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Not pity but a whipping for those staying under an unedifying ministry – Spurgeon

May 20, 2014 Comments off

Perhaps, again, you are saying, “Oh that I were as in months past!” not so much from your own fault as from the fault of your minister.There is such a thing, my dear friends, as our getting into a terribly bad condition through the ministry that we attend. Can it be expected that men should grow in grace when they are never watered with the streams that make glad the city of our God? Can they be supposed to wax strong in the Lord Jesus, when they do not feed on spiritual food? We know some who grumble, Sabbath after Sabbath, and say they cannot hear such and such a minister. Why don’t you buy an ear-trumpet then? Ah! but I mean, that I can’t hear him to my soul’s profit. Then do not go to hear him, if you have tried for a long while and don’t get any profit. I always think that a man who grumbles as he goes out of chapel ought not to be pitied, but whipped, for he can stay away if he likes, and go where he will be pleased. There are plenty of places where the sheep may feed in their own manner; and every one is bound to go where he gets the pasture most suited to his soul; but you are not bound to run away directly your minister dies, as many of you did before you came here. You should not run away from the ship directly the storm comes, and the captain is gone, and you find her not exactly sea-worthy; stand by her, begin caulking her, God will send you a captain, there will be fine weather by-and-bye, and all will be right; but very frequently a bad minister starves God’s people into walking skeletons, so that you can tell all their bones; and who wonders that they starve out their minister, when they get no food and no nutriment from his ministrations. This is a second reason why men frequently cry out, “Oh that I were as in months past!”
CH Spurgeon – Comfort for the desponding

Matt 13:11 – John Gill

January 20, 2011 Comments off

Mat 13:11  He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given.

He answered, and said unto them,….

Christ was always ready to give an answer to his inquiring disciples, concerning his ministry, and his conduct in it; which shows great respect to them, and condescension in him:

because it is given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven:

by the “kingdom of heaven”, is meant the Gospel, which treats of the kingdom of heaven, and of things pertaining to it; of the saints’ meetness for it, which is the regenerating and sanctifying grace of the Spirit; and of their right to it, which lies in the justifying righteousness of Christ. The “mysteries” of it intend the sublime doctrines thereof; such as relate to the Trinity of persons in the Godhead, to the incarnation of Christ, and the union of the two natures, human and divine, in him, eternal predestination, redemption by Christ, satisfaction by his sacrifice, justification by his righteousness, and pardon through his blood, the resurrection from the dead, &c. things, though clearly revealed, yet may have difficulties attending them, and which are not very easily solved: now to know and understand the great truths of the Gospel, spiritually, savingly, and experimentally, is not from nature, or to be acquired by men’s industry, but is the gift of God’s grace, flowing from his sovereign will and pleasure; a favour which the disciples of Christ, as a chosen people, receive from the Lord, and which is denied others:

but to them it is not given;

to the wise and prudent, to the Scribes and Pharisees, to the multitude, to the bulk and generality of the people, to the rest that were blinded. Mark calls them “them that are without”; who are not in the number of God’s elect; nor within the covenant of grace, nor among the disciples of Christ; referring to a common way of speaking among the Jews, who used to call the Gentiles, all without their land, “they that are without”; and indeed all within themselves that despised the rules and judgment of the wise men (i): but Christ here calls the wise men themselves such. Now our Lord, who was privy to the secret and sovereign dispensation of God, who, of his own will and pleasure, had determined to give a spiritual and saving knowledge of divine things to some, and deny it to others, made this the rule of his conduct in his ministry; that is to say, he preached in parables to some without an explication, whilst he spoke plainly to others; and, if in parables, yet gave them an interpretation, and an understanding of them.

The offence of the cross ceasing

March 14, 2010 Comments off

by Thomas Scott

Thomas Scott (1747-1821) was a Gospel preacher well equipped to demonstrate powerfully what is the difference between true Christianity and its false counterparts within the Church. The son of a Lincolnshire grazier, and the tenth of thirteen children, he was himself bound for the cattle farming business when he decided to opt for the ordained ministry, considering that occupation to be less arduous. At length his careless, liberal views and unsanctified life were brought to bear upon him – largely through the efforts of John Newton – and by the grace of God he repented at the feet of the Saviour. As an evangelical pastor he soon became a great force for good in the land and has long been remembered for his tireless work, including a Commentary on the Whole Bible.

