4 Free Disciple-Making Resources from Matthias Media

Our friends at Matthias Media are doing what they can to continue to partner with the church by providing top-notch resources for making disciples.

Some of their books we’ve mentioned on this blog before include The Trellis and the Vine by Tony Payne and Colin Marshall, One-to-One Bible Reading by David Helm, and God of Word: The Word, the Spirit and how God speaks to us by John Woodhouse.

In a recent COVID-19 related update, Matthias Media announced how they are operating and shared how to get a few resources in the “Free Digital Resources for You” section.

If you email Marty (msweeney@matthiasmedia.com) or call the Matthias Media office (1-866-407-4530), you can get a copy (PDF and/or Kindle) of the following titles:

You’ll also be interested to note a 50% off sale on the following resources:

  • The Everlasting God by Broughton Knox – “Few minds have explored the depths of God’s revelation with such humble and innovative perception,” says Phillip Jenson of this book’s author.
  • Full of Promise – Learn how the entire Old Testament fits together as one great story about God.
  • From Sinner to Saint DVD Study by John Chapman – Though Chappo is well into his 70’s when this video was made, I had a youth pastor tell me that his kids were enthralled going through this course. Great for a weekly family study!
  • Wisdom in Leadership by Craig Hamilton – what better time to dive into this thick but valuable book? As one Amazon review says “this is the best kept secret in ministry leadership.”

In addition to these suggestions, all orders with Matthias Media have free shipping to US addresses.

Establishing Transparent Ministry Teams

This is the final part of the transcript of a conversation on Preventing Disqualifying Sins in Ministry between Kevin Halloran and John Eichholz.



It’s important for us as individuals to think about, how we can we best prevent sin in our ministries, sin that could derail our ministry. How might we encourage a leadership team in a church or an organization to seek to protect one another? 

JH: I want to bring out our organization, Leadership Resources, as a good model. I find this mission organization a better environment than some churches I’ve served in just because there is a real openness that encourages guys to challenge one another. There is a culture of openness, of caring. There’s a freedom to be yourself but also to go to other people, whether there’s a need for confession of sin or confronting sin. Initially, I was a little off guard, because in other church situations I didn’t experience that same thing.

In any church or other Christian organization, two dynamics ought to be fostered. The first is that the higher leadership, say the pastoral team, ought to foster openness with one another. That is a challenge for anyone who might read this. If you don’t have openness or you serve with someone else who is not being accountable, you need to develop it. This is crucial to good leadership, because if leadership doesn’t do it, neither will anyone else in the body. The second thing is, strong godly leaders need to develop a desired culture and determine what that culture will look like. Again, this is something that LRI has done over the years. Our founder, Bill Mills, has been such a godly influence on the organization, and we have other leaders who have been raised up and are doing an equally good job at developing that culture.

Let me read four things that we work on regularly. We have a culture of love, a culture of humility, a culture of hope, and a culture of faith, and then under each one of those categories we describe what that culture looks like. We talk about those things. When we cultivate cultures where people are encouraged to be open in  expressing their struggles or their sins, and then a culture of love where we embrace those people, we encourage them. 

Most pastors are very aware of the “one another” Scriptures. There are many of them. Sometimes we don’t practice these in our church situations, whether in Bible Study or in larger groups. James 5:16 says, “Confess your sins to one another.” Closely following that  is Colossians 3:1 which talks about “bearing with one another” and “forgiving each other.” Ephesians 4:32: “Be kind to one another, tender hearted, forgiving one another”; and then, of course, the most plentiful of the one-another Scriptures are the “love one anothers.” As we show true sacrificial love, that fosters a wonderful relationship and a wonderful spirit in the organization, knowing that other people have your best interest at heart and, in fact, they will sacrifice for you. There are several Scripture texts that talk about being subject to one another: Clothe yourself with humility, 1 Peter 5:5 tells us. Galatians 6:2 says, “Bear one another’s burdens,” and so on. Several of the one-anothers talk about honesty. You put those together and as a leadership team work hard to foster that. You have an environment where people feel conspicuous if they are fostering patterns of sin in their hearts. There is one thing that you can do as an individual believer, but praise God when you have a church or an organization that encourages you not to have those private things going on in your heart and encourages you to share your weaknesses when you stumble.

KH: Thank you so much for your time, John. I’m wondering if you’d close our time in prayer.

JE: It’d be my privilege.

Father, we thank you for calling us to be your children. What a high and holy privilege that is. Thank you for your gift of salvation. We realize that it was purchased through the blood of your precious Son. Father, help us, whether we’re in a church-leadership situation, a mission organization, or we are just a co-laborer with other people who want to exalt Christ in our community. Father, may we be free from sins that overwhelm and disqualify us from giving glory to You. I pray for our own organization. Thank you for what you’re doing and for the way it’s expanding. I pray that you would keep each leader and coworker growing in godliness and encouraging one another in that. Father, I pray today for pastors and leaders who are reading this. I pray that they would check their own hearts and lives. May this conversation be an encouragement to double-check with what’s going on in their lives or in their homes or in their churches. We pray for partners around the world. Lord, these are such days of opportunity. We simply pray that you would cause us to be so joyful in our relationship with Christ and so thankful for the gift of salvation that we would be disciplined. That we would be putting sin to death in our lives so that we can live fully for the glory of Your Son. We pray in Jesus’ name, amen.


