Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Preacher Must Be A Serious Man...

From D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ Preaching & Preachers, pp. 85-86:
The preacher must be a serious man; he must never give the impression that preaching is something light or superficial or trivial….What is happing [in the act of preaching] is that he is speaking to them from God, he is speaking to them about God, he is speaking about their condition, the state of their souls. He is telling them that they are, by nature, under the wrath of God–”the children of wrath even as others”–that the character of the life they’re living is offensive to God and under the judgment of God, and warning them of the dread eternal possibility that lies ahead of them. In any case the preacher, of all men, should realize the fleeting nature of life in this world. The men of the world are so immersed in its business and affairs, its pleasures and all is vain show, that the one thing they never stop to consider is the fleeting nature of life. All this means that the preacher should create and convey the impression of the seriousness of what is happening the moment he even appears in the pulpit. You remember the famous lines of Richard Baxter: “I preached as never sure to preach again, and as a dying man to dying men.”…You remember what was said of the saintly Robert Murray McCheyne of Scotland in the last century. It is said that when he appeared in the pulpit, even before he had uttered a single word, people would begin to weep silently. Why? Because of this very element of seriousness. The very sight of the man gave the impression that he had come from the presence of God and that he was to deliver a message from God to them. That is what had such an effect upon the people even before he had opened his mouth. We forget this at our peril, and at great cost to our listeners.
[HT: The Gospel Coalition Blog]

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Perseverance of the John 3:16?

Spurgeon thinks so. I see it now, too.

In a sermon titled "Immeasurable Love", which C. H. Spurgeon preached July 26th, 1885 at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, a sermon based entirely on John 3:16, he said:
[Whosoever believeth], his faith shall not perish, for this promise covers it - "Whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish." The penitent has believed in Jesus, and therefore he has begun to be a Christian; "Oh," cries an enemy, "let him alone: he will soon be back among us; he will soon be as careless as ever." Listen. "Whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish," and therefore he will not return to his former state. This proves the final perseverance of the saints; for if the believer ceased to be a believer he would perish; and as he cannot perish, it is clear that he will continue as a believer. If thou believest in Jesus, thou shalt never leave off believing in him; for that would be to perish. If thou believest in him, thou shalt never delight in thine old sins; for that would be to perish. If thou believest in him, thou shalt never lose spiritual life. How canst thou lose that which is everlasting? If thou wert to lose it, it would prove that it was not everlasting, and thou wouldst perish; and thus thou wouldst make this word to be of no effect. Whosever with his heart believeth in Christ is a saved man, not for to-night only, but for all the nights that ever shall be, and for that dread night of death, and for that solemn eternity which draws so near. "Whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish;" but he shall have a life that cannot die, a justification that cannot be disputed, an acceptance which shall never cease.

Monday, July 20, 2009

The Reformed Resurgence

Collin Hansen has an ongoing series over at The Resurgence, titled The Reformed Resurgence, in which he briefly chronicles the major players in the comeback of reformed/calvinistic theology in the American Evangelical church. I have benefited greatly from each of the pastors and ministries Hansen mentions thus far, and I consider myself and our church a part of this resurgence. If you want to know more, consider continuing with this series, and also consider ordering Hansen's book, titled Young, Restless, Reformed: A Journalist's Journey with the New Calvinists. Hansen's book and other work has also been helpful to me on this journey.

Blogposts in Hansen's series thus far:

John Piper and Bethlehem Baptist Church
Al Mohler and Southern Seminary
C. J. Mahaney and Sovereign Grace

[I'll add to this list once the series is completed.]

Thursday, May 28, 2009

John Piper: Radical Christian Sacrifice... Oh, How Beautiful.

This is so beautiful, and convicting, and inspiring. May I be the kind of pastor, the kind of Christian, who dies to self and lives for Christ. Even more so, I would count it the greatest honor and privilege of all to be counted among those who have died for Jesus Christ, in the midst of radical, bright, beautiful risk-taking and sacrifice. May we honor Him in life, AND in the way that we die.