THE OFFENCE OF THE CROSS CEASING

Leave out the holy character of God, the holy excellence of his law, the holy condemnation to which transgressors are doomed, the holy loveliness of the Saviour’s character, the holy nature of redemption, the holy tendency of Christ’s doctrine, and the holy tempers and conduct of all true believers: then dress up a scheme of religion of this unholy sort: represent mankind as in a pitiable condition, rather through misfortune than by crime: speak much of Christ’s bleeding love to them, of his agonies in the garden and on the cross; without shewing the need or the nature of the satisfaction for sin: speak of his present glory, and of his compassion for poor sinners; of the freeness with which he dispenses pardons; of the privileges which believers enjoy here, and of the happiness and glory reserved for them hereafter: clog this with nothing about regeneration and sanctification, or represent holiness as somewhat else than conformity to the holy character and law of God: and you make up a plausible gospel, calculated to humour the pride, soothe the consciences, engage the hearts, and raise the affections of natural men, who love nobody but themselves. And now no wonder if this gospel (which has nothing in it affronting, offensive, or unpalatable, but is perfectly suited to the carnal unhumbled sinner, and helps him to quiet his conscience, dismiss his fears, and encourage his hopes,) incur no opposition among ignorant persons, who inquire not into the reason of things; meet with a hearty welcome, and make numbers of supposed converts, who live and die as full as they can hold of joy and confidence, without any fears or conflicts. Its success perhaps may cause it to be cried up as ‘the only way of preaching for usefulness:’ while all discourse concerning the being, authority, and perfections of God; concerning the law; concerning the evil of sin; and concerning relative duties; is considered as only ‘hindering usefulness:’ and they only are thought to preach the gospel in simplicity, as they ought to do who preach in this manner. What wonder if, when all the offensive part is left out, the gospel gives no offence? What wonder if, when it is made suitable to carnal minds, carnal minds fall in love with it? What wonder if, when it is evidently calculated to fill the unrenewed mind with false confidence and joy, it has this effect? What wonder if, when the true character of God is unknown, and a false character of him is framed in the fancy,—a God all love and no justice, very fond of such believers, as his favourites,—they have very warm affections towards him? What wonder if, when these persons are of one mind, and admire and extol each other as the only favourites of heaven, they seem to be full of love to one another? It is not Christ’s holy image in them that they love, but their own image: and again I observe, Similis simili gaudet [like loves like].

The doctrines of the gospel would give no offence except to a few deep thinkers, were it not that, when properly stated, they imply the affronting truth, that every person, by sinning against a holy God, and breaking a righteous law, is justly deserving of eternal damnation, be his character in society ever so moral and respectable; and that we are all polluted and abominable, contrary to God, and loathsome through sin. Suppress this representation, and there is nothing affronting in any remaining doctrine, or offensive to any person, save to the reasoner, who, seeing so much done without any adequate cause, may scornfully exclaim, Cui bono? [What purpose is all this to answer?] —The bulk of mankind however belong not to the reasoning class, and will ever be ready to adopt any sentiments their teacher may inculcate, which do not alarm their fears, affront their pride, or call them to mortify their lusts: much more such as quiet their fears, soothe their pride, leave their corruptions untouched, and find them an excuse for not subduing them. And, though an outward reformation may generally be necessary; yet for the sake of a quiet conscience, sanguine hopes, and self-complacency, we all know how far men will proceed in this way.

I would not give needless offence. Let this matter be weighed according to its importance. Let the word of God be examined impartially. I cannot but avow my fears that Satan has propagated much of this false religion, among many widely different classes of religious professors; and it shines so brightly in the eyes of numbers, who ‘take all for gold that glitters,’ that, unless the fallacy be detected, it bids fair to be the prevailing religion in many places.—So far however as I can judge, no persons in the world express more acrimony against that sort of religion which strips the sinner of every plea, leaves him self-condemned and self-loathing, as a transgressor of a righteous law, and a rebel against a holy God, at the footstool of sovereign grace; which shews the sinner the absolute need there was of the death of Christ, the real nature of his satisfaction, the necessity of a total change of heart and life; and demonstrates that all true converts love the holy character and law of God, and are sincerely holy in all manner of conversation: no persons, I say, are more virulent haters, and more resolute opposers, of these views of religion, than those who are so full of the other affections, and of that sort of religion above described: which too plainly shews how things are with them.

Reference

Letters and Papers of Thomas Scott

Source

The call to the gospel ministry

July 16, 2009 Comments off

Many dangers lurk before a man when he is willing to accept a call to the gospel ministry on the basis of subjective experience only.

A subjective experience is no sure proof of the Lord’s will. The Lord has nowhere promised to speak to us except through the inspired and all-adequate Scriptures. When and as soon as we drift away from the inscripturated Word, then we have no way to know and ascertain the source of our thoughts and ambitions.

For the overseership of a local church is an ambition, a godly ambition, and one should approach it with fear and trembling. The pitfalls are many. And the most common is mere subjectivity, what I think, and that without reference to the Scriptures, to what the church thinks and everything else.

