Seeking Eternal Life With All Your Heart

Via http://www.thedailyspurgeon.com/ 

O man, if thou wert in a burning house thou wouldst be eager to get out of it; if there seemed a probability that thou wouldst sink in a river thou wouldst struggle desperately to get to shore, how is it then that thou art so little moved by the peril of thy soul? Man is aroused when his life is once known to be in peril, how much more earnest ought he to be when eternal life or eternal death are the solemn alternative “What meanest thou, O sleeper? Arise, and call upon thy God!”

Look, moreover, at the greatness of the mercy which thou art seeking. It is none other than pardon of all thy sins, perfect righteousness in Christ Jesus, safety through his precious blood, adoption into the family of God, and eternal enjoyment of the presence of God in heaven. They that seek for pearls, and gold, and precious stones, use all their eyes and all their wits, but what are those gaudy toys compared with these immortal treasures? How ought a man to seek after heaven and eternal life? Should it not be with all his heart?

From a sermon by Charles Haddon Spurgeon entitled “A Second Word To Seekers,” delivered September 10, 1876.

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It Will Cost You!


In the days of hardship, particularly persecution, those who are in the process of becoming Christians count the cost of discipleship carefully before taking up the cross of the Nazarene. Preachers do not beguile them with false promises of an easy life or indulgence of sins. But in good times, the cost does not seem so high, and people take the name of Christ without undergoing the radical transformation of life that true conversion implies

 James Montgomery Boice
(Christ’s Call to Discipleship)

What Profit a Man?

I might say that nothing in the present life can make up for the loss of the soul. You may have all the riches of the world—all the gold of Australia and of California, all the honors which your country can bestow upon you. You may be the owner of half a continent. You may be one whom kings delight to honor, and nations gaze upon with admiration. But all this time, if you are losing your soul, you are a poor man in the sight of God. Your honors are but for a few years. Your riches must be left at last. Naked you came we into the world, and naked must you go out. No light heart, no cheerful conscience, will you have in life, unless your soul is saved. Of all your money or broad acres, you will carry nothing with you when you die. A few feet of earth will suffice to cover that body of yours when life is over. And then, if your soul be lost, you will find yourself a pauper to all eternity. Verily it shall profit a man nothing to gain the whole world if he loses his own soul.

JC Ryle (Our Souls)

Staying Strong in The Reality Gap

So how do you stay strong in the midst of the reality gap, when you find yourself drowning in painful feelings, dire circumstances, or broken relationships? The answer is simple – at least in theory. You cling to the promises of God and the God of the promises. You don’t have to understand; you just have to cling. the is the lesson that Abraham had to learn. Like so many of us, he had to learn the lesson not once, not twice, but repeattly. It took him a while to catch on. But we have an advantage over Abraham. We have the whole history of God’s faithful dealings with his people, recorded in Scriptures for our instruction. What is more, God promises to us have been signed and sealed in the broken body and shed blood of Christ. Abraham had to leave his home and his family on the strength of the bare word of God’s call. We have this further assurance; “[God] did not spare his own son, but gave him up for us all – how will he not also, along with him, graciuosly give us all things?” (Romans 8:32)

 

 

 

Living in the Gap Between Promise and Reality: Gospel According to Abraham (Gospel According to the Old Testament) (Paperback) – Iain M Duguid

Death by Church Activities

via ShareFaith

I once visited a church that had around 9,801 different activities. Somewhere around that number. There was even a special program for men whose hobby was smoking meat. I think they were called the Holy Smokers. I’m not totally against church activities and programs. Thanks to some great kids clubs back in the day, I’ve memorized more Bible verses than I would have otherwise. But, even though activities can do some good, they can also do some bad—even without your suspecting it. I call it “death by church activities.” Let me explain.

First of all, we need to find out what a “activity” is. Some call them church programs. Second, we need to find out what’s wrong with program overload. Can there be such a thing as too much of a good thing? Finally, we need to talk about a solution. There really is a better way.

This is a long article, so if you don’t want to read the whole thing, you can just watch the video at the end.

What’s an Activity?