A Few Resources to Help Protect You and Your Church

Preventing Sin by Pursuing Faithfulness

This is Part Two of the transcript of a conversation on Preventing Disqualifying Sins in Ministry between Kevin Halloran and John Eichholz.



John, let’s think practically for a minute. We’ve seen some of the things that can lead to this type of sin, but what are some strategies that a pastor might implement to prevent this in his life?

JE: Kevin, I appreciate you asking that. I should mention there are many things out there, different ministries have lots of resources. There are books. So, there’s no excuse for a pastor or ministry leader not to read about and put into place safeguards in their lives. I think it really starts with your relationship with the Lord Jesus. You can have accountability, you can have other things in place, but I always like to ask men in ministry, “How is your walk? What kind of relationship do you have with your Lord? Are you growing?” Guys have different answers to that. You can put prayer, Bible reading, and other regular habits in your life and still have a disconnect in the Christian walk. It’s really about growing in your relationship with the Lord Jesus and then, out of that relationship, growing with other people. 

I like what John Piper says. “One reason lust reigns in so many of us is that Christ has so little appeal.” We default to deceit because we have little delight in Christ. I think for a pastor not to have that delight, not to savor that relationship, is a warning sign. If we don’t wake up in the morning and have joy in our salvation and want to meet with our Lord, spend time with Him, if we’re preparing messages and not finding joy, if we are not finding satisfaction in understanding the Scriptures and then preaching and teaching them to other people, we need to check ourselves. We need to ask people to pray for us.

“One reason lust reigns in so many of us is that Christ has so little appeal.” —John Piper

I am always astounded when I hear about or, in some cases, have seen pastors who preach day in and day out, every Sunday, midweek, and maybe for several years preach well, and yet something is going on in the background. There is a sinful relationship. I always ask, how can that disconnect take place? Men need to ask themselves, What is my relationship? What is my walk? It’s a lifelong commitment. We are called to follow Christ as disciples, which brings to mind Mark 8:34 where Jesus said, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” (NIV). Sometimes, when ministry becomes difficult, men look for an out, they look for a way to escape that’s not from the Lord. The Lord Jesus said in John 14:15, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments,” and if we’re playing fast and loose with those small things, those “small” sins in our lives . . . that’s a warning sign. I love what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6:20, “You were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” A pastor should be able to tell if he’s really committed to his Lord through very difficult times, through the very joyful times, and if he’s not, he needs to ask some serious questions about what this does to his ministry or whether he needs help.

One other idea for those guys who are so confident that they don’t think that they can fall or stumble, is what Paul says in 2 Corinthians 12:9–10: “I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses,” and at the end of that phrase, “for when I am weak, then I am strong.” There are things we need to examine in the Scriptures about our personal relationship with the Lord Jesus. It’s really all about Him, and there are the two commands, two overarching things we need to accomplish as believers in our life: to love God and to love one another.

The second idea, besides looking at our own life and our relationship with Christ is looking at relational safeguards. Do we have those key relationships in our lives? Most of us in ministry are married. How are we doing with our wives? Are we nurturing that relationship? Even when that relationship is not bringing me satisfaction, am I committed sacrificially to my wife? If we can answer, “No, I’m not”, then we need to check that relationship. We also need to have one or more key men in our lives who we can check in with us regularly. They don’t always have to be on the same spiritual leadership plane as we are.

I’ve talked with men in churches who can’t find someone in their church as a sounding board because they feel that other guys are not as spiritual as they are. Well, maybe there’s someone else in the community, or maybe they need to humble themselves a little bit and just find a guy who is very honest and can speak into their life. Check your relationship with Christ, your relational safeguard., Who are the key people in your life that you’re regularly asking, “How am I doing? What do you think?” Invite them to speak honestly to you.

KH: I appreciate what you said, John, about relationships being a key part of this. Obviously, first our relationship with the Lord, abiding in Christ. Everything flows from that, but relationships with our wives and other people in the church are crucial.

One of the warning signs we’ve mentioned is isolation. That brings to mind Proverbs 18:1: “Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire, he breaks out against all sound judgment.” If we isolate ourselves, other sins can so easily creep in that other people may not be around to notice. Sin may be deceiving us, telling us that we’re okay. Douglas Wilson, author of Father Hunger, wrote, “Sins are like grapes; they come in bunches.” That’s his way of describing when we’re bearing the fruit of the flesh instead of the fruit of the Spirit (see Galatians 5:19–23). Having other people in your life who can speak God’s Word to you in an encouraging way but also when you need a rebuke is crucial. 

JE: There was one other Scripture text that is good to bring alongside what you’ve just said: the idea of disciplining yourself and the cravings, the desires we have. In 1 Corinthians 9:27, Paul says he disciplines his body and keeps it under control so that he won’t be disqualified as a minister of the Word. Our culture encourages us to feed the flesh, to relax, enjoy ourselves, and not take life so seriously. Pastors, spiritual leaders, ought to discipline themselves for the sake of those around them.

KH: One other attitude that we need to cultivate is a hatred of sin. I know a pastor who says that he prays every single day that he would hate sin more and more. I think that’s kind of two sides of the same coin as we talk about loving Christ, loving what He’s done for us. I think of John Owen and his book The Mortification of Sin and his famous quote, “Be killing sin or it will be killing you.” [Hating sin should lead to] mortifying sin and not letting it grow—always trying to extinguish the presence and the appeal of sin in our hearts as soon as it comes up.

