his prayer and not deal with you according to your folly. You have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.”

9  So Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite did what the LORD told them; and the LORD accepted Job’s prayer. 10  After Job had prayed for his friends, the LORD made him prosperous again and gave him twice as much as he had before. 11  All his brothers and sisters and everyone who had known him before came and ate with him in his house. They comforted and consoled him over all the trouble the LORD had brought [allowed] upon him, and each one gave him a piece of silver and a gold ring.

12  The LORD blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the first.

Some closing thoughts: have we in our relative comfort concentrated our worship too much on the language of praise and thanksgiving? Is that because we are influenced by the language of success and the cultural pursuit of happiness?

Therefore, we equate unhappiness with failure or lack of faith? And in individual and corporate prayer, when we happen to feel OK, we avoid the language of sorrow, confusion and anger? 

Laments use pain, anguish, anger and confusion in a passionate search for some answering comfort or sense of hope. We have to learn to lament and to do it in community, whether that is on our own behalf or as a way of speaking for others in much worse situations.

It isn’t about how things ought to be. It’s about how things are. It’s about people shot by terrorists in Paris. It’s about people living in fear. It’s about situations so dreadful that only God can change things and people and bring hope.

Lament yells deep from an anguished heart – a raw wail that in itself is a prayer (story of family that had a stillborn child just weeks before its birth…it hurt…I told them to stop on an empty road as they drove home…yells at God…express whatever emotion they were feeling at the time…and then trust in God to be with them every second of their life from that moment forward as they would deal with the hurt, pain, sorrow the rest of their life.)

If we care at all about the depths of other people’s suffering around the world, what other language can we use except that of lament? Do we really think that it’s not OK to yell out at God with feelings like that? That God somehow isn’t strong enough to cope with our anger?

Let’s allow Lamentations 3: 31-33 to have the last word: “For the Lord will not reject forever. Although he causes [allows] grief, he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love; for he does not willingly afflict or grieve anyone.”

 

 
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Posted by on December 14, 2017 in counsel, Encouragement, God

 

Defeating the Goliath in your life  – 1 Samuel 17


Have you met your Goliath? Goliath is that great big giant of an obstacle that seems unbeatable, and impossible to defeat.  It is that one huge problem that you think just might be your undoing — a difficulty so great that it has you entertaining the thought that you are close to throwing in the towel.

Perhaps you have met him in the past.  Or maybe Goliath is troubling you even now.  Most of us have a Goliath or two in our lives. I want to encourage you to confront Goliath today — to deal with this enemy that robs your life of hope and joy.

King Saul of Israel had been fighting tooth and nail for most of his life for every inch of the Promised Land. Even though the land was “Promised,” it did not come easy. (Most promised lands are that way – we have to work and struggle for them.)  Ever since the day Joshua took over the leadership of Israel from Moses, there had been a struggle.  On that very first day when they crossed the Jordan River to head westward to their promised homeland, there was no welcome sign saying, Welcome to the Promised Land!”

Lately, the Philistines had been gaining the upper hand. King Saul was getting older and very weary. Now things had really taken a turn for the worse. The Philistines unveiled their “secret weapon” – a nine foot nine giant named Goliath. This powerful, fearsome creature was out daily taunting the Israelites, issuing a challenge that had King Saul’s army cringing behind their shields. There wasn’t a soldier in the camp who wanted to take on Goliath. Fear and despair took hold in the camp and ate away the courage of every last man. Each day Goliath looked bigger and the soldiers of Saul felt smaller.

You and I probably have times when our Goliaths seem to grow as we seem to shrink. On one particular day, Goliath began shouting insults to the soldiers of Israel and he challenged them to a fight. 

Let’s read 1 Samuel 17:8-11 (NIV) Goliath stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel, “Why do you come out and line up for battle? Am I not a Philistine, and are you not the servants of Saul? Choose a man and have him come down to me. 9  If he is able to fight and kill me, we will become your subjects; but if I overcome him and kill him, you will become our subjects and serve us.” 10  Then the Philistine said, “This day I defy the ranks of Israel! Give me a man and let us fight each other.” 11  On hearing the Philistine’s words, Saul and all the Israelites were dismayed and terrified.

After hearing these threats, an adolescent shepherd boy named David looked around and asked “Who is this person who is insulting the armies of God?” You see, David wasn’t afraid of the Philistine giant. King Saul sent for David and this is the conversation they had: 1 Samuel 17:32-37 (NIV) David said to Saul, “Let no one lose heart on account of this Philistine; your servant will go and fight him.” 33  Saul replied, “You are not able to go out against this Philistine and fight him; you are only a boy, and he has been a fighting man from his youth.” 34  But David said to Saul, “Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, 35  I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it. 36  Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. 37  The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” Saul said to David, “Go, and the LORD be with you.” .

So David, instead of putting on armor and a sword, chose to dress casually…carrying only a sling in his hand…with five smooth stones that he collected from the stream.  He was ready for war.  Listen to what David said when he confronted Goliath: (vs. 45-47). David took out a stone, and slung it and it struck Goliath on the forehead and killed him.  The young, weak boy defeated his Goliath.

WE NEED TO TRUST GOD. When David went to fight Goliath, it was not the standard resources that David was trusting in. It was not the armor of Saul or the strength of the whole Israelite army, but it was GOD…David believed that God would defeat Goliath.  If David had bought into the standard thinking, he would have been killed.  He thought outside the box!  God was his strength and the battle was the Lord’s — not his.

When we come to those times of confrontation with Goliath, our first line of defense is our relationship with God.  We must trust in His strength…no matter what others may consider the best way out of our difficulties. No matter what problem or Goliath we may be facing…God can deliver us. Our problems can be solved by trusting and relying upon God!

Most of us, like the Israelites hear the threats of Goliath and loose heart.  We would really like to have the courage of David and his trust in God, but we don’t quite get around to entering the field of battle.

So I would like to ask you for a verdict today. I would like to encourage you to decide to conquer Goliath.  If you will make that decision, surrender your resources – however small or meager – into the hands of God and trust the Lord to walk with you into the battle…You will make a wonderful discovery — a life changing discovery.

You will discover that Goliath is just a wee little man after all!

———————————-

They say there are not atheists in foxholes. It’s amazing how religious and how spiritual we get under pressure in a moment of bargaining.

