Barrett’s Book Notes: Calvin, Schaeffer, and Barth! Oh my!

Posted by on Aug 28, 2014 in Book Notes, Matthew Barrett | No Comments
Barrett’s Book Notes: Calvin, Schaeffer, and Barth! Oh my!

9781433539565mMichael Horton. Calvin on the Christian Life: Glorifying and Enjoying God Forever. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2014.

There are few theologians I would rather read write about Calvin than Michael Horton who is himself a sort of Calvin for the twenty-first century. In his new book, Horton puts Calvin’s theology together in a fresh way. Here is the TOC:

1.  John Calvin on the Christian Life: An Introduction
2.  Calvin on the Christian Life: In Context

Part 1: Living before God3.  Knowing God and Ourselves
4.  Actors and Plot

Part 2 Living in God
5.  Christ the Mediator
6.  Gifts of Union with Christ

Part 3: Living in the Body
7.  How God Delivers His Grace
8.  The Public Service as a “Celestial Theater” of Grace
9.  Bold Access: Prayer as “The Chief Exercise of Faith”
10. Law and Liberty in the Christian Life
11. God’s New Society

Part 4: Living in the World
12. Christ and Caesar: The Two Kingdoms
13. Vocation: Where Good Works Go
14. Living Today from the Future: The Hope of Glory

One should note, Horton has also given a message on Calvin and Union with Christ at a recent Desiring God conference, and one can find Horton’s treatment of union in Chapter 6. Here is the video:
 

Finally, Ferguson praises Horton’s book, giving us a glimpse into its scope:

“Be warned. This looks like a book on how Calvin thought about living the Christian life. But open it and you will discover that Mike Horton is driving you on a grand Calvin tour of the whole of theology. And that, of course, is Professor Horton’s (and John Calvin’s) point: it takes the whole biblical gospel to make a whole Christian life. By employing the classical formulation of the two natures of Christ (‘distinct but not separate’), Dr. Horton provides readers with a key to help unlock Calvin’s teaching. But more than that, he shows why the Genevan Reformer’s vision of the Christian life remains unsurpassed. Thoroughly satisfying, thoroughly enjoyable, and thoroughly recommended.”
- Sinclair B. Ferguson, Distinguished Visiting Professor of Systematic Theology, Westminster Theological Seminary

9781433531545mThis series, edited by Justin Taylor and Stephen Nichols, continues to prove valuable, releasing volumes on some of the most important theologians and thinkers in church history, but doing so with a distinct focus on the Christian life.

Francis A. Schaeffer. The Finished Work of Christ: The Truth of Romans 1-8. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 1998.

In his Introduction to the book, Udo W. Middelmann explains that Schaeffer’s work on Romans grew out of his question and answer discussions with students in a flat in Lausanne, Switzerland in the 1960s. This work is important not only for observing how Schaeffer taught students Paul’s worldview, but also because these studies on Romans are an early window into Schaeffer’s entire frame of thought. As Middelmann says, “These studies are of special significance because they express most of the essential ideas and truths that are foundational to all of Dr. Schaeffer’s works and the content of his later books.”

R. Albert Mohler Jr. praises the legacy of Schaeffer, saying, “Schaeffer shaped the thinking of an entire generation of theologically-minded Christian young people.”

9780567152190R. Michael Allen. Karl Barth’s Church Dogmatics: An Introduction and Reader. London: T&T Clark, 2012.

Students in seminary may find that when reading Barth for a class they struggle to understand him. Allen’s new introduction and reader may help! Allen not only provides a helpful Introduction to the book and one that puts Barth’s thought in context, but he also breaks Barth’s entire thought down into fifteen chapters, providing excerpts on everything from the Trinity to the Christian Life. At the start of each chapter is a short introduction by Allen and each chapter is clustered with footnotes where Allen explains key concepts or terms. Legions of books have been published on Barth, but Allen’s volume is a good place to start.

Matthew Barrett (PhD, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is Assistant Professor of Christian Studies at California Baptist University, as well as the founder and executive editor of Credo Magazine. Barrett is also Senior Pastor of Fellowship Baptist Church. He is the author and editor of several books, including Salvation by Grace: The Case for Effectual Calling and Regeneration. You can read about Barrett’s other publications at matthewmbarrett.com.

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How to Hear Sermons (Matthew Barrett)

How to Hear Sermons (Matthew Barrett)

Each year countless books hit the shelves on how to preach a sermon. Everyone wants to know what it takes to preach a great message or how to become a spectacular speaker. But let’s face it, when was the last time you saw a book on how to hear a sermon? My guess…never! We tend to view the sermon as something the preacher does. But actually, there is much to preaching that has to do with what the listener does as well. Unfortunately, the average churchgoer never receives instruction on his role in the reception of Sunday’s message.