John, I think one of the tools that God gives us is what the Word says in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus  about qualifications for elders. How might a pastor use those passages to fight the good fight of faith?

JE: That’s a great question, and this is a good text for anyone who is a leader in any spiritual ministry. 1 Timothy 3:1–7 says,

The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.

I like the way this starts: There is an overarching characteristic that the pastor or overseer must be above reproach, and that doesn’t mean without sin but rather that there are no obvious patterns of sin in the person’s life. Sometimes men default in an are of something like anger, and our society or even in churches at times allows leaders to do that, to even have explosive or ungodly anger issues because they are so good in other areas. They’re gifted.

KH: Or, “The church is growing, so we’ll let this slide.”

JE: Yes, we look at their giftedness but not their godliness. First Timothy 3 gives a list of how a man ought to look overall. This is an overarching characteristic. I like that the book of Acts says leaders are chosen who are full of the Spirit (Acts 6:3). That doesn’t mean that just occasionally the Holy Spirit fills them, but that’s the character of their life. They’re producing fruit. They are given to relying on the Spirit in their life and ministry, and that’s a characteristic that comes out. That’s what you need to really fulfill these things, the help of the Holy Spirit. There are categories of these many qualities. Some list them as twenty, some list thirty or more between these two passages (from 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1) and others, but I like to think of just basic categories, like the husband of one wife or a one-woman man. That goes along with managing your house well. If you’re not doing well at home, then Scripture asks ow will you do in the church of God? Managing for Him?

There’s another characteristic among the two lists, free from addictions, free from the love of money. Uncontentious, gentle, not violent, those things go together. Another one: self-controlled. And finally, a good reputation outside the church. That’s a good test. Sometimes guys can be very good in their own church context but outside maybe in business dealings or just snubbing people. Maybe the way we drive in traffic, can be tell tale of something disqualifying in our life.

KH: Good. One more thing I’ll say about hating sin, and it’s really a practical way to cultivate that in our hearts. It’s meditating on the consequences of sin. Randy Alcorn wrote an article called “Deterring Immorality by Counting Its Cost.” In it he includes a long list of things what would happen if he were to have an affair, to fall morally. He meditates on that to cultivate a hatred and a seriousness in his heart about what sin could lead to. That’s something that has helped me think through my own life and develop a hatred of sin.


Stay tuned for the final part of this interview, Establishing Transparent Ministry Teams.

Preventing Disqualifying Sins in Ministry: A Conversation

The apostle Paul wrote to Timothy in 1 Timothy 4:16 to “watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers” (NIV). 

Unfortunately, it doesn’t take long to think of ministers who haven’t watched their lives or doctrine closely. Within the last couple of years, two high-profile pastors in the Chicago area have had their sin exposed publicly, even covered by news outlets like the Chicago Tribune.

Major sin by Christian leaders leads to great pain, not only in the ministers’ lives but also in their families and churches, and often can damage Christian witness in the community.

John Eichholz

So how can we think biblically about preventing sins that disqualify from ministry?

To answer that question, Kevin Halloran spoke with John Eichholz, a former pastor and current Field Director for our ministry. In our conversation, we discussed:

  • warning signs that someone is headed down a bad road;
  • attitudes and relationships we need in order to avoid disqualifying sins; and
  • how to establish healthy and transparent ministry teams.

In conversations like this it’s crucial that we define terms, so let me very broadly define “disqualifying sins” as any sin that would make a Christian leader violate the qualifications for elders as found in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1.

We realize the seriousness of this conversation. We engage in it humbly and with much trepidation. Our prayer is that God would use this conversation to strengthen your walk with Him, to expose sin where it is needed, and also to encourage all of us by reminding us of all that God has given us in Christ to enable us to walk in holiness and in grace.



Read the transcript of the interview:

Warning Signs a Fall into Sin Could Be Imminent

This is Part One of the transcript of a conversation on Preventing Disqualifying Sins in Ministry between Kevin Halloran and John Eichholz.



John, this first question risks being obvious, but it’s an important one: Can you explain why preventing disqualifying sins is so important for pastors and ministry leaders?

JE: I’d be glad to comment on that. First of all, I think these kinds of sins really wreak havoc in ministry. We brought it up with our staff because our guys are traveling all the time, and there’s also heightened spiritual risk when an organization or a key leader is doing well. We need to be constantly alert and watchful. Also, Kevin, you had mentioned our current climate in the culture. . . . The Me Too movement – but even the Kavanaugh hearings – shows us that people are really sensitive to leadership overstepping its bounds. It’s hypocritical in the culture, but for Christians I think it’s an opportunity when we walk closely with the Lord and our life shows that we are following the Lord Jesus Christ. It’s a great testimony. When a leader defaults – and obviously when it ends up in the newspaper, as you’ve mentioned – it really causes shame on the name of Christ and the organization. I’ve seen many times in ministry that when someone defaults, it follows that leader for years. It affects those he has been shepherding. There often are devastating consequences. Sometimes people walk away from the faith for a time because of that leader’s hypocrisy.

