A Sermon I Got to Preach on Isaiah 61 [VIDEO]


Believe it or not, I don’t really have much experience at all in preaching. Yeah, I’ve spoken and “preached” at some things, but I’ve still never offered the preached proclamation at a Sunday worship service. It’s an area I’ve wanted to grow in for a while.

To that end, I took a preaching class last semester for my seminary program. It was a powerful course that changed my whole relationship to both the Bible and the act of preaching. Each of us wrote and presented a sermon on an assigned text. The sermons were recorded, and I’m offering mine here today. It opens with some brief words on the context I had in mind when preparing this.

I hope it meets you and speaks to you, wherever you are. The video is above, the text and my manuscript are below. You can also download files for both the audio or the manuscript.

Special thanks also to an old friend, J. Chord Barnes of ASERWorks Media, for fixing some audio issues in the original recording and remastering it for me. Check him out at the link above. Continue reading

The Trinity building the Church! | Acts 20.28

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Keep watch over yourselves and over all the flock, of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God that he obtained with the blood of his own Son.

Acts 20.28

Wow, here’s the whole Trinity at work in leading God’s church! Would that we give more attention to this Trinitarian nature to the sustaining of our churches. Also, notice how Jesus’ blood “obtained” the Church. He didn’t merely create the space of possibility. He went out and got it. It is is his.

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.

The Sermon’s Essence & Power | 1 Corinthians 2.1-5

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When I came to you, brothers and sisters, I did not come proclaiming the mystery of God to you in lofty words or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified. And I came to you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling. My speech and my proclamation were not with plausible words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God.
1 Corinthians 2.1-5

This encourages me so much in preaching. No matter the exegesis, eloquence, or whatever, we preach Christ and him crucified, and that makes a good sermon. We also live a life in accordance with that outside of the sermon and it supports our preaching as well. Just as in the nature of God Himself, our words and our deeds cannot be separated from one another.

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.

When your church’s “cultural relevance” fails | Acts 14.11-18

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When the crowds saw what Paul had done, they shouted in the Lycaonian language, “The gods have come down to us in human form!” Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul they called Hermes, because he was the chief speaker. The priest of Zeus, whose temple was just outside the city, brought oxen and garlands to the gates; he and the crowds wanted to offer sacrifice.

 

When the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of it, they tore their clothes and rushed out into the crowd, shouting, “Friends, why are you doing this? We are mortals just like you, and we bring you good news, that you should turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them. In past generations he allowed all the nations to follow their own ways; yet he has not left himself without a witness in doing good—giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, and filling you with food and your hearts with joy.”

 

Even with these words, they scarcely restrained the crowds from offering sacrifice to them.

Acts 14.11-18

This is in contrast to Paul’s later methods at Mars Hill in Chapter 17. Here we see that not every “contextualization” is created equal. Sometimes, your “relevance” could be dragging people to worship yourself or false idols. As preachers, we should always be on the lookout for this, and to constantly speak against it.

On another note, that bold part (v.15) should be the model for every single sermon.

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.

How Preaching Saved Me from Evangelicalism’s Bible


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If I’ve learned anything the past few years, it’s that Evangelical Fundamentalism is absolutely right: as I’ve embraced more and more what conservatives often label a “liberal” view of the Bible, it really has negatively affected my spiritual and devotional life.

When you think the Bible is itself the “infallible, inerrant, Word of God”–when you think that the precise words themselves hold a magical power–you do approach the Bible with a greater amount of awe, respect, and mysticism. I’ve written before how it wasn’t until college that I read any of the Gospels on my own, because I had this fear of reading the “literal, unfiltered” words of Jesus. They seemed so big and other-worldly to me.

I’ve loved the Bible my whole life. I still have the first Bible I was ever given as a child. I still vividly remember the evening on my parent’s bed after they had read a Psalm that had been stuck in the middle of the stories about David that it finally clicked for me that the Bible wasn’t just narratives, but also poems and other kinds of writing.

My Southern Baptist upbringing has got it engrained in me that my entire spiritual and devotional life should revolve around this book. No matter how much I tell myself otherwise, something in me always has (and always will) “evaluate” my spiritual health by how I engage the Scriptures, in both quantity and quality.
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Seminary & Ministry in the Post-Everything World


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All last week I was in Holland, MI attending another one of our in-person sessions for my seminary program. It was another week with amazing people, at an amazing place, learning and discussing amazing things.