George Whitefield, however, has much to say about how to listen to sermons profitably. In a sermon called, “Directions How to Hear Sermons [Luke 8:18],” Whitefield lays down six ways the man in the pew should tune his ears. First, the Christian is to listen “not out of curiosity but from a sincere desire to know and do your duty.” Whitefield warns against the religious hypocrisy of entering into God’s house “merely to have our ears entertained and not our hearts reformed.” Such people “only hear the preacher’s voice with their outward ears but do not experience the power of it inwardly in their hearts.” Needless to say, such people are still around today. They come to church looking to be entertained, rather than to learn, worship, and obey God. We are to flee such a mindset and instead prepare our hearts by a “humble disposition,” ready to “receive with meekness the engrafted word.” Only then will God’s Word be “a means, under God, to quicken, build up, purify and save your souls.”

New Fixed Credo July 2014 CoverSecond, not only should the Christian prepare his heart before he hears, but also “give diligent heed to the things that are spoken from the word of God.” Should an earthly king issue a royal proclamation with conditions that determine the life or death of his subjects, “how solicitous would they be to hear what those conditions were?” How much more attentive and eager should we be to listen to the King of kings and Lord of lords, and “lend an attentive ear to his ministers, when they are declaring, in his name, how our pardon, peace, and happiness may be secured?”

Third, as important as preparing our hearts and being attentive with a “teachable disposition” might be, they mean nothing if one holds even “the least prejudice against the minister.” “For could a preacher speak with the tongue of men and angels, if his audience was prejudiced against him, he would be but as sounding brass, or tinkling cymbal.” Whitefield notes how Jesus himself “could not do many mighty works, nor preach to any great effect among those of his own country” for this very reason. It did not matter that he was God incarnate (!), for their ears were shut up from the start due to the hardness of their hearts.

Fourth, Whitefield warns against forming party lines and creating a celebrity out of any preacher. Whitefield cautions against depending too much on a preacher, thinking “more highly of him than you ought to think.” Surely this was a problem in the early church, as one followed Paul and another Apollos, failing to recognize that these preachers were “but instruments in God’s hands by whom you believed,” and should not be placed on a pedestal. Yes, we are to pay them double honor. “But then to prefer one minister at the expense of another . . . is earthly, sensual, devilish.” When we elevate one preacher we award him with popularity and applause, which are “exceedingly dangerous, even to a rightly informed mind.” Any preacher elevated in this way is no doubt tempted to take such honor for himself, which is “due only to God, who alone qualifies him for his ministerial labours.”

Fifth, Christians are to apply “everything that is delivered to your own hearts.” Whitefield wishes that when the preacher warns those in his congregation of sin, their first response would not be to look around the room to find out who might be guilty, but instead to “turn their thoughts inwardly and say, ‘Lord, is it I?’”

Sixth, when you hear God’s Word preached “pray to him, both before, in, and after every sermon, to endue the minister with power to speak and to grant you a will and ability to put in practice what he shall show from the book of God to be your duty.” Could there be anything more important than prayer, both for the minister and for the hearer? And is this not what Paul instructed the Ephesians, namely, to “intercede with God for him” (Eph. 6:18-19)? If “so great an Apostle as St. Paul needed the prayers of his people, much more do those ministers who have only the ordinary gifts of the Holy Spirit.” And if you do find yourself praying, is this not a “good proof that you sincerely desired to do, as well as to know, the will of God”? Such prayer not only blesses the minister, but the hearer as well, as God gives him a “double portion of his Holy Spirit, whereby they will be enabled to instruct you more fully in the things which pertain to the kingdom of God.”

If the Christian would apply these six instructions when listening to sermons, would not God’s people profit from them all the more? Will you not be “your minister’s joy and their crown of rejoicing in the day of our Lord Jesus”? And will not the Word of God dwell in you richly, as you move from “one degree of grace unto another”? Therefore, may every Christian listen sincerely to Whitefield when he says, “take heed how you hear.”

Matthew Barrett (PhD, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is Assistant Professor of Christian Studies at California Baptist University, as well as the founder and executive editor of Credo Magazine. Barrett is also Senior Pastor of Fellowship Baptist Church. He is the author and editor of several books, including Salvation by Grace: The Case for Effectual Calling and Regeneration. You can read about Barrett’s other publications at matthewmbarrett.com.

This column is from the new issue of Credo Magazine. Read others like it today!


