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I am beginning to read through the Psalms in my devotions. I will try to start commenting on some of them and hopefully you who read will be blessed by our Lord Jesus.

Psalm 3 (ESV)

O Lord, how many are my foes!
Many are rising against me;
2 many are saying of my soul,
there is no salvation for him in God. Selah

3 But you, O Lord, are a shield about me,
my glory, and the lifter of my head.
4 I cried aloud to the Lord,
and he answered me from his holy hill. Selah

5 I lay down and slept;
I woke again, for the Lord sustained me.
6 I will not be afraid of many thousands of people
who have set themselves against me all around.

7 Arise, O Lord!
Save me, O my God!
For you strike all my enemies on the cheek;
you break the teeth of the wicked.

8 Salvation belongs to the Lord;
your blessing be on your people! Selah

Tough times come upon those who believe. Whether it be as simple as common sickness or as complex as divorce and loss, treacherous times will come and they will threaten to take our eyes off of the cross of Christ. David has suffered things we will never experience. He has conquered enemies in holy wars and he has been threatened by his own king. He bears the responsibility, though he may not have known the extent of his importance in redemptive history, of being from the line which our Savior would come and of being a type of the Christ. On top of this he functions as the king of the people of God. His enemies are vast and they have surrounded him on all sides. They taunt him and his God. All seems to be falling in front of him.

But God is David’s protection; he is his glory. God is David’s rescue; he sustains the life he has given. Because of whose he is, David can be confident in the midst of trouble. He can stand strong in the face of thousands upon thousands of enemies. The Creator of the universe, the One who holds all things together, is the one who delivers from trouble; he is the One who saves us. The Christ, Jesus of Nazareth, brings salvation to his people. He is the mediator between God and man. He has delivered us from sin and death so that we can stand strong in this life because of the assurance we have in the life to come.

This salvation that God brings through his son belongs to Yahweh. Literally in Hebrew, “To the Lord is salvation.” “Salvation from from first to last, in every iota of it, belongs to the Most High God. It is God that chooses his people. He calls them by his grace; he brings them life by his Spirit, and keeps them by his power. It is not of man, neither by man” (Spurgeon. Psalms Volume 1. Crossway Classic Commentaries, 1993, pg. 11). God brings this salvation without the help of man.

Those whom God chooses to save are those who receive his blessing. Literally, “Upon your people is your blessing.” Paul echoes this in Ephesians: “God and Father…who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing” (1:3). God not only converts sinners, but also blesses them with the life that is in Christ Jesus. We have been chosen to experience joy, holiness, righteousness, obedience, and love. All of these things were foreign to us as much as we were foreign to God. Now we are able to stand in his presence because of the work of his beautiful Son, Jesus Christ.

When we call to him, “Arise!” or “Save me!” we can be assured that he will come. This assurance allows us to persevere in this life despite of the threats of our enemies. We wait together with David for the day that will come when God vindicates us by destroying our enemies. “For you, God, will strike all of my enemies on the cheek; you break the teeth of the wicked.” We can rejoice in our just and patient Lord who offers salvation to us and our enemies, but to those who do not repent he will severely punish.

In two weeks I will enter my last semester at Criswell College. During this last semester I will be studying Preaching the Old Testament. I usually try to get a head up on things before the semester begins, so I have begun reading on the topic.

I have just finished a book that is not required for the course I am going to take (but probably should be) entitled, Preaching the Whole Bible as Christian Scripture by one of my favorite authors, Graeme Goldsworthy.

This is easily the best book on preaching I have every read. I enjoyed Bryan Chapell’s book and John Stott’s book very much, but the difference in approach is what makes the cake for me.

Instead of approaching preaching and sermon preparation in a scientific manner, we should approach it in a revelation-oriented, gospel-centered manner. The difference between a book like Chapell’s Christ-Centered Preaching or Jerry Vines’ Power in the Pulpit and Goldsworthy’s book is the former focuses on the professional sermon preparation process, while the latter focuses on correct interpretation and application. It may be that in most preaching books the cart is in front of the horse.

When we begin to teach men how to preach the gospel we want them to be able to interpret the Bible before they preach it, don’t we?

I am with Goldsworthy when he laments the fact that hermenuetics has been placed on the backburner during sermon preparation. His goal is to provide a way for the preacher, no matter how well-educated, to be able to prepare sermons and sermon series that exalt Christ and his gospel and also place each text preached in its biblical-historical context. This is a great combination and the beginning of keeping teachers and preachers from ignoring the Old Testament and its riches in their ministries.

Overall, the book is excellent and should be on the shelf with Chapell, Stott, Piper, Spurgeon and Robinson. These books complement each other and will bring a balanced and gospel-centered approach to preaching.

When I was first informed that a major bridge in Minneapolis collapsed leaving many dead and more missing, my first reaction was, “I wonder what Piper is going to say.”

