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A Book Review of The Preacher’s Portrait

June 30, 2010 3 comments

John Stott is an Anglican Clergyman and author of The Preacher’s Portrait. This book offers a transcription of a series of 5 lectures that Dr. Stott delivered in the 1960s. Although Dr. Stott’s opinions on the roles of men and women within the church are not ideal, his views on preaching could not be better. In his five lectures, Dr. Stott analyzes five aspects of the Christian preacher as revealed in Scripture: the preacher as steward, herald, witness, father, and servant.

Dr. Stott’s exegesis of certain biblical passages is superb and well-delivered. Consider what Dr. Stott remarks of the preacher’s stewardship: “The expository preacher is a bridge builder, seeking to span the gulf between the Word of God and the mind of man. He must do his utmost to interpret the Scriptures so accurately and plainly, and to apply it so forcefully, that the truth crosses the bridge” (p. 28). I cry with Dr. Stott, “May God make us faithful stewards!” (p. 32).

Dr. Stott then concludes rightly in his final chapter that “sermons are not intended to be ‘enjoyed’. Their purpose is to give profit to the hearers, not pleasure. … A sermon is never an end in itself, but a means to an end [which is the end of] ‘saving souls’” (p. 102). That statement was applicable in the 1960s; so much more so is it applicable now! Rather than give in to the world’s demands for less-than-biblical expository preaching, the minister’s “manner must conform to his matter; he must deliver God’s Word in God’s way” (p. 119).

Nowadays, preachers are largely discouraged from taking a biblical text and explaining it verse-by-verse. There are notable exceptions to this—notably John MacArthur and Mark Dever, to name two—but by and large, biblical preaching has fallen on hard days and even harder ears. This is a large problem, and one that Dr. Mohler tackles in his book, He Is Not Silent, which will most likely be the next book I review this summer.

Also, if you have any suggestions for future posts, I welcome any and all suggestions. You can email me at thingsthatareabove@gmail.com, or you can message me on my Facebook fan page.

The Necessity of Discipleship for Great Commission Living

June 29, 2010 Leave a comment
  • Take part in one-on-one or small group discipleship.

We come now to the last blog post in the Great Commission Living series. We come also to what is perhaps the most important post in the series: the necessity of discipleship for Great Commission living. As necessary as church discipline is, discipleship is needed just as much, if not more, since discipleship precludes church discipline. Recall Jesus’ Great Commission of Matthew 28:19. “Go and make disciples …” The authors of The Trellis and the Vine make it very clear that “to be a disciple is to be a disciple maker.” Discipleship is not an option; it is a command, and central to fulfilling the Great Commission. There are two types of discipleship: one-on-one and small group.

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Clarifications to My “Church Discipline” Post

June 28, 2010 Leave a comment

Hi. I’d like to clarify some things about my most recent post. By public sin, I meant a sin that is made public, particularly adultery. There is no explicit biblical mandate (that I know of) that commands the pastor to be the first to respond, but if he knows about it, I believe that his leadership within the church puts him in the best position to lovingly confront that sinning Christian church member with his sin. But admittedly, the pastor being the first to act is only my opinion based on the fact that the pastor is the one who leads the local congregation physically speaking.

At this point, please note that I am not exempting other Christians from confronting other Christians’ sin in love! I am merely saying that if the pastor knows, he should take the initiative (in my opinion) because of his leadership. But if he does not know, then other church members should then take the initiative. I am not “passing the buck” to the pastor and leaving out laypeople. On the contrary, I am merely expressing my belief that the pastor should act if he knows; but if he does not (or if he even possibly does not), then mature believers in the church should take the initiative and not lazily “pass the buck” to their pastor. See also 1 Thessalonians 5:14.

And I said that the “two or three witnesses” should also be church members because we are dealing with the church confronting and ultimately seeking to restore sinning members. The world is not involved in this process (or shouldn’t be).

Finally, I stress again that something the modern church has lost (but that the early church had) is a sense of accountability among Christians. We must regain this accountability if we are to truly live out the Great Commission.

Original full-length post: https://thingsthatareabove.wordpress.com/2010/06/28/the-necessity-of-church-discipline-for-great-commission-living/

The Necessity of Church Discipline for Great Commission Living

June 28, 2010 1 comment
  • Reclaim a vision of regenerate church membership by reclaiming corrective/redemptive church discipline as the biblical means of restoring believers to healthy discipleship and faithfulness.

Church discipline isn’t a pleasant topic to cover. Nor is church discipline a pleasant thing to do. But it’s biblical, and it’s necessary for us to fully obey the Great Commission. “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matt 28:19-20a). Part of what Jesus commanded the disciples was how to perform church discipline. Jesus does so in Matthew 18:15-17.

“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.