If you are to decide by your own feelings and sentiments, then you have landed yourself in the quicksand of deceitfulness. “The heart is deceitful above all things.” What you approve of by yourself and on your own authority is probably what the Lord is opposed to. Subjectivity turns a deaf ear to the Word, and it is to the Word that the Christian is bound.

Otherwise there will be anarchy in the church, and everyone will feel free to start his own little empire, in total disregard to how the Lord is working around him. If we are to decide by subjectivity, then Moses and Jeremiah, to name only two of the most stalwart ambassadors of God, would never have been prophets. Their inward feelings, and their strong convictions, were, “Lord, I don’t want to be a prophet; I am young; I am unable to speak; send someone else.”

It is ironic that most of the time, those who are really called from above are reluctant to accept, and those who are never called by God want to run and engage in their free-lance enterprises.

Subjectivity as the arbiter not only denigrates the ultimate authority of the Scriptures but also despises the church of God, and is a potential threat to the unity of the same church. Again, subjectivity is variable. What is feel strongly about today might change easily by tomorrow. And what will be my hold and stay in the days of trouble and testing? We need something permanent and unchangeable, and that is afforded by none else but the sure Word of God.

How to counsel youngsters who desire to enter the ministry

Spurgeon was still a teenager when he entered the ministry. I would be the last one to cast doubt upon the genuineness of his ministry. This is to say that the exception proves the rule.

If the young man is still young in the faith (as Paul calls him, a neophyte: a newly-planted one), then he is automatically disqualified. But I would take the young man aside and counsel him on the matter.

Basically I would take the truths and principles enunciated in Assignments 4 and 5, and explain to him what is involved in the matter. I would check whether this “call” is something subjective, without any solid and biblical basis.

If so, it does not auger well for him. On the whole, a sound piece of advise in such instances is to discourage potential candidates, and show them the hardships, disappointments and life of loneliness he has to endure for the sake of Christ and righteousness. (Generally people who are not called for the ministry suffer from a delusion that the ministry is a romantic calling).Spurgeon speaks about a farmer who told him that while he was in the fields he saw a could formation, “P.C.” The farmer was convinced that this was a message from the Lord, “Preach Christ.” Spurgeon had a different interpretation: “Pluck corn.”

The young man will need my help in bringing him down to earth once again, and show him the nitty-gritty of the ministry. I will do some Bible studies with him, using, for instance, 2 Corinthians 6:1-10 and 11:16-33. Also about the possibility of receiving a “Thorn in the flesh” to keep him from exalting himself unduly.

Warnings against wrongful entry into the ministry

1. Schism and apostasy.

The willful and obstinate man (or, as indicative of further apostasy today, woman) who endeavors to entry the ministry without due calling from above is acting upon his own impulses or upon the will of the people.

His credentials will be merely human; he has no backing from the Lord and being thus unqualified, he is easy prey to Satan, the deceiver of souls, to work apostasy through him. If the man was obstinate enough to start running when the Lord has not bidden him so, how much easier will it be for him to perform and do things contrary to the Word, as did Jeroboam (1 Kings 13:33-34).

2. An uncalled man is so dangerous in the ministry, whatever his academic qualifications might be.

The sorry thing today is that most churches accept a man on the evidence of his diplomas and degrees, which is merely the world’s measure. I am not casting a shadow upon the importance of studying the Word, far from it; the minister is meant to be fully approved in this sense, to be a real scholar, but after all is said and done, mere intellect is not enough, if the man does not enjoy the anointing. Entering the pulpit at your own volition will lead you to adopt worldly standards or accommodate the Truth of God when pressured to do so. And pressures will come, constantly and persistently. As an aside, let me say that 2 weeks ago I preached on stewardship and the Christian’s obligation to give his tithes and offerings to the Lord. A man and his wife have just withdrawn from the church on hearing this; and they have been attending for many years. Shall I thus lower the standards?

No. 3. An uncalled man has no authority.

Oh yes, he will probably have denominational authority, but the godly minister craves above all things to be endued with power from above. The real and inherent authority belongs to Jesus Christ, and it should be from him that the preacher receives his authority.

4. The uncalled man flies in the face of established authority in the church of God.

The Lord desires that his people will function together with orderliness, not in confusion and “everybody doing what is good in his own eyes.” But the uncalled man is such a person; he does not properly regard the church and the authority vested to her.

5. The hireling (as the Good Shepherd called him, John 10) will run when he sees the wolf coming, and the wolf will scatter the sheep.

