Al Mohler – Shepherd’s Conference 2012 – The Calling of a Preacher

Introduction from the message given by Al Mohler. See video for flu message:

Let’s admit it. There’s a lot of mysteries in the christian life, but one of the greatest mysteries is why God would in His sovereign, omnipotent and omniscient, and wisdom and righteousness, and mercy choose the likes of folks as we… to do this. You might think that if we were orchestrating this, we might have angels doing the preaching. Everybody would listen to an angel, wouldn’t they? Of course,  not American angels. We domesticate little angels, we paint little pictures of cherubs and hang them in the bathroom. It’s a completely different reality. Just remember in the Gospel of Luke, the angelic hosts showed up to the shepherds and the first think they had to say is, „First of all, don’t die” – „Fear not, we bring you tidings of great joy”. Meanwhile, most Americans, in our weirdo, fake, postmodern spirituality think they’re channeling with little cherubs in the bathroom.

But God doesn’t assign angels to do the preaching. He assigned human preachers, men whom He has called because when an angel shows up to preach you don’t ask, „How did God do that?”. But, when we show up to preach you’re looking at me going (saying), „He’s just flesh and blood. He’s nearsighted. He only speaks one language. He’s gonna be hungry soon. He fell asleep during a Greek lecture, thirty something years ago and you’re letting him preach?” Well, it’s as the apostle Paul says, „It’s so that the glory would be all of God’s and not ours. So that the excellence would be His excellence that’s demonstrated and not ours.”

Admit it: you’d love to be doing this, and then admit it: That’s a good thing. And then let’s just admit it together, it’s just a priceless thing that we get to be together for these days and these hours, to preach and to hear preaching and to be encouraged, not only by each other, but by the Holy Spirit of God in this calling that has come to us.

How is it that there can be such confusion about the calling of the preacher?

There are many things I can understand that can confuse us. We’re rightly confused about many things. There are simple some things that are vexing and confusing They’re not easily understood. But when it comes to the calling of a preacher there is such Biblical clarity. How in the world do you get confused about this? When you look at the contemporary church life, it is very, very clear that there is wholesale confusion about what the preacher is supposed to do. Not only in academia are they talking about getting the sage off the stage just to be the guide on the side.

There are an awful lot of preachers who think they’re not supposed to declare, they’re not supposed to proclaim, they’re not supposed to rebuke, they’re not supposed to exhort. All they’re supposed to do is kind of hint… suggest… maybe a little insinuation, here and there.

Have you noticed how many churches don’t have a pulpit anymore? Because it implies something that’s supposed to take place here. I think one of the reasons a lot of churches don’t have pulpits is because you can just sort of glide here and there and make a few suggestions. Whereas, a pulpit has a history. It’s a substantial piece of furniture that says: This is actually a place where something is supposed to happen. Now, a lot of those pulpits weren’t very useful because they had a tiny place to put anything on. Everything about this pulpit says that it is here for one reason: teaching. But there’s an antipathy towards this, there’s an incredible confusion and I’ll admit I just don’t understand it.

I think, that it just might be, that the most dangerous place on planet earth is in an evangelical Bible study. One of those unguided Bible studies, like some churches have. Where everybody slouches in a chair with their own copy of God’s word, open on their lap. And you read a verse and you know the question that’s coming: What does this verse mean to you? I don’t wanna hurt your feelings, but I don’t care what this verse means to you. I wanna know what it means and that’s when you’ve actually gotta have someone who can teach, who’s equipped, who has studied to show himself approved, a workman who needs not to be ashamed.

I remember back in junior high school when we had these non directed Bible studies. They told us to get together. You imagine 14 year old boys in  a room, sitting at the table, reading a Bible. We read a text and said, „What do you think?” „I don’t know” After going around we closed the Bible and asked, „Ok, what’s your favorite team?” They have to be taught. We have to be taught.

It is the privilege and the responsibility of the preacher to teach.

 „How will they hear without a preacher?” asked Paul. The Ethiopian Eunuch had to be taught by Philip. The clear assignment to the preacher is to preach the word in season and out of season. And we wonder with an exhortation, a commandment that is that clear, how could we possibly get it confused?  And yet many do.

by Grace Community Church at Vimeo

Colossians 1 (ESV)

Greeting

1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother,

To the saints and faithful brothers[a] in Christ at Colossae:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father.