It was that great American wit, Mark Twain, who once said, “Man is the only animal that blushes, and the only animal that needs to. We are ashamed, are we not, of things we’ve done in the past. Nobody is free who is unforgiven. Instead of being able to look God in the face or to look one another in the face, we want to run away and hide when our conscience troubles us.”

 

 
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Posted by on November 30, 2017 in counsel, Encouragement

 

The value of faith


Faith is like love in that it, too, is always beginning. For example, in the Gospel of John, the disciples had already come to have faith in Jesus by the time we reach chapter 11.

Andrew believed on the day when he left John the Baptist to follow Jesus (1:41), Philip believed on the day when Jesus called him (1:45), and Nathanael believed when Jesus said He had seen him under the fig tree (1:49).

The disciples who attended the wedding feast in Cana believed when they saw that Jesus had turned the water into wine (2:11). We are told that Peter and the other disciples who witnessed the feeding of the five thousand and heard the Bread of Life discourse also believed (6:69). Even after all of these statements of faith, Jesus told His disciples that He was glad for the opportunity to raise Lazarus so that they might believe (11:15)!

Faith is like that–always beginning.

Many of us already believe, at least to some degree. Then, one day, we face something that is so lifechanging that we never look at faith in the same way again. This encounter may be a blessing or a trial, the birth of a child or a fifty-foot fall. Suddenly, we see everything differently, and it seems that faith is beginning all over!

Today the Gospel of John calls us to believe (20:31). Many of us hear that call and think, “I already believe.” However, if we will listen and seek and follow, we may find that faith is only beginning in us!

FAITH IS FULL OF PROMISE

When Martha met Jesus outside of Bethany, her brother had been in the tomb for four days. She lamented that if Jesus had only been there, her brother would not have died.

In response to her grief, Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me shall live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (11:25, 26).

Jesus’ words provide a powerful motivation to believe. Faith is hard work, and a lazy person will simply not put forth the effort. We do not believe just because we want to believe, but we will never believe if we do not want to believe. Faith involves dedication, obedience, sacrifice, and, oftentimes, tears. However, a rich promise is made to all who will believe.

In this respect, faith is like hard work in college; the student does it because of the promised payoff of getting a good job. Working hard at one’s career is rewarded with a good paycheck or promotion. Make no mistake about this: Faith does not earn a reward, but God’s promises are what motivate us to continue down the long, difficult, sometimes trying road to faith.

FAITH IS FOCUSED ON JESUS

John’s faith moves us toward faith in Jesus. What we need is not faith in parents, faith in the apostles, faith in other Christians, faith in the church, or even faith in faith. Rather, we need faith in Jesus.

In Martha’s powerful statement of faith, she told Jesus, “… I have believed that You are the Christ, the Son of God, even He who comes into the world” (11:27; emphasis mine). When Jesus, His disciples, Martha, Mary, and the crowd of mourners were later gathered outside Lazarus’ tomb, Jesus prayed to the Father, saying, “And I knew that Thou hearest Me always; but because of the people standing around I said it, that they may believe that Thou didst send Me” (11:42).

This is consistent with the rest of the Gospel of John, where the purpose is to produce faith “that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God” (20:31).gods-wisdom

John Paton was a missionary to Africa who taught and baptized a large number of people. Because the Bible was not available in the language of the people he was teaching, Paton began the long and difficult work of Bible translating.

The task went fairly smoothly until he began trying to translate the word “believe.” As strange as it may seem, there was no word in this language for “believe.” How could one possibly translate the Bible without a word for “believe”?

Then, one day as Paton was struggling with this linguistic problem, a Christian man from the village came to visit him. This man had been working hard all day and was exhausted.

When he sat down in a chair he gave a weary sigh of relief and said, “It is so good to lean your whole weight on something.” Paton realized that he had found an expression for “believe”: To believe is to “put your whole weight on Jesus.”‘ Faith is focused on Jesus and nothing less.

FAITH IS DIVISIVE

As the people stood outside Lazarus’ tomb and saw him walk out alive, they were presented with an unavoidable fork in the road. They had seen Lazarus dead, had prepared him for burial, had placed him in a tomb, and had placed a stone over the mouth of the cave.

They were eyewitnesses to these events. Then, because of Jesus’ miracle, these same people had become witnesses of Lazarus’ rising! Would they believe? They could not avoid making a decision.

John recorded the division that took place among the observers of the miracle that day:

 “Many therefore of the Jews, who had come to Mary and beheld what He had done, believed in Him. But some of them went away to the Pharisees, and told them the things which Jesus had done” (11:45, 46).

Amazingly, these people all witnessed the same events but reacted in opposite ways. Some saw that they were in the presence of the power of God, so they placed their faith in Jesus that day. Others only “saw” a juicy piece of gossip and scurried off to Jerusalem to tell the Jewish leaders about the stir created by Jesus.

The division among the people that day is no insignificant part of the story. On the contrary, division is the very nature of the story of Jesus: When people hear about Jesus, they are forced to make a decision, one way or the other, about His true identity. There is no neutral ground.

Jesus and the apostle John both push us relentlessly toward a decision. Is Jesus the Son of God, or was He a fraud? Either He is divine, or He was a blasphemer deserving death. What is your decision?

FAITH IS THREATENING

Some of those who had witnessed Lazarus’ resurrection went to the chief priests and the Pharisees in Jerusalem to tell them what the teacher from Nazareth had done.

As they made their report, they complained, “If we let Him go on like this, all men will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation” (11:48).

They realized that faith in Jesus would change lives, change families, and even change a nation. They realized–perhaps better than most Christians today–· just how “dangerous” faith is.

An old song says about love that “it will lift you up, never let you down, take your world and turn it all around. The same should be said about faith in Jesus.

The tendency today is to expect too little in regard to faith. Many Christians have made faith too easy, too soft, too undemanding.

Wilbur Pees expressed this tendency in the following sarcastic paragraph: I would like to buy $3 worth of God, please, not enough to explode my soul or disturb my sleep, but just enough to equal a cup of warm milk or a snooze in the sunshine. I don’t want enough of Him to make me love a black man or pick beets with a migrant. I want ecstasy, not transformation; I want the warmth of the womb, not a new birth. I want a pound of the Eternal in a paper sack. I would like to buy $3 worth of God, please”

The faith to which Jesus invites us may well change our entire lives. John wanted to make sure that we understand the possible costs involved in following Jesus. We may suffer, we may be persecuted, and we may lose everything we own. Compared with the rich promises of faith, the costs seem strangely insignificant!