KH: What you mentioned reminds me of 1 Peter 5:8, that says, “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (NIV). And those words, be sober minded and be watchful should always be on the mind of every Christian but, I think, especially of leaders, considering some of the things you just mentioned. 

JE: I appreciate your bringing that up. And 1 Peter 5 is in the context of Peter exhorting elders and undershepherds of the Lord Jesus and is very appropriate. 

KH: It’s easy to think that these types of sins sneak up on us. It’s easy to think, How could that have happened to that person? Often there’s a longer road that gradually leads to devastating sins. Can you explain what some of the warning signs might be in the life of a pastor, telling him that maybe he’s heading down a bad road?

JE: Sure. There are a number of those things, but there are basic categories of patterns. I think you’ve already mentioned one is being lax in a spiritual battle. The text that you already quoted talks about being sober minded, being watchful. That’s really the Christian life. I think we are in a spiritual battle; we need to be aware of what’s going on around our own lives, our families, our churches. I think sometimes we are lulled to sleep. Things are going well, there are no major problems, and we are not as diligent as we ought to be. 

I think it’s interesting that Christ is warning His disciples as they are following Him to Jerusalem, and they’re not heeding the warning. They’re not understanding where they’re going and what’s about to happen. Obviously, as He goes to prayer in the garden of Gethsemane, He tells them to watch and pray. That should be our stance at all times in the Christian life, when things are going well, and things are difficult. 

Also, the leaders I’ve worked with in the past, some who have defaulted from ministry, have  sometimes had a sense of self-sufficiency: I’m strong. I can do this. I’ve worked with men who also have a sense of independence. They don’t really want to cooperate closely or share their lives openly. There’s maybe not an accountability. There’s a lack of dependence on Christ because they feel strong and capable, but that self-sufficiency is a warning sign to me. Sometimes guys think, Sexual sins? I love my wife. We have a good relationship; that won’t happen to me. Yet they are feeding the flesh in other areas, maybe pornography or a subtle playing with things in the mind or a subtle relationship they’re coddling behind the scenes but are not dealing with.

KH: One of the scary things about this topic and the nature of sin, is just how deceitful sin can be. Hebrews 3:13 says, “Encourage one another daily, as long as it is called ‘Today,’ so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness” (NIV), and so often in these cases there is deceit. Maybe deceiving others, trying to hide certain actions or certain thoughts, but ultimately, sin deceives us. That’s scary, because we don’t realize we’re headed down a wrong path. We’re disobeying God, and it’s blinding us to reality. That’s something for every pastor and every Christian to be very careful about. Am I telling the truth about my personal life, about sin that may be in my life? Am I rationalizing it? Or am I holding up God’s Word as a mirror, looking into it, and being honest with myself?

John, some of what you said reminded me of a study that Howard Hendricks did. He studied 246 men who had disqualified themselves. After interviewing them, he found four characteristics that seemed to sum up just about everybody. 

  • None of the men were involved with any kind of personal accountability. They were isolated.
  • Each of the men had all but ceased having a daily time of private prayer and Bible reading.
  • More than 80 percent of the men became sexually involved with other women after spending significant time with them, often in counseling situations.
  • Each of the men, without exception, had been convinced that this sort of fall “would never happen to me.”

That points to what you said about self-sufficiency in the life of a pastor: “Hey, this can’t happen to me.” But we must remember what Scripture says: God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble (see James 4:6; Proverbs 3:34) and pride comes before a fall (see Proverbs 16:18).


Read the next portion of the interview.

Have Bible Quoters Replaced Bible Readers?

Merely quoting verses is not “staying on the line” if you miss the intention of the author in the passage. After all, even Satan quoted Scripture when he tempted Jesus (Matthew 4:1–11; Luke 4:1–13).

In a recent article called, Have Bible Quoters Replaced Bible Readers?, Russell Moore explains why only quoting Scripture (as opposed to reading it well) is dangerous. Moore shares the following explanation from David Niehuis of how the issue often manifests itself:

“Some of my students attend popular non-denominational churches led by entrepreneurial leaders who claim to be ‘Bible believing’ and strive to offer sermons that are ‘relevant’ for successful Christian living. . . . Unfortunately, in too many cases, this formula results in a preacher appealing to a short text of Scripture, out of context, in order to support a predetermined set of ‘biblical principles’ to guide the congregants’ daily lives. The only Bible these students encounter, sadly, is the version that is carefully distilled according to the theological and ideological concerns that have shaped the spiritual formation of the lead pastor.”

Moore continues to diagnose the issue:

This is not a matter of the educated versus the uneducated. The same problem exists among both. I have noticed people who were experts in the grammar of the Hebrew and Greek Bibles who didn’t really get the flow of the old, old story. But if the Bible is God’s Word, and it is, we must raise up people who don’t merely believe it but also know what it says.

We encourage you to read the article in its entirety. We also encourage you to think through how you can lead the people under your care toward greater Bible literacy by modeling faithful Bible reading and by training others in the Scriptures. As David Jackman has said, it’s not enough to consult the Bible only when we need direction or an answer, we need God’s message in the Bible to sit in the driver’s seat of the church.

For practical ways to make the Bible user-friendly from the pulpit, read this article.

How One Megachurch in Ecuador is Strengthening Their Leadership in God’s Word

What happens when almost 100 people show up for our training?