To view the Magazine as a PDF {Click Here}

We live in a day when those in the church want to have their ears tickled. We do not want a sermon, but a “talk.” “Don’t get preachy, preacher!” is the mantra of many church goers today. What is preferred is a casual, comfortable, and laid back chat with a cup of coffee and a couple of Bible verses to throw into the mix to make sure things get spiritual. One wonders whether Timothy would have been fired as a pastor today for heeding Paul’s advice: “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching” (2 Tim. 4:2). Paul gives such a command to Timothy because he knew what was to come. “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths” (2 Tim. 4:3-4). Has that day come? Are churches filled with “itching ears,” demanding “teachers to suit their own passions”? Have we turned “away from listening to the truth”?

In a day when ears itch and truth is shown the back door, what could be more needed than men who actually preach the Word? George Whitefield (1714-1770) was one of those men. He was a preacher who preached in plain language, so that even the most common man could understand God’s Word. Yet, his sermons were incredibly powerful, often leading men and women to tears as the Holy Spirit convicted their souls. Whitefield not only preached the truth, but he pleaded with his listeners to submit themselves body and soul to the truth. He preached God’s Word with passion because he understood that his listener stood between Heaven and Hell. His robust Calvinism, in other words, led to a zealous evangelism.

This year, 2014, marks the 300th anniversary of Whitefield’s birth. These articles are meant to drive us back to Whitefield’s day, that we might eat up his theology, and drink deeply his passion for the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Contributors include: Thomas Kidd, Lee Gatiss, Michael A.G. Haykin, Thomas Nettles, Ian Hugh Clary, Mike McKinley, Mark Noll, Doug Sweeney, and many others.

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An Evangelical reflects on Patrick of Ireland (Michael A.G. Haykin )

Posted by on Aug 26, 2014 in Book Reviews, Michael Haykin | One Comment
An Evangelical reflects on Patrick of Ireland (Michael A.G. Haykin )

We are pleased to announce the release of a new book by one of the main contributors to Credo Magazine, Michael A.G. Haykin. Haykin has been writing and teaching for years on the historical figure (as opposed to the myth) of St. Patrick. Finally, his book on Patrick is out and is called, Patrick of Ireland: His Life and Impact.

Here is what others have said about Haykin’s work:

A fine balance between a biography of an extraordinary servant of Jesus Christ and an explanation of the beliefs that sustained Patrick.

Michael Ovey ~ Principal, Oak Hill Theological College, London

Michael Haykin paints a compelling portrait of this bibliocentric bishop and earnest evangelist. The dedicated missionary and thoughtful theologian that emerges belongs to the Gospel-loving global church and not just the Emerald Isle.

Paul Hartog ~ Adjunct Faculty, Biblical Studies, Faith Baptist Bible College and Theological Seminary, Ankeny, Iowa

To read this account is to fill us with thankfulness for the Lord’s work in history and with hopefulness for… another era of lost-ness.

Edward Donnelly ~ Principal, Reformed Theological College, Belfast, Northern Ireland

Judicious… knowledgeable…insightful… Readers will be impressed.

D. H. Williams ~ Professor of Patristics and Historical Theology, Baylor University, Waco, Texas

Beautifully detailed portrait in miniature… all Christians will benefit from learning more about this mighty figure in the great cloud of witnesses.

Lewis Ayres ~ Professor of Historical Theology, Durham University, Durham, England

The book is part of the series, edited by Haykin, titled, “Early Church Fathers.” Today we would like to give you a little taste for what the book is like by providing an excerpt from the book, which Haykin has called, “An Evangelical reflects on Patrick of Ireland.” But first, a little about Haykin. He is Professor of Church History and Biblical Spirituality at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. His most recent book is Rediscovering the Church Fathers: Who They Were and How They Shaped the Church (Crossway, 2011). Haykin is the director of the Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies.

Patrick-Cover-193x300An Evangelical reflects on Patrick of Ireland

E.A. Thompson has rightly noted that Patrick’s “character is complex and of the utmost fascination.”[1] My own fascination with Patrick began quite early in my studies of the Ancient Church. Initially, I suspect I was drawn to him because of my Irish ancestry. But in time, his rich Trinitarianism and zeal for missions, his Biblicism and dependence on the Spirit exercised their own pull on my heart and mind.