 

 
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Posted by on November 16, 2017 in Encouragement

 

The Power Of Scripture In The Preacher Personally


by Dr. Roger Pascoe

President, The Institute for Biblical Preaching, Cambridge, Ontario, Canada

The Scriptures must be operative and powerful first and foremost in the preacher personally. A preacher who is called by God, is one who declares “the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27) and who believes that …

1. The Bible is divinely inspired (lit. “God-breathed”)

2. The Bible is divinely preserved through the centuries

3. The Bible is divinely authoritative in all matters of faith and practice

4. The Bible achieves its divinely intended purpose (Isa. 55:11)

5. The Bible reliably reveals God’s redemptive plan (cf. 2 Tim. 3:16-17)

Therefore, the preacher must be devoted to, dependent on, and directed by the Scriptures.

1. THE PREACHER MUST BE DEVOTED TO THE SCRIPTURES

He must, like Timothy, continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them (2 Tim. 3:14).Devotion to the Scriptures through continuance in them and obedience to them requires discipline.

2. THE PREACHER MUST BE DEPENDENT ON THE SCRIPTURES

To be dependent on the Scriptures you must know them intimately. To know them intimately you must read them. First, you must read the Scriptures privately. This is a most neglected area in so many preachers’ lives. They read a lot of other material but not the Scriptures. This is the work of Satan to weaken our preaching. Make sure you take time every day to read and meditate on the Scriptures in order to nourish your soul in the Word; to become saturated in the Word. This is not your study time but your devotional time (cf. Ps. 42:2; 1:2).

Daily reading of the Scriptures was one of the ingredients that gave George Mueller such a powerful life. He knew the truth that “man shall not live by bread alone…” (Matt. 4:4). We must be dependent on the Scriptures, just as we are on bread to live.

Be systematic and sequential in your reading. Plan your reading. Think through what you read. Ask, is there…

(a) A promise to claim?

(b) A lesson to learn?

(c) A blessing to enjoy?

(d) A command to obey?

(e) A sin to avoid?

Let the words abide in you (Jn. 15:7). Pray your thoughts from your reading back to God. Let the words produce fruit in you. Share what you have learned at the appropriate time with others. Be obedient to the word you have read.

Second, you must read the Scriptures publicly. Give attention to reading (1 Tim. 4:13). When Paul instructs Timothy to read the word, he also has in mind the public reading in the assembly. In those days it fulfilled the need for reading to those who did not have the Scriptures or could not read them. Today, it fulfills the need to give the proper prominence to the Scriptures in worship.

3. THE PREACHER MUST BE DIRECTED BY THE SCRIPTURES

“But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing of whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Tim. 3:14-17)

Every Christian, and preachers in particular, must be directed by the Scriptures as the Word of God. It is impossible to preach powerfully if you do not hold a high view of biblical inspiration. Believing in the inerrancy of Scripture is part of biblical preaching. By sticking with the inspired text, both the preacher and the congregation will adhere to the truth of the Bible. The inspired Scriptures are our ultimate standard for faith and practice. Thus, they carry authority and power. More than that, the Scriptures are fully sufficient and absolutely trustworthy for all that we need in life and ministry.

Every preacher must be directed by the Scriptures. They are our source for what we believe, how we behave, and what we preach. We need nothing else. Indeed, the all-sufficiency of the Scriptures is the basis for our preaching.

a) The Scriptures are sufficient for salvation. The Scriptures are able to make you wise unto salvation (15)

The Bible teaches us our sinful condition before God and reveals the remedy through Christ. No other book can do this.

b) The Scriptures are sufficient for revelation. All Scripture is God-breathed (16)

God-breathed means “inspired by God”. Inspiration is the term used to describe the process by which God, through human agents, recorded in written form (i.e. the Bible) his revelation of himself. God communicated his self-revelation to human authors by the Holy Spirit in such a way that the words they wrote were God’s words (verbal inspiration). There is no part of the Bible which is not inspired (plenary inspiration).

The preacher must be committed to the verbal (the very words) and plenary (the complete) inspiration of the Scriptures by God (cf. 2 Pet. 1:21), which means, therefore, that they are inerrant (without error) and infallible (incapable of error) and that through them God still speaks today – i.e. they are still relevant.

Therefore we believe that …

i) The Bible is “God-breathed” (inspired)

ii) The Bible is without error or contradiction (inerrant)

iii) The Bible is incapable of error (infallible)

iv) The Bible is true in all that is affirms

iv) The Bible is completely trustworthy

The fact of its inspiration is what gives the Bible its authority and guarantees its trustworthiness. This is not a human book written by fallible authors, but a divine book written by an infallible God. This fact for us, as believers, renders the Bible fully trustworthy and authoritative. Because the Scriptures are “God-breathed” they are profitable – useful, beneficial, helpful, and authoritative.

In order to preach with power, a preacher must hold a high view of Scripture. A high view of Scripture means that we believe that the Bible is the written Word of God, that it is God’s self-revelation, that it is complete, that it is fully trustworthy, and that it is our ultimate standard for faith and practice.

As John Stott puts it: It is one thing to believe that God has acted, revealing himself in historical deeds of salvation, and supremely in the Word made flesh. It is another to believe that God has spoken, inspiring prophets and apostles to interpret his deeds. It is yet a third stage to believe that the divine speech, recording and explaining the divine activity, has been committed to writing. (John R. W. Stott, Between Two Worlds, 96).

The Bible reveals God to us. No other book does this like this book. It is unique. This is a high view of Scripture.

A high view of the inspiration of Scripture is vital for preaching the Bible powerfully because it is the sole authority for what we preach; it is the voice / the word of God to us. To have a low view of inspiration is to render God’s Word less than fully trustworthy or authoritative.

The preacher cannot preach with authority and spiritual power if he is not fully convinced that the Word of God is authoritative, without contradiction or error, and is totally reliable and trustworthy. How can a preacher preach with power if the very book that he preaches from is stripped of its authority? A preacher who does not believe that the Bible is inerrant, infallible, and totally inspired by the Holy Spirit cannot fully trust the Bible himself and, therefore, cannot proclaim it to others as fully authoritative and trustworthy. Such preaching, therefore, cannot be powerful.