Oh, to know the sweetness and joy of the fellowship of His sufferings...

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Five Hours On The Road...Five Sermons

This last year of so, since I got an IPod Nano, I've really enjoyed traveling. What I mean is, I enjoy the driving part - a lot. I've gotten in the practice of loading up the Nano with more mp3 sermons than I can possibly listen to - sermons that I hand-pick because of specific topics I'm working on in my life, or certain things I'm dealing with in ministry, or the latest conference messages from some of my pastoral heroes.

This trip has been no different. It takes five hours to get from our house to Onalaska, Wisconsin, and I was able to listen to five one-hour sermons. One by C. J. Mahaney, two by John Piper, and two by D. A. Carson (links below). These men are giants of the faith, and towering examples for those of us in the ministry. I so enjoy learning from them. These messages are excellent examples of why the above statements are true. I hope you take the time to listen to them - or at least bookmark them so that you can put them on your Nano for your next trip...

(1) C. J. Mahaney, "The Holiness of God" [from perhaps 25 years ago!]
Apparently C. J. had just recently read R. C. Sproul's The Holiness of God, and was greatly affected - as evidenced by the passion exhibited in this sermon. If you need to hear of the holiness of God, and hear again why it is not unjust for God to have killed folks in the Old Testament, then proceed. You will benefit from this sermon.
(2) and (3) John Piper, "Jesus and the Rescue of Joy (Parts 1 and 2)" [Boston, April 19, 2009]
Have you seen the Piper DVD series, "The Blazing Center"? This is that series in a nutshell, but in two sermons (with a short-but-great Q&A at the end of the second sermon). Great content here. Why is it okay for God to orchestrate and demand the worship of Himself? How are His glory and our pursuit of happiness reconciled? Can they be? And, if we are to pursue our joy in God and at all costs, doesn't that simply produce really selfish and unloving Christians? ...Piper answers all of these questions masterfully here.
(4) D. A. Carson, "The Cross and Christian Ministry (Acts 17:16-34)" [October 8, 2006]
What was Paul's evangelistic or gospel-telling strategy in a polytheistic and pluralistic and relativistic culture, and a culture that literally has no awareness of the greater biblical narrative? Proceed. It's interesting how our current cultural environment is looking more and more like the First Century...
(5) D. A. Carson, "Motivation for Ministry" [Australia, September 1, 2008]
An exposition of 2 Timothy 1 and 2. What ought to motivate the Christian minister?

Friday, April 3, 2009

Twitter. So be it.

Do you Twitter? Well, I do. I'm at least trying it out. Find me if you'd like: search for "GavinRetzer", and give me a "tweet".

Saturday, March 28, 2009

New FBC Brookings Logo

C. J. Mahaney: "But don't I need more than the cross?"

Thanks to Tim Brister for this C. J. Mahaney quote...

Do we ever move beyond the cross, beyond the gospel? Is there any sense in which we "graduate" from the gospel? The question Mahaney is addressing is, "But don't I need more than the cross?"

“In one sense, the answer is no. Nothing else is of equal importance. The message of Christ and Him crucified is the Christian hope, confidence, and assurance. Heaven will be spent marveling at the work of Christ, the God-Man who suffered in the place of us sinners.

In another sense, the answer’s yes. You do need more. You’ve been saved to grow, to serve in a local church, to do good works, and to glorify God. But the ‘more’ you need as a follower of Christ won’t be found apart from the cross. The gospel isn’t one class among many that you’ll attend during your life as a Christian–the gospel is the whole building where all the classes take place! Rightly approached, all the topics you’ll study and focus on as a believer will be offered to you ‘within the walls’ of the glorious gospel.

