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.

What does it mean to preach Christ? Interview with Pastor Colin S. Smith (Part One)


LRI’s Kevin Halloran sat down with his pastor, Colin S. Smith, to talk about what it means to preach Christ. Listen to the audio or read the transcript below.

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


The apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 1:23, “We preach Christ crucified,” and a few verses later, he said he was determined to “know nothing among the Corinthians except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2). But what does this mean? And how can a preacher faithfully preach Christ?

Pastor Colin Smith

With me is my pastor