Friday, June 15, 2007

Alistair Begg on Friday

Like John MacArthur, Alistair Begg is a fine and faithful preacher. A Scot now ministering in the US, Alistair is a particular help, in my opinion, to British preachers. His Scottish reformed heritage is very clear, while his preaching is both contemporary and colourful. There are few men as faithful to Scripture who are as consistently listenable! Daily broadcasts of Alistair's ministry from the Truth for Life radio program can be found here , while Alistair giving an update on his health (he has recently been treated for prostate cancer) can be heard here.

This first extract is from his little booklet 'Preaching for God's glory' - and I'll be back next Friday with a continuance of this.

In our day the expositor of Scripture has been eclipsed by a variety of sad substitutions. We will consider a few.

1. The cheerleader. This well-meaning fellow has a peculiar need to be liked and accepted. Whatever the context of a particular message, he is going to be positively inspirational. A good Sunday for him is one where his people laugh a lot, are affirmed and affirming, and go away more self-assured than when they arrived. Whether they were confronted by the truth of God’s Word or humbled by God’s presence is largely lost sight of in a quest for wholeness that replaces a concern about holiness. Such an individual often leaves the teaching of the Bible to small groups or home studies. The preacher’s task, he feels, is to ‘pump them up’ and prepare them for the daunting week that awaits them as soon as they leave the building.

Sadly, in such a case the sheep leave stirred but without being strengthened, and when the sugar fix provided by the mil-shake sermon has worn off, those with any kind of spiritual appetite wander off in search of more substantial food for their souls. The proper work of the preacher is thus not done.

2. The conjuror. When we hear the congregation declaring ‘Wasn’t it amazing what he got out of that?’ we should not immediately assume that the news is good. When the preacher refuses to do the hard work of discovering the actual meaning of the text in its context, and when he divorces discovery and application, just about anything can be conveyed – and often is!

Monday, June 04, 2007

MacArthur on Monday: When it’s time to go to war

From time to time I plan to include some quotes here from John MacArthur’s works; MacArthur is one of the doughtiest champions of truth in our day, as well as one of the most compelling. Read and enjoy!

Jude’s words stress the pressing urgency and the absolute necessity of the Truth War: ‘I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith’ (vs. 3). The expression ‘contend earnestly’ is translated from a strong Greek very epagonizomai, literally meaning ‘agonise against.’ The word describes an intensive, arduous, drawn-out fight. There is nothing passive, peaceful, or easy about it. Jude ‘exhorted’ them – meaning he urged and commanded them – to wage a mighty battle on behalf of the true faith.

Jude himself says he felt the necessity to write this command. He employs a verb that speaks of pressure. In other words, he sensed a strong, God-given compulsion to write these things. He was not writing them because he took some kind of perverse glee in being militant. He was not responding to a momentary whimsy or personal anger. This was critical, and since the writers of Scripture never wrote by human self-will, but only as they were moved by the Spirit of God (2 Peter 1:21), the extreme urgency of Jude reflects the sovereign influence of the Holy Spirit and therefore also the mind of Christ.

We thus have an urgent mandate from God Himself to do our part in the Truth War. The Holy Spirit, through the pen of Jude, is urging Christians to exercise caution, discernment, courage and the will to contend earnestly for the truth.

Notice what we are supposed to be fighting for. It is not anything petty, persona, mundane, or ego related. This warfare has a very narrow objective. What we are called to defend is no less than ‘the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.’

Jude is speaking of apostolic doctrine (Acts 2:42) – objective Christian truth – the faith, as delivered from Jesus through the agency of the Holy Spirit by the apostles to the church. As he says in verse 17: ‘Remember the words which were spoken before by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ.’

Notice: no one discovered or invented the Christian faith. It was delivered to us. It was not as if someone mystically ascended into the transcendental realm and drew down an understanding of the truth. We don’t need an enlightened guru to open the mysteries of the faith for us (cf. 1 John 2:27). The truth was entrusted by God to the whole church – intact and ‘once for all.’ It came by revelation, through the teaching of the apostles as preserved for us in Scripture. Jude speaks of ‘the faith’ as a complete body of truth already delivered – so there is no need to seek additional revelation or to embellish the substance of ‘the faith’ in any way. Our task is simply to interpret, understand, publish, and defend the truth God has once and for all delivered to the church.
(From ‘The Truth War’ by John MacArthur, pages 74/75)

Sunday, June 03, 2007

I'm hoping - really hoping - to do some serious blogging in the near future, with some input from various worthies. While I get that underway, here's a chapter from 'Reach out for him' - an evangelistic booklet by me, available from Day One.

Will there be a judgement?
‘… he has set a day when he will judge the world by the man he has appointed…’ (Acts 17.31)

When many people think of God, they think of a rather kindly old gentleman who could never be angry. The truth, though, is both better and worse than that!

It is better, because God’s love is greater than we could ever have guessed – great enough that he sent his Son, Jesus, to die in our place. ‘God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.’[i]

It is worse, though, because God’s holiness is so great that we needed him to send his Son. Let me explain.

While we know we are not perfect, we do not really think our imperfections matter very much. But the Bible calls them sin, and insists that sin is so serious God must judge it: ‘the wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men.’[ii] Sin is serious enough to bring God’s wrath. The place where God’s wrath is felt most painfully – and eternally – is hell.

It surprises many people to discover that Jesus spoke a great deal about hell. Many of the common descriptions of hell – a place of torment,[iii] a place of weeping and gnashing of teeth,[iv] a place of outer darkness[v] – actually come from Jesus himself. He knew he needed to warn us all how serious our sin is, and the imagery he uses is terrifying.

In fact, Jesus also told us that he would be the Judge: in the end, it is up to him who goes to heaven and who goes to hell.[vi] Judgement is a fearsome thing, for hell is real and we have all sinned.[vii] Happily, heaven is real, too – and forgiveness is possible for us all because Jesus died. Jesus said ‘This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.’[viii]

[i] John 3:16
[ii] Romans 1:18
[iii] Luke 16:23
[iv] Matthew 8:12
[v] Also Matthew 8:12 – this familiar phrase is from the Authorised Version.
[vi] Matthew 25:32
[vii] Romans 3:23
[viii] Matthew 16:28