Tag Archives: Pastor

“There is another kind of reading” by John Piper

“The Bible is a book. Jesus came in the flesh and was called the Word of God. He taught many things, and He did many things. He died for sins, and He rose again. He founded the church and poured out the Holy Spirit.

All that foundational speaking and doing is preserved in a book. My ninth point is this: reading a substantial book well is hard mental work.

You learned your native language when you were very young– before you were five years old. You didn’t know you were working when you did it. And so most of us assume that reading just comes naturally.

But there is more than one kind of reading. One kind of reading is passive and involves very little aggressive effort to understand. We just take what comes and let it happen to us.

But there is another kind of reading that is very active, and digs down into the author’s mind, and wants to understand everything it sees. It may sound strange to say it, but one of the most scholarly things I ever learned was that many parts of the Bible (like Paul’s letters and Jesus’s sermons) are less like a string of pearls and more like chains of steel.

That is, the authors don’t just give a sequence of spiritual gems; they forge a chain of logical argumentation. Their statements hang together. They are linked. One connects to another, and those two connect to another, and those three to another, and so on as the unbreakable argument of glorious truth extends through a passage.

And, when the Holy Spirit enlightens our minds, this chain of argumentation is on fire.

Rigorous reading– scholarly reading– traces these kinds of argumentation. Each proposition begins with a logical connector (‘for,’ ‘that is,’ ‘as,’ ‘because,’ ‘ever since,’ ‘and,’ ‘therefore,’ etc.). These small words are among the most important in the Bible. They tell us how the statements are related to each other…

On and on the chain of argumentation grows. Words become statements, and statements are linked to form larger units. And these larger units are linked to build whole books.

The point here is simply: since much of the Bible is written this way, pastors are called to trace these arguments with active, careful, rigorous reading, and explain statements and the connections and the larger units to their people, and then apply them to their lives. This kind of reading is exceedingly demanding.

All this is involved in the fact that God revealed Himself to the church through the centuries in a book. He did not have to give the church a book. He could have done it in another way. He could have just given daily dreams to His people. He could have caused dramatizations to appear in the sky.

He could have communicated to a select few with secret knowledge and made them memorize everything and pass it on to another select few in each generation. He could have communicated to us any way He wanted to. And He did it in a book.

This is one reason that everywhere the Christian church has spread, there have been not only churches and hospitals, but also schools– places of rudimentary and then advanced scholarship. It’s because we’re dependent on a book. Since our faith is rooted in the understanding of a book, we want people to learn to read, and then to have the Bible in their language, and to learn how to think carefully and doctrinally about the book.

So the very existence of the Bible as a book signals that the pastor is called to read carefully and accurately and thoroughly and honestly.”

–John Piper and D.A. Carson, The Pastor As Scholar and the Scholar as Pastor (Wheaton: Crossway, 2011), 64-66.

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“Now to this God I commend you” by George Swinnock

“Now to this God, according to my power, I have, I do, and I shall commend you, to his favour and singular affection, to His power and special protection, and to His care and universal benediction.

I cannot commend you to one so faithful; though others fall off like leaves in autumn, He will never leave you that are His, nor forsake you.

I cannot commend you to one so loving; He lived in love, He in our natures died for love. His love is like Himself, boundless and bottomless.

It is impossible to commend you to one so able; He can supply all your needs, He fill all your souls to the brim; grace is lovely in your eyes, whoever beheld it.

Glory is infinitely amiable in your judgments, whoever believed it. He can build you up, and give you an inheritance, where all the heirs are kings and queens, and you shall sit on thrones, and live and reign with Christ forever and ever.

There you shall have robes of purity on your backs, and palms of victory in your hands, and crowns of glory on your heads, and songs of triumph in your mouths.

There you may meet together to worship Him without fear, and drink freely of His sweetest, dearest favour.

There your services will be without the smallest sin, and your souls will be without the least sorrow.

If pastor and people meet there, they shall part nevermore. It is some comfort now, that though distant in places, we can meet together at the throne of grace.

But oh, what a comfort will it be to meet together in that palace of glory!

But since we must part here, ‘finally, my brethren, farewell. Be perfect, be of good comfort, be of one mind. Live in peace and the God of love and peace shall be with you.’

‘And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance amongst all them that are sanctified.'”

–George Swinnock, “The Pastor’s Farewell,” in The Works of George Swinnock, Vol. 4 (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust reprint of the 1868 James Nichol edition, 1992), 99-100. Swinnock preached this farewell sermon to the congregation of Great Kimble, Buckinghamshire on Black Bartholomew’s Day, August 24, 1662.

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“The goodness of a wonder-working God” by John Newton

“The believer shall so conquer in the close of the campaign, that he shall never hear the sound of war any more and so conquer in time as to triumph to eternity.

This we owe to Jesus. We overcome not by our own might, but by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of His testimony.

He has conquered for us, and He goes before us, and He fights in us by His Spirit, and in His own time He will bruise Satan under our feet.

