Wednesday, 10 February 2016

How Preaching Has Blessed My Life

     The concept of “preaching” goes well beyond the pulpit. When the persecuted Christians driven out of Jerusalem “went everywhere preaching the word” (Acts 8:4), I doubt very many pulpits were involved! Since preaching necessarily includes learning, living, serving, and communicating, what a great privilege it is (not to mention a grave responsibility!) to be a student of the Bible, an example to the brethren, a minister to those in need, and a teacher among the spiritually hungry.
     Preaching has encouraged me to be a better Christian. I realize that my greatest teaching tool is my example, which gives me extra incentive to pursue a life of faithfulness and godliness. Otherwise, my labors in God’s kingdom are in vain. I am far from perfect, so I am compelled to rely more heavily on the Lord to help me be the kind of person I ought to be.
     Preaching has helped me to be a better student of God’s word. It has provided the opportunity to study, learn, and teach the Bible every day. The admonition in James 3:1 has been a strong motivator to examine the scriptures more carefully and deeply.
     Preaching has helped me to be a better husband and father. I can’t conscientiously teach others the biblical principles of marriage and parenting if I am not practicing these myself. Moreover, as my wife and children observe my active involvement in the Lord’s work, spiritual leadership is not lacking in our home.
     Preaching has blessed my life by enabling me to serve as an instrument in God’s hand, eternally impacting the lives of those with whom I work. There is nothing about me personally that makes any significant difference, but I get to witness the spiritual transformation of precious souls by simply communicating the divine message and pointing them to Christ.
     Preaching is admittedly a challenging vocation, filled with stress, hardship, and disappointment. But these negative aspects pale into virtual insignificance when compared to the blessings afforded. It doesn’t take a spiritual giant to be a full-time preacher, but it is nearly impossible to remain spiritually dwarfed while doing it. God’s primary interest is not our comfort and convenience, but he is interested in blessing people through us and consequently blessing our lives in the process.
     “So likewise you, when you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do’” (Luke 17:10).
-- Kevin L. Moore

Appearing in Hope & Expectation (The Jenkins Institute) 13 February 2014, <http://thejenkinsinstitute.com/blog/2014/02/13/preaching-blessed-life-8/>.

Related PostsBalance in Outreach

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Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Training Biblically Balanced Preachers

