"Ok, But What Do I Do?"

That's the question that is running through the mind of most church members at the end of each weekly sermon. It's also the question that most pastors feel the need to make sure they answer at the end of each sermon.

Kevin DeYoung reminds us though that while application is very important, not every text is focused on us doing something. Some texts call from us not some action, but rather an affection. Some sermons need to end with "Now, let us glory in this truth about Christ" rather than, "Now let's go out and do such and such."

Kevin concludes the post with these words:

Maybe we just aren’t as passionate about the person and work of Christ as we are about getting in people's faces (which, trust me, I also do). Or maybe we think people will be bored if they don’t get some good practical advice on their way out the door (and it’s possible they are more eager to hear three points of application than ponder the glory of Christ). Again, I’m not saying no text can end with imperatives. "Repent," "believe," "obey" are all biblical injunctions. But we must let the text determine the mood of the sermon and not tack on honey-do lists at the end of every message. Preachers ought to rebuke when necessary, when the text calls for it. But it makes for bad preaching and beat-up congregations when every sermon concludes with exhortation. Sometimes it’s ok to end the sermon by simply telling the people about Jesus.


Jesus' Kingdom Or Our Own?

J.D. Greear commented today on Luke 14:12-14.

12 He said also to the man who had invited him, “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. 13 But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14 and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. You will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.

J.D. concludes with these true thoughts:

I would think, however, that our passion for Jesus' Kingdom rather than our own would also seen in how much our church does for people "who can't pay it back." If a church spends almost all of its money on things that attract people who can come, increase audience size, and give, and not ministering to the poor of the city, or not sending people out, then that's probably a good indicator that that church only throws parties for those "who can pay it back." Obviously, most people that we reach will come and give (this is, of course, part of their discipleship!), but it seems to me that if all our money is strategically allocated for self-growth, and not for reaching the poor and sending out church planters, then we might consider if our work is really done for Jesus' Kingdom and not for ourselves.


God's Word Building God's Church

Aaron Menikoff writes over at Common Grounds:

Nonetheless, as a pastor I don’t want to spend my time looking for a new gospel that better reaches the culture. Nor do I want to look for the latest innovation to make the church I serve more relevant to the culture. I want to crisply, freshly, truthfully, spiritually, and powerfully apply God’s Word to the church and the culture. My prayer the first day of my ministry here in Atlanta and my prayer over a year into it remains the same: “Lord, help me trust that your Word will build your church.”
Trusting in God's Word to build God's Church.


Thoughts From Two Months Without a Church Home

It has been two months since we left the church in TN where I was pastor. That means it has been two months in which we have been going from Sunday to Sunday to different churches. I don't see how church shoppers/hoppers do it. It is not fun going from church to church each Sunday. Don't get me wrong, it is the same Holy Spirit that unites us as believers in the Gospel in whatever church we are in on Sunday morning and that is an amazing thing, being a part of the universal Church.

However, one of the two prominent thoughts that have become evident to us over these last two months is also amazing and missed. That is the importance and preciousness of the local church. While it is true that wherever we have been on Sunday mornings these past two months there has undoubtedly been a sense of the common bond of the Holy Spirit that unites the Church together through the Gospel, there has also been a realization of the preciousness of being a part of a local church together in Christ. The imagery used by Paul in 1 Corinthians 12 of the Body of Christ, no doubt, has a universal dimension to it. However, it seems best applied and intended in a local setting. I am not sure what part of the Body Holly and I are, but we at times feel like an arm or leg or toe or pinkie just laying somewhere on the ground, apart from the Body.

God is teaching us the preciousness of the local church--of being a part of a body of believers who have covenanted together for the cause of the Gospel locally and globally for the glory of God. Oh, how we miss the living out of the "one another's" of life in the local church. And so if you are a member of a local church somewhere, don't take it for granted. Cherish it and be amazed at the preciousness of it. At the other end of the spectrum, if you are one of those "believers" who thinks you can do just fine without being a member of a local church and being involved, Oh, how deceived and deprived you are. Join a sound local church of the Lord Jesus and be amazed at the preciousness of a local expression of the Body of Christ.