In these verses, Jesus lays out step-by-step what church discipline looks like:

  1. Confront the sinning Christian, “you and him alone.” (If the Christian’s sin is a public sin, the pastor of the church should do this.)
  2. If the Christian doesn’t repent, gather one or two other church members (preferably leaders and/or those close to the sinning brother), “that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses.”
  3. If the sinning Christian won’t even listen to two or three other Christians, “tell it to the church.”
  4. “And if he refuses to listen even to the church,” treat him as you would treat an unbeliever. As the ESV Study Bible’s commentary phrases this, the unrepentant sinning brother or sister “is to be excluded from the fellowship and thought of as an unbeliever. Gentile and tax collector describes those who are deliberately rebellious against God.”

To some, casting out an unrepentant Christian of church fellowship may seem harsh. But that was our Lord’s command. He commanded that a thoroughly unrepentant sinning Christian should be cast out of church fellowship because continuing repentance is one of the marks of a true Christian. When a true Christian is confronted with sin, he may still struggle with it, but he will not love it. He will seek forgiveness and restoration, not arrogantly disregard the warnings of fellow Christians.

In verses 15 through 17, Jesus listed the worst-case scenario. But what if this sinning Christian repents before being cast out as an unbeliever? (Or what if they repent afterward?) We receive the answer to this scenario in verses 21 and 22 of the same chapter. Right after Jesus gave the teaching on church discipline,

Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.”

So, if a sinning Christian refuses to repent and begin warring against this sin, he or she is to be cast out of church fellowship. But if he or she repents, evincing this by seeking forgiveness (and restoration, by extension), then the church should forgive him or her, even if they keep struggling with this sin 489 more times. Not that we must literally forgive others 490 times exactly, but we should forgive others so much that we always forgive them, even if they must ask forgiveness over and over. Nevertheless, if others continue to sin, if they are broken over this sin and genuinely seek forgiveness and restoration, we must grant it to them.

It must now be noted that church discipline is not penal; it is corrective/redemptive. Church discipline doesn’t seek to cast others out; rather, it seeks to restore a sinning Christian to a forgiven and restored relationship with the Church. Proper church discipline seeks to restore sinning members, not hastily cast them out! Nevertheless, proper church discipline does cast those out of fellowship who refuse to repent, who refuse to seek forgiveness after admitting their sin, who refuse to see their sin for what it is—rebellion against God—and to be broken and contrite over it. That is the fine line of biblical church discipline, and it must be walked. Without church discipline, the church herself deteriorates. This is where the American Church by and large is, a shell of her former self. Easy believism has led to the proliferation of non-fruitful Christians in our churches, which our Lord says are actually not Christians (Matthew 3:10). Church discipline, however, helps Christians to better grow in faith. Rather than regressing into old sin, the believer can press onward “for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” under church discipline (Philippians 3:15). I give you the argument of Hebrews 12:4-11. God disciplines us for our good.

In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. 5 And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?

     “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
          nor be weary when reproved by him.
     For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
          and chastises every son whom he receives.”

It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

But not only does God discipline us; sometimes He disciplines us through His Church. As the Hebrew writer addresses believers in Hebrews 12:15, “See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no ‘root of bitterness’ springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled”. Since it is God who disciplines us as sons, the Church should discipline her sinning brothers. That is the argument of the writer of Hebrews, and that is what I leave you with. Church discipline is not a matter of “do and do not.” No, church discipline is a matter of obeying the Bible and living out the Great Commission.

Making Church Membership Meaningful Again

June 27, 2010 Leave a comment
  • Reclaim a vision of regenerate church membership by emphasizing meaningful church membership through such practices as decision counseling, believer’s baptism, and new convert mentoring.

By and large, church membership doesn’t mean much anymore. At most churches, all you have to do is say, “I believe in Jesus Christ,” or, “I confess of my sins,” or pray a prayer, be baptized, and then you’re a member. And that’s it. You can now partake of the Lord’s Supper and vote for deacons. That’s what membership in many churches means today. Simply put, that’s not meaningful. Why? Because admitting people who simply profess faith is not enough. To admit unrepentant “Christians” (who are really unsaved) to the Lord’s Supper is to desecrate the Lord’s Table. We blissfully allow nonbelievers to eat and drink judgment on themselves by allowing them to join the church without exhibiting true repentance and faith! Notice what Paul says: “Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself” (1 Cor 11:27-29).

The Puritans in Jonathan Edwards’s day had this same problem of having a lax view of church membership. Jonathan Edwards pastored a church in Northampton, which had previously been pastored by his grandfather, Solomon Stoddard. Stoddard began this practice of easy membership at Northampton for the sake of admitting more people to the Lord’s Supper who were really saved but doubted their salvation. As a result of this, though, some unsaved people were admitted to the Lord’s Supper who weren’t really saved. This problem revealed itself years after Edwards had succeeded Stoddard, but Edwards had by then revised his view on church membership. As a result, he later refused to allow someone membership in the church who had not exhibited true repentance and faith. The subsequent conflict led to the end of Edwards’s pastoral ministry there.

