"Sermons should have real teaching in them, and their doctrine should be solid, substantial, and abundant. We do not enter the pulpit to talk for talk's sake; we have instructions to convey important to the last degree, and we cannot afford to utter pretty nothings. Our range of subjects is all be boundless, and we cannot, therefore, be excused if our discourses are threadbare and devoid of substance. If we speak as ambassadors for God, we need never complain of want of matter, for our message is full to overflowing.""Brethren, if you are not theologians you are in your pastorates just nothing at all. You may be fine rhetoricians, and be rich in polished sentences; but without knowledge of the gospel, and aptness to teach it, you are but a sounding brass and a tinkling cymbal. Verbiage is too often the fig-leaf which does duty as a covering for theological ignorance. Sounding periods are offered instead of sound doctrine, and rhetorical flourishes in the place of robust thought. Such things ought not to be.""Remain unwaveringly the champions of a soul-winning gospel. God's truth is adapted to man, and God's grace adapts man to it. There is a key which under God, can wind up the musical box of man's nature; get it, and use it daily. Hence, I urge you to keep to the old-fashioned gospel, and to that only, for assuredly it is the power of God unto salvation. ""Of all I wish to say this is the sum; my brethren, preach Christ, always and evermore. He is the whole gospel. His person, offices, and work must be our one great, all-encompassing theme."
"At any rate, whether you value the verdict of the church or not, one thing is certain, that none of you can be pastors without the loving consent of the flock; and therefore this will be to you a practical indicator if not a correct one. If your call from the Lord be a real one you will not long be silent. As surely as the man wants his hour, so surely the hour wants its man. The church of God is always urgently in need of living ministers; to her a man is always more precious than the gold of Ophir. Formal officials do lack and suffer hunger, but the anointed of the Lord need never be without a charge, for there are quick ears which will know them by their speech, and ready hearts to welcome them to their appointed place. Be fit for your work, and you will never be out of it. Do not run about inviting yourselves to preach here and there; be more concerned about your ability than your opportunity, and more earnest about your walk with God than about either. The sheep will know the God-sent shepherd; the porter of the fold will open to you, and the flock will know your voice."
It is a humbling thing for me to read a book. Most books take at least several hours of combined time to process, and I have to forsake other distractions in order to focus and benefit from what I am reading. Most of all, I can't talk back. I am forced to just listen, patiently follow and receive, to think another man's thoughts after him.One of the new desires placed into the heart of every believer is the desire to think God's thoughts after Him. Let's pursue humility by receiving the thoughts of those who have led us and spoken the word of God to us in the most enduring of all earthly mediums: the book.
It is with us and our hearers as it is with watches and the public clock; if our watch be wrong, very few will be misled by it but ourselves; but if the Horse Guards or Greenwich Observatory should go amiss, half London would lose its reckoning. So it is with the minister; he is the parish-clock, many take their time from him, and if he be incorrect, then they all go wrongly, more or less, and he is in a great measure accountable for all the sin which he occasions.
"Be advised to consider what others say of you and improve it to this end, to know whether you do not live in some way of sin...And though the imputation may seem to us to be very groundless and we think that they, in charging us so, are influenced by no good spirit; yet if we act prudently, we shall take so much notice of it as to make an occassion of examining ourselves ... it is most imprudent as well as most unchristian, to take it amiss, and resent it, when we are thus told of our faults: we should rather rejoice in it, that we are shown our spots ... we should improve what our enemies say of us. If they from an ill spirit reproach and revile us to our faces, we should consider it, so far as to reflect inward upon ourselves and inquire whether it not be so, as they charge us ... they are likely to fix on real faults, they are likely to fall upon us where we are weakest and most defective."
- Jonathan Edwards, The Necessity of Self Examination.
Calvin’s confidence was in the Word of God, and that’s why his theology and vision of the world continues to capture the minds and hearts of people in the 21st century. That’s why five hundred years later we remember his birth. That’s why Calvin the preacher and expositor has millions more spiritual children than Erasmus the scholar and hermeneutical skeptic. Strive for relevance in your day, and you’ll may make a difference for a few years. Anchor yourself in what is eternal and you may influence the world for another five centuries.No one will care about your GPA and SAT scores in ten years. If you win a state championship, you’ll be forgotten the next year you don’t. Your beauty will get wrinkles and trim figure plump. Write a great book and it will gather dust in a library some day. Have a big famous church, it won’t last forever. Be an important person in your field, you still be unknown to over 6 billion people in the world. Build an amazing house, it will crumble some day, if it doesn’t go into foreclosure first. All of our achievements and successes are destined to be like dead grass and faded flowers.
But...the word of our God stands forever. The word about Babylon in Isaiah 40 stood firm. and so will his word in our generation. All God’s declarations about himself and his people are true. All his promises will come to pass. Our only confidence is in the word of God. John Calvin was a man, an imperfect, sinful man, but a man that God used enormously because he put his confidence in the word of God.
Perhaps Christians are leaving the church because it isn’t tolerant and open-minded. But perhaps the church-leavers have their own intolerance too—intolerant of tradition, intolerant of authority, intolerant of imperfection except their own. Are you open-minded enough to give the church a chance—a chance for the church to be the church, not a coffee shop, not a mall, not a variety show, not Chuck E.Cheese, not a U2 concert, not a nature walk, but a wonderfully ordinary, blood-bought, Spirit-driven church with pastors, sermons, budgets, hymns, bad carpet and worse coffee?
The Church, because it is Christ’s church, will outlive American Idol, the NFL, and all of our grandkids. We won’t last, but the Church will. So when it comes to church, be like Jesus: love it, don’t leave it. As Saint Calloway once prophesied to the Brothers of Blues, “Jake, you get wise, you get to church.”