“All who have come before me are thieves and robbers.” They care nothing for the sheep. Milton complained about the situation in his day, “The hungry sheep look up and are not fed” (Lycidas). It so happens that the hireling will sound in people’s ears what they want to hear, not what the Lord commands to be proclaimed (cf. 2 Timothy 4:1ff). Thus, when times of stress arrive, the hireling will not be found.

On the contrary, the caring shepherd will remain, for better or for worse. “Therefore, having received this ministry, we faint not.”

6. The uncalled person has no promises on which to lean and feed his own soul.

God guarantees his comforting presence and power only to those whom He knows. Cf. Exodus 4:12; Isaiah 6:7-8; John 20:21. Through thick and thin, the true minister will survive for his soul thrives upon the gracious promises of God. (It does not mean, though, that the true minister will not experience periods of depression and disappointments, such as Elijah and Paul did. Paul despaired even of life, 2 Corinthians 1; but through this trail he learned all the more to trust in God who raises the dead).

7. The great and all-embracing purpose of the ministry is to extol God’s Name and that, in calling the church and sanctifying it, all would redound to his own glory, in the exhibition of his grace and wisdom.

Now the church is made up of people who are obedient to Christ. Obedience is the ultimate proof of our love to Christ. “If you love me, keep my commandments.” One of his commandments is that only those who are ordained by the Holy Spirit (Acts 20) are to be committed with the charge of his own people. But the uncalled man hardly shows this love to the Lord, for his is acting not out of obedience but out of his own whims.

Ways to test your call to the ministry

1. THE SCRIPTURAL TEST.

This is really the touchstone and determining factor above all else. Whatever other test is mentioned is in a very real sense already included in this test. The others tests are expansive of this one. By the Scriptural test we mean measuring up the prospective candidate for the ministry by the rule of the Word. 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 are two comprehensive passages that describe the qualifications of the bishop/elder/pastor. Does he satisfy the qualifications; if yes, and he’s willing to do the work, and the church approves of him, then he’s really called; if no, then his place is not in the ministry, at least not for the time being.

2. THE STRETCH TEST.

The candidate should have an earnest aspiration for the gospel ministry. It should not be the case that out of a choice of careers, the only one left available is the gospel ministry, and so, whether he likes it or not, he enters it. An epithumos (strong desire) should be evident, way too evident, otherwise the prospective candidate, though qualified according to the Scripture, is not yet ready.

3. THE CONSTRAINT TEST.

Somewhat similar to no.2, but seen from another angle. There should be a divine sense of necessity, such as Paul spoke about in 1 Corinthians 9:16. A compelling conviction is what drives him on. When Jeremiah, in his distress, said, “I will speak no more of Him,” then the hidden Word became in his heart as a burring fire; he could not hold it in any longer. Paul desired intercession on his behalf “that I may open my mouth with confidence, and proclaim the mystery of the gospel, as I ought to speak” (Ephesians 6).

4. THE GIFT TEST.

The true gospel minister is recognizable by his intellectual, social, domestic, and spiritual giftedness. He is well-equipped for the task. Not all ministers are equally gifted, but they are all qualified, as Paul describes himself and his fellow-ministers, “Able (competent) ministers of the new covenant” (2 Corinthians 3:6).Among other things, he should be apt to teach. What he has he is able to communicate effectively to others. He keeps his family in order and dignity. If he fails in this, then it is evident that he is not able to take care of the family of God.

5. THE PROVIDENTIAL LEADING TEST.

It is precarious to attempt to interpret God’s providence, for it is mysterious and way beyond our thoughts. Under this heading, I am simply referring to the fact that God places his prospective ministers is such places and times and circumstances that they will be given the opportunity to work in his vineyard. Actually, God knows from the very first who will be his minister; thus from birth he is somehow training him and leading him up to the actual exercise of his ministry, though we may not be able to decipher his ways (cf. Galatians 1:15).]

6. THE CHURCH TEST.

We are not meant to act on our own. Even in knowing the love of Christ, we are meant to experience and know it “with all the saints” (Ephesians 3). The church is a body; all members are interdependent, and least of all, the ministers should never impose themselves upon the congregation to be accepted and recognized as ministers.

Rather it is the church’s prerogative as a body to recognize the calling and giftedness of a man, and thus to ordain him. A beautiful instance of this is found in Acts 13, where it is said that the Holy Spirit called Paul and Barnabas as missionaries, and later it is said that they were sent out by the church. The church acts in according with God’s will and sets its seal of approval upon her ministers, which were chosen and sent by the Holy Spirit. This makes for really effective and God-honoring ministry.

Also it is within the context of the church that the man is to be examined and proved as far as his competence goes. The church, on the basis on the evidence of blessing in one’s life, has the authority to recognize her ministers. “No man takes this honor upon himself, but him that is called of God” (Hebrews 5).

Source

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