Thanksgiving and Prayer

 We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints,because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and increasing—as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth, just as you learned it from Epaphras our beloved fellow servant.[b] He is a faithful minister of Christ on your[c] behalf and has made known to us your love in the Spirit.

And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. 11  May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, 12  giving thanks[d] to the Father, who has qualified you[e] to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. 13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14  in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

The Preeminence of Christ

15  He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by[f] him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

21  And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless andabove reproach before him, 23  if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation[g] under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.

Paul’s Ministry to the Church

24 Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church, 25  of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, 26  the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints. 27  To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28 Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. 29 For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.

Phil Johnson at Shepherd’s Conference 2012 – The Lessons of Grace

Titus 2:11-15

A few highlights from Phil Johnson’s message with extensive notes below the video:

  • But, just as emphatically, I despise the common evangelical tendency to write off as legalistic every call for obedience and every summons to holiness as if grace were a sanction for disobedience and immorality and as if the Gospel gave us license to continue in sin that grace might increase. May it never be, Paul said. How shall we, who are dead to sin, still live in it?
  • …it is a serious blunder, also condemned in the strongest possible terms by the apostle Paul, to imagine that the Gospel disagrees with the moral standards that are set by the law. To think that justification by faith eliminates the need for obedience or to think that the perfect freedom of God’s grace gives license for unholy living. All of those things are errors as profound as legalism. Good works and obedience to God’s commands and encouragements and admonitions to be holy; those things are necessary aspects of the christian life. Not necessary in the way the legalists suggest, to earn favor with God. In fact, our works are worthless, totally impotent for that purpose.
  • But, obedience is the natural and inevitable and essential expression of love for Christ and gratitude for His grace and this is the chief, practical lesson we learn from the principle of grace. Grace compels us to love and good works. Grace constrains us to renounce sin and to pursue righteousness.
  • …the Gospel is more excellent than the law, but the two do not disagree when it comes to the moral standard. Believing the Gospel sets us free from the law’s condemnation, but it does not release us from the moral standard set by the law.
  • But if we properly understand the principles of sola fide, it should make us zealous for good works, earnest in the pursuit of holiness, eager to obey the Lord’s commands. We don’t need to be the least bit hesitant to provoke one another to love and good works. If you are hesitant like that, especially in your preaching… shame on you.
  • Paul’s point is that the vital, practical duties of holiness and obedience are in perfect accord with sound doctrine. And calls to obedience and exhortations to virtue are not inconsistent with the doctrines of grace, much less are they opposed to grace.
  • The distinction between law and grace has nothing to do with the commandments or the moral content of the law. What grace eliminates and overturns are the law’s curses. As far as the moral imperatives of the law are concerned, grace is in full agreement.

Uploaded by by Grace Community Church  at  VIMEO and with thanks to G.Bogdan for alerting us to this message.

Videourile Vodpod nu mai sunt disponibile.

Phil Johnson at Shepherd’s Conference 2012, posted with vodpod

Notes from Phil Johnson’s message:

Just 3 years ago I spoke from verses 7 and 8 of Titus 2; that’s where Paul tells Titus:

Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us.

That message was titled Sound Words, Sound Doctrine”. It was a plea for purity in doctrine and dignity and soundness in our speech, both words and conduct that are beyond reproach.  That was the example Paul was urging Titus to model for the young men in his flock. In Paul’s time, as now, adolescent males were especially prone to bad language and unhealthy companionships and raunchy jokes and undignified conversation about  indecent subject matter and things like that in a similar vein and those things were undermining the church’s testimony in Crete and it seems that the chief culprits were immature young men. Cretan bad boys. Vulgar talk was then, as it is now, the common tendency of adolescent boys. And not just lewd language but also salacious subject matter and boorish behavior and those are today even, in our culture the main features of typical male adolescent misbehavior.

Unless you’ve been sleepwalking through the past decade, you know that those very same characteristics have become common badges of identity among certain celebrity mega church pastors and their acolytes. My point 3 years ago was that the drift of the evangelical movement is the exact antithesis of what Paul is calling for in this chapter. Worst of all, the problem begins too often in the pulpit.