One of that classes I had was my preaching class. Over the course of five days, every one of us in the class got up and preached a 15-20 minute sermon. Every person–again, every. single. person.–did amazingly well. There were many surprises. People delivered messages that we could not have anticipated, in both skill and content.

Imagine listening to 14 full-on sermons in the course of a few days. It’s emotionally draining; it’s intense; it’s life-giving. It’s trying to drink from a fire hose of God’s Word and Spirit.

One benefit of this is that I got to get a glimpse into the future of the Church’s preaching ministry, and I am happy to say that I am really encouraged.

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What the heck is Preaching, even?


peter-preaching-statueFor my preaching class, we’ve been trying to get at what this weird thing called “preaching” really is. It’s not a lecture, it’s a not a conversation, it’s not a debate. So what is it? Here are some of my random thinking on this. But I’d love to hear yours.

As much as I want something far more profound and original, I have not been able to find anything simpler and clearer than Alan of Lille‘s definition: “Preaching is an open and public instruction in faith and behavior, whose purpose is the forming of men [sic].”

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Random Thoughts on Preaching: The Trinity


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First: Our worship is a participation, mediated by the Spirit, in Christ’s Communion with the Father.

In this Trinitarian picture of worship, where does preaching fit in? Well, there is an eternal “conversation” happening among all the members of the Trinity. The divine words of Creation are presented as an “overflow” of this divine conversation. So to me, preaching is a Spirit-“infused” (and humanly articulated) mediation of the words between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Because the Spirit enables our union with Jesus, and because Jesus is joined to the Father, we find ourselves mystically and intimately in union with the whole Trinitarian God Himself. And so, preaching is–in a sense and at its best–an articulation and “listening in” on this eternal “trialogue” within the Godhead.

The world having been created through and for the Son means that the Father’s words to the Son are now his words to and for us. And this Word that is spoken to the Son by the Father is the Gospel. When it is offered to humans, this eternal, mysterious articulation of the Gospel in the Godhead is always mediated and contextualized in order to be received and perceived by the hearer. This is why the Bible is the way it is.
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When & How to Criticize Other People’s Pastors | 1 Corinthians 4.2-5

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Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found trustworthy. But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. I do not even judge myself. I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive commendation from God.
1 Corinthians 4.2-5

What does this mean? At least right now, my instinct is to take it like this: outside of clear sin issues, we should not divide and judge other Church leaders (nor effusively favor them). If you can’t find clear sin issues in their lives, churches, or teaching, then don’t demean their doctrine, style, gifting, or missional emphases. In the same way, though, even if there are no clear sin issues going on, don’t exalt them because of their doctrine, style, gifting, or Missional emphasis.

If a church doesn’t fit for you, fine. Go in peace to love and serve the Lord. But don’t bad-mouth, criticize, gossip, complain, or be overly-sensitive and judgmental at them. To both conservatives and liberals, neither of us should criticize other members of the family, no matter how kooky they are–not even for what we feel is “bad” teaching. “Sinful” teaching, however is another issue. Clear historical heresy, teaching that abuses and harms the dignity of humanity, and things like prosperity preaching are examples of things that should be judged harshly and criticized.

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.

I’m terrified of becoming a Pastor


paul-art-wingThis seminary semester, I’m taking classes on both Preaching and the Emotional/Spiritual/Psychological Identity of Pastors. So yeah, get used to seeing more posts like this on the blog. This week, in my “Pastor class” we did readings and had a lecture on “vocational hazards” and discerning one’s “call” to ministry. We were asked about what challenges and encourages us most about this possibility of being “called” to serve the Church in pastoring. Here were my thoughts. 

The biggest fear going into this course–and reinforced in the lecture–is the whole question of whether it is my “False Self” that is called, rather than my True Self. I have spent much of my life following Spurgeon’s (I think) advice that if you feel called to ministry at all, try to do everything else in your life you possibly could do. If you still end up in ministry, then congratulations, you were called.