I don’t do well with dictionary definitions, so let me try to paint a picture of a church with a lot of activities. By doing so, I think you’ll get the idea of what a program-driven church is.

Imagine that a family moves to a new town, and starts attending a church. They have a couple kids. Mom stays home with the kids. Dad has a decent job. They like the church and decide to “get involved.” So, the dad walks up to one of the church leaders and says, “Hey, we like your church. I think we’d like to get involved.”

“That’s great!” says the leader. “Let me tell you about our children’s program. The kids meet every Saturday morning from 9:30 to about 11:00. They have games, skits, snacks. It’s really awesome. And then we have a new program for guys called Sports4Salvation. You look like a pretty athletic guy, and you’re going to love our softball team. We won the championship last year. I’m sure your wife is going to love or TonsOfMums class. It’s just sort of an informal time where moms get together to study a good Christian book. (I think that they’re studying How to Be a Do-It-All Mom.) Oh, we also have an usher training program. It starts up next week. Anyone who is interested in being an usher—you look like the usher type, by the way—comes to a three day retreat up in the mountains, and we just hang out and learn about being a good usher. We’re a little short on ushers right now. Hey, does your wife like knitting? We’ve got a knitting group we just started, and a lot of the ladies are really enjoying the fellowship, and talking and stuff. My wife says its a good way to learn about what’s going on in everybody’s life at church. Oh, don’t forget to sign your kids up for our Super Summer Splash Space. It’s the VBS program, starting at the end of July. By the way, have you ever thought about hosting a Bible Man Group (we call it “BGM”) in your home? A few guys get together in small groups to study the Bible, and usually have some snacks or beer…and sometimes they watch a football or some UFC. I think you’d be a great fit for a host home. By the way, I don’t know if you guys have any pets, but you may be interested in signing up for our Christian Pet Care program. Since a lot of people are going out of town this summer, we have people sign up to take care of other people’s pets. Just a way of showing that we care, you know. And, let me get you a brochure for the Gospel Discipleship program that’s starting during the school year. We’re going to need you to fill out a few forms, and you can make the check out to the church. It’s just to cover the cost of materials. Hey, there’s a Men’s Breakfast tomorrow morning at 5:00am. I’m sure you’ll want to come to that. We get together for prayer…lots and lots of prayer. And food. So, there’s some good ways to get involved here. By the way, do you like to smoke meat? If so, I’ll tell about Holy Smokers. Well, I’m so glad you guys are interested in getting involved. And…uh…what was your name again?”

So, perhaps I exaggerate. But you get the point. At the program-driven church, the bulletin is full of two pages of “What’s Happening This Week?” The pre-reel for Sunday morning is full of “Save the Date,” “Clear your Calendars,” and “Don’t Forget.” Budget items are heavy on activity costs, new curriculum, food, and new books. Pastors are busy. The buildings are always full of activity. The calendar doesn’t have a blank day on it.

But it’s deeper than all that. All the programs of such churches are just a shell—a flashy, top-heavy, mechanized, monstrous shell—that conceals people. Underneath the shell of church programs, what’s going on? Are people having fun, or are they meeting Jesus? Are people staying busy, or are they being transformed? Are people getting stressed out, or are they growing in Christ? Are people getting the latest gossip, or are they learning the Bible? Are people pretending to have read the last chapter in their book discussion group, or are they actually able to talk to someone about their needs and burdens? A shell of programs can sometimes hide the emptiness inside.

The constant buzz of activity and bustle of church life can desensitize us to the real needs of our hearts. In fact, we can think that we’re being spiritual and productive by hustling thither and yon for church activities, but in fact we’re actually starving for some real growth and change. We’re neglecting real needs, as we rush to make the next meeting. We forsake family unity, and splinter off into age-segregated clubs, cliques, and groups. We rush to every church activity thinking that it’s going to make us better Christians, but really, deep down, we’re not doing so great.

What’s the Problem?

Maybe you can already see the problem.