There has been no end in the media, about evangelical preachers who purposefully use profane language, their sermon series relentlessly exploit risqué, sexually oriented subject matter. They do advertising that is deliberately designed to be suggestive. It is a nationwide problem. Literally, hundreds of churches have been sending out tasteless publicity for sermon series after sermon series on sex.  Honestly, I think it has gotten worst in the last 3 years.

In the current climate of evangelicalism you can’t even whisper a word of disapproval about that without someone, somewhere labeling you as a legalist. If you dare to suggest that Christians should not be trying so hard to please this world’s elite, but instead we ought to cultivate sobriety and godliness and righteousness, a chorus of angry voices will rise up to explain to you that all of this is necessary. It’s what contextualization demands. And it’s the only alternative to the world’s obsession with sex and perversion and so christians need to talk about such things almost non stop in Jesus’ name.

Legalism has become the all purpose evangelical retort to any mention of hones and obedience or good works. And it’s a potent „scare” word and legitimately so. I don’t want to be a legalist. I hate legalism. Legalism as defined in Galatians 5:1 is the error of abandoning our liberty in Christ in order to take on a yoke of legal bondage. To the legalist, good works are necessary to earn God’s favor. And I have no sympathy for those who believe that a person with the weakest conscience or the Bible College with the strictest rules should get to define holiness for everyone. I’m quite happy to let scriptures set the parameters of sanctification. And where scripture is silent, I think we should be too.

The principles of Romans 14 are sufficient to cover questions the scripture doesn’t answer either expressly or by giving us clear principles that may be deduced by good and necessary consequence. Where scripture speaks, in either way, explicitly or implicitly, we need to obey scripture. But, beyond that, we should just shut up. I explore every hint of legalism and I want to make that clear.

But, just as emphatically, I despise the common evangelical tendency to write off as legalistic every call for obedience and every summons to holiness as if grace were a sanction for disobedience and immorality and as if the Gospel gave us license to continue in sin that grace might increase. May it never be, Paul said. How shall we, who are dead to sin, still live in it?

The line of demarcation between Gospel and law is absolutely vital and you will never hear me say otherwise. One of the great advances of the Protestant Reformation came in the way Martin Luther stressed the distinction between law and Gospel. Law is not Gospel and vice versa. And I appreciate those who labor to differentiate between the two. There is hardly any more theological distinction and let me say once more with emphasis: To confound law and Gospel is no small error. It’s an easy error to make and let’s be candid. There seems to be something in the fallen human heart that makes us prone to that kind of error. It’s the error that lies at the heart of every kind of legalism and I think it’s a tendency of every fallen human heart to default towards legalism and it’s right that we should resist that tendency. Galatians 5 urges us to resist that tendency. There is no more deadly blunder in all of theology than to confound law and Gospel.

Some of the strongest words of condemnation anywhere in the New Testament were aimed at those who supplanted Gospel promises with legal demands (Galatians 1:6-9). So are we clear on this? I hate legalism with a holy passion. However, it is a serious blunder also condemned in the strongest possible terms by the apostle Paul, to imagine that the Gospel disagrees with the moral standards that are set by the law. To think that justification by faith eliminates the need for obedience or to think that the perfect freedom of God’s grace gives license for unholy living. All of those things are errors as profound as legalism.

Good works and obedience to God’s commands and encouragements and admonitions to be holy; those things are necessary aspects of the christian life. Not necessary in the way the legalists suggest, to earn favor with God. In fact, our works are worthless, totally impotent for that purpose. But, obedience is the natural and inevitable and essential expression of love for Christ and gratitude for His grace and this is the chief, practical lesson we learn from the principle of grace. Grace compels us to love and good works. Grace constrains us to renounce sin and to pursue righteousness.

Listen, the Gospel is more excellent than the law, but the two do not disagree when it comes to the moral standard. Believing the Gospel sets us free from the law’s condemnation, but it does not release us from the moral standard set by the law.Or, to say it another way, the principle of sola fide, justification by faith alone, that principle is not hostile to good works. The Gospel puts good works in their proper place . But if we properly understand the principles of sola fide, it should make us zealous for good works, earnest in the pursuit of holiness, eager to obey the Lord’s commands. We don’t need to be the least bit hesitant to provoke one another to love and good works. If you are hesitant like that, especially in your preaching, shame on you.

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