Category Archives: Preaching

“The people of Jesus Christ have great cause to glory in their Savior” by Jonathan Edwards

“The people of Jesus Christ have great cause to glory in their Savior.

What reason have we to praise God, who has given us so much cause to glory in Christ Jesus, that we that deserve so much shame should have so much cause to glory!

We were in a forlorn condition:

  • we were depressed to the lowest depths of misery and wretchedness;
  • we were filthy and abominable,
  • we had made ourselves viler than the earth,
  • we deserved nothing but shame and everlasting contempt;
  • we had nothing to glory in, but all the circumstances of our case were such as administered to us just cause of shame and confusion of face (Daniel 9:8).

But God has been pleased to provide One for us

  • to take away our guilt and disgrace,
  • and to be the glory in the midst of us;
  • to put great honor upon us,
  • to be as a covering to hide our nakedness,
  • and not only so, but to adorn us and make us glorious;
  • to be to us wisdom,
  • to bring us from our shameful ignorance and darkness;
  • to be our righteousness for the removal of our guilt
  • and to procure acceptance with God for us;
  • to be our sanctification,
  • to change us from sinful and loathsome to holy and amiable;
  • to be our redemption,
  • to deliver us from all trouble and danger,
  • and to make us happy and blessed forever;
  • to bestow upon us gold tried in the fire, that of poor we might become rich, and that He might exalt us from the dunghill and set us among princes (1 Samuel 2:8).

That God should take us, who were under bondage to sin and Satan, and give us such a glorious victory over our adversaries, and cause us thus to triumph over those that had us captives and were so much stronger than we, and that God gives us so much greater privileges than others, that we should have such a king, is reason enough to praise God.”

–Jonathan Edwards, “Glorying in the Savior,” in Sermons and Discourses, 1723–1729, The Works of Jonathan Edwards, Volume 14 (Ed. Harry S. Stout and Kenneth P. Minkema (New Haven; London: Yale University Press, 1997), 14: 468.

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“The way of most holiness is always the way of most happiness” by J.C. Ryle

“Let us leave the passage with the settled conviction that sin is sure to lead to sorrow, and that the way of most holiness is always the way of most happiness.”

–J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on Mark (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, 1857/2012), 263-264. Ryle is commenting on Mark 14:66-72.

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“Read Scripture as a divine book” by Trent Hunter and Stephen Wellum

“Consider what it means to read Scripture as a divine book— from God to us!

If God wrote every word, sentence, paragraph, chapter and book, then the Bible is unified. The Bible’s sixty-six books really form one book from one Author.

It’s also coherent. If we’re confuses about the meaning of a certain text, we may assume that we’re the ones confused, not God. The Bible coheres with itself and with the world in which its readers live.

It’s complete— the Bible is what God wanted us to have. If it raises questions that it doesn’t completely answer, then that must be on purpose.

And not only is it complete, but it’s also sufficient for what we need.

The Bible is perfect. There’s nothing wrong with it. Every word is good and true.

The Bible is also urgent. If God has spoken to us, then nothing is more important than for us to listen to its message.

All of these truths about Scripture have major implications for how we interpret the Bible.

We should read it with creaturely humility because these words are from our Creator and Lord.

We are to read with expectation. If we look forward to the release of a new novel by a favorite author, how much more should we look forward to reading God’s Word!

We should also read with caution, recognizing that we are inclined to misunderstand what God has written, given our finitude and sinfulness.

That means we should read the Bible patiently to accurately discern what God has said. We cannot assume that what first comes into our minds matches what’s in God’s mind.

We read and we reflect, and once we settle on an interpretation that is faithful to the text and aligned with previous interpretations, we submit to God’s Word.

If we disagree with something the Bible teaches, we assume that our thinking must change, not God’s. We don’t stand over Scripture; we stand under it in submission to God (Isa. 66:1-2).

We are aware of the Bible’s divine authorship, and we are aware of our creaturely position as readers.”

–Trent Hunter and Stephen Wellum, Christ From Beginning to End (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2018), 44-45.

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“Read, study, reflect, and write” by Sinclair Ferguson

“Many—probably most—of these chapters were written in the context of busy pastoral ministry, either in Scotland or in the United States—preaching, teaching, pastoral visiting, personal meetings, crises in the lives of individuals and sometimes the whole church, administrative responsibilities, and the wide and wonderful variety of activities that make up the average ministers life.

And since virtually all the essays were written by request, their writing has been squeezed into, or out of, an occasional hiatus in the sheer busy-ness of ministry life and the constant preparation involved in preaching anywhere between three and six times in the week.

So, at some point in the writing of almost all these chapters I have heard an inner voice ask, ‘Whatever possessed you to agree to do this?’ Yet, however far short these various pieces fall, in each case the preparation of them did me good, enlarged my understanding a little, and fed into the day-to-day work of pastoral ministry.

I hope, therefore, that these pages will encourage other ministers to allow themselves to be stretched a little beyond their normal pulpit or lectern preparation. There is no doubt that the wider reflection, reading, study and stretching involved can only strengthen and enrich long-term ministry.

Such stretching produces growth. Sometimes ministers can ‘waste’ the privileged time they have by studying only in relation to their next sermon. This does produce some growth, of course; but perhaps not growth that is constantly putting down deeper roots and producing richer fruit.

Preachers need to be reading and studying more widely, and reflecting theologically if that is to be the case. For only then will our ongoing ministry be deepened and enriched.

Thus, in one sense at least, the undergirding message of these diverse chapters is: if you are a preacher, accept invitations or create opportunities to study, speak, or write on subjects outside of your usual diet of preparation.

