We Are Moving!

12 11 2009

Christian Joe is moving in order to add more flexibility with the blog.  I now have a new ministry site that is up and running called

Discover Grace
www.dgministry.com

Where you can download articles, sermons, link to web resources, and a forum for Christian fellowship.

Christian Joe will now be a part of that ministry and it is accessible through the web address above or to go directly to Christian Joe

www.christianjoe.graceutah.com

I will be writing more on the new blog, as I have been absent from writing, getting the site up and running.  Go check it out and then also join our discover grace forum and post a word or two.  God bless.

 

 

 

 





New Blog Ministry

2 11 2009

We have been working for some time on a web ministry for Grace Baptist Church. A place on the internet where we can podcast the sermons preached at Grace Baptist as well as articles written by members of Grace and a place for Christians to find encouragement and resources for living. We still have more work to do, but we are launching it now, while we continue to work on it. As time goes, I will be moving this blog over and producing one web ministry. Please take a look
at

www.dgministry.com

I hope this web ministry of Grace Baptist Church can be helpful in the work of the Lord.  Please feel free to drop me suggestions on how to improve it in style or substance.





What About Movements?

14 10 2009

Dr. Dave Doran has an excellent post over at his blog about “Christian Movements” and specifically the “Fundamentalist Movement.” Check it out! Here is a snippet from his post.

The center of God’s will for this dispensation is in the local church (1 Tim 3:15). That’s where the unity of the Spirit is to be preserved in the bond of peace (Eph 4:3). The local church has been charged with the task of carrying out the Great Commission (since baptizing is an ordinance of the church). The movement that ought to matter most to us is one that aims to plant churches that will reproduce in every place where the name of Christ has not been named, and that movement must spring from local churches in order to be biblical. Sign me up for that movement.

Let’s get back to the ministry of the local church-God’s plan for this age.





Church Servants

6 10 2009

In our adult Bible study at church we spent last week looking at leadership within a NT church. I am distinctively baptist because I believe the Scriptures most clearly articulate what baptists have historically believed. Therefore it would come as no shock to anyone that I strongly believe in two offices within the local church body. However, I have discovered through studies, that the positions of elders (shepherds) and deacons has a wide variety of applications. Often baptist churches have thought that the pastors and deacons are opposite offices functioning in some sort of balance of power. With the deacons’ job being to “keep the pastors in check” while the pastors’ job is to find some way to get his agenda through the deacon board.

When I study the Scripture, I wonder where that idea ever came from. Nothing could be further from the NT example and instruction regarding these two complementary roles with the local Body. Sadly, many of those in leadership lack to the fundamental quality necessary for these two offices to serve seamlessly–Trust. How often the pastors don’t trust the deacons to get the job done and so they take it upon themselves to do what is the deacons’ God given responsibility. (I suppose pastors might complain that often the deacons don’t do the job and it has to be done, but that is no excuse for crossing over roles on a continual basis). And how often deacons believe they must step in to make up what is “lacking” (at least in their perception) of the pastoral leadership. But if both offices would trust God that he has gifted and enabled His leadership, and not seek to be the “church police” regarding the other, great advances of growth would occur within the local church.

Both offices are servants of God serving his flock, the church. The deacons serve the physical needs of the church, while the pastors/elders serve the spiritual needs of the church (Acts 6:1-4). Right away the tendency can be to suggest then that the pastors are more important than the deacons. While the Bible does give precedents to spiritual food over physical food, in Acts 6, the lack of physical food for the Hellenistic widows was creating a spiritual problem. In other words, the elders (in this instance the Apostles) were having difficulty providing spiritual nourishment because the physical was lacking and disunity was growing. I see here one of the greatest responsibilities of the deacons of a church; they serve by promoting unity and preventing distractions that draw the heart and mind of the people away from the spiritual. What a great spiritual task, to manage the physical needs of the church well enough to hinder division and dispute within the body. Every pastor would take heed to encourage the deacons in this task. Here also, we see that the pastors/elders were responsible to not cease the service with the Word and prayer in favor of meeting physcial needs. Both are spiritual offices because we, as humans are spiritual and physical and the one affects the other more than we probably understand.

Both are servants, the deacons serving in the physical realm to promote unity and growth, and the elders to serve in the spiritual realm to promote unity and growth. But where is the “division of labor” so to speak? I think that these two job descriptions sum up the responsibility of the pastors and deacons. Deacons 1.enable the saints to do the work of the ministry (Acts 6) by providing for the physical needs to do so (promoting unity, managing the financial, supporting the ministry of Word and prayer). In other words, they remove that which would distract the saints from the work of the Gospel ministry, by enabling seamless, cohesive service to God. The elders 2.equip the saints to do the work of the ministry (Eph. 4:12). They teach, preach, guide, care, oversee, and pray for the people and they are equipped to serve Jesus Christ.