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“How to rail against sex stuff” by St. Paul | 1 Corinthians 5.9–13

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I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral persons— not at all meaning the immoral of this world, or the greedy and robbers, or idolaters, since you would then need to go out of the world. But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother or sister who is sexually immoral or greedy, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or robber. Do not even eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging those outside? Is it not those who are inside that you are to judge? God will judge those outside. “Drive out the wicked person from among you.”
1 Corinthians 5.9–13

Oh what a loving and common sense principal for how to engage the sexual immorality of others. Paul sounds like such a liberal (or the Pope, haha) here when he says that it is not his place to judge or condemn those outside the church. He in essence says that they are acting exactly as they should act. There should be no shock, surprise, or offence at “the culture” acting like “the culture”. No railing against the immorality of society. Instead, work to foster purity among the people of God. We are to be more eager to spend time with the “immoral” outside the church then the immoral inside the church.

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.

Luke on the New Perspective on Paul | Acts 15:1,8-11

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Then certain individuals came down from Judea and were teaching the brothers, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.”…
Acts 28.23-31

This is a great summary of the argument for the New Perspective on Paul. The key is the line about Moses. It’s not about works righteousness, but ethnic identity.

And God, who knows the human heart, testified to them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as he did to us; and in cleansing their hearts by faith he has made no distinction between them and us. Now therefore why are you putting God to the test by placing on the neck of the disciples a yoke that neither our ancestors nor we have been able to bear? On the contrary, we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.”
Acts 15:8-11

Another quick NPP note. Notice here that Peter is not contrasting salvation by yoke versus salvation by grace, but that grace will also save them just as the Jews believed it saved them.

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.

Justice, Self-Control, & Judgment| Acts 24.24-25

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Some days later when Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was Jewish, he sent for Paul and heard him speak concerning faith in Christ Jesus. And as he discussed justice, self-control, and the coming judgment, Felix became frightened and said, “Go away for the present; when I have an opportunity, I will send for you.”
Acts 24.24-25

These are very odd, very specific things. It’s funny that these things shook him so much to the core. I wonder what it was specifically that was enough for Luke to include this? Was the Justice Paul talked about more along the lines of the wrath of God, or more like equality in society and Social Justice (that would surely shake a wealthy local governor!). It was probably something like the fact that God would make all things right someday. Maybe the judgment piece made him scared? But either way, personally, I find it interesting that the one that scares me the most is the call to self control.

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.

We are descendants of the Covenant| Acts 3.24-26

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And all the prophets, as many as have spoken, from Samuel and those after him, also predicted these days. You are the descendants of the prophets and of the covenant that God gave to your ancestors, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your descendants all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’ When God raised up his servant, he sent him first to you, to bless you by turning each of you from your wicked ways.”
Acts 28.23-31

In this, we see that we, the New Covenant People of God, are still members of the covenant that’s been in effect the whole time: the Abrahamic Covenant. It is not done away with; only brought under a new administration: that of Christ.

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.

Paul’s ministry thesis & maybe Theophilus’ identity? | Acts 28.23-31

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After they had set a day to meet with him, they came to him at his lodgings in great numbers. From morning until evening he explained the matter to them, testifying to the kingdom of God and trying to convince them about Jesus both from the law of Moses and from the prophets. Some were convinced by what he had said, while others refused to believe. So they disagreed with each other; and as they were leaving, Paul made one further statement: “The Holy Spirit was right in saying to your ancestors through the prophet Isaiah,

‘Go to this people and say,
You will indeed listen, but never understand,
and you will indeed look, but never perceive.
For this people’s heart has grown dull,
and their ears are hard of hearing,
and they have shut their eyes;
so that they might not look with their eyes,
and listen with their ears,
and understand with their heart and turn—
and I would heal them.’

Let it be known to you then that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will listen.”

He lived there two whole years at his own expense and welcomed all who came to him,31 proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.
Acts 28.23-31

What a thesis statement for all of Paul’s ministry and the books of Luke: the hard-heartedness of the Jews and the inclusion of the Gentiles. Perhaps this was a main reason why Luke wrote both of these books to the mysterious Theophilus. Maybe he wrote these to offer assurance to this Gentile man (as evidenced by his Roman name) of his inclusion in the mission and salvation of God.

On a side note, it’s odd that this statement of the Gentile inclusion in the family of God (throughout Paul’s preaching) rests primarily on the a story of the preaching ministry of Paul. It’s well-known that Luke draws literary parallels between Jesus in the Gospel of Luke and Paul in Acts. But since this was being written to Theophilus, and these writings about Paul seem to rest on an implied authority and trust that it seems Theophilus would have had in Paul (if he said it, then it must be true), then could this be a hint that Theophilus met Paul at some point or even that Paul was the one that converted him?

Just a thought. A pure, conjectural thought.

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.