Name any area of the Christian life that you want to learn about or that you want to grow in. The Old Testament? The end times? Do you want to grow in holiness or the practice of prayer? To become a better husband, wife, or parent? None of these can be rightly understood apart from God’s grace through Jesus’ death. They, and indeed all topics, should be studied through the lens of the gospel.”

- C.J. Mahaney, Living the Cross-Centered Life: Keeping the Gospel the Main Thing (Sisters, OR: Multnomah, 2006), 149-150.

John Piper: You Need The Gospel Every Day

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Spurgeon: Trials As Stepping-Stones To Greater Things

This Charles Haddon Spurgeon quote is taken from Steve Miller's great little book on Spurgeon, called, C. H. Spurgeon on Spiritual Leadership:
"Faith leads us to believe in difficulties being overruled to promote success. Because we believe in God, and in His Holy Spirit, we believe that difficulties will be greatly sanctified to us, and that they are only placed before us as stepping-stones to grander results. We believe in defeats, my brethren; we believe in going back with the banner trailed in the mire, persuaded that this may be the surest way to lasting triumph. We believe in waiting, weeping, and agonizing; we believe in a non-success which prepares us for doing greater and higher work, for which we should not have been fitted unless anguish had sharpened our soul. We believe in our infirmities, and even glory in them; we thank God that we are not so eloquent as we could wish to be, and have not all the abilities we might desire, because now we know that 'the excellency of the power' shall 'be of God, and not of us.' Faith enables us so to rejoice in the Lord that our infirmities become platforms for the display of His grace."

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Six Worthy Pastoral Goals...

This seems like a pretty full picture of what pastoring ought to be all about. This list of six pastoral goals comes from a book by Derek Prime and Alistair Begg entitled, "Being a Pastor" [HT: Biblical Preaching].

1. Feed the flock - John 21:15-17

2. Proclaim the whole will of God - Acts 20:27

3. Present everyone perfect in Christ - Colossians 1:28-29

4. Prepare God’s people for works of service - Ephesians 4:12

5. Equip God’s people to be fisher’s of men - 2 Timothy 4:5

6. Keep watch over oneself until the task is complete - 1 Timothy 4:16

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Why I Don't Do Altar Calls

Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones answers quite effectively (courtesy of Banner of Truth):

Early in the 1970s Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones was the speaker at a ministers' conference in the USA and at a question session was asked the following question:

Q: During recent years, especially in England, among evangelicals of the Reformed faith, there has been a rising criticism of the invitation system as used by Billy Graham and others. Does Scripture justify the use of such public invitations or not?

A: Well, it is difficult to answer this in a brief compass without being misunderstood. Let me answer it like this: The history of this invitation system is one with which you people ought to be more familiar than anyone else, because it began in America. It began in the 1820s; the real originator of it was Charles G. Finney. It led to a great controversy. Asahel Nettleton, a great Calvinist and successful evangelist, never issued an "altar call" nor asked people to come to the "anxious seat." These new methods in the 182Os and were condemned for many reasons by all who took the Reformed position.

One reason is that there is no evidence that this was done in New Testament times, because then they trusted to the power of the Spirit. Peter preaching on the Day of Pentecost under the power of the Spirit, for instance, had no need to call people forward in decision because, as you remember, the people were so moved and affected by the power of the Word and Spirit that they actually interrupted the preacher, crying out, "Men and brethren, what shall we do?" That has been the traditional Reformed attitude towards this particular matter. The moment you begin to introduce this other element, you are bringing a psychological element. The invitation should be in the message. We believe the Spirit applies the message, so we trust in the power of the Spirit. I personally agree with what has been said in the question. I have never called people forward at the end for this reason; there is a grave danger of people coming forward before they are ready to come forward. We do believe in the work of the Spirit, that He convicts and converts, and He will do His work. There is a danger in bringing people to a "birth," as it were, before they are ready for it.