If a preacher thinks that the Word of God is not reliable, then he must also think that God himself is not reliable. And if God is not reliable, then any sermons about God, based on his Word, cannot be trusted. If a sermon cannot be trusted, it cannot have power.

Any preaching that does not reflect the authority and power of the Bible is itself not authoritative and powerful. Power in the proclamation of the Bible cannot be separated from the authority of the Bible itself. The preacher is merely the mouthpiece for the text, which speaks powerfully for itself.

As Jesus taught in the parable of the sower (Matt. 13), the Word of God itself, as the good seed, bears much fruit. When the Word of God enters the human heart, it produces life because it is living (see Heb. 4:12). The Bible is alive because it is inspired by God (2 Tim. 3:16), and because it is alive, it generates its own power. Therefore, when it is faithfully declared, it carries power with it and accomplishes God’s task (Isa. 55:11).

A high view of the inspiration of Scripture is vital for studying the Bible carefully. If we believe that the Bible is indeed the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God, then we should diligently study it in order to understand what it means in its historical context and in order to apply it practically to our lives and the lives of our congregations.

Such a high view of Scripture forces the preacher to carefully research and understand the text. Preachers must exposit the text of Scripture by searching it out, just like the Bereans (Acts 17:11), so that they can accurately convey its meaning and application to their audience.

A high view of the inspiration of Scripture puts an emphasis on the accurate handling of the text rather than an entertaining handling of the text. The primary obligation of the preacher in preparing a sermon outline is to first make sure that it is true and accurate. If we have a high view of inspiration we will obey the biblical injunction to preach the Word (2 Tim. 4:2) and nothing else. Homiletical skill should never camouflage hermeneutical accuracy and faithfulness.

c) The Scriptures are sufficient for doctrineteaching and reproof

Note that the first two characteristics of Scripture (teaching and reproof) deal with doctrine; the second two (correction and training) deal with behaviour. Also, note that teaching is a positive statement while reproof is a negative statement.

On the positive side, the Scriptures are profitable for teaching (16).Scripture is the trustworthy, all-sufficient source for what we believe, teach, and practice. Scripture alone is the basis for pastoral preaching, teaching, counselling – not myths or legends, not psychology, not philosophy, not experience, and not culture or society. It contains all that we need for life and godliness. It is our standard for faith and practice.

On the negative side, the Scriptures are profitable…for reproof (16). To reprove means to refute, rebuke, convict. The Scriptures are fully sufficient and our only reliable resource for refuting and rebuking false teachers and false teaching. Scripture convicts those who hold false doctrine. It exposes the darkness of false teaching by its light. Scripture is the standard and pattern of truth (1:13) which we are to guard (1:14) and to use to convict those who are in error. This is the only authoritative reproof of doctrinal and moral error (cf. Tit. 1:9; Jude 3; Eph. 5:11; 1 Tim. 5:20). We refute doctrinal and moral error by the Scriptures. Truth does not change with the changing times. Preachers must stand firm on the revealed truth and reprove and refute error.

Where “teaching” (positive) and “reproof” (negative) have to do with doctrine, the following characteristics of the Scriptures have to do with behaviour.

d) The Scriptures are sufficient for behaviourcorrection and training

Again there is a negative statement and a positive statement. On the negative side, the Scriptures are profitable… for correction (16). The purpose of correction is restoration to a right relationship with God. The Scriptures are able to correct and restore someone to a right state of Christian conduct and character. The Scriptures are powerful to change a person’s character flaws, beliefs, and behaviour, to straighten them out, to correct improper and false beliefs and behaviour. Those who stray from the truth must be rebuked, corrected, and then restored. While the process of correction is negative, the end result in view, namely, restoration, is positive.

On the positive side, the Scriptures are profitable…for training (instruction) in righteousness. The Scriptures are necessary and sufficient for training / instructing Christians in virtuous, upright, righteous living. The negative process of correction is offset by the positive process of training in righteousness, which has in view the person’s restoration to a right relationship with God and other people. All Christians, and here preachers specifically, must be trained to live righteously before God and the world (cf. Tit. 2:11-12). This is the training that is attained by discipline and correction (as in training up a child). The Scriptures contain the truth that we believe and the direction for our behaviour in compliance with our belief. This is the life of holiness that comes from being directed by the Scriptures.

Now we move from the sufficiency of the Scriptures for doctrine and behaviour to their purpose.

e) The Scriptures are sufficient for edification…so that the man of God may be proficient (fit, capable), fully equipped for every good work (17)

The ultimate purpose of the Scriptures is to render the servant of God spiritually fit and capable of completing the work God has called you to do. The Scriptures provide the training we need for ministry. Just as an athlete requires training to build up his or her muscles, endurance, and capability for a specific sport, so the servant of God is trained for and rendered fit for his or her ministry. The Scriptures are the sole and fully sufficient source of the knowledge and direction we need for ministry.

Through the Scriptures the “man (or, woman) of God” is rendered proficient (capable) for every good work. Our ability in ministry is not a matter of natural talent or intellect, but the calling of God and the sufficiency of his Word. To be capable of carrying out your work for God you need to be proficient in your knowledge and use of Scripture, to think biblically and to apply the Scriptures to life – your own life first, and then the lives of your people. The Scriptures build us up in spiritual maturity(training in righteousness) … and for spiritual activity (for every good work).

They are our primary resource in ministry – not your education, not your eloquence, not your relationships – but your familiarity with the Scriptures, your understanding of the Scriptures, and your application of the Scriptures to life.

Through the Scripture the man or woman of God is fully equipped for every good work – nothing else you need. The Scriptures comprise our complete reference manual for our spiritual work. They are fully sufficient to equip every pastor, church leader, and teacher for every good work,which, from a pastoral perspective, is in essence (i) teaching; (ii) reproof; (iii) correction; and (iv) training in righteousness.

The Scriptures are the complete resource for our ministry of the Word – for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness… to convince, rebuke, exhort (2 Tim. 3:16 … 4:2). The Scriptures build us up in our faith and equip us for the work of the ministry. By them we are proficient (competent), fully equipped, furnished for every good work.Through the sufficiency of the Scriptures, preachers are enabled to do our work of the ministry. We are equipped by the Word for our ministry of equipping others (Eph. 4:12). God does not leave us to our own resources when he calls us into his service. We have the inspired Scriptures which not only make us wise to salvation but also contain all that we need for life and godliness. They thoroughly equip us for every good work (cf. Eph. 2:10).