Program-heavy churches look pretty awesome. They’re big, bustling, active, energetic, and children’s church feels like Disney World. There are youth groups with edgy names like J1BURN (Pretty cool, huh? I made it up. It means “Jesus is 1st, burn out for Him!” You can borrow it, if you want.) And there are clubs for the senior saints with clever names. There are events for every single demographic in the church. There are plenty of activities for everybody.

Even though the program-centric structure is flashy and big, the actual substance and mission of the church (people changing) isn’t doing too well. In fact, all those people who are trying to change are being stymied by all the activity.

Program-centric churches have become so commonplace that it’s hard to conceive of “church” apart from all the activities. The “church” has morphed into an institutionalized entity. Members give their time, effort, talent, and money to maintain the machinery of the institution. Now, instead of thinking of “church” as a body of believers, we tend to think first of programs, services, activities, and curricula.

Program-driven churches can cause major spiritual decline and it starts with the leadership. The leaders are the ones who have to keep the machine running. Keeping a church going is a tough job, but keeping a church along with 9,801 programs is even harder. Amidst the tornado of budgets, meetings, errands, visits, committees, PowerPoint presentations, organization, staff issues, hiring, firing, repairs, maintenance, and trying to drink enough coffee to stay awake, the leaders start to wear down.

As the leaders wear down, the church goes down, too. There’s no such thing as a leadership problem, without a follower problem. Do you see why? When church leadership crumbles, there will be fallout. Church staff become so busy keeping everything going, that they fail to take time with people. Even the teachers in the church may lack the time to adequately prepare Bible lessons. Leaders may feel that they don’t have time for their own personal Bible study and prayer time. There may be a trickle-down effect as the busy-busy-busy of church life consumes the individuals and families within the church. People may become disillusioned by the lack of vitality behind all the activity.

Program-driven churches can get out of control. Although the church may appear to be thriving, there may actually be a sad dearth of spiritual life in the individuals. People get neglected. People get used. People start to spiritually decline.

What’s the Solution?

Thankfully, there’s a great program that will change all of this.

(Just kidding.)

The remedy to death by church activity isn’t about adding another program. It’s not even about taking away all the activity, believe it or not. It’s about a fundamental shift in ministry philosophy…a thinking shift which eventuates in a seismic shift in ministry practice.

Be aware that a massive change in thinking doesn’t happen quickly or easily. Seismic shifts cause earthquakes. Allow me to shamelessly yank some phrases from Colin Marshall and Tony Payne’s excellent book, The Trellis and the Vine. The first part of the phrase represents the program-driven mindset. The second part of the phrase explains the new way of thinking:

  • From running programs to building people.
  • From running events to training people.
  • From using people to growing people.
  • From filling gaps to training new workers.
  • From solving problems to helping people make progress.
  • From clinging to ordained ministry to developing team leadership.
  • From focusing on church polity to forging ministry partnerships.
  • From relying on training institutions to establishing local training.
  • From focusing on immediate pressures to aiming for long-term expansion.
  • From engaging in management to engaging in ministry.
  • From seeking church growth to desiring gospel growth.

Those are packed phrases. They may have floated past you like a melodious foreign language, so you may want to read them again.

There’s a common theme to each of the above phrases. It’s a theme that defines the change in thinking. It’s all about people. True, programs are intended to help change people. Eventually, however, the program takes over, and it’s no longer about changing people; it’s about maintaining the program.

As leaders experience a shift in thinking, they begin to focus their time on people, relationships, and discipleship. But it’s not like church leaders need to meet with every person in their church for a one-on-one discipleship time. “Church” is not just about sermons; it’s about people engaging with people—a living, growing, organic, dynamic, authentic community of people. Ideally, discipleship happens among church members, not necessarily mandated and driven by the church’s leaders.

And it doesn’t happen through piling on more programs. It begins with that seismic shift in thinking. It begins by going to the Bible, and reevaluating what church is all about. It begins by understanding the role of the church’s leaders.

To inform His followers how to launch the Church, Jesus said, “Go and make disciples..baptizing them…teaching them.” (Matthew 28:18-20). That command still holds true. Are your ministry efforts true to the command? Is your church engaged in disciple-making, or program-maintaining?