It would be both wrong and anachronistic to describe Patrick as an Evangelical. His encouragement of monasticism, for example, hardly squares with Evangelical piety.[2] His devotion to the Trinity, however, has much to teach Evangelicals, far too many of whom seem to have forgotten the absolute necessity of being Trinitarian in teaching and worship. His zeal for missions and the salvation of the lost is not only inspiring, but deeply convicting. And he is into missions for all of the right reasons: the glory of God, his love for the lost, in this case, the Irish, and his concern for their salvation, and the duty he owes to God’s call on his own life and obedience of the Scriptural mandate to take the Gospel to the ends of the earth. Then, there is his bibliocentrism: whether he had read many other books or not, he leaves us with the overwhelming impression that only one Book supremely matters, and that is the Bible. He is not afraid to find truth in other sources—all truth is God’s truth—but in the final analysis, it is Scripture that guides him. Finally, I love his dependence on the Spirit. While his thought and expression are indeed shaped by God’s infallible Word, he sought in all integrity to listen to the Spirit in his daily life and so find that much-needed balance of Word and Spirit that we all need in our day.[3] And most importantly in this regard, because of his own weaknesses, Patrick knew that the Spirit’s work in us is a humbling work, showing us that all in the Christian life is of pure grace—a truly Evangelical note: “if I have achieved or shown any small success according to God’s pleasure,…it was the gift of God.”[4]


[1] “Reviews”, Britannia, 11 (1980), 440.

[2] See Confession 41–42, 49; Letter to the Soldiers of Coroticus 12. Christine Mohrmann [The Latin of Saint Patrick (Dublin: Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, 1961), 26] is not convinced that “the Irish church of his [i.e. Patrick’s] time was characterized by monasticism.”

[3] See especially the helpful essay on this topic by Christopher Bennett, “The Puritans and the Direct Operations of Holy Spirit” in Building on A Sure Foundation. Papers read at the 1994 Westminster Conference ([London]: The Westminster Conference, 1994), 108–122.

[4] Confession 62, trans. R.P.C. Hanson, The Life and Writings of the Historical Saint Patrick (New York, NY: The Seabury Press, 1983), 124.

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Extraordinary Prayers of God’s People

Extraordinary Prayers of God’s People

Reading through Ephesians recently, I am reminded and exhorted to pray with Paul to know God, experience His power, and understand that we are His people (1:15-19). Later in the book, Paul prays that the saints would be strengthened with the Holy Spirit, and that they would comprehend the vastness of God’s love for us in Christ (3:14-19). He finishes this section saying, “Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” He can and should pray about a great many things, but our prayers should be focused on Christ’s kingdom and the spread of the truth of the gospel. Edwards reminds us of the power of prayer and how God has ordained it as a means to accomplishing His purposes. The world is in need of the gospel and kingdom realities, may we continue to pray passionately for God to do abundantly beyond all that we could ask or think.

It is God’s will through His wonderful grace, that the prayers of His saints should be one of the great principal means of carrying on the designs of Christ’s kingdom in the world. When God has something very great to accomplish for His church, it is His will that there should precede it the extraordinary prayers of His people; as is manifest by Ezekiel 36:37. and it is revealed that, when God is about to accomplish great things for His church, He will begin by remarkably pouring out the spirit of grace and supplication (see Zechariah 12:10).

Jeremy Kimble (PhD, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary) is Assistant Professor of Theological Studies at Cedarville University. He is an editor for Credo Magazine as well as the author of That His Spirit May Be Saved: Church Discipline as a Means to Repentance and Perseverance and numerous book reviews. He is married to Rachel and has two children, Hannah and Jonathan.

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Sunday’s Sermon (Schreiner, Barrett, Zaspel)

Posted by on Aug 25, 2014 in Sunday's Sermon | No Comments
Sunday’s Sermon (Schreiner, Barrett, Zaspel)

Three of Credo Magazine’s main contributors include Thomas Schreiner, Fred Zaspel, and Matthew Barrett. Each of them are professors, but they are also pastors. So each Monday morning we will be highlighting their “Sunday’s Sermon” on the blog to provide you with encouragement throughout the week and an opportunity to study God’s Word.
 

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Credo’s Cache

Posted by on Aug 22, 2014 in Credo's cache | One Comment
Credo’s Cache

Each week we will be highlighting important resources. Check back each Friday to see what we have dug up for you. From this week’s cache:

1. Three Deaths Every Seminarian Must FaceBy Joe Novenson - Novenson says: “During your seminary years, you must learn to embrace the deaths to which Jesus calls us in order to escape the deaths about which Jesus warns us. You may be able to succeed in other areas of study with mere intellect and effort.”

2. What Are Gospel Issues?By D. A. Carson - Carson notes: “In sum, to affirm something is or is not a gospel issue is not a transparent expression. It is likely to be clearest among those who share a common confession as to what the gospel is. It is useful only when it means something more stringent than that X can be tied in some way to the gospel: one must show that without this X the gospel itself is seriously threatened.”

3. Blindness, Loneliness, and the Abundant Christian LifeBy Cody Dolinsek - Dolinsek says: “Christians like everyone else partake of fallenness.  In the case of the blind, this means that if one is a blind Christian, they may in spite of being Christian still experience the profound loneliness that comes when it is realized that not everyone can understand or even care to understand their situation.”