Part II: Preparing For Preaching

Outlining the Sermon, Part 3: Testing Your Main Points

We are continuing the subject of “outlining the sermon” from the last two editions of this NET Pastors Journal. In this edition, I want to show you how to test the main points of your sermon outline. Your sermon outline should be structured to reveal two essential components:

1. The Main Points Must Be “Homiletically Distinct”

By this I mean that the points of your sermon must be separate thoughts which flow from the text. The language used in your points should follow the natural structure (i.e. development of ideas) in the text. To produce a sermon whose points are homiletically distinct, ask three primary questions of every passage:

A) WHAT IS THE DOMINATING THEME – I.E. THE SUBJECT?

By finding the subject of the Scripture passage, you expose the unifying thought or truth that holds the passage together. And by relating all your sermon points to this subject, your sermon will have unity. So, ask yourself: what is the dominating theme (the big idea, the thesis, the subject) of this passage?

Our task is to preach the message of the text not our own message. Therefore, we do not create the subject of the sermon – rather, the text does. Once we have determined the author’s subject, our task is to construct a message around that subject.

Since you can only preach one subject at a time (unless you want to thoroughly confuse your audience), where a passage of Scripture seems to have more than one subject, select the “dominating” subject that emerges from the text as the one that governs your message. It’s good to state the subject of your message in your introduction.

B) WHAT ARE THE INTEGRATING THOUGHTS – I.E. THE MAIN POINTS?

Main points are the integrating thoughts that provide structure and movement to the passage and, therefore, to your sermon. Ask yourself, What are the integrating thoughts of this passage?

The subject is exposed and developed by the author through integrating thoughts which emerge from the passage and which link together to provide the structure and movement of the sermon.

So ask yourself: “What is the structure of the passage? What thoughts build up and expose the overall theme? What does the writer say about his subject? What are the various “complements” to the subject (to use Haddon Robinson’s terminology)? What is the movement (flow of thought) in the passage? How does the writer integrate his thoughts together to develop his subject? What are the individual ideas and how do they connect together to form an argument, an explanation, or an exhortation?” These questions force you to look for the structure and movement in the passage.

Each thought is an expansion of the subject. The thoughts of the writer become the hooks on which you hang your sermon, the sign posts which direct the sermon, the infrastructure around which you build your sermon, the main points which divide the sermon into points (or, chapters).

Do not force the points by imposing your own structure on the passage. Do not force the text to say what you want to say. You must say what the Word of God says – that’s expository preaching!

The main points of your sermon must be “homiletically distinct – i.e. clear and distinct from one another so that the audience can follow the development of your sermon. You can test your points by asking the following questions

  • Is each point biblical?

Am I letting the Word of God speak for itself (exegesis) or am I imposing my thoughts on the Word (eisegesis)? Is it true to the context? – historical, literary, grammatical, theological, syntactical (even sub-points must come out of the text and integrate with and support the main point). Can your audience see it for themselves in the text?

  • Is each point logical?

Are your points sequential? Do they flow with the text? Is each point progressive in that it moves the ideas of the message forward? Does the progression make sense? Does each point help the sermon move toward a goal? Do they follow the flow of the text? Can the audience see intuitively how you moved from point #1 to point #2 to point #3? And can they see how the text moves from point #1 to #2 to #3? Does each point relate to the subject? Is each point mutually exclusive – i.e. no overlap with other points?

  • Is each point practical, applicable?

Does it answer the question: “So what? What does it have to do with me?” Does it transition from the “then” of the biblical world to the “now” of your congregation? Exposition must be pre-eminently practical. Therefore, it must be applied practically and illustrated relevantly. Exposition must never be divorced from application and illustration (Stephen Olford, Anointed Expository Preaching, 76).

I suggest that you never leave application to the end of the sermon but relate each point as you make it to the lives of the listeners. Otherwise, they will not get the connection between what you have explained and how you have applied it.

  • Is each point critical?

Is each point needed? There must be a purpose, a reason, for each point. Don’t put in points or sub-points that have no purpose and which do not add to the flow of thought and development of the argument.

Don’t be overly zealous in trying to break down your main points into sub-points, sub-sub-points etc. This confuses your listeners and achieves nothing. If you do have sub-points because they are in the text, you do not have to express them as such to your audience – simply make them part of your explanation.

To ensure that each point is necessary and purposeful, you will need to review your structure critically.

  • Is each point memorable?

This is not a requirement of expository preaching; it’s just a good principle for any public speaking. If you want your audience to go away and be able to remember at least the basic points of what you said, it must be memorable. So, word your main points for “hearers” not “readers” (i.e. the ear not the eye).

You can make your points memorable in several ways:

(i) By using various structural techniques in your main points – e.g.

*”Balanced” statements – i.e. a repeated phrase in each point

*Parallel statements – i.e. similarity of grammar and wording

*Alliteration. Alliteration can be very effective by being memorable, or it can be very ineffective by being annoying, forced, unnatural.

(ii) By repetition

Your sermon outline should be sufficiently well done that your audience can see it – recognize the road map; see the progression, movement, main ideas – but not so that it is dominant. We are not preaching to send them home with an outline but with a message from God’s word that is relevant to their lives.

C) WHAT IS THE MOTIVATING THRUST – I.E. THE PURPOSE?

The motivating thrust provides direction and purpose to your sermon. The motivating thrust is the universal truth that the text is teaching and to which the preacher will exhort his listeners to respond.

Determining the motivating thrust gives significance and purpose to the sermon. Some questions to ask yourself here are:

  • Why did the writer write this? What is the sermon intended to do?
  • What does the truth demand? What do you want them to do?
  • What is its purpose, significance?
  • What application are you going to make?
  • What is the “bottom line”?
  • What is the motivating thrust behind this message? Why deliver it at all?

This whole process of structuring your sermon outline all starts with the subject. The subject provides unity to the sermon because from the subject flow the “integrating thoughts” (main points) and the “motivating thrust” (purpose) of the sermon. Therefore, the “formula” is: Unity (from the subject) + movement (the main points) = purpose.

2. The Points Must Be “Harmoniously Related”

While the points must be homiletically distinct (i.e. make their own distinct point and not repeat any of the other points), at the same time they must be “harmoniously related.” By “harmoniously related” we mean that there must be “continuity of thought”. Continuity of thought is what we must aim for in every outline. Just as the writer has continuity of thought in what he wrote, so your sermon outline, based on what he wrote, must have the same continuity of thought. In other words, the text drives the structure. That’s expository preaching!