The other observation we have made in our two months of going from church to church is how little of the Gospel is preached in the pulpits of our churches. Now, don't get me wrong, we have heard good, solid exposition of the Scriptures each Sunday, wherever we have been. But for the most part, each Sunday, wherever we have been, we have left thinking, "That was a good exposition of the text, but something was missing. There was little to no Gospel."

Now, that is not to say that words such as "cross," "saved," "faith," and reference to Jesus' death and resurrection were not mentioned. They were. However, even when those words were mentioned they were not explained and very rarely was the Gospel skeleton of God, Sin, Christ, Response articulated in a way that a sinner could understand the holiness of God, the sinfulness of man, the remedy provided in the person and work of Christ, and the needed response of repentance from sin and faith towards Jesus Christ that leads to genuine conversion.

And I don't believe there has been one occasion of the application of the Gospel to the believer's life in any of those Sunday morning sermons. As C.J. Mahaney stresses over and over again in The Cross-Centered Life we never get over the Gospel and we never move on from the Gospel. As quoted in that book,

"The Gospel isn't one class among many that you'll attend during your life as a Christian, the Gospel is the whole building that all the classes take place in."

When was the last time, you heard a pastor apply the Gospel to your life and how you and I live day to day? Think about the passage your pastor preached from this past Sunday. Did your pastor make the Gospel clear from that passage? Did your pastor help both you and the unbeliever there see how to get to Calvary from that passage?

As J.I. Packer writes,

"The preacher's commission is to declare the whole counsel of God; but the cross is at the center of that counsel, and the puritans knew that the traveler through the biblical landscape misses his way as soon as he loses sight of the hill called Calvary."

In C.J. Mahaney's chapter in Preaching the Cross, he writes,

"In all our preaching, we must never lose sight of the hill called Calvary, where the Son of Man was killed in our place. Regardless of the text or topic at hand, there must be some view of Calvary in every sermon. Your congregation should experience the amazing and comforting sight of the crucified Savior each and every time you preach. They should anticipate the sight of Calvary in every sermon and rejoice when it comes into view, and all the more when the cross is not immediately obvious in the text. 'Where is the hill?' they should be asking. 'Where is that blessed hill on which our precious Savior died?' We should exalt Christ's finished work in our sermons so as to comfort the converted and convict the unbeliever."

I think that is the question we have been asking every Sunday after every sermon over these past two months, "Where is the hill?" "Where is Christ and the Cross?" "Where is the Gospel?" For instance, this past Sunday we heard a very good exposition of the passage in Luke 7 where Jesus visits the house of Simon and the sinful woman comes in and kisses Jesus' feet and washes his feet with her tears. The pastor made the point that Simon didn't notice this woman like he should have. He was too busy looking at the outward things in her life. He then went on to make the application that we too fail to see people around us and what God is doing in their lives.

Those were good points to make from the text, but they were made absent of the Gospel when it is the Gospel that is the foundation of those points. This woman's actions flowed from the Gospel--a realization of God's holiness, her sinfulness, Christ's person and work, and then the needed response of repentance from sin and faith in Jesus Christ. That's why she was acting the way she was acting. And the reason that Simon was acting the way he was acting, failing to see what the woman was doing, was because he failed to understand the Gospel--the holiness of God, his own sinfulness, Christ's person and work, and his needed response of repentance from sin and faith in Christ.

The application to the unbeliever is obvious. He/she is sinful and dirty just like this woman was in the eyes of a holy God. Their only hope is the same as hers--the person and work of Christ on the cross, dying for their sins, satisfying God's wrath agains their sin, and then repentance from sin and faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

The application to the believer is just as centered on the Gospel as well. It is a true understanding of and appreciation for the Gospel that leads to the kind of response that we see in the life of this sinful woman towards Jesus. And it is a drifting away from the Gospel that leads to seeing this sinful woman and her actions as Simon saw them.

