“A prayer for preachers” by D.A. Carson

“Keep revising, praying, and preparing so it is not so much that you have mastered the material as that it has mastered you. There is a way of preaching in which you project an image of being an expert. There is a way of preaching in which you project an image of having been captured.

The latter is gained partly by continually revising, thinking through, and how you express yourself. It’s also attained by where your heart is, how greatly you think of God and of Christ and of the Gospel and how little you think of your preparation even though you’ve been so diligent at it. Let’s bow in prayer.

In truth, merciful God, we discover to our shame that we are not very consistent and we often slip and slide and become intoxicated by peripheral things. O Lord God, in the pressure on our time help us to make choices that are wise, honoring to You, for our people’s good. In the midst of counseling and caring and basic administration, remind us again and again that we are called to the ministry of the Word and prayer.

With all that means for study and preparation as well as for delivery, with all that it means for explaining the Bible to a single person, bringing the comfort of the Word to someone who is ill in the hospital or in an evangelistic group explaining your most Holy Word to people who don’t have a clue, with all that it means for sermon preparation, we confess humbly that we are, at best, unprofitable servants and that what we achieve we achieve by Your grace.

Make us, we beg of You, as holy as pardoned sinners can be this side of the consummation. Make us workers who do not need to be ashamed, rightly interpreting the Word of God. Help us so to grow in life and doctrine that others will see our progress and glorify You. Whether our charge is large or small, whether it is viewed as strategic or in some way removed from the hubbub of life, grant that our deepest concern will be for the well-being of the men and women over whom You have placed us as under-shepherds.

Grant to us the deepest desire to keep our eyes fixed on Christ Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has now sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high. We bless You, Lord God, for the immense privilege of Christian ministry, and in its sorrows and hurts, give us a forbearing, forgiving spirit, a persevering grace that lives with eternity’s values in view.

In its moments of triumph and joy, help us to understand that as we work out our salvation, it is You working in us both to will and to do of Your good pleasure. As we grow in love for one another, help us to eschew every hint of the green-eyed monster so we start comparing service records and sizes of church.

Help us rather to be faithful to the One who has called us to live with eternity’s values in view, to delight in faithfulness in small things, to look forward to the approval of the Master Himself on the last day: ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in a few matters; I will make you ruler over many things.’

Have mercy on us, Your people. Teach us not only understanding but tears. Help us to rejoice with those who rejoice and to weep with those who weep, and so to show ourselves mastered by the text that our very blood will be Bibline, prick us and we bleed Scripture. This for Christ’s sake, Amen.”

–D.A. Carson, “Preaching through Bible Books,” in D.A. Carson Sermon Library (Bellingham, WA: Faithlife, 2016).

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“All that He is, He is for His children” by Wilhelmus à Brakel

“The excellency of the children of God is so great that it exceeds all comprehension. This may be known in some measure by considering their origin and state. The origin and state of a child of God is more excellent than anything imaginable.

To be the child of a king is a great thing in this world. Many boast of the fact that they consider themselves among the descendants of kings and of great men of the world; some pagans boasted of being descendants of the gods.

What then must it be to be a child of God Himself who has all glory within Himself, is above all praise, and has made everything? Everything belongs to Him. All creatures and all kings of the earth must be at His service and His beck, and must obey Him to the minutest detail.

He accomplishes all that He wills, and is nothing but love and goodness. And all that He is, He is for His children.

They are of divine descent. Let kings and princes boast of their descent. Let nobility, by way of a long succession of noble ancestors, ascend to generations of higher origin.

And let families who are now poor and of low estate be encouraged by the fact that their ancestors at one time were noble–all this is at best but an earthly honor.

Oh children of God, you must, however, consider your descent to be from God Himself, not only as Creator (which you have in common with everyone else, and which can only cause us to be ashamed, considering that we have fallen away from this majestic God, have thus become His enemies who are worthy to be punished by Him), but that you have been adopted as children by Him and appointed to be the objects of His fatherly goodness.”

–Wilhelmus à Brakel, The Christian’s Reasonable Service, Volume 2, Ed. Joel Beeke, Trans. Bartel Elshout (Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books, 1700/1994), 2: 417.

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“He has lavished His grace on us” by R.C. Sproul

“The true believer savors every crumb that comes from the hand of God. The good news is that in the overflow of mercy and grace that comes to us from the hands of God, even though we should be satisfied with crumbs, He is not satisfied with giving us crumbs. He has lavished His grace on us.”

–R.C. Sproul, Mark: St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary (Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust, 2011), 174.

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“Pray for the worst, the hardest, and the most unbelieving” by J.C. Ryle

“Do we know what it is to pray for ourselves? This, after all, is the first question for self-inquiry. The man who never speaks to God about his own soul, can know nothing of praying for others.

He is as yet Godless, Christless, and hopeless, and has to learn the very rudiments of religion. Let him awake, and call upon God.

But do we pray for ourselves? Then let us take heed that we pray for others also.

Let us beware of selfish prayers,—prayers which are wholly taken up with our own affairs, and in which there is no place for other souls beside our own.

Let us name all whom we love before God continually.

Let us pray for all,—the worst, the hardest, and the most unbelieving.

Let us continue praying for them year after year, in spite of their continued unbelief.

God’s time of mercy may be a distant one. Our eyes may not see an answer to our intercessions. The answer may not come for ten, fifteen, or twenty years.

It may not come till we have exchanged prayer for praise, and are far away from this world. But while we live, let us pray for others.

It is the greatest kindness we can do to anyone, to speak for him to our Lord Jesus Christ. The day of judgment will show that one of the greatest links in drawing some souls to God, has been the intercessory prayer of friends.”