The Theology of Church Picnic – John Piper

If picnics don’t have to do with God we may as well close up shop. Either all we do has to do with God or he is not God.  “Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do (like picnics), do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). “Whatever you do, in word or deed (like picnics), do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Colossians 3:17). So part of my duty as pastor-teacher is to help you see how even church picnics relate to God … continue reading.

History of Modern Gospel

Many false gospels exist in the United States. The History of the Modern Gospel series explores the root of these errors. Here are 6 short video series by RTM (Real Truth Matters). Pray that this will be helpful!


INTRODUCTION

SESSION 1: THE ROOT ERROR


SESSION 2: TOXIC INTELLIGENCE


SESSION 3: WELCOME TO THE CIRCUS


SESSION 4: I GOT A FEELING


SESSION 5: REPEAT AFTER ME


SESSION 6: GOOD FOR GOODNESS SAKE

 

Why Expositional Preaching? – 9marks (Mark 1)

Introduction

The purveyors of technique in today’s marketplace of ideas cringe to think that anyone would still be lauding the sermon as an effective pitch. Times have changed. Truth itself has changed. What communicates to the postmodern mind is narrative, journey, epic, vignette; not linear arguments, objective conclusions, or exclusive truth claims. The days of expounding the meaning and implications of a text are long gone. Meaning, like beauty, is now in the eye of the beholder. Universally binding morality is thereby supposed to be a mere myth, and so the authority of the preached Word of God is brushed aside as obsolete. Winning the culture means playing on their new field. So we are told.

But God’s Word has something to say about what we preach and how we preach it. What you’ll find on the following pages is a brief Biblical rationale for the primacy of expositional preaching in the local church. But that’s not all. You’ll also find some practical resources to encourage and facilitate the continuing development and increasing fruitfulness of your own expositional ministry. We’ll even walk you through the sermon preparation process. Learn what expositional preaching really is (and is not), and discover the difference between expositional sermons and other kinds of sermons. Learn how you can plan for feeding people a healthy diet of expositional meals months ahead of time, and thereby free yourself from worrying about what to preach on this week. Download audio samples of expositional preaching at its best.

What are the different kinds of preaching?

The Lay of the Land

The Definitions

  • Anecdotala sermon in which the preacher primarily tells engaging stories with a moral lesson.
  • Biographical – a sermon in which the preacher traces the life of a biblical character and draws contemporary moral implications.
  • Topicala sermon that has a topic in mind prior to consulting the text, and then searches for one or more biblical texts that address the topic chosen beforehand.
  • Textuala sermon that refers often to a particular Biblical text, but does not take the main point of the text as its own.
  • Expositional – a sermon which takes the point of the text as the point of the sermon

The Biblical Background for Expositional Preaching

The Biblical Primacy of Exposition

God’s Word gives clear primacy to exposition.

  • Many preachers and pastors today question whether the Bible really gives us any reason to think i that expositional preaching is the best way to preach.
  • But the prophetic nature of preaching and the performative nature of God’s Word reveal exposition to be best suited to unleashing the power of the text.

Exposition is primary because preaching is prophetic.

  • To say that preaching is prophetic is not to say that it is either predictive or ecstatic utterance – preachers are ambassadors, not prognosticators; and their source of revelation is God’s mediated written word, not His immediate verbal word. It is rather to say that preaching is about receiving God’s word and communicating it to God’s people in a way that is faithful to God’s intention.
  • Preaching is prophetic because it conveys God’s Word to God’s people. Exposition best handles the prophetic nature of preaching because the expositional sermon is unique for taking the point of the passage as the point of the message. It is therefore the best way to remain faithful to the content and intent of God’s Word in any given text.

Isn’t there only one kind of expositional sermon?