When these two offices function in harmony and uni-purpose, God is glorified as his church program “works” and the mission of Christ is moved forward. Praise God for his great wisdom in ordaining these two offices for the benefit of the local church.





Exposition and Ezra

18 09 2009

In considering the Biblical call for expositional preaching, the classic text is Nehemiah 8. We see a tremendous account of the power of exposition. Picture this scenario. The entire congregation of Israel-men, women, and children (all that had understanding) gather together while Ezra opens the Book of the Law of Moses in the sight of all the people. Standing behind a wooden pulpit, he reads from morning until midday and the people pay attention to the Word of God. As he begins to read that morning, all the people stand up in reverence and awe of God’s Word. Ezra prays a prayer of blessing and thanksgiving to God and the people respond with “Amen, Amen” lifting their hands toward heaven. And then they bow their heads in reverent humility and worship the Lord with their faces toward the ground. Other Levites explain what was read along with Ezra. We are not sure how this looked exactly, but it seems they broke into smaller groups so that the Word could be heard and explained more effectively. Nehemiah 8:8 gives the summary of the preaching and it is exactly what exposition is. “So they read in the book in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading.” This is the purpose of the preacher. His purpose is not titillating stories, coarse jesting, fanciful allegory, or persuasive manipulation. His job is not to get public response or to change hearts and minds. His job is to read the Word distinctly (clearly and accurately), to give the sense (to explain the intent of the passage), and to cause the people to understand (provide implication and application for obedience). No where in this formula do we see the personage of the expositors as any importance. They were the mouthpieces, the Word is central.

The response of the people is fascinating. When they understand what has just been read to them, they begin to mourn. They were grieving over their disobedience and ignorance as to what God has said. The command to the people is to rejoice for the joy of the Lord is your strength. They were to rejoice in God and in His Word. To delight in Him was the directive of Ezra the priest. This same thing took place the next day, and this day, the priests and Levites read distinctly, exlpained, and provided implication concerning the keeping of the feast of the seventh month; but what happens when exposition takes place is normative for God working with His Word. The people went out and made booths to celebrate the feast of the seventh month. This happened every day for eight days. On the twenty fourth day of the month, the congregation was assembled again this time fasting. Once again the Word of God read clearly, explained rightly, and implied correctly brought about revival in the hearts of the congregation. They began to confess their sins and to do something about it. 1/4 of the day they read the Word, and 1/4 of the day the confessed and worshipped God. (An interesting note for another post, is that worship flowed from the Word of God, not in anticipation of the Word of God). They prayed and praised God, they obeyed, they fasted, they confessed. This continually takes place and it comes from the Word of the Lord being read clearly, explained rightly, and implied correctly. Their is power in the Word of God, and I believe the Spirit of God moves in far greater and long-lasting ways when a mouthpiece, a preacher, devalues himself and his ability and simply preaches God’s Word expositionally.

I see nothing in this passage about finding the needs of the assembly and meeting those needs. I see nothing of topical preaching. I see nothing of opinions of Ezra or the other Levites, nor preaching to get results. I simply see faithful exposition of the Word of God, and the Spirit of God doing a mighty work.

My preacher brothers, let us decrease and allow the Word of the Lord to increase while we simply read distinctly, explain rightly, and provide implication accurately. God will honor his Word rightly expressed.





The Need for Exposition

15 09 2009

In the previous post, I said that this one would be practical concerning the presentation of exposition. I am going to deviate a little bit here because I think that I missed an important point concerning why we should be committed to exposition as undershepherds, and why the people of God’s pasture should desire and demand expositional preaching.

Need for Exposition
The definition of expositional preaching is explaining a specific Biblical text (without our personal, cultural, or traditional opinions and biases) within its own context and providing implications concerning our lives. Since this is the definition, we must recognize that Biblical exposition may not always have immediate application in our lives. (Although I have learned that the Holy Spirit has a way of meeting a specific need that I had no idea existed when I have preached the Word). But that is okay! If we are living from sermon to sermon in order to “survive” as a Christian we are exhibiting immaturity and frailty in the Christian life. The Psalmist says, “Thy Word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against thee.” (Psalm 119:11) Often we use this verse to promote Bible memory, and that is good, but hiding God’s Word in our heart is better understood as storing up sustenance that will keep us in the moment of trial and temptation. That is why we must be active in receiving Biblical exposition even if the preacher’s sermon is not what we “need” today. Preventative treatment for illness is far better than prescriptive rescue when we are failing in spiritual health. No one would argue that counseling with a married couple on the verge of divorce is better than premarital counseling or consistent teaching on Biblical roles in marriage long before there is conflict. However, the church has long ago left this concept behind and has moved along with the culture in seeking instant gratification in all areas, even the spiritual. “I’m sick, fix me!” is the cry of the anemic Christian, or rather “My job is in danger, my kids are struggling, my marriage is suffering, etc. . . Fix it. . . Now!” Perhaps the cry should be, “I may become ill, build me up in the most holy faith in a consistent, thorough fashion!” (Personal note* As a pastor, that would thrill my heart more than a million statements like, “good sermon pastor, it was just what I needed today.”) One view seeks a solution from Christ, the other seeks after a relationship with Christ. Crisis preaching (topical preaching patterned to focus on man’s current need) views God and the Word as means to an end. Expositional preaching (systematic explanation of Biblical texts) views a relationship with God through the Word as the end itself. One is man-centered, the other is God-focused. I will let you guess which is which.