I think this impulse is due to the fact that Dr. Piper’s ministry is so influential in my life and in the lives of many of my friends. I know that when something like this happens Dr. Piper will speak the gospel into the situation.

That is exactly what he did.

These are the words that stuck:

 The meaning of the collapse of this bridge is that John Piper is a sinner and should repent or forfeit his life forever. That means I should turn from the silly preoccupations of my life and focus my mind’s attention and my heart’s affection on God and embrace Jesus Christ as my only hope for the forgiveness of my sins and for the hope of eternal life. That is God’s message in the collapse of this bridge. That is his most merciful message: there is still time to turn from sin and unbelief and destruction for those of us who live. If we could see the eternal calamity from which he is offering escape we would hear this as the most precious message in the world.

Read the entire article.

In the first part of this study we discussed the three parts of a Christian sermon, the message, the response, and the exhortation. I alluded to the apostolic sermons in the book of Acts as the obvious solution to our problems in preaching. (To review click here.)

 

To provide a basis for this point I would like to review Peter’s sermon in Acts 2 as the outline for our preaching.

 

Many of you remember this famous story where the Holy Spirit comes upon the believers at Pentacost and flaming tongues rest on the heads of men as they speak in “other tongues.” This evangelistic gift reaches out to many Jews from “every nation under heaven” as they hear the tongue-speakers speaking in their own native languages. People all around them were amazed and asking, “What does this mean?” But, as always when something extraordinary happens, many began to mock and call them drunkards.

This is the backdrop for the first post-resurrection sermon.

1. The Message

Peter’s words begin with the explanation of this strange event. He explains that this is the fulfillment of the prophet Joel’s words that the day of the Lord has come and uses that explanation to reinforce the impact of the gospel.

This is Peter’s message:

  1. You crucified and killed Jesus.
  2. God raised him from the dead.
  3. Jesus has poured out his Spirit.
  4. Jesus is now Lord and Christ.

2. The Response

This message, the gospel, was so powerful that Peter did not need an altar call. The men came to the apostles and asked, “What should we do?” Their response was one of acceptance and humility. This response leads to Peter’s exhortation.

3. The Exhortation

“Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Peter’s exhortation is what our exhortation should be every time we preach – “Repent from your sins and come to Jesus! He is the Son of God and no other.”

“And with many other words he continued to exhort them, saying, ‘Save yourself from this crooked generation.”

This model of preaching should be applied to our messages. In preparing our messages we should ask these questions:

  1. Where is the gospel in my message?
  2. How do I want my people to respond?
  3. What do I want my people to do?

These are the questions that will transform moralistic lessons into gospel-centered exhortations that your people will remember.

 Typically, homileticians and those learning from them see preaching as a science or a mysterious code that must be cracked in order to communicate clearly what their people need to hear. “How can we preach in a way that is clear, concise, and contemporary?” is the question they ask in their alliterating minds. This isn’t necessarily the wrong question to ask, but is asked wrongly.

The majority of pastors, Sunday School teachers, and others who do any teaching from the Bible, are asking questions without first questioning where they are coming from. Consequently, most of the questions are beginning with the audience rather than the gospel. This leads to an imbalanced and ineffective sermon. We will soon get to that imbalanced part, but they are ineffective simply because they do not tap into the power source that is the gospel. There is no gospel transformation if you remove the gospel; what you create in people is self-transformation or deadly religion.

The solution to this problem is obvious from the New Testament sermons recorded in Acts. But, since we are dealing with very scientific and programmatic preachers and laypersons I think it might help to lay out a simple, and admittedly oversimplified, outline for sermon preparation that leads to gospel proclamation.

Now would be the perfect time to criticize and tear apart the old forms and practices of preaching, but I will leave that for someone else on another day. My purpose here is to try to be proactive instead of retroactive.

1. The Message

Preparing a sermon must firstly begin with an affirmation of the message that is to be preached. As Christian preachers we make our only message the gospel. Without the gospel we do not have Christian preaching but some sort of pyschological pep-talk with no real power to change lives.

The gospel is the message we preach. In my understanding of Scripture and its unity and theology I am forever convinced that the gospel is in every text of the Bible. With that assumption I believe and practice that in every sermon the gospel must be present. If you are preaching Obadiah or Leviticus 15 or 1 Corinthians 11, we must preach the gospel. This is the message that has brought, is bringing, and will bring us into the Kingdom of God. Why preach anything else?

When we leave the gospel behind in favor of personal, applicational talks we make the Bible into something it is not. The Bible is not primarily instruction; it is news. It is a message about Jesus and what he has done for us. The common misconception among American evangelicals is that we come to the Bible asking the question, “What am I supposed to do?” instead of asking the Father, “Please make me like him.” Speaking about topics like marriage, self-image, parenting, and taking a stand for what is right, without the gospel only supports this erroneous presupposition. We must preach the gospel!