Our ideal group is limited to 15 or 20. That way, lots of personal attention can be given and each one can fully participate in the discussions. Learning happens best with smaller numbers. So what to do when 100 show up???

Back in 2013 we had a modest beginning in Quito, Ecuador. A group of 23 (too many!) pastors, small group leaders, and members of the preaching team gathered from Iglesia Santísima Trinidad (Church of the Holiest Trinity) for our training. Four years later they graduated. Three key graduates excelled – they loved the training and had a profound burden to see a movement of the Word spread throughout their megachurch’s various sites and their entire country. We call them mentor trainers. 



Even though training had ended, our mentor trainers wanted more leaders in their church to experience the equipping and transformation of the training. So they began organizing another generation of training for other leaders at La Santísima.

The only problem? The number: they had almost 100 sign up. Yikes! That’s way too many . . . but our team didn’t want to say “no.” What was to be done???

Ah-ha! . . . Let’s break the large group into smaller ones and co-lead them with graduates from that very first group. This enabled our LRI team to coach the graduates moving them one step closer to an Ecuadorian-led movement of God’s Word.


One of our MTers, Clever, leads a session

 

Another MT, Oscar Paul, leads another group

 

Olmedo teaches the Traveling Instructions principle.


The response to the training couldn’t have been better. Here’s a sample of what participants shared:

“Other trainings are a monologue. This was asking us to discover the Word ourselves — it was great!”

“I believe that God has had more mercy on me than Jonah.”

“We’ve grown in our understanding [since studying Ruth]. The next training we’ll grow even more.”


The Group of Leaders in Quito


God is at work in Ecuador! He’s also at work in a similar way in the 50+ countries where we work, transforming one heart at a time as His Word is clearly unfolded and understood.

Thank you for helping make this possible as one of our partners!


Enjoy a tour of our training in Quito led by LRI’s Kevin Halloran:

Edwards’ Religious Affections for the 21st Century: A Conversation with Dr. Josh Moody

The Religious Affections by Jonathan Edwards is one of the most clarifying treatises on revival and spiritual transformation. For that reason it has been a major influence in LRI’s understanding of what true spiritual transformation is. (Access the entire critical edition from Yale University Press online for free.)

We thought it would be helpful to discuss The Religious Affections with Dr. Josh Moody, an expert on Jonathan Edwards and the senior pastor at College Church in Wheaton, Illinois, and the author of several books including The God Centered Life: Insights from Jonathan Edwards for Today, Burning Hearts Preaching to the Affections (co-authored with Robin Weeks), and most recently John 1–12 For You. Listen in to our conversation or read the transcript below.



KH: The Religious Affections came out of a historical situation, out of Edwards’ own experience in his own pastoral ministry and as part of a larger corpus of literature he wrote on the same subject of revival and true spiritual transformation. Can you explain to us what was happening at the time? What caused Edwards to write The Religious Affections?

Jonathan Edwards

JM: Right, so, Edwards was at the heart of something called the Great Awakening, which was an international movement for revival, and there was a preacher called George Whitefield, who was prominent at that time, having a massive effect—I mean thousands and thousands of people crammed to hear Whitefield preach in the fields. They’d run – we have eyewitness testimony of people dropping the plow in the field, jumping across a hedge and ditch, cramming in to hear him. We’ve got eyewitness testimonies from Benjamin Franklin describing the electricity in the air when Whitefield was preaching. Whitefield was obviously a dramatic, gifted, charismatic preacher, but it was more than simply his personality. We have other records of Whitefield’s sermons literally being read without him present and revival breaking out. Something extraordinary was going on in America and in England. Whitefield was at the heart of that – also a man called Wesley, John Charles Wesley, and Jonathan Edwards. 

Jonathan Edwards and his church in Northampton had a series of awakenings on a more local scale. Then Whitefield came along and those awakenings took on a huge scale across New England. A lot of things began to happen that were scary for some of the traditionalists: preaching outside of church, physical manifestations. People became so overcome with emotion they started to fall down, cry out—in the middle of sermons. 

Edwards’ most famous sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” was actually never completed, at least the second time he preached it. He preached it once in Northampton and then again in the place where the most famous impact occurred. It was never completed at that church because the outcry from the people listening was so massive he just couldn’t be heard anymore. The pastors who were with him had to get down into the congregation and pray for people as they were coming to Christ. This is all the sort of exciting thing that pastors want to happen, but on the other hand, it created some fears among the traditionalists. People perhaps went a little too far and split the movement between radical “New Lights” and then the “Old Lights,” as they were called. Edwards carved out a space for [what] historians have called the “Moderate New Lights”—those who were for the revival but also saying to keep God’s Word and biblical orthodoxy at the heart – not run to an extreme. Edwards wrote a number of different things to try to both promote the revival and describe it. His most mature reflection on that is the book we are talking about, The Religious Affections. There are others previous to that –  Distinguishing Marks of the Work of the Spirit of God, Some Thoughts Concerning the Present Revival of Religion – but The Religious Affections is his more mature, more seasoned reflection on revival. Now as we look back, it’s really the classic textbook if you want to understand revival. It’s the best book written in church history on that, but it’s also helpful for discerning what God is doing and what a real experience of God is and is not. 

I often say to young pastors, if you want to really good handbook for pastoral ministry, The Religious Affections isn’t a bad place to go – because of the textbook practical level but also the mental, conceptual, and spiritual level. How do I understand what is a real work of God, and how do I promote that? What is not a real work of God? The real work of God – that gives it some context and also some of its contributions to current ministry. 