Ditch the disposable; Invest in Telephoto

  • Telephoto Preaching
    • Our preaching often becomes like taking pictures with a disposable camera – no zooming, no panning, focus isn’t guaranteed, and panoramics are unlikely.
    • Expositional preaching is like graduating to a telephoto lens – it gives you the ability to take a wider diversity of Scriptural snapshots from new angles and more perspectives with higher resolution, richer texture, and variable scope.
    • Since an expositional sermon is one in which the point of the passage is taken as the point of the sermon, we are just as free to ask “what is the point of Romans?” in one expositional sermon as we are to ask “what is the point of Romans 8:1a?” in another.
    • Proceeding from panoramic to microscopic, then, we may legitimately preach a single expositional sermon on the whole Bible, a whole testament, a whole book, a whole narrative or parable, one paragraph, one phrase, or a single word – as long as we are preaching the intended point of the selected meaning unit.
  • What are the Benefits of Expositional Preaching?

    The Benefits Package

    Benefits for the Pastor

    • Releases the pastor from Saturday Night Fever – the dreaded dilemma of what text to preach tomorrow morning.
    • Increases the likelihood of the pastor preaching the whole counsel of God over time.
    • Increases the pastor’s command of the Word by forcing him to study difficult or often-neglected texts for himself.
    • Increases the Word’s command of the pastor by giving him a broader exposure to the probing sword of Scripture, deepening his continued repentance and faith, incrementally increasing his knowledge of God, and therefore enhancing his Spirit-produced ability to please God in every way (Heb 11:6; Col 1:9-12).
    • Increases the pastor’s God-given prophetic authority in the pulpit by grounding his preaching in the divinely intended meaning of the text.
    • Increases the pastor’s God-given blessing in the pulpit by remaining faithful to the intention of the One who sent him to preach a specific message.
    • Increases the trustworthiness of the pastor’s preaching in the eyes of the congregation.

    What Should I preach, and when?

    Time Lapse

     “I want to preach the whole counsel of God, but that’s a pretty big counsel. How do I start, and is there a tool I can use to keep me on track?”

    • The principle to follow is to consistently expose yourself and the congregation you serve to all the different genres (types of writing) in Scripture. This way you won’t get stuck preaching Ephesians three times in five years.

    How do I Prepare an Expositional Sermon?

    Planning and Preparation

    Planning the Menu – Dietary Balance

    • The best sermon preparation doesn’t wait until the week (or day) before you preach. It starts months ahead by taking time to think through what you’ll be preaching over the next, say, four months.
    • So think big picture at the outset. What Scriptural food group has been lacking lately in your congregation’s diet? What part of God’s Word might go neglected if you’re not intentional about planning to preach it?
    • Think also about varying the type of expositions you do over this four-month period. For example, follow up a ten-week in depth study of Ephesians with a three-week overview series in the minor prophets.
    • Again, think in terms of providing your hearers with an objectively balanced diet of Scripture, not just in terms of what you think they need to hear based on their subjective circumstances, or of what your favorite books or passages are.
    • If you’re young or in a new pastorate, think about weighting the schedule with overviews so that you can provide a framework for later detailed expositions. But be warned: overview sermons are a LOT of work, so don’t overdo the overview.

    A Present Salvation

     

    Author of all existence, source of all
    blessedness,
    I adore thee for making me capable of knowing thee,
    for giving me reason and conscience,
    for leading me to desire thee,
    I praise thee for the revelation of thyself in
    the gospel,
    for thy heart as a dwelling place of pity,
    for thy thoughts of peace towards me,
    for thy patience and thy graciousness,
    for the vastness of thy mercy.
    Thou hast moved my conscience to know how
    the guilty can be pardoned,
    the unholy sanctified,
    the poor enriched.
    May I be always amongst those who not only
    hear but know thee,
    who walk with and rejoice in thee,
    who take thee at thy word and find life there
    Keep me always longing
    for your present salvation in Holy Spirit comforts
    and rejoicings,
    for spiritual graces and blessings,
    for help to value my duties as well as my privileges.
    May I cherish simplicity and godly sincerity of character.
    Help me to be reality before thee
    as in appearance I am before men,
    to be religious before I profess religion,
    to leave the world before I enter the church,
    to set my affections on things above,
    to shun forbidden follies and vanities,
    to be dispenser as well as a partaker of grace,
    to be prepared to bear evil as well as to do good.
    O GOD, make me worthy of this calling,
    that the name of Jesus may be glorified i n me
    and I in him.

    Valley of Vision

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