In the meanwhile, He will be your strength and your shield. He will be your song and your salvation. In His name you may lift up your banner, and bid defiance to Satan and all his hosts…

I think, when the Lord permits us all to meet here again together, we shall have much to say on the subject of redeeming love.

We shall have much to ascribe to the wisdom, the power, and the goodness of a wonder-working God, who causes light to shine out of darkness, and has given us the light of the knowledge of His glory in the person of Jesus Christ.

What an amazing change in our state, in our heart, in our views, is the result of this discovery! Old things pass away. All things become new.

Then we see how unavoidably we must be men wondered at by all who have not experienced the same things, and we are content to be so for His sake who has loved us, and to account His cross our glory.

Believe me to be, my dear Sir, most affectionately your’s, in the nearest and strongest bond of friendship,

John Newton”

–John Newton Letter V to Mr. William Cowper, March 15, 1770,” in The Works of John Newton, Ed. Richard Cecil (London: Hamilton, Adams & Co., 1824), 6: 155–156.

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“The Lord of Hosts is on our side” by John Newton

“I can only advise you to resist, to the utmost, every dark and discouraging suggestion. The Lord has done great things for you, and wonderfully appeared in your behalf already.

Take encouragement from hence to hope that He will not forsake the work of His own hands (Judges 13:23). There is much weight in the apostle’s argument in Romans 5:10.

Surely He who showed us mercy before we asked it, will not withhold it now that He has taught us how to plead for it agreeably to His own will. Though sin has abounded in us, grace has superabounded in Him.

Though our enemies are many and mighty, Jesus is above them all.

Though He may hide Himself from us at times for a moment, He has given us a warrant to trust in Him, even while we walk in darkness, and has promised to return and gather us with everlasting mercies.

The Christian calling, like many others, is easy and clear in theory, but not without much care and difficulty to be reduced to practice. Things appear quite otherwise, when felt experimentally, to what they do when only read in a book.

Many learn the art of navigation by the fireside at home, but when they come to sea, with their heads full of rules, and without experience, they find that the art is only to be thoroughly learned upon the spot.

So, to renounce self, to live upon Jesus, to walk with God, to overcome the world, to hope against hope, to trust the Lord when we cannot trace Him, and to know that our duty and privilege consist in these things, may be readily acknowledged or quickly learned.

But, upon repeated trial, we find, that saying and doing are two things. We think at setting out that we sit down and count the cost. But, alas! Our views are so superficial at first, that we have occasion to correct our estimate daily.

For every day shows us some new thing in the heart, or some new turn in the management of the war against us which we were not aware of. And upon these accounts, discouragements may arise so high as to bring us (I speak for myself) to the very point of throwing down our arms, and making either a tame surrender or a shameful flight.

Thus it would be with us at last, if the Lord of Hosts were not on our side. But though our enemies thrust sore at us that we might fall, He has been our stay.

And if He is the captain of our salvation, if His eye is upon us, if His arm stretched out around us, if His ear open to our cry, and if He has engaged to teach our hands to war, and our fingers to fight, and to cover our heads in the day of battle, then we need not fear, though a host rise up against us.

But, lifting up our banner in His name, let us go forth conquering and to conquer (Romans 16:20).

We hope we shall all be better acquainted soon. We please ourselves with agreeable prospects and proposals but the determination is with the Lord.

We may rejoice that it is. He sees all things in their dependencies and connections, which we see not, and therefore He often thwarts our wishes for our good.

But if we are not mistaken, if any measure we have in view would, upon the whole, promote our comfort, or His glory, He will surely bring it to pass in answer to prayer, how improbable whatsoever it might appear.

For He delights in the satisfaction and prosperity of His people, and without a need-be, they shall never be in heaviness. Let us strive and pray for an habitual resignation to His will for He does all things well.

It is never ill with us but when our evil hearts doubt or forget this plainest of truths.

I beg an interest in your prayers, and that you will believe me to be,

Your affectionate servant,

John Newton”

–John Newton, Letter I to Mr. William Cowper, July 30, 1767,” The Works of John Newton, Ed. Richard Cecil (London: Hamilton, Adams & Co., 1824), 6: 141–143.

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“When I preach at Wittenberg” by Martin Luther

“Maledictions upon every preacher who strives after the sublime in the church with an eye to his own glory, ambitious to gain the favor of someone or another. When I preach at Wittenberg, I descend to the lowest level.

I do not look at the doctors and magistrates, of whom about forty are present, but at the hundred or so young people. To these I preach; to these I address myself. They need instruction. If the others do not want to listen– the door is open.”

–Martin Luther, What Luther Says: An Anthology, comp. Ewald M. Plass (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1959), entry no. 3574, p.1118-1119.

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“The pastor ought to have two voices” by John Calvin

“The pastor ought to have two voices: one, for gathering the sheep, and another for warding off and driving away wolves and thieves. The Scripture supplies him with the means of doing both, for he who is deeply skilled in it will be able both to govern those who are teachable, and to refute the enemies of the truth.”

–John Calvin, Commentaries on the Epistles to Timothy, Titus, and Philemon, trans. William Pringle (repr. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1979), 296.

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