Yes, you may find yourself under a little pressure; but pressure can produce diamonds! You will grow personally as a result, and, God-willing, Paul’s exhortation will be fulfilled in your ministry:

Devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. Do not neglect the gift you have… Practise these things, devote yourself to them, so that all may see your progress. Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers (1 Timothy 4:13-16).

It can be an unnerving question to ask oneself, ‘Has anyone in the congregation ever thought, far less said, about me, ‘He is making progress’?”

–Sinclair Ferguson, Some Pastors and Teachers (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 2017), xii-xiii.

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“He who has ceased to learn has ceased to teach” by Charles Spurgeon

“He who has ceased to learn has ceased to teach.”

–Charles H. Spurgeon, An All-Round Ministry: Addresses to Ministers and Students (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1960), 236.

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“From this evil, good Lord deliver us” by Charles Spurgeon

“The more the Church is distinct from the world in her acts and in her maxims, the more true is her testimony for Christ, and the more potent is her witness against sin.

We are sent into this world to testify against evils; but if we dabble in them ourselves, where is our testimony? If we ourselves be found faulty, we are false witnesses; we are not sent of God; our testimony is of none effect.

I do not hesitate to say there are tens of thousands of professing Christians, whose testimony before the world is rather injurious than beneficial. The world looks at them, and says, ‘Well, I see: you can be a Christian, and yet remain a rogue.’

‘Ah!’ says another, ‘you can be a Christian, I perceive; but then you will have to be doleful and miserable.’

‘Ah!’ cries another, ‘these Christians like to drink sin in secret behind the door. Their Christianity lies in not liking to sin openly; but they can devour a widow’s house when nobody is looking on; they can be drunkards, only it must be in a very small party; they would not like to be discovered tipsy where there were a hundred eyes to look at them.’

Now, what is all that? It is just this,—that the world has found out that the Church visible is not the unmixed Church of Christ, since it is not true to its principles, and does not stand up for the uprightness and integrity which are the marks of the genuine church of God.

Many Christians forget that they are bearing a testimony: they do not think that anybody notices them. Ay, but they do. There are no people so much watched as Christians.

The world reads us up, from the first letter of our lives to the end; and if they can find a flaw—and, God forgive us, they may find very many—they are sure to magnify the flaw as much as ever they can.

Let us therefore be very watchful, that we live close to Christ, that we walk in his commandments always, that the world may see that the Lord hath put a difference.

But now I have a very sad thing to say—I wish that I could withhold it, but I cannot. Unless, brothers and sisters, you make it your daily business to see that there is a difference between you and the world, you will do more hurt than you can possibly do good.

The Church of Christ is at this day accountable for many fearful sins. Let me mention one which is but the type of others.

By what means think you were the fetters rivetted on the wrist of our friend who sits there, a man like ourselves, though of a black skin?

It is the Church of Christ that keeps his brethren under bondage; if it were not for that Church, the system of slavery would go back to the hell from which it sprung.

If there were no slave floggers but men who are fit for so degrading an office, if there were not found Christian ministers who can apologise for slavery from the pulpit, and church members who sell the children of nobler beings than themselves, if it were not for this, then Africa would be free.

Albert Barnes spoke right truly when he said slavery could not exist for an hour if it were not for the countenance of the Christian Church.

But what does the slaveholder say when you tell him that to hold our fellow-creatures in bondage is a sin, and a damnable one, inconsistent with grace?

He replies, ‘I do not believe your slanders; look at the Bishop of So-and-so, or the minister of such-and-such a place, is not he a good man, and does not he whine out ‘Cursed be Canaan?’ Does not he quote Philemon and Onesimus? Does he not go and talk Bible, and tell his slaves that they ought to feel very grateful for being his slaves, for God Almighty made them on purpose that they might enjoy the rare privilege of being cowhided by a Christian master. Don’t tell me,’ he says, ‘if the thing were wrong, it would not have the Church on its side.’

And so Christ’s free Church bought with His blood, must bear the shame of cursing Africa, and keeping her sons in bondage.

From this evil, good Lord deliver us.

If Manchester merchants and Liverpool traders have a share in this guilt, at least let the Church be free of this hell-filling crime.

Men have tried hard to make the Bible support this sum of all villanies, but slavery, the thing which defiles the Great Republic, such slavery is quite unknown to the Word of God, and by the laws of the Jews it was impossible that it ever could exist.

I have known men quote texts as excuses for being damned, and I do not wonder that men can find Scripture to justify them in buying and selling the souls of men.

And what think you is it, to come home to our own land, that props up the system of trade that is carried on among us?

I would not speak too severely of Christ’s Church, for I love her; but because I love her I must therefore utter this.

Our being so much like the world, our trading as the world trades, our talking as the world talks, our always insisting upon it that we must do as other people do, this is doing more mischief to the world, than all our preachers can hope to effect good.

‘Come ye out from among them; touch not the unclean thing, be ye separate, saith the Lord, and I will be a father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters.'”

–Charles H. Spurgeon, “Separating the Precious from the Vile,” in The New Park Street Pulpit Sermons (vol. 6; London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1860), 6: 154–156.

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“It is an eternal Word” by Martin Luther

“And this is the sum of the matter: Let everything be done so that the Word may have free course instead of the prattling and rattling that has been the rule up to now.

We can spare everything except the Word. Again, we profit by nothing as much as by the Word.

For the whole Scripture shows that the Word should have free course among Christians. And in Luke 10:42, Christ Himself says, ‘One thing is needful,’ i.e., that Mary sit at the feet of Christ and hear His word daily.

This is the best part to choose and it shall not be taken away forever. It is an eternal Word.

Everything else must pass away, no matter how much care and trouble it may give Martha. God help us achieve this. Amen.”

–Martin Luther, “Concerning the Order for Public Worship,” Luther’s Works, Vol. 53: Liturgy and Hymns (ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann; vol. 53; Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 53: 14.

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