(a) Harmoniously related thoughts give the sermon unity – i.e. hold it together. And unity flows from the one common denominator of every sermon – the subject. When each point is related to the subject, then the whole structure is “harmoniously related.”

(b) Harmoniously related points give the sermon progression i.e. it’s going somewhere. Progression is derived from the flow and continuity of thought by which each point relates to the point that went before (but doesn’t duplicate it), the point that comes after (but doesn’t duplicate it), and all points relate to the subject and, therefore, are harmoniously related.

Therefore, every point must:

a) Relate to the subject of the passage and sermon. This gives unity and harmony.

b) Relate to the points around it (i.e. the previous and subsequent points). This gives progression. Without this structure and sequential treatment of the text, there will be confusion in the pulpit as well as in the pew(Stephen Olford, Anointed Expository Preaching, 76).

A harmoniously related sermon is like a harmoniously related body. The head is joined to the neck; the neck to the torso; the torso to the arms and legs etc. Thus, the body has symmetry (balance; proportion) and continuity (every part works in harmony with the others). This is how good sermons work.

Part III. Devotional Exposition

“The Communication of the Gospel” (1 Cor. 2:1-5)

By: Dr. Stephen F. Olford

Having proved that the gospel, while not commending itself to human wisdom, is notwithstanding the instrument of God’s power as well as the manifestation of His wisdom, the Apostle now goes on to speak about The Communication of the Message. As a preacher, he knew of the inherent dangers in the methods and motives of public speaking. Indeed, the church at Corinth was divided on this very issue. There were some who preferred Paul’s approach to the style of Apollos; while others were better satisfied with the rugged delivery of Peter, the one-time fisherman.

With this in mind, the Apostle sets out to correct misconceptions concerning the communication of the gospel in two delineations:

I. The Supreme Passion Of A Preacher

And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified (1 Cor. 2:1-2). Drawing heavily upon his own experience, Paul shares with us the twofold secret of the consuming passion of a preacher. The first is:

1) Dedication to the Master: …I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ… (1 Cor. 2:2). Paul uses a word here to describe his dedicated resolve. He says, I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ…. This is the true secret of preaching. This man was so Christ-centered and Christ-controlled that nothing else in the world mattered, except Jesus Christ.

Paul could say, For me to live is Christ… (Phil. 1:21). …I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord…that I may know Him… (Phil. 3:8, 10). …this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus (Phil. 3:13-14). How true it is that …out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks (Matt. 12:34). When a person is full of Christ, he cannot but speak of His Savior and Lord. So there was dedication to the Master. Then also there was:

2) Concentration on the Message: For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified (1 Cor. 2:2). Instead of conforming to the philosophical approach and oratorical excellence which were so characteristic of public speakers in Corinth, Paul deliberately determined to present Christ in all the simplicity of the essential facts of His death and resurrection. His supreme passion was Christ and Him crucified – “not in His glory but in His humiliation, that the foolishness of the preaching might be doubly foolish, and the weakness doubly weak. The incarnation was in itself a stumbling block; the crucifixion was much more than this” (Bishop Lightfoot).

Some students of the Bible maintain that Paul’s emphasis in Corinth on the cross was because of a sense of failure in the alleged philosophical approach he adopted at Athens. But a study of Acts 17 makes it evident that his preaching there was not basically philosophical. His sermon began with a biblical revelation of creation and ended on the note of the resurrection (Acts 17:24, 31). In other words, even in Athens his central message was that of Christ and Him crucified. Paul knew only too well that only the message of the cross could meet the need of a pagan world. It might seem foolishness to the philosophers and a stumbling block to the religionists, but to those who were being saved it was both the wisdom and the power of God.

Martin Luther’s preaching aroused the church from a thousand year slumber known as the devil’s millennium. It is easy to understand why when we discover how Luther preached. He said, “I preach as though Christ was crucified yesterday, rose again from the dead today, and is coming back to earth tomorrow.” With the supreme passion of the preacher in mind, we now turn to what Paul describes as:

II. The Spiritual Power Of A Preacher

And I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power (1 Cor. 2:3-4). The Apostle knew that the content of his message was so unacceptable to the carnal mind that he had no confidence in his ability to communicate it. In fact, he says that he came to Corinth …in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling (v. 3). J. B. Phillips puts it even more dramatically by quoting Paul as saying: “I was feeling far from strong, I was nervous and rather shaky.”

At the same time, it might be added that his fear was more of God rather than of man. It was a fear in the light of the task committed to him, or what Kay calls “anxious desire to fulfill his duty.” So he says, …my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of mans wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power (v. 4). This means that Paul did not depend on what was known as “the Corinthians words” of excellent speech and poetic persuasion; his confidence, rather, was in:

1) The Power of Divine Revelation: And I was with you in…demonstration of the Spirit… (1 Cor. 2:3-4). The word translated “demonstration” signifies “the most rigorous proof.” As Dr. Leon Morris says, “It is possible for argument to be logically irrefutable, yet totally unconvincing.” Paul’s preaching, however, carried conviction because of the power of the Spirit. This is the essential difference between human reasoning and divine revelation.

If preachers of the gospel trusted in their own speaking powers to convince men and women of sin and righteousness and judgment, they would miserably fail. Only the Holy Spirit can do this (see John 16:8-11). In addition to this, it is clear from this passage that Paul also put his confidence in:

2) The Power of Divine Application: And I was with you…indemonstration of the Spirit and of power (1 Cor. 2:3-4). The phrase “of power” carries us back to what Paul has been saying concerning the dynamic of God (1 Corinthians 1:18). There is something inherent in the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ which has a dynamic relevance, and therefore an application to everyday life. Preach the gospel to any creature in any country in any age and you will find it just as authoritative and applicable as in the days of the Apostle. This is why Paul exclaims: For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek (Romans 1:16).

William Barclay tells of a man who had been a reprobate and a drunkard, but who had been absolutely captured and changed by the Lord Jesus Christ. His work mates knew about this and used to try and shake his faith. They would say, “Surely a sensible man like you cannot believe in the miracles that the Bible talks about. You cannot, for instance, believe that this Jesus of yours turned water into wine.” “Whether He turns water into wine or not,” replied the man, “I do not know. But in my own house I have seen Him turn beer into furniture!” This is the power of divine application.