4. We Are All Suicides NowBy Paul Zahl – Zahl says: “ Life is tragic. Suicide is a serious option. Lots of people have been doing it for a very long time. We just didn’t talk about it much. Now even more people are doing it, and we are, a little, talking about it.”

5. Suffering Nails Truth to the HeartBy Whitney Woollard - Woollard notes: “In the midst of pain there is a very real temptation to believe that God is punishing you. I’ve wrestled with debilitating migraines for seven years and my immediate response is to frantically search my life for some secret sin I’ve committed. I fall into the trap of believing that if I’m good I’ll be rewarded and if I’m bad I’ll be punished.”

Matt Manry is the Assistant Pastor at Life Bible Church in Canton, Georgia. He is currently pursuing a Master of Arts in Religion at Reformed Theological Seminary and a Masters of Arts in Christian and Classical Studies from Knox Theological Seminary. He blogs regularly at gospelglory.net.

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God’s anointed barnstormer: Lee Gatiss explains the holy violence of Whitefield’s preaching

Posted by on Aug 21, 2014 in Magazine-George Whitefield at 300 | No Comments
God’s anointed barnstormer: Lee Gatiss explains the holy violence of Whitefield’s preaching

In the new issue of Credo Magazine, “George Whitefield at 300,” Matthew Barrett, executive editor of Credo Magazine, interviewed Lee Gatiss in an interview titled, “God’s anointed barnstormer: Lee Gatiss explains the holy violence of Whitefield’s preaching.”

Gatiss is the Director of Church Society, an Anglican Evangelical ministry based in the UK, and Adjunct Lecturer in Church History at Wales Evangelical School of Theology. He has studied history and theology at Oxford, Cambridge, and Westminster Theological Seminary, and trained for ministry at Oak Hill Theological College in London. Having served churches in Oxford, Kettering, and London, he is also the author of many books and articles on theology, biblical interpretation, and church history, and has a Ph.D. on the Hebrews commentary of John Owen. He is the Editor of the NIV Proclamation Bible (Hodder & Stoughton) and the new two-volume edition of The Sermons of George Whitefield (Crossway).

Here is the start of the interview:

New Fixed Credo July 2014 CoverMartyn Lloyd-Jones once said that Whitefield was, “beyond any question, the greatest English preacher who has ever lived.” And J. C. Ryle said something similar: “No Englishman, I believe, dead or alive, has ever equaled him.” Why is it that Lloyd-Jones and Ryle, who were themselves preachers of enormous reputation, could say this about Whitefield? What made Whitefield’s preaching unique and timeless?

I always smile at that comment from Lloyd-Jones, because he was clearly holding out for a Welshman as the greatest preacher ever! But Whitefield came a close second to the heroes from his homeland. Whitefield was the first great celebrity mass evangelist. By all accounts there was immense fruit from his labors. And his preaching was robustly Reformed and Evangelical in its content. These things gave it a depth and a fascination that have endured until today.

Why did Whitefield take his sermons outdoors, to fields, as opposed to remaining in the church as was traditionally the case? And what type of crowds came to hear him preach in the open air?

Whitefield did actually preach a great many of his sermons in ordinary English parish churches. His zeal to collect money by means of “charity sermons” for the orphanage he supported in Georgia took him to many places, and clergy were happy to open the pulpit for such philanthropic motives. Once in the pulpit, however, Whitefield was sometimes rather harsh and condemnatory towards the “letter-learned” clergy of his day, and spoke very freely against their dead and lifeless ministries. Even those who weren’t personally offended by a zealous 24 year-old denouncing them sometimes found that their bishops were less keen on such rhetoric being propagated in their patch, and so some pulpit doors were closed to him.

That’s why Whitefield first took to the fields, though the lure of thousands of people gathering in such public places (parks and commons) was also a draw for the dramatic evangelist. He would attract the casual passer-by, those who were out for a stroll, and those who came especially hoping to catch a glimpse of this strange new phenomenon. Lords and ladies might stop their horses and carriages to listen in, and he also spoke to groups of coalminers and prisoners in the jails.

Talk to us about Whitefield’s style of preaching? How did he approach the text of Scripture and apply it to his listeners? And given Whitefield’s oratory skills, what did his sermons sound like?

One biographer styles him “the divine dramatist.” J. I. Packer calls him “God’s anointed barnstormer.” He had a way with big crowds, and the famous actor David Garrick is reputed to have said he would give a hundred guineas to be able to say “O!” like Whitefield. Whitefield would stamp his feet for emphasis, don a black cap in imitation of a judge as he spoke of God’s death sentence upon sinners, and had a flair for vivid, descriptive narrative which had people of all kinds on the edges of their seats. There was a sort of holy violence about him.