I do understand that sometimes the desire to preach towards certain topics and issues, like the ones listed above, comes from pure motives. But this does not remove the damaging effects of depriving the hungry from the food of the gospel. If you want your people to change and you want God to move in your community preach the gospel.

When preparing your sermon begin with the message, which is the gospel. When you open to your text to begin your study ask yourself, “Where is the gospel?” and I promise you will be blessed.

2. The Response

The message you preach will require a response. The response is either ‘yes’ or ‘no’; it is either, “I believe” or, “That’s not for me.” Too many times when the gospel is preached pastors do not confront the consequences for both responses. We must talk about them in our sermons and display the glorious riches that are ours in Christ and the waiting condemnation given to those who do not believe.

This part of your sermon will be probably be the shortest, but the most crucial. The absence of this section will allow two things, 1) easy believism and 2) unbelievers will not be warned of the coming judgment.

3. The Exhortation

This part of a sermon could be called “application” or may even include “illustrations” but I prefer to call it exhortation because the word encompasses all that you are trying to do in your sermons: to call people to the gospel. The solution is the same for the sinner and the saint and we as preachers are called to proclaim the truth that will set them free from bondage.

This time for exhortation will also satisfy your desire to be relevant and simple. It also answers the question, “What am I supposed to do?” Your exhortation will always include a call to repentance and a call to faith. Again, these are for both the sinner and the saint. Your exhortation can also include timely illustrations and specific applications as long as they are anchored in and saturated by the gospel.

I believe that this simple outline for preaching will enable preachers to preach the gospel more frequently and with more power. That will lead to a people who are transformed by the gospel and compelled to proclaim that same gospel to their neighbors, community, and world.

In creating a new blog I feel compelled to explain the background and basis for doing such a thing. I’ve kept blogs before – none of them ever being focused, but rather disheveled. The difference between then and now is that I have come to grips with key aspects of my worldview and what I believe to be the correct view of Scripture and theology. (Now, I do not mean correct as in “All others must bow before me!” but in the sense of confidence). I am firm in this approach to living as a theologian and follower of Christ and it has become a mission of mine to share my observations with whoever will listen (or read).

The phrase “new humanity” is not a new one but is the phrase that sums up my theology and in turn, my method. To understand this phrase I would like to begin a series of articles on this topic, explaining the concept in pieces and then summarizing it as whole.

The Gospel

The beginning and end of all things in life is the gospel. So in that assumption and conviction I begin the discussion of my theology with the gospel.

As I have just confessed, the gospel is the center of all theology. More than that, it is theology. We will explore that more later, but I must admit firstly that I believe the gospel is the most important thing in the universe and the way we react to it in thought and deed, or non-thought and non-deed, determines who we are. I think I know an old man who might agree (1 Corinthians 15:3-5).

Now we must define what the gospel is. If it is this important – and it is – then we must know what it is. The gospel is no less than the message about Jesus Christ that he has died for our sins, was buried and was raised again, verified by various eyewitnesses. That is the smallest the gospel gets. But we cannot stop there because it is only the beginning of the beginning. The exposition of these facts about Jesus is also part of the gospel. These implications and observations – the “fruits” of the gospel, should also be referred to as gospel. For example, when we refer to justification by faith alone we are talking about the gospel; when we talk about election, we are talking about the gospel. Therefore, when we talk about the gospel we carry a message that is much larger than a handful of facts about Jesus, although that is also what the gospel is.

Part of this message is the Kingdom of God. (There are many references made concerning the Kingdom of God in our day but often do not see that this Kingdom idea must be seen in light of biblical theology. I don’t want to get into biblical theology at this time, but I will say it is necessary for my theology.) The Kingdom of God is simply his sovereign rule through Christ over the world. This concept is clearly explained in the book of Mark. Jesus begins his ministry with the claim that the Kingdom is near and that men should repent and believe the gospel. After this quotation Mark so eloquently shows us how this Kingdom power has come in the person of Jesus through the calling of the disciples, the healing of the sick, the casting out of demons, and the calming of the sea. Christ is sovereign, having control over all things. This is because he is the creator of all things.

The Kingdom of God is not fully consummate and is therefore eschatological. The Kingdom is here through the power of Christ’s Spirit and its influence, but is not yet complete with all of Christ’s enemies placed under his feet. In this understanding we see the gospel as a message about Christ with an eschatological thrust. This end-time message is that those who do not repent and believe in the gospel will be dealt with at the end of this age – at the second coming of Christ. Simply put, if you accept Christ, he will accept you; if you reject Christ, he will reject you.

Keeping these things in mind we can now piece together a precise definition of the gospel. The best means of delivering the gospel message is through preaching (which is exactly what preaching is). So let us defined the gospel in the form of a gospel presentation.