When a preacher believes that the message he declares can work a miracle, he has learned the secret of spiritual power. However much he may tremble, he can be sure that God will vindicate and demonstrate the power of the cross in transformed lives. To conclude, Paul moves on to:

III. The Single Purpose Of A Preacher

…That your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God (1 Cor. 2:5). This was Paul’s single purpose because it was the divine purpose. No preaching of the gospel fulfills what God has designed unless men rest their faith in the power of God. As we have observed already, the power of a preacher is nothing less than the word of the gospel, even our Lord Jesus Christ, crucified and risen again. The problem in Corinth was that the members of the church were seeking to pin their faith on Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas. Therefore, the Apostle was determined to correct such a divisive misplacement of their confidence. For the purpose of the gospel, he realized men and women must be led to exercise:

1) A Sound Faith: …That your faith should not be in the wisdom of men…(1 Cor. 2:5). Paul has convinced us in the preceding verses of the earthly, sensual, and devilish nature of the wisdom of men. For faith to be sound, it must be reposed in the Savior Himself, without dependence upon human wisdom. Paul amplifies his point when he writes later concerning the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus: …if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; you are yet in your sins (1 Cor. 15:17). If Christ were not alive from the dead, then sin was not put away, the gospel is not true, the Corinthians had believed a lie, the Apostles were false witnesses, and the loved ones who had fallen asleep had gone forever. So to be fundamentally sound in the faith, a person must believe in the Son of God who literally and physically rose from the dead. All other tenets of evangelical faith are both included and implied in this one central and focal fact of the resurrection of Christ.

Is your faith sound? Does the fact that the Lord Jesus Christ rose from the dead mean more to you than anything else in the world?

2) A Saving Faith: …That your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God (1 Cor. 2:5). Paul has interpreted to us the meaning of the power of God in a previous verse. You remember how he said …the preaching of the cross is to them that perish, foolishness; but to us which are saved, it is the power of God (1 Cor. 1:18). A saving faith to Paul was a faith which had and was effecting a mighty transformation in the believing soul. It meant knowing the Lord Jesus as Savior in every sense of the word. Is Christ a living, indwelling, and transforming Savior in your experience? But this faith as interpreted by Paul was also:

3) A Steadfast Faith: …That your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God (1 Cor. 2:5). It has well been said that what depends upon a clever argument is ever at the mercy of a clever argument. This is not so with faith when it is reposed in the unchanging Son of God. This is why Paul employs the term stand (KJV – should not stand) which conveys the idea of steadfastness. Two times in this letter he exhorts the believers to be “steadfast in the faith.” The first mention follows the glorious treatment of the unalterable facts of the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ in chapter 15. Having declared the Savior as the triumphant one, he says: …be steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as you know that your labor is not in vain in the lord (1 Cor. 15:58). The second reference coincides with the conclusion of the epistle where the Apostle exhorts: Watch, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong (1 Corinthians 16:13).

Conclusion: So we have seen what Paul means by the communication of the gospel. He has made it abundantly plain that this unique revelation from heaven is something that cannot be communicated or understood apart from a God-given passion, power, and purpose. Whoever claims to be a preacher must be able to testify to the fact that he has only one determination, and that is to know Christ and Him crucified. A preacher must have only one dynamic, and that is the demonstration of the Spirit and of power. A preacher of the gospel must have only one design, and that is that his hearers should not stand in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. Like Paul, the preacher must recognize that the church of Jesus Christ can never survive the storms of life unless she is built upon the rock of divine revelation rather than on the sands of human philosophy. Let us then go into all the world with the preacher’s passion, power, and purpose – until every creature hears the message of Christ and Him crucified. Such a commission will leave no time for division in our churches and God will add to our membership daily such as should be saved!

Part IV. Sermon Outlines

To listen to the audio version of these sermons in English, click on these links: Link 1 – John 11:25; Link 2 – John 11:26-27

Title: Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life (Jn. 11:25-27)

Point #1: Jesus claims the power that is given to him (25a)

1. Jesus claims the power of resurrection

2. Jesus claims the power of life

Point #2: Jesus promises the life that is in him (25b-26)

1. He promises resurrection life (25b)

2. He promises immortal life (26)

(1) Conditional on faith – those who believe

(2) Conditional on personal faith – do you believe this?

Point #3: Jesus honours the faith that trusts him (27)

1. He honours faith that responds to his word – Yes

2. He honours faith that submits to his authority – Lord

3. He honours faith that confesses his person – Messiah

– He is the promised Messiah, the Son of God

– He is the One who is to come into the world

 
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Posted by on October 19, 2017 in Bible

 

Seven Things That God Hates Series: A Heart That Devises Wicked Plans


Prov. 6:16-19 (NKJV) These six things the Lord hates, Yes, seven are an abomination to Him: 17A proud look, A lying tongue, Hands that shed innocent blood, 18A heart that devises  wicked plans,  Feet that are swift in running to evil, 19 A false witness who speaks lies, And one who sows discord among brethren.

swerveAll we need to do is read the news on the internet or watch the local television news to  be aware of, or at least reminded of, how evil men will spend their time devising wicked plans.  Let’s examine God’s feelings about this subject and how we can avoid finding God’s disfavor, but rather his favor.

What direction do we find from God’s Word?

(Genesis 6:5 NIV)  The LORD saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time.

(Psalms 34:6 NIV)  This poor man called, and the LORD heard him; he saved him out of all his troubles.

(Romans 1:30 NIV) “…slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents…”

God Is Concerned About The Heart. Implicitly, this passage teaches that God knows all things and that nothing escapes his attention.

(Ecclesiastes 12:14 NIV)  For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.

(Matthew 15:18-20 NIV)  But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man ‘unclean.’ {19} For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. {20} These are what make a man ‘unclean’; but eating with unwashed hands does not make him ‘unclean.'” God looks at the roots, and not just the fruit.

(Romans 1:32 NIV)  Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.

How To Overcome This Sin.

(Isaiah 32:7-8 NIV)  The scoundrel’s methods are wicked, he makes up evil schemes to destroy the poor with lies, even when the plea of the needy is just. {8} But the noble man makes noble plans, and by noble deeds he stands.

(Matthew 10:16 NIV)  I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.

(Matthew 12:43-45 NIV)  “When an evil spirit comes out of a man, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. {44} Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order. {45} Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that man is worse than the first. That is how it will be with this wicked generation.”