He intentionally preached, most of the time, to reach the lowest class. If they understood, so would others. He aimed for their hearts as well as their heads, teaching what the Bible said but doing it with the aim of moving people’s emotions and wills. He was not content to simply titillate or amuse. He wanted people to feel how important and serious a message the gospel is for lost sinners. He realized later that sometimes he had gone a little over the top as a younger man, writing in his mid-30s of how he had stirred up needless opposition: “I frequently wrote and spoke with my own spirit, when I thought I was writing and speaking by the assistance of the Spirit of God.” . . .

Read the rest of this interview today!


To view the Magazine as a PDF {Click Here}

We live in a day when those in the church want to have their ears tickled. We do not want a sermon, but a “talk.” “Don’t get preachy, preacher!” is the mantra of many church goers today. What is preferred is a casual, comfortable, and laid back chat with a cup of coffee and a couple of Bible verses to throw into the mix to make sure things get spiritual. One wonders whether Timothy would have been fired as a pastor today for heeding Paul’s advice: “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching” (2 Tim. 4:2). Paul gives such a command to Timothy because he knew what was to come. “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths” (2 Tim. 4:3-4). Has that day come? Are churches filled with “itching ears,” demanding “teachers to suit their own passions”? Have we turned “away from listening to the truth”?

In a day when ears itch and truth is shown the back door, what could be more needed than men who actually preach the Word? George Whitefield (1714-1770) was one of those men. He was a preacher who preached in plain language, so that even the most common man could understand God’s Word. Yet, his sermons were incredibly powerful, often leading men and women to tears as the Holy Spirit convicted their souls. Whitefield not only preached the truth, but he pleaded with his listeners to submit themselves body and soul to the truth. He preached God’s Word with passion because he understood that his listener stood between Heaven and Hell. His robust Calvinism, in other words, led to a zealous evangelism.

This year, 2014, marks the 300th anniversary of Whitefield’s birth. These articles are meant to drive us back to Whitefield’s day, that we might eat up his theology, and drink deeply his passion for the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Contributors include: Thomas Kidd, Lee Gatiss, Michael A.G. Haykin, Thomas Nettles, Ian Hugh Clary, Mike McKinley, Mark Noll, Doug Sweeney, and many others.

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The Justified Life: George Whitefield’s Preaching on Justification by Faith Alone (Michael A.G. Haykin)

Posted by on Aug 20, 2014 in Magazine-George Whitefield at 300 | No Comments
The Justified Life: George Whitefield’s Preaching on Justification by Faith Alone (Michael A.G. Haykin)

In the new issue of Credo Magazine, “George Whitefield at 300,” Michael A.G. Haykin has contributed an article titled, “The Justified Life: George Whitefield’s Preaching on Justification by Faith Alone.” Haykin is Professor of Church History and Biblical Spirituality at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. His most recent book is Rediscovering the Church Fathers: Who They Were and How They Shaped the Church (Crossway, 2011). Haykin is the director of the Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies.

New Fixed Credo July 2014 CoverHere is the start of Haykin’s article:

The final decades of the seventeenth century witnessed a distinct decline in public manners and morals in England. Attestation of this fact is found in both public documents and private testimonies. Here is the witness of one author, the London Baptist theologian Benjamin Keach (1640–1704), writing in 1701:

Was ever sodomy so common in a Christian nation, or so notoriously and frequently committed, as by too palpable evidences it appears to be, in and about this city, notwithstanding the clear light of the gospel which shines therein, and the great pains taken to reform the abominable profaneness that abounds? Is it not a wonder the patience of God hath not consumed us in his wrath, before this time? Was ever swearing, blasphemy, whoring, drunkenness, gluttony, self-love, and covetousness, at such a height, as at this time here?

Despite the presence of a number of gospel-centred ministries like that of Keach and various societies which had been created to bring about moral reform, homosexuality, profanity, sexual immorality, drunkenness and gluttony were widespread. And the next three decades saw little improvement.

When atheism was fashionable

The moral tone of the nation was set in many ways by its monarchs and leading politicians. The first of the Hanoverian monarchs, George I (r.1714–1727), was primarily interested in food, horses, and women. He divorced his wife when he was thirty-four and thereafter consorted with a series of mistresses. Sir Robert Walpole (1676–1745), prime minister from 1722 to 1742, lived in undisguised adultery with his mistress, Maria Skerrett (d.1738), whom he married after his wife died. As J. H. Plumb has noted of aristocratic circles in the early eighteenth century, the women “hardly bothered with the pretence of virtue, and the possession of lovers and mistresses was regarded as a commonplace, a matter for gossip but not reproach.” Not surprisingly other segments of society simply followed suit. Pornographic literature, for instance, multiplied almost unchecked. Newspapers advertised such things as the services of gigolos and cures for venereal disease, and one could purchase guide-books to the numerous brothels in London. It was, as Selina Hastings, a modern-day descendant of the famous eighteenth-century evangelical, has put it, “an age when atheism was fashionable, sexual morals lax, and drinking and gambling at a pitch of profligacy that he never since been equalled.”