If we are committed to thorough, Biblical exposition, we will take great joy in preaching through texts that seem to have nothing to do with the “big issues” of today. The opposite is dangerous in my opinion because the preacher becomes tied to the issues at hand and may begin drifting toward a man-driven ministry rather than a Word-driven philosophy of ministry. On the flip side, it is a misnomer that some texts are alive while others are dry and boring. The entirety of the Word of God (even Leviticus) cries out concerning the beauty and glory of our great and mighty God. He is in every phrase and paragraph of Holy Scripture. We can delight in God through any passage of Scripture because the Bible is the revelation of God Himself, not a book of virtues or morals. Perhaps the style and type of preaching will reveal the preacher’s view of the Book itself and even the God of the Book?

Shepherds, be committed to expositional preaching. Flock be demanding expositional preaching from your shepherds. The health of the local church, present and future, depends upon it.





The Presentation of Exposition

10 09 2009

Preaching an expositional sermon is a lot different than studying for one. A lot of times, I can know what the text says and have discovered great implications (at least I think they are great because they have encouraged and/or convicted me); but struggle with how to present the text in such a way that is meaningful and understandable for the listeners. At the same time, I am keenly aware of the danger of overreaching a text or undermining a passage in favor of meaning and understanding. This is the balance beam of preaching an expositional sermon. It is a work in progress for me, and I need God’s Spirit and grace to accomplish this task for His glory.

I have been thinking of what exposition is not lately. I have thought through these things regarding experiences I have had (regrettably also that which I have done), as well as different books I have read. One resource that has caused me to think more about this topic is the book The Nine Marks of A Healthy Church by Pastor Mark Dever.

Exposition is not verse by verse explanation of a text. To the contrary, I wonder if chapter and verse divisions have not done more harm to proper exegesis than help. Preachers tend to divide their texts up in chapter units, and though at times the chapter/verse divides might be accurate, many times meaning is missed when we are afraid to cross chapter and verse boundaries. A common stereotype of expositional preaching is dry, droning reading a verse and then rewording it. Reading the next verse and then rewording it with the occasional pause for application or reflection. I do not think this is true exposition. Genuine exposition is alive as we are coming to a fuller understanding of an entire text (paragraph, sentences, phrases, or even books) and learning of the implications that text has on our lives even today.

Exposition is not void of using other texts. The method of exposition mainly stays on the lines of that particular text, but it is important to show how other texts illustrate or support the main idea of the primary passage. The opposite of that is taking a topic and preaching through various verses or phrases in support of the topic (proof-texting). I do think this can be done at times, but I believe it is dangerous to make this the steady diet of the church. The best illustrations of a Biblical text is another text that supports the premise of the primary passage.

Exposition is not simply restating the text in the preacher’s words. It can be an easy trap especially when the text is difficult to understand, to simply reword the Scripture. This is not giving the sense of the passage. An example of this could be reading Philippians 1:6 “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” And then the preacher saying something to this effect, “We should be confident of this very thing, that He, Jesus, who began the good work in us will perform it until Jesus Christ returns.” True, but all that the preacher has done is restate the text. To preach this text expositionally, there ought to be an explanation of the confidence which resides in the heart of Paul and possibly therefore in the saint and why it is there. How could Paul be confident, and can we be confident of this thing? The previous verses explain that. What is the good work begun in them? When was it begun, how was it begun, who begun it? What does he mean by “good” work? Why is there a completion to this good work and when is it completed? What exactly is the day of Jesus Christ? Is there any significance to verse 7 and Paul’s love for them being related to his confidence in Christ through them? There are hosts of other questions the expositor should be asking, these are just examples to show that it is not enough simply to reword the passage if we are to do proper exposition.

The next post will be positive and practical concerning the presentation of an expositional sermon.