(Luke 16:8 NIV)  “The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly. For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light.

(Ephesians 3:20 NIV)  Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,

(Philippians 4:8 NIV)  Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.

Let’s begin to trust God more to do what he said he would do.  Let us plan, devise, and pray for great things. Let’s stop expending energy in useless and trivial pursuits, but rather let us meditate, devise, and work out ways to further the cause of Christ.

 
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Posted by on October 15, 2017 in Doctrine, God

 

Seven Things That God Hates Series: A Lying Tongue…and False Witness


Prov. 6:16-19 (NKJV) These six things the Lord hates, Yes, seven are an abomination to Him: 17A proud look, A lying tongue, Hands that shed innocent blood, 18A heart that devises  wicked plans,  Feet that are swift in running to evil, 19 A false witness who speaks lies, And one who sows discord among brethren.

The second thing that God hates in this list of seven, is a lying tongue.  In this lesson, we want to identify what it is to lie, and why it is so bad.

truthThe Problem Of Lying. Recent surveys show us areas where our nation generally consider trivial this important issue: 36% lie about important matters. 86% lie to their parents. 75% lie to their friends. 73% lie to their siblings. 69% lie to their spouses. 91% of those surveyed stated that they lie.

No wonder David said, “All men are liars” (Psalm 116:11). Do we want to live in a society wherein lying is so prevalent? I’m suspicious when I hear someone say, “Well, to tell you the truth…” or “to be perfectly honest with you…”  Do they have to use particular phrases to make us feel comfortable in believing what they are saying?

Ways In Which We Lie. We speak of “White lies, big lies, small lies.” Twist words. Half truths. Misstatement of fact. Bodily movement. Gossip. Exaggeration. Insinuation. Flattery. Presuming.

I think we all know from our youth up until now that lying is wrong.  Thus we attempt to salve our consciences when we do what we know is wrong. A former Secretary of State once said, “That’s not a lie; it’s a terminological inexactitude. Also a tactical misrepresentation.” 

Why Lying Is So Wrong. It is contrary to the very nature of God (Hebrews 6:18 NIV)  God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope offered to us may be greatly encouraged..

It destroys our credibility (Job 27:5 NIV)  I will never admit you are in the right; till I die, I will not deny my integrity.

Conclusion: While lying is contrary to the character of God, so is speaking the truth in a hurtful and vindictive way (Ephesians 4:15 NIV)  Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.

The fate of all liars (Revelation 21:8 NIV)  But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars–their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.”

  • A half truth is a whole lie. Yiddish Proverb
  • A liar isn’t believed even when he speaks the truth. German Proverb
  • A lie travels around the world while truth is putting her boots on. French Proverb
  • All lies are not told—some are lived. Arnold Glasgow
  • It is almost always through fear of being criticized that people tell lies. Paul Tournier (1898–1986)
  • No man has a good enough memory to make a successful liar. Abraham Lincoln (1809–1865)
  • One lie gives birth to another. Terence (c. 186–c. 159 b.c.)
  • Sin has many tools, but a lie is the handle that fits them all. Oliver Wendell Holmes (1809–1894)
 
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Posted by on October 11, 2017 in Doctrine, God

 

Seven Things That God Hates Series: Hands That Shed Innocent Blood Proverbs 6:16-19


Prov. 6:16-19 (NKJV) These six things the Lord hates, Yes, seven are an abomination to Him: 17A proud look, A lying tongue, Hands that shed innocent blood, 18A heart that devises  wicked plans,  Feet that are swift in running to evil, 19 A false witness who speaks lies, And one who sows discord among brethren.

love neighborThe third thing that God hates in this list of seven, are hands that shed innocent blood. Since the very beginning when Cain, out of jealousy, killed is brother Abel, this world has become a killing ground. Just what does God think of all this killing?

Thou Shalt Not Kill (Exodus 20:13). Most translations appropriately replace the word “kill” with the word “murder.” (Exodus 21:13, 14, 15, 16,17,23, 29) Killing commanded by God.

Not all “killing” is the same. Justifiable homicide – self defense: (Exodus 22:2-3 NIV)  “If a thief is caught breaking in and is struck so that he dies, the defender is not guilty of bloodshed; {3} but if it happens after sunrise, he is guilty of bloodshed. “A thief must certainly make restitution, but if he has nothing, he must be sold to pay for his theft.

(Matthew 24:43 NIV)  But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into.

Accidental homicide – (read Numbers 35:9ff).

Judicial homicide – (Deuteronomy 19:13 NIV)  Show him no pity. You must purge from Israel the guilt of shedding innocent blood, so that it may go well with you.

(Romans 13:4 NIV)  For he is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.

Murder – (Exodus 21:22-23 NIV)  “If men who are fighting hit a pregnant woman and she gives birth prematurely but there is no serious injury, the offender must be fined whatever the woman’s husband demands and the court allows. {23} But if there is serious injury, you are to take life for life,

(Numbers 35:16-21 NIV)  “‘If a man strikes someone with an iron object so that he dies, he is a murderer; the murderer shall be put to death. {17} Or if anyone has a stone in his hand that could kill, and he strikes someone so that he dies, he is a murderer; the murderer shall be put to death. {18} Or if anyone has a wooden object in his hand that could kill, and he hits someone so that he dies, he is a murderer; the murderer shall be put to death. {19} The avenger of blood shall put the murderer to death; when he meets him, he shall put him to death. {20} If anyone with malice aforethought shoves another or throws something at him intentionally so that he dies {21} or if in hostility he hits him with his fist so that he dies, that person shall be put to death; he is a murderer. The avenger of blood shall put the murderer to death when he meets him.

As A Man Thinks In His Heart. (Proverbs 23:7) As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.

(Matthew 5:20-22) God deals with the roots, not just the fruits.

(1 John 3:15) Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.

Guard your heart (Proverbs 4:23) Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life.

Control your anger (Proverbs 19:11) The discretion of a man makes him slow to anger, and it is to his glory to overlook a transgression.

Bless & do good to your enemies (Romans 12:15 NIV)  Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.

(Romans 12:17 NIV)  Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody.

(Romans 12:21 NIV)  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Conclusion: God offers forgiveness. (2 Corinthians 5:17) If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things has passed away; behold, all things have become new.

 
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Posted by on October 8, 2017 in Doctrine, God

 
 
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