Now, I am sure that pastor would affirm everything I just mentioned concerning the Gospel in relation to this passage in Luke 7. But the point is that it is not enough to just affirm it and it is dangerous to assume those connections to the Gospel. The pastor must make the Gospel and its application to the unbeliever and believer clear. In our pulpits, the Gospel is at best assumed, rather than asserted with clarity and explanation and at worse, ignored rather than investigated with conviction and exultation.

We are praying everyday that we will soon be where God wants us to serve in ministry. And we pray that in the mean time, and each Sunday until then we will not leave another Sunday service asking the question, "Where was Calvary?" And I pray for forgiveness for all the times that church members may have walked away from a sermon I preached and asked, "Where was Calvary?" I pray that that question is asked less and less of me and of the pastors of our churches altogether.


Adoption: More Than You Think It Is

Even as we are anticipating our third child, I still look forward to the day where, Lord willing, we can adopt a fourth child. I just began reading through Russell Moore's Adopted For Life: The Priority of Adoption for Christian Families & Churches.

Just wanted to share a couple of excerpts.

On why there is such an attack on babies throughout history, Moore writes:

"The demonic powers hate these babies because they hate Jesus. When they destroy 'the least of these', the most vulnerable among us, they're destroying a picture of Jesus himself, of the child delivered by the woman who crushes their head (Gen. 3:15). They know the human race is saved--and they've vanquished--by a woman giving birth (Gal. 4:4; 1 Tim. 2:15). They are grinding apart Jesus' brothers and sisters (Matt. 25:40). They are also destroying the very picture of newness of life and of dependent trust that characterizes life in the kingdom of Christ. (Matt. 18:14). Children also mean blessing---a perfect target of those who seek only to kill and destroy (John 10:10)"

The protection of children isn't charity. It isn't part of a political program fitting somewhere between tax cuts and gun rights or between carbon emission caps and a national service corps. It's spiritual warfare."

Possibly the most powerful paragraph or two I have ever read on adoption and orphan care:

"Think of the plight of the orphan somewhere right now out there in the world. It's not just that she's lonely. It's that she has no inheritance, no future. With every passing year, she's less 'cute,' less adoptable. In just a few years, on her eighteenth birthday, she'll be expelled from the orphanage or from the 'system.' What will happen to her then? Maybe she'll join the military or find some job training. Maybe she'll stare at a tile on the ceiling above her as her body is violated by a man who's willing to pay her enough to eat for a day, alone in a back alley or in front of a camera crew of strangers. Maybe she'll place a revolver in her mouth or tie a rope around her neck, knowing no one will have to deal with her except, once again, the bureaucratic 'authorities' who can clean up the mess she leaves behind. Can you feel the force of such desperation? Jesus can. She's his little sister.

What if a mighty battalion of Christian parents would open their hearts and their homes to unwanted infants--infants some so-called 'clinics' would like to see carried out with the medical waste? It might mean that the next Christmas there'll be one more stocking at the chimney at your house--a new son or daughter who escaped the abortionist's knife or the orphanage's grip to find at your knee the grace of a carpenter's Son.

Planned Parenthood thinks 'Choice on Earth' is the message of Christmas, and perhaps it is in a Christmas culture more identified with shopping malls than with churches. But we know better, or at least we should. Let's follow in the footsteps of the other man at the manger, the quiet one. And as we read the proclamation of the shepherds, exploding in the sky as a declaration of war, let's remind a miserable generation there are some things more joyous than choice--things like peace and life and love."

This need and this command to care for orphans is a part of the Great Commission Christ has given the Church. Let us think about these words and this need the next time we are tempted to purchase a car that is nicer than what we need or live in a house that is bigger and more beautiful than we need.