The Puritans in particular were afraid of what they would call "a temporary faith" or "a false profession." There was a great Puritan, Thomas Shepard, who published a famous series of sermons on The Ten Virgins. The great point of that book was to deal with this problem of a false profession. The foolish virgins thought they were all right. This is a very great danger.

I can sum it up by putting it like this: I feel that this pressure which is put upon people to come forward in decision ultimately is due to a lack of faith in the work and operation of the Holy Spirit. We are to preach the Word, and if we do it properly, there will be a call to a decision that comes in the message, and then we leave it to the Spirit to act upon people. And of course He does. Some may come immediately at the close of the service to see the minister. I think there should always be an indication that the minister will be glad to see anybody who wants to put questions to him or wants further help. But that is a very different thing from putting pressure upon people to come forward. I feel it is wrong to put pressure directly on the will. The order in Scripture seems to be this - the truth is presented to the mind, which moves the heart, and that in turn moves the will.

Friday, October 10, 2008

The doctrine of election ought not divide Christians.

Charles Spurgeon:
We give our hand to every man that loves the Lord Jesus Christ, be he what he may or who he may. The doctrine of election, like the great act of election itself, is intended to divide, not between Israel and Israel, but between Israel and the Egyptians, - not between saint and saint, but between saints and the children of the world. A man may be evidently of God’s chosen family, and yet though elected, may not believe in the doctrine of election. I hold there are many called, who do not believe in effectual calling, and that there are a great many who persevere to the end, who do not believe the doctrine of final perseverance. We do hope that the hearts of many are a great deal better than their heads. We do not set their fallacies down to any willful opposition to the truth as it is in Jesus, but simply to an error in their judgments, which we pray God to correct. We hope that if they think us mistaken too, they will reciprocate the same Christian courtesy; and when we meet around the cross, we hope that we shall ever feel that we are one in Christ Jesus.
HT: Pastor and People

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

I am ashamed of every sermon I preach.

Richard Baxter:
For myself, as I am ashamed of my dull and careless heart, and of my slow and unprofitable course of life, so, the Lord knows, I am ashamed of every sermon I preach; when I think what I have been speaking of, and who sent me, and that men’s salvation or damnation is so much concerned in it, I am ready to tremble lest God should judge me as a slighter of His truths and the souls of men, and lest in the best sermon I should be guilty of their blood.

Me thinks we should not speak a word to men in matters of such consequence without tears, or the greatest earnestness that possibly we can; were not we too much guilty of the sin which we reprove, it would be so.

HT: Pulpit Magazine

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Revival = The rediscovery of radical, God-centered Christian living.

"This is what revival is all about—a church experiences revival when a large number of people get red hot about trusting Christ, and red hot about turning to God for help, and red hot about loving others, especially the lost, and red hot about showing the glory of God. That's revival. That's spiritual awakening. It's the rediscovery of radical, God-centered Christian living. And it is intensely practical. It will change more at home and work probably than it will at church."

- John Piper. Excerpt from the sermon, "Practical Help for Praying for Help," delivered on January 3, 1988.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Leader Study: What Is A Healthy Church Member?

Beginning next week, the leaders of First Baptist Church (Brookings) will be reading, studying and discussing Thabiti Anyabwile's newest book,"What Is A Healthy Church Member?" (from 9 Marks Ministries, published by Crossway).

In the following video, Thabiti shares a bit about the purpose of the book, and Ligon Duncan shares the reason why he is using this book in his church as part of an evangelism class.

Perhaps the best thing about this video is that, for the first time ever, I heard Thabiti's full name pronounced - I had no idea how to pronounce his name!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Mark Dever: How Were Old Testament Saints Saved?

This is a question that I have been asked from time to time, particularly by young folks who are beginning to grapple with some of the tough questions for the first time.

This answer comes from Mark Dever, senior pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., executive director for 9 Marks Ministries, and trustee of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Mark gave this answer through the media ministry of The Gospel Coalition, a ministry near and dear to my heart...