KH: And for that same reason, The Religious Affections is a core book for our training and philosophy of ministry. 

JM: Right.

KH: We want true, real transformation in the lives of people through the Word of God by the Spirit. It’s helpful to know signs of when that is taking place and signs that don’t necessarily mean it’s taking place. Our culture doesn’t seem to use the term affections much. How does Edwards use the term? And how does it differ from emotion?

JM: It’s a great question. It’s an area of some debate among Christians who read Edwards. The popular understanding of Edwards’ use of affections is that it’s for all intents and purposes basically the same as emotions. That’s almost certainly incorrect because of the history. In church history there’s this distinction between passions, which tend to be more like physical, almost sensual, reactions to things—not necessarily bad, but just the way the body emotes things. It’s just what it is. Then there’s this sort of higher order of, for want of a better term at the moment, emotions, which tend to be called affections in relation to that. So, that’s the background, and it’s particularly picked up by the Puritans and then later by Edwards. 

What I think Edwards is saying by affections is that affections are the thinking the feeling and the willing expression of the human heart; what you have affect towards. Not that we use affect as a pretense but the word actually – what you’re actually doing. And so it’s an internal will, feeling, understanding, movement in a sort of direction. It’s cognitive. Emotions we think of as non-cognitive. No, affection is cognitive, but it has a movement inside. Another term Edwards uses for this is “a sense of the heart.” So, you have a taste. The famous description Edwards uses is about when someone has a taste for God, their affections are stirred by God. This is different as when someone has heard about honey, as opposed to when someone has tasted honey. When we have an affection for God, then you’ve tasted honey. There’s that sense, that feeling for sure, but not as sort of a crazy passion.

KH: According to Edwards, one element of affections is what you alluded to – is that they lead to action. Can you explain the relationship between affection and action?

JM: What I have a will to do is what I will do. Now there can be physical constraints. You can image there is somebody who’s in jail who has a will to be free, but they’re in jail. Okay, but leave aside physical constraints: what I’ve a will to do is what I will do. Affections are what I’ve decided mentally in my mind, sense is true, and have a will, therefore, to do. That inevitably leads to action. Otherwise, I don’t have the affection for it. Therefore if I’ve been moved intellectually, emotionally, cognitively in my will to do something, then I’m going to do it. Otherwise, I’m not going to do it. It’s what Jesus says: the one who loves me obeys my commands (John 14:21).

KH: In The Religious Affections, Edwards works through 12 signs and 12 non-signs, things that don’t necessarily prove a true spiritual experience one way or another. [Read a helpful summary of the signs.] What are some of the biggest takeaways from this list for today?

JM: Well, I think actually reading through the non-signs is almost as important as reading through what the signs are. The reason for that is we tend – they did then, and we do today – to make things significant that are not really significant. The most obvious is the physical manifestation. We tend to think that if someone hears a sermon or sings a song, and they start really crying, then they must mean it. Well, maybe; maybe not. People cry in all sorts of situations. Or we think that’s a sad emotion. But if someone is singing a song or listening to a sermon, and they’re really enthusiastic – they start jumping up and down, they’re clapping – you think, “Yeah, they must be.” 

Well, maybe. But people do the same sort of thing at rock concerts or a party. In other words, because we are psychosomatic wholes as people – that is, we have bodies, and the bodies are connected to our thinking and feeling – humans act in certain ways when they are personally moved. It’s not necessarily a sign that the thing by which their person is moved is the work of the Spirit. What’s really showing is we’re human, we’re physical. Similarly, other people tend to look at someone being very enthusiastic or excited in a meeting or something, and they think, “Well, that certainly isn’t the work of God. You know, we should be reverent. We should be stayed.” You know, “Keep quiet.” But again that’s confusion. Some of it is cultural. Certain cultures are more expressive. Some of it is just physical for some people. We have physical bodies, so we express ourselves in certain kinds of ways. You see it in the Psalms: you kneel, you stand, you clap, you raise your hands or worship. These are just physical ways the human body expresses its natural response to things. There is the same natural response to things you can see in other situations that are completely non-spiritual: parties, rock concerts, whatever . . . a family get together – “I’m so excited.” It’s not a sign that this is a work of God. It’s a sign that there’s a human involved, and something moving is happening. We don’t know what just by looking at the outside signs. I think it’s really important to get clear. People are constantly confused about that all the time in church life. So that’s on the negative side. 

On the positive side, I think it’s really important to get clear in our minds the greatest sign, which is love – where Edwards lands. Clearly that’s biblical: “These three shall remain, but the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13). The first fruit of the Spirit is love – not just because it’s the first randomly, or just because it’s the first priority, but because it’s the summation of all the rest. It is – Edward’s has this phrase – concatenation of the fruit. That is, the fruit is actually interlocking, connected, and its sum – summation – is love. Edwards defines this love as a humble, serving love. There’s a kind of love which can be almost prideful, you know: “I’m loving, and I’m so proud about that.” But Edwards defines this love as a humble, serving love. 