The worldly bishop

By and large the bishops of the Church of England were, in the words of English historian J. H. Plumb, “first and foremost politicians,” not men of the Spirit. “There is a worldliness,” Plumb continues, “about eighteenth-century [bishops] which no amount of apologetics can conceal.” They undertook their clerical duties “only as political duties allowed.” The worldliness of these bishops showed itself in other ways as well. Jonathan Trelawny (1650-1721), Bishop of Winchester, used to “excuse himself for his much swearing by saying he swore as a baronet, and not as a bishop”! Such bishops had neither the time nor the interest to promote church renewal. Of course, the decadence of church leadership was by no means absolute; but the net effect of worldly bishops was to squash effective reform.

Moreover, the attention of far too many of the clergy under these bishops was taken up with such avocations as philosophy, biology, agriculture, chemistry, literature, law, politics, fox-hunting, drinking—anything but pastoral ministry and spiritual nurture. There were, of course, a goodly number of Church of England ministers who did not have the resources to indulge themselves in such pursuits, since they barely eked out a living. But few of them—wealthy or poor—preached anything but dry, unaffecting moralistic sermons. The mentalité of the first half of the eighteenth century gloried in reason, moderation, and decorum. The preaching of the day, remarks Horton Davies, dwelt largely upon themes of morality and decency and lacked “any element of holy excitement, of passionate pleading, of heroic challenge, of winged imagination.”

Even among many of the churches of the Dissenters, the children of the Puritans, things were little better. One knowledgeable observer of these churches bemoaned the fact that “the distinguished doctrines of the gospel—Christ crucified, the only ground of hope for fallen man—salvation through his atoning blood—the sanctification by his eternal Spirit, are old-fashioned things now seldom heard in our churches.” The Christian life was basically defined in terms of a moral life of good works. Spiritual ardour was regarded with horror as “enthusiasm” or fanaticism. The ideal of the era is well summed up by an inscription on a tombstone from the period: “pious without enthusiasm.”

It was the eighteenth-century Revival’s message of the new birth and justification by faith alone that brought positive changes and hope. This message had numerous heralds in that remarkable era, but none as widely appreciated and known as George Whitefield (1714–1770). . . .

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We live in a day when those in the church want to have their ears tickled. We do not want a sermon, but a “talk.” “Don’t get preachy, preacher!” is the mantra of many church goers today. What is preferred is a casual, comfortable, and laid back chat with a cup of coffee and a couple of Bible verses to throw into the mix to make sure things get spiritual. One wonders whether Timothy would have been fired as a pastor today for heeding Paul’s advice: “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching” (2 Tim. 4:2). Paul gives such a command to Timothy because he knew what was to come. “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths” (2 Tim. 4:3-4). Has that day come? Are churches filled with “itching ears,” demanding “teachers to suit their own passions”? Have we turned “away from listening to the truth”?

In a day when ears itch and truth is shown the back door, what could be more needed than men who actually preach the Word? George Whitefield (1714-1770) was one of those men. He was a preacher who preached in plain language, so that even the most common man could understand God’s Word. Yet, his sermons were incredibly powerful, often leading men and women to tears as the Holy Spirit convicted their souls. Whitefield not only preached the truth, but he pleaded with his listeners to submit themselves body and soul to the truth. He preached God’s Word with passion because he understood that his listener stood between Heaven and Hell. His robust Calvinism, in other words, led to a zealous evangelism.

This year, 2014, marks the 300th anniversary of Whitefield’s birth. These articles are meant to drive us back to Whitefield’s day, that we might eat up his theology, and drink deeply his passion for the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Contributors include: Thomas Kidd, Lee Gatiss, Michael A.G. Haykin, Thomas Nettles, Ian Hugh Clary, Mike McKinley, Mark Noll, Doug Sweeney, and many others.

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Preaching Through Mental Fog (Timothy Raymond)

Posted by on Aug 19, 2014 in Preaching, Timothy Raymond | No Comments
Preaching Through Mental Fog (Timothy Raymond)

So it happened again last Sunday.  I wound up preaching while in a mental fog.  I don’t understand all the reasons for it – perhaps it was messed up sleep patterns or maybe too much jalapeno beef jerky the night before – but probably 3 or 4 times a year I wake up early Sunday morning and just don’t feel right in the head.  It’s sort of that feeling you have when you’ve got a bad cold and take some non-drowsy cold medicine.  You’re not drowsy but you feel as if you’re wearing a thick, invisible space helmet.  You can’t hear yourself or others too clearly and can’t seem to speak as precisely either.  Your words seem to drop out of your mouth like clumsy rocks.  Ever been there?  If you’ve preached more than, say, a dozen sermons you’ve certainly experienced it.  This phenomenon can cause you to panic in the pulpit and in your panic you can make your sermon much worse.