We are in a similar quandary today that Edwards was in 300 years ago. He began life and ministry in a world of easy church membership. We live in a time when church membership (in most places) means even less than it did in Edwards’s day, for we don’t even practice church discipline, which the Puritans did to a fault. The problem is obvious: too many nonbelievers are church members. Now, goats (unbelievers) will inhabit the flock (church) of sheep (believers) until the Lord comes again (Matt 25:31-32). However, we should not willingly and knowingly allow this to happen.

There are two dangers in the requirements for church membership. Too lax a policy results in many more goats mixed in with sheep and gives many more unbelievers a false sense of salvation. Too legalistic a policy results in some genuine Christians being excluded. This is where the GCTF’s recommendations walk the fine line of biblical wisdom. While their recommendations will not weed out all unbelievers, it will weed out as many unbelievers as humanly possible; and their recommendations also do not exclude true Christians from full church membership.

Read more…

Cultivating a Great Commission Atmosphere in Your Church

June 26, 2010 Leave a comment
  • Work to cultivate a Great Commission atmosphere that is contagious in your church and that becomes the DNA of the pastor, staff, adults, students, youth and children of your local body of Christ.
  • Strengthen missions education in your church. Help make every believer aware of the global missions challenge.
  • Act on your awareness of the global missions challenge by giving sacrificially and/or by going on mission trips and/or by becoming a missionary.
  • Encourage and thank your pastor and other church teachers and leaders when a sermon, devotion, or other type of teaching is particularly gospel centered, driven by the inerrant and infallible text of Scripture, and applies the text to the lives of different kinds of people.
  • Honor the role of the evangelist and missionary, affirming the calling and witness of those who give their lives to the call of the gospel.
  • Give particular attention to the evangelizing and discipling of children and youth.

As you radically pursue the Great Commission personally, you will want others to join you. Even the apostle Paul did not work alone, but he had numerous coworkers. The whole Philippian church partnered with Paul “in the defense and confirmation of the gospel” (Philippians 1:7). Indeed, they were “engaged in the same conflict [of sharing the gospel in the face of conflict] that you saw I had and now hear that I still have” (v. 30). In addition to the Philippian church, Paul mentions many individual “fellow workers” in his letters, including Priscilla, Aquila, Urbanus, and Timothy (in Romans 16); Epaphroditus and Clement (in Philippians 2 and 4, respectively); and Philemon, Mark, Aristarchus, Demas [though he would later apostatize; cf. 2 Timothy 4:10-11], and Luke (in Philemon). For Paul the apostle, inspired directly by the Holy Spirit, to have so many fellow workers, so much more should we 2000 years later partner with others in gospel work and Great Commission living!

Your local church is the best (and biblical) place for you to partner with other Christians “to cultivate a Great Commission atmosphere … in your church” and to ultimately live out the Great Commission by going and making disciples by baptizing new converts and teaching them from Scripture (Matthew 28:18-20). Indeed, the writer of Hebrews writes of the importance of church fellowship in Hebrews 10:23-25.

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

The GCTF gives five ways to “cultivate a Great Commission atmosphere … in your church.”

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Radically Pursuing Great Commission Living

June 24, 2010 1 comment
  • Devote yourself to a radical pursuit of the Great Commission in the context of obeying the Great Commandments of loving God and loving others.
    • Develop strategies as an individual for praying for, serving, sharing the gospel and discipling neighbors, coworkers, and others with whom you come into regular contact.
    • As a family, pray for, serve, and share the gospel with neighbors, coworkers, and others with whom family members come into regular contact.
    • Bear witness to the Gospel through personal evangelism, seeing every individual as a sinner in need of the salvation that comes through Jesus Christ alone.
    • Personally grow in giving as an act of good stewardship and financial faith.

We must radically pursue Great Commission living in our own lives. The gospel radically changes us. 2 Corinthians 5:17 declares that every Christian is “a new creation” in Christ Jesus! Since we have been radically changed, we should radically pursue sharing the gospel and making disciples “in the context of obeying the Great Commandments of loving God and loving others.” Jesus called us to this radical life of love in Luke 6:27-31.

“But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.

Verse 31 sums up Jesus’ teaching in the prior verses: “as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.” We Christians have heard the gospel. Someone loved God enough and loved us enough to share the gospel with us. If we are glad that someone shared the gospel with us, so should we share the gospel with others! The GCTF’s Final Report gives us four helpful ways that we can radically pursue this sort of loving others by sharing the gospel.

Read more…

Categories: General Posts
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