What I think is most important about the list is; let’s get really clear on what is negative. What are the negative signs? What doesn’t mean anything? And the other thing is to land on the primary one, which is when we see the love of God going forward. Then we’re seeing what is truly the work of God. In other words, the devil will not want to make humans love Jesus and love his people. There is no natural way . . . given who we are, because we’re in sin outside of Christ – there’s no natural way to make anyone love Jesus and his people. So, when you see that developing, you are surely seeing the work of God. That’s how it’s summarized. 

KH: When talking about The Religious Affections, it’s probably good to note that it’s not the easiest book to read. It’s probably at least 350 pages, and Edwards kind of has a roundabout way of explaining his points. Sam Storms who wrote a book interpreting The Religious Affections says, “I’ve worked my way through The Affections at least ten times, and I still struggle in places to make sense of him.” So that’s encouraging to me. That being said, what are some resources that you would recommend to help people more deeply engage Edwards in [The] Religious Affections

JM: Part of it is Edwards. It’s like trying to understand Mozart – he’s a genius. It takes time to try to figure it out. Part of it is just 18th-century English. The sentences are really long. So, we’re used to sentences just having maybe seven or eight words in them. You come across a sentence with 13 or something, and you just don’t know what to do. You have to get used to reading long sentences. 

I think probably the most helpful thing to do is – I mean having to do with The Religious Affections, because it’s a great book . . . But if you really want to read it, you probably should start somewhere [else]. I think The Distinguishing Marks is an easy read. If you’ve read The Distinguishing Marks, then you kind of have the key to understanding The Religious Affections, which is sort of The Distinctive Marks writ large. That’s an easy book. 

The other thing to do would be to read some of Edwards’ Personal Narrative, which is almost, really, a description of how he became a Christian. You read that, and you get a sense of his heart. I have to say I’ve never – this is maybe not encouraging – but I’ve never really found The Religious Affections hard. I mean, I find some books hard going – you know Dickens starts pretty hard going. Some novels are pretty hard going; some are great. My main piece of advice would be take it slowly. Get a copy, print it off, look at it online, and just read it slowly. 

I read The Religious Affections first when I was on the mission field. . . I only took over two volumes of Edwards in my backpack. It was right after the civil war there, and I wasn’t sitting in any kind of posh library or anything. The electricity didn’t always work, and so, in my mind, reading this isn’t associated with a feat. I would take it slowly – not be scared. I would actually read the text itself. I love Sam Storms. I love what he’s done [writing Signs of the Spirit: An Interpretation of Jonathan Edwards’s Religious Affections], but if you can, actually read the text itself. It’s a bit like reading the Bible. I’ve written a commentary on the Bible, so in a sense I’m all for commentaries; but the best way to understand the Bible is to read it – to have the confidence that when you read it and use your own brain [and] pray about it, you understand more about the Bible. I think that’s true of almost anything. Go to the source, figure it out – some of it – yourself. Then if you get stuck, then go to the helps. I’ve written books on Edwards, so by all means read those, too. But you really want to go to the source and then lean on the interpreters afterwards. Otherwise, you spend all your life looking at life through someone else’s stained glass windows rather than going [and] experiencing [it] yourself. 


Related Links:

Sarcasm in the Bible?! Dale Ralph Davis on How Old Testament Narrative Uses Sarcasm

Sarcasm in the Bible?! NO WAY

Actually, yes way according to Dr. Dale Ralph Davis. In his helpful book The Word Became Fresh: How to Preach from Old Testament Narrative Texts, Davis explains why sarcasm is used in Old Testament narrative and provides a few examples:

Occasionally the biblical writer dips his pen in acid and uses mockery, derision, or put-down to drive home his point. The device may not be prevalent but likely occurs more often than a casual reader thinks.

One thinks immediately, of course, of Elijah’s taunting the prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel in 1 Kings 18:27. Elijah alleges that Baal may be preoccupied with a plethora of ‘divine’ activities like travel, napping, or using the facilities. But one finds such ridicule elsewhere, if perhaps less blatantly. One overhears it when Laban accuses Jacob of stealing his household deities: ‘But why did you steal my gods?’ (Gen. 31:30). Any full-blooded Yahweh-worshiping hearer/reader would think, ‘My, what sort of gods are those that can’t keep from being pilfered?’ And anyone who is possessed both with orthodoxy and a sense of humor (too often a rare combination) laughs when these deities ‘feel’ both Rachel’s warmth and weight while she is ‘indisposed’ (31:34–35). The same ridicule seeps out of Micah’s helpless rage toward the Danites in Judges 18:24: ‘You take my gods that I made and the priest, and go away, and what have I left?’ (ESV). What indeed! And, of course, the biblical writer is at his nasty best when describing the divine ‘trauma’ of Dagon before the ark of Yahweh in 1 Samuel 5:1–5; not only do the Philistines have to pick Dagon up but would’ve been most happy with an ample supply of super-glue. One even hears a hint of mockery in the common but repeated ‘made’ in 1 Kings 12:28–33 (Jeroboam’s cult) and in 2 Kings 17:29–31 (imported pagans in the land of Israel). Note too the helplessness of pagan resources in Genesis 41:8, 24, and in Daniel 1:20; 2:1–11; 4:6–7, 18; 5:8, 15, all of which smells like devout scoffing—because those helpless resources are the foil for the true God’s provision via Joseph and Daniel.