In light of several of these experiences, here are a few things I’ve learned for preaching through mental fog:

1. Realize that things are probably not as bad as you think. In the midst of a mental fog sermon, I begin to imagine that the sermon is completely incoherent and that I should just call it quits and send everybody home early.  But what I’ve discovered is that this is more my perception than reality.  When I’ve asked others after a mental fog sermon, they almost always tell me that they couldn’t discern any difference from my “normal” sermons (not sure if that’s exactly encouraging).  So when in the midst of mental mist, keep going, don’t give up, and realize that it’s probably not that bad.

2. Remember that God is sovereign. It’s odd, but we preachers can actually deny what we proclaim in how we handle ourselves in the pulpit.  Worry, fret, anxiety, sweat pouring down our brow over a less-than-perfect sermon denies our profession that the Lord does whatever He pleases.  Fight to believe in the sovereignty of God, even in the midst of your lousy pulpit performance.  God is still on His throne, the elect will still be saved, the church will still triumph, Jesus will still return, and somehow the Lord will use your atrocious sermon to further His plan.

3. Consider simplifying or editing out some more complicated discussions.  This is simply a practical pointer, but if you were planning on going off on an extended aside enumerating the various positions in the Lapsarian Controversy or a lengthy description of Baal worship, maybe consider moving that to a week when you’re more mentally sharp.  This could be done during the midst of the sermon on the fly, or preferably before the sermon begins.  I could tell my mental engine wasn’t firing on all cylinders last Sunday so I did something like this during my sermon and I’m glad I did.  Make the Main Thing the main thing and then get out of the pulpit.

4. Remind yourself that God still uses Bible exposition even when the homiletics are appalling. Now obviously we want to do our best in winsomely proclaiming the unsearchable riches of Christ, but sometimes we’re pretty weak, tired, confused jars of clay.  But the beauty of Bible exposition is that the Word is front and center.  The focus of attention isn’t the preacher and his eloquence or charisma but the Word of the Lord.  What this means is that the Lord will still use ineloquent Bible exposition to save sinners and edify the saints.  For an encouraging reminder of this, go read the account of Charles Spurgeon’s conversion.  God’s Word never returns void (Isaiah 55:11), and your crummy, bumbling, misty-minded, redundant, semi-coherent exposition of Scripture might be the means of converting the next Spurgeon.

So these are simply some of the keys I’ve found helpful in preaching through mental fog.  Now tell us what you’ve found helpful.  Leave your suggestions in the comments below and we’ll have a conversation.

Timothy Raymond is an editor for Credo Magazine and has been the pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Muncie, Indiana since April 2006. He received his MDiv from the Baptist Bible Seminary of Pennsylvania in 2004 and has pursued further education through the Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation.

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God is the Substance

Posted by on Aug 18, 2014 in Jeremy Kimble, Jonathan Edwards | No Comments
God is the Substance

Below is a well known quote by the great theologian, Jonathan Edwards, but it bears repeating. We are in daily need of being reminded of the greatness of who God is. We know that every good and perfect gift comes from above, from the Father of lights (James 1:17), but we must also recognize that every gift we have here should lead us to worship of God. Psalm 43:4 reminds us, “Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy.” Commentators note that phrase “my exceeding joy” is literally “the joy of my joys.” God is the root joy in any joy we have or experience in this life. We must turn every moment of this life back to the Provider of every good thing. Certainly we are given good gifts here, but we must remember that the realities of this life are but shadows compared to the inheritance we will receive one day when we meet God face to face in glory.

God is the highest good of the reasonable creature. The enjoyment of him is our proper; and is the only happiness with which our souls can be satisfied. To go to heaven, fully to enjoy God, is infinitely better than the most pleasant accommodations here. Better than fathers and mothers, husbands, wives, or children, or the company of any, or all earthly friends. These are but shadows; but the enjoyment of God is the substance. These are but scattered beams; but God is the sun. These are but streams; but God is the fountain. These are but drops, but God is the ocean.

Jeremy Kimble (PhD, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary) is Assistant Professor of Theological Studies at Cedarville University. He is an editor for Credo Magazine as well as the author of That His Spirit May Be Saved: Church Discipline as a Means to Repentance and Perseverance and numerous book reviews. He is married to Rachel and has two children, Hannah and Jonathan.

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