–J.C. Ryle, Practical Religion: Being Plain Papers on the Daily Duties, Experience, Dangers, and Privileges of Professing Christians (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1878/2013), 116-117.

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“How can we be wise apart from the Wisdom of God?” by John Calvin

“We are taught in this passage that the knowledge of Christ must be sought from the Scriptures. Those who imagine what they like about Christ will ultimately have nothing but a shadowy ghost in His place.

First then, we must hold that Christ cannot be properly known from anywhere but the Scriptures. And if that is so, it follows that the Scriptures should be read with the aim of finding Christ in them.

Whoever turns aside from this object, even though he wears himself out all his life in learning, will never reach the knowledge of the truth. For how can we be wise apart from the Wisdom of God?

Moreover, as we are commanded to seek Christ in the Scriptures, so He declares in this passage that our work will not be fruitless, for there the Father bears witness to His Son in such a way that He will manifest Him to us beyond all fought.

But what hinders most men is that they look at them only carelessly and as it were in passing. But it needed the utmost application, and so Christ commanded them to search diligently for this hidden treasure.

Accordingly, the abhorrence for Christ which the Jews feel, who have the Law constantly in their hands, must be imputed to their laziness. For the brightness of God’s glory shines clearly in Moses, but they want to have a veil to obscure that brightness.

‘By the Scriptures,’ of course, is here meant the Old Testament. For Christ did not first begin to be manifested in the Gospel; but the One to whom the Law and the Prophets bore witness was openly revealed in the Gospel.”

–John Calvin, The Gospel According to St John: 1-10, Calvin’s New Testament Commentaries, Vol. 4; trans. T.H.L. Parker, Ed. David Torrance and Thomas Torrance (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1961), 139. Calvin is commenting on John 5:39.

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“Put the advance of the gospel at the center of your aspirations” by D.A. Carson

“Put the advance of the gospel at the center of your aspirations. Our own comfort, our bruised feelings, our reputations, our misunderstood motives—all of these are insignificant in comparison with the advance and splendor of the gospel. As Christians, we are called upon to put the advance of the gospel at the very center of our aspirations.

What are your aspirations? To make money? To get married? To travel? To see your grandchildren grow up? To find a new job? To retire early? None of these is inadmissible; none is to be despised. The question is whether these aspirations become so devouring that the Christian’s central aspiration is squeezed to the periphery or choked out of existence entirely.

I recall a Christian some years ago who always gave the same response when he was asked the numbing vocational question ‘What do you do?’ Invariably he would reply, ‘I’m a Christian.’

‘Yes, but I didn’t ask your religion; I asked what you do.’

‘I’m a Christian.’

‘Do you mean that you are in vocational ministry?’

‘No, I’m not in vocational ministry. But I’m a Christian, full time.’

‘But what do you do vocationally?’

‘Oh, vocationally. Well, I’m a Christian full time, but I pack pork to pay expenses.’

At one level, of course, his standard response was slightly perverse. Moreover, in God’s universe all morally good and useful work is honorable and not to be dismissed as of marginal importance.

Whether it’s packing pork or writing computer programs or baking a pie or changing a diaper, we are to offer our work up to God. We are His, and all we say and do, including our work, must be offered up for His glory and His people’s good.

But having insisted on that point, there are some elements of what we do that are more directly tied to the gospel than are others. Some things we do, and only some things, have direct eternal significance. As the apostle preserves gospel priorities in his prayers, so he preserves them in his aspirations. We must do the same… We are not more than a generation away from denying the gospel.

It may be that God has called you to be a homemaker or an engineer or a chemist or a ditch digger. It may be that you will take some significant role in, say, the rising field of bioethics.

But although the gospel directly affects how you will discharge your duties in each case, none of these should displace the gospel that is central to every thoughtful Christian. You will put the gospel first in your aspirations.

Then you will be able to endure affliction and persecution and even misunderstanding and misrepresentation from other Christians. You will say with Paul, ‘I want you to know… that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel’ (1:12).”

–D.A. Carson, Basics For Believers: An Exposition of Philippians (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1996), 25-28.

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“Scripture is the handmaiden of Christ” by Herman Bavinck

“If Scripture is the account of the revelation of God in Christ, it is bound to arouse the same opposition as Christ himself who came into the world for judgment (κρισις) and is ‘set for the fall and rising of many’ (Luke 2:34).

He brings separation between light and darkness and reveals the thoughts of many hearts. Similarly Scripture is a living and active word, a ‘discerner’ of the thoughts and intentions of the heart (Heb. 4:12).

It not only was inspired but is still ‘God-breathed’ and ‘God-breathing.’ Just as there is much that precedes the act of inspiration (all the activity of the Holy Spirit in nature, history, revelation, regeneration), so there is much that follows it as well.

Inspiration is not an isolated event. The Holy Spirit does not, after the act of inspiration, withdraw from Holy Scripture and abandon it to its fate but sustains and animates it and in many ways brings its content to humanity, to its heart and conscience.

By means of Scripture as the word of God, the Holy Spirit continually wars against the thoughts and intentions of the ‘unspiritual’ person (ψυχικος ἀνθρωπος). By itself, therefore, it need not surprise us in the least that Scripture has at all times encountered contradiction and opposition.

Christ bore a cross, and the servant (Scripture) is not greater than its master. Scripture is the handmaiden of Christ. It shares in his defamation and arouses the hostility of sinful humanity.”

–Herman Bavinck, Eds. John Bolt and John Vriend, Reformed Dogmatics, Volume 1: Prolegomena (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2003), 439-440.

 

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