One of the most subtle but powerful samples of sarcasm comes in Daniel 3. Here all of Nebuchadnezzar’s civil service corps is to observe the required moment of silence before his 90 by 9 feet image. It’s likely a government-sponsored loyalty exercise; devotees can naturally go back to their private superstitions and ‘personal faith’; they simply need to worship here if they want to keep their jobs—and their lives. The pressure is powerful; after all, it’s the law. And when all the satraps and postal workers have their back sides in the air and their noses in the sand before Nebuchadnezzar’s giant dummy on the Plain of Dura, well, it’s hard to resist. The ‘church music’ alone is impressive (vv. 4–5, 7, 10, 15). And yet the writer both tells the story and mocks the ‘worship.’ He both reports and ridicules at the same time. At least I think so. He repeatedly uses the verb ‘set up’ (Aram. qum) as he refers to Nebuchadnezzar’s image, nine times to be exact (vv. 1, 2, 3 [twice], 5, 7, 12, 14, 18); one can also throw in ‘made’ twice, vv. 1, 15). Perhaps I’m seeing things, but highlight the usages of ‘set up’ in your text, read it over noting them, and it all seems to have a cumulative impact. It’s a ‘set-up job,’ as we say. It’s as if the writer is saying, ‘It may seem fearful (because it has all the muscle of the government behind it), but it’s a farce! If you can see behind the mask, if you can see the falsehood and stupidity of it all, if you can hear heaven’s laughter over it [Ps. 2:4], you need not be taken in by it. True, the furnace is hot but the image is just hot air. It’s simply a little posturing by a human king strutting around in his big international pants’ (cf. Isa. 46:7).

Sarcasm is a form of humor. And I have observed that whenever Scripture is delightfully humorous it is also deadly serious. There is always a serious point being made when the biblical writer uses humor. Hence we should keep our ears tuned for sarcasm.

Excerpt used with kind permission of Christian Focus Publications.

Two Examples of Preaching Christ (from 2 Samuel 13 and Acts 9) | Part Three


What follows is the final part of an interview with Colin S. Smith on what it means to preach Christ.

https://www.leadershipresources.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/Colin-Smith-Interview.mp3


KH: We’ve talked a little about theory about preaching Christ and why it’s important. Can you share a couple examples? Maybe walk us through a message you’ve preached before and how you think about preaching Christ.

CS: Sure, I’d be glad to talk about a couple examples. Every example is different. Every sermon is different. You’re trying to find the road to London from every village. You’re starting in different places.

Example #1: The Rape of Tamar – 2 Samuel 13

Every sermon is a unique experience, but I was preaching recently on the rape of Tamar in 2 Samuel, chapter 13. It is a terrible story of how this daughter of King David is sent by her father the King and goes to her own brother’s house and is horribly abused by him. She’s betrayed and violated, and King David knew what had happened. The Bible says he’s angry but did nothing. He said nothing. No discipline for his son. No comfort for his daughter.

And then we are told that Tamar lived as a desolate woman. She says, “Where can I carry my shame?” It’s an extraordinary question: Where can I carry my shame? And there’s no answer to that in the Old Testament. There’s no answer in 2 Samuel in chapter 13. So, you have to go forward from the desolate woman who says, “Where can I carry my shame?” and answer that question. The answer, obviously, is in the Lord Jesus Christ. Think about the parallels – this just blew my mind open thinking about it: that the Lord Jesus Christ was sent by His Father, and He’s horribly abused, and He’s terribly betrayed, and shame that is not His own is heaped on Him, through no fault of His, and yet He’s not overwhelmed by the shame. He actually rises above it. He just despises the shame, and He’s now seated at the right hand of the Father. In Him there is hope for every Tamar and for every person who’s been betrayed. The flow of the Bible’s story takes you from this awful evil that is left unanswered in the Old Testament. The Old Testament can never stand on its own. It possesses a question to which there isn’t yet an answer. Jesus Christ comes in as the fulfillment of everything that is promised and everything that is predicted by the prophets. Flowing into Jesus and seeing the connections was, to me, an amazing thing in regards to that.

Example #2: The Conversion of Saul – Acts 9

Let me give another very different example, entirely different, the conversion of Saul of Tarshish (Acts 9). Here’s Saul, and he’s blinded by seeing the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ. The first thing you notice when you read this is that it’s unlike any other conversion experience. People read that story and they think, oh, this is far away from me. Most testimonies that we hear start, “I’ve never had a Damascus Road experience. I’ve never seen a blinding light or heard a voice from Heaven.” People say that all the time. They feel it to be so remote.

What was really striking to me was the thought that the Damascus Road experience will happen to every person hearing this service. One day we will all stand before Christ, and we will see His glory. We will hear His voice, and He will address us by name. “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” That is true of every person who has ever lived, irrespective of whether or not we believe in the Lord Jesus. Suddenly, now, by connecting the story with the great truth of the Bible – that one day we all will see the glory of Christ – it moves from being a story that’s a long way away to one that’s actually very near. This is an unavoidable reality: that we will all see the sovereign Lord, who lays claim to every life, and therefore, we need to get right with Him.


Learn more about Colin Smith by visiting UnlockingtheBible.org or following him on Twitter @PastorColinS.


For more information on how to preach Christ, read the article A Simple Guide for Seeing How the Old Testament Points to Jesus Christ or browse the Biblical Theology page of our Dig & Discover Hermeneutical Principles Booklet.

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