There is a profound difference between reading information and reading texts. The former permits a disinterest in the question of how the matter is composed; its interest is only in the content…
When people do read today (and they don’t read often), they read almost exclusively for information or content; they almost never read for the pleasure obtained by reading an author whose command of language is exception. Many ministers, for instance, will read the occasional book about history. But with few exceptions, the interest in historical writing resides in the events narrated, not in the skillfulness of the narration…
[Modern readers ask what a] passage is about?… but they don’t raise questions about how the passage is constructed.
— T. David Gordon
I have, both anecdotally and formally, observed this to be the case in reference to the Bible. Most teachers of the Bible are concerned only with the words and principals of the sacred text. There is little concern for the syntax and grammar. Word studies abound with no interest in paragraph structure or the flow of discourse. This sort of textual myopia is further encumbered by a faulty view of much of Scripture regarding the importance of events recorded in the text. John Sailhamer has been influential in cogently explaining the necessity of viewing the intentionally constructed text of Scripture in its final form as the only element worth interpreting. Whatever so-called “event” might “lie behind” the inspired text is of no importance to the Christian interpreter. Rather, one must spend their time understanding how the text of Scripture is intentionally constructed to communicate a message.
Recently I have been wrestling again with the insider language that Christians use. I remember reading a few different articles about Tim Keller (Pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City) in which he discussed the importance of preaching with a non-Christian audience in mind.
So often American culture wars are couched by Christians in “us versus them” language. Statements such as “the liberals” or “the homosexuals” really distance the people whom we want to hear the message of the gospel.
What happened to the idea that we are no better than persons with whom we disagree? Many people have tremendous sin problems, however, “there but for the grace of God go I.” I must always be reminded that my sin is as grievous to God as any other sin. As I’ve heard it said, “The ground is level at the foot of the cross.”
This will be my turn to brag a little about my dad. He is the most talented musician I have ever met. However, I have watched him sacrifice personal acclaim for the service of Jesus. This past Sunday night he taught from Psalm 118 at his church. If you are familiar with SBC churches you might understand how rare it is to find a “Music Minister” who is genuinely qualified and gifted to be a pastor.
When I was in high school I was tired of “church.” I was sick of people who called themselves Christians and demonstrated the opposite in their living. It was only the consistent example of my parents at home and in public that reassured me that Christianity was for more than just “show.” My dad has always modeled a servant’s heart, a scholar’s mind, and genuine commitment to the Lordship of Christ in all things.
The Bible is clear that the home is an essential component in the discipleship of children. I once heard a youth pastor say about the role of the church, “we can’t fix in four hours what you screw up in seven days.” Maybe not the most sensitive statement, but definitely true. Parents provide the framework for Christianity and the way they live and parent will either affirm or deny the legitimacy of the gospel in the life of their children.
How do I describe the impact of C. J. Mahaney’s message this weekend? I have yet to hear a teacher of the Bible who so accurately understands his own shortcomings yet so clearly magnifies God. Mahaney taught from 2 Timothy 4:1-5 and encouraged faithfulness to the gospel through the content and character of the preacher.
Mahaney made clear that the Word of God is essential to the church. Before being overwhelmed by the obvious he traced out the implications of such a thought. For example, the primacy of the Word of God should be reflected in the schedule of the preacher (i.e., I should set aside adequate time to unhurriedly exegete, applicate, and illustrate the text of Scripture). I cannot let lesser duties overwhelm this primary concern nor can I allow sinful procrastination to cripple my Bible Study.
I was also reminded during this time that a pastor/elder is most adequately equipped to teach the Bible at a particular church because preaching requires pastoral skill and discernment to teach and apply the Bible. A pastor should know the struggles and victories of his congregation and, therefore, know the appropriate use of admonition and exhortation. I would not want to admonish the weak and encourage the unruly! This requires an atmosphere of community that is conducive to openly sharing life.
Mahaney pierced my heart with his encouragement to preach “with all patience” (2 Tim. 4:2). It is sometimes easier to give a weekly monologue than be patient with people. I must always keep in the front of my mind God’s patience with me. Further, I cannot expect my listeners to immediately understand and apply everything I preach. God has been slowly working on my heart and I have been “living in the text” for weeks. How foolish of me to think that what took me weeks and years to understand will immediately be fully grasped by my audience. Further, it is the height of arrogance to think that I am such a good communicator as to condense years worth of Biblical study and personal sanctification into a single hour-long sermon.
All-in-all I must persevere in the careful and consistent teaching of the Word of God and “be grateful and surprised” that anyone shows up to hear me speak at all!
This past weekend (September 25-26) I attended the 9 Marks “God Exposed” conference held at SEBTS. My heart and head are both full from the information and exhortations I received.
Audio from the event can be found at the SEBTS website. On the IX Marks website some blog reflections can be found.
Mark Dever opened the conference with a message from Mark 4 that was encouraging and convicting. He challenged us to depend totally on the power of the Word of God and not on our own personality, creativity, or intelligence. Being dependent on God and His word leads to humility and confidence (two traits that I normally view as opposed). We have humility because we realize that God is accomplishing the growth of the Kingdom of God. We have confidence in the fact that God will accomplish what he promised. I was reminded through this exhortation not to confuse size with significance in my own ministry. Further, I am thankful that God chooses weak vessels. One memorable quote from Dr. Dever:
If you think you can be filled with the Spirit without being filled with the Word, you need to check what Spirit you are being filled with.
Dr. Akin underscored this point during the Sermon Review (an idea I wholeheartedly recommend for teachers of the Bible) by showing the connection between being filled with the Spirit (Eph. 5:18) through the word of Christ (Col. 3:16).
The Word of God is powerful because God is powerful. The Word of God will be victorious because God is the victor.
You have been born again: not originating from the mortal but from the immortal, that is through the living and permanent word of God. ‘For all flesh is like grass and all its glory is like the flower of grass. The grass withers and the flower falls off but the word of the Lord endures into eternity.’ Now this is the word which was preached to you (1 Peter 1:23-25).