     The Bible has always presented a balanced message that includes both promises and warnings, privileges and responsibilities, mercy and justice, heaven and hell, faith and obedience – none of these to the exclusion of the others. Declaring the whole counsel of God, therefore, requires more than just preachers who are willing to preach. It calls for biblically balanced preachers who are committed to saying and doing the right things in the right ways for the right reasons.    
     While imprisoned in Rome facing imminent death, Paul composed what was probably his final manuscript – the epistle known as 2 Timothy. The document was originally sent to his dear friend and companion, for whom nearly a decade and a half had been invested in preparation for the ministry of the gospel. But the apostle’s chief concern was not only for the one he affectionately regarded as his “beloved son” (1:2);1 it was for everyone who names the name of Christ (2:19). As Paul’s second letter to Timothy is carefully examined, it proves to be a timely message for today’s church and a fitting guide for training biblically balanced preachers. 
     Paul understood the importance of training faithful men who would be able to teach others also (2:1-2). And faithful men are those who are balanced, committed to the middle road of truth without compromise and without veering to the reckless left or the radical right. That is why the apostle places firm emphasis on “the pattern of sound words” (1:13), “sound doctrine” (4:3), and “the truth” (2:18, 25; 3:7, 8; 4:4).
     It goes without saying that a biblically balanced preacher is a diligent student of the Holy Scriptures. He is steadfastly committed to rightly discerning the word of truth (2:15). Not only does he know the Bible, with an underlying conviction of its divine origin, he genuinely applies it to his own life and as a consequence has been appreciably influenced by it (3:14-17). He is also compelled to “preach the word,” ready at all times to publicize the Lord’s message whether it is popular or not (4:2-5). 
     A biblically balanced preacher must understand that faithfulness and godly living are to precede anything he attempts to verbally profess. He is to be a “vessel of honor,” spiritually clean and set apart from the world, useful for the Master and prepared for every good work (2:21). From a pure heart he shuns immorality and pursues righteousness, faith, love and peace (2:22). He would be unashamed for every member of the congregation to know what television programs he watches or what websites he browses. His life serves as a commendable example that can be emulated by all who are seeking the Lord’s favor (3:10; 4:7).
     A biblically balanced preacher does not intentionally generate controversy nor does he eagerly seek it out. At the same time, however, he does not timidly evade difficult issues when they invariably occur (1:7). He realizes that unprofitable and disparaging discourse is to be avoided (2:14-17, 23). Yet doctrinal and behavioral error must be challenged unabashedly (2:17-18; 3:1-9; 4:3-4), even if it requires the naming of transgressors to warn of their dangerous influence (1:15; 2:17; 4:10, 14-15). The foremost concern is for the well-being of the church and the salvation of souls.
     A biblically balanced preacher not only proclaims the right message, he does so with the right attitude and the right manner. The pattern of sound words is embraced and communicated in the way of Christ Jesus, i.e. “in faith and love” (1:13). Rather than being contentious, the Lord’s servant is characterized by meekness, aptitude in teaching, patience, and humility, even when correcting those who are in opposition (2:24-25). While he preaches the word of God in order to reprove, rebuke, and exhort, he does so “with all longsuffering” (the correct manner) and “doctrine” (the correct teaching) (4:2).
     A biblically balanced preacher is watchful in all things, he endures affliction, he does the work of an evangelist, and he fulfills his ministry (4:5). Moreover, he does not easily give up. He understands that a life of serving Christ is a challenging vocation, filled with struggle, opposition, disappointment, and hardship (3:10-12). But he perseveres with the unwavering assurance that the Lord is with him every step of the way, providing the necessary strength to fully proclaim the gospel of life (4:16-18).
     A biblically balanced preacher lives in anticipation of the final reward. At the end of his journey he can confidently say: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing” (4:7-8).
     While training preachers is an admirable pursuit, of even greater consequence is the training of biblically balanced preachers. With the Lord’s help, may we all be committed to such a worthy task.
--Kevin L. Moore

Endnote:
     1 All scripture quotations are from the NKJV.

Originally appearing in Gospel Journal 7.6 (2006): 14-15.


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Wednesday, 27 January 2016

For or Against?

     In Luke 9:50 Jesus is reported as saying, “… for he who is not against us is for us” (par Mark 9:40).1 But later, in Luke 11:23, the Lord seems to be saying just the opposite: “he that is not with me is against me …” (par Matt. 12:30).
     Those leaning toward and embracing the theological left have been known to exploit the former passage in defense of ecumenical diversity and broadening their circle of acceptance. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the latter text has been favored to justify narrowing lines of fellowship beyond what is biblically prescribed. Meanwhile, antibiblicists cite both texts, pitting one against the other and claiming the Bible contradicts itself.
     None of the above approaches is correct. Each demonstrates the interpretive fallacy of ignoring context and then proof-texting to bolster a preconceived misconception. An honest, sympathetic, and careful examination of these passages reveals both the intended meaning and a coherent harmony of the two.
On the Lord’s Side
     In the first passage, the apostles were forbidding the good works of an apparent disciple of Jesus simply because he was not in their immediate apostolic circle. Contextually a childish dispute had arisen on their journey to Capernaum (Mark 9:33-34), and they later asked the Lord, “Who then is greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?” (Matt. 18:1).2 Their worldly focus was on which person should be considered preeminent (cf. Luke 22:24), while Jesus redirects their attention to the quality of character needed (Mark 9:35-37).
     Christ teaches an important lesson by taking a small child in his arms (Mark 9:36) – the epitome of spiritual purity and innocence (cf. Mark 10:13-16).3 The disciples are challenged to turn from their selfish, vain, haughty ambitions, to develop the childlike attitude of humility, and to receive (be accepting and considerate of) those who exhibit the same humble disposition (cf. Mark 9:38-42).
     Here is where John4 reveals the prideful/arrogant temperament of the apostles as he informs Jesus they had forbidden the good works of a man simply because he was not one of the twelve (Mark 9:38); “he doesn’t follow with us” (Luke 9:49, emp. added). However, Christ had more loyal followers than just the twelve (Mark 9:41; Luke 10:1), and no one could truly cast out demons in Jesus’ name unless the Lord had given him this power (cf. Matt. 10:8; Luke 10:17). What this man had done wasn’t contrary to the way of Christ, so the admonition is given: “Don't forbid him, for he who is not against us is for us” (Luke 9:50; cf. Mark 9:39-40).
Not on the Lord’s Side
     In the second passage (Luke 11:23; par Matt. 12:30), the Lord is speaking to antagonistic Pharisees who were falsely accusing him of doing the devil’s work. This is where he says, he that is not with me is against me …” This situation, the people involved, and the issue addressed are very different than the above.
     The antagonists were Pharisees (Matt. 12:24), identified by Mark as scribes from Jerusalem (3:22), indicative of Jesus’ widespread influence and reputation and the growing animosity toward him. Their options were to (1) deny the miracles; (2) accept that Jesus’ power was from God; or (3) attribute the miracles to another source. They couldn’t reasonably deny the reality of Christ’s miracles, and they refused to accept Jesus as a legitimate representative of God.
     Jesus was casting out demons “by the Spirit of God” (Matt. 12:28; cf. Luke 11:20), and his opponents responded with “blasphemies,” i.e. reviling; irreverence, slander, defiant hostility. The verbal form blaspēmēsē (Mark 3:29; Luke 12:10) is in the aorist tense, involving a state of mind as long as it lasts, viz. conscious and deliberate opposition to God.
     On this occasion the sin was stubbornly dismissing the obvious working of God’s Spirit and defiantly attributing it to the power of Satan. Enemies of truth, resistant to Christ’s message, are decidedly against him.
Conclusion
     The teachings of Christ call for both exclusiveness and inclusiveness, depending on the circumstances. A genuine disciple of Jesus is not to be rejected (cf. Acts 9:26-27), and the New Testament gives clear instructions about being faithful to the Lord and recognizing faithfulness. But not everyone who wears the name of Christ wears the name legitimately (Matt. 7:21-23); in such cases, Luke 9:50 (par Mark 9:40) does not apply. At the same time, Luke 11:23 (par Matt. 12:30) is not about petty differences and disputes among brethren. The focus here is on false teachers and enemies of truth who reject Christ and the way of Christ.
     Out of context, there appears to be a discrepancy between these two statements, while they seem to conflict with other passages as well. But in context, they are easily understood and harmonized.
--Kevin L. Moore

Endnotes:
     1 Unless otherwise noted, scripture quotations are from the World English Bible. The Byzantine Majority Text reads hēmōnhēmōn (“the one not against us is for us”), as in the N/KJV and RAV, while the NA/UBS Critical Text has the alternate reading, humōnhumōn (“the one not against you is for you”), as in the ESV, N/ASV, et al. See Text of the NT Part 1 <Link>.
     2 Mark and Luke give abbreviated versions of this incident, while Matthew devotes the entirety of chapter 18 to it.
     3 Matthew’s expanded recounting of the Lord’s words: “Most certainly I tell you [all], unless you turn, and become as little children, you will in no way enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. Whoever therefore humbles himself as this little child, the same is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven. Whoever receives one such little child in my name receives me …” (Matt. 18:3-5; cf. Luke 9:47-48).
     4 John was one of the “sons of thunder” who struggled with impatience, intolerance, and selfishness (Mark 3:17; 10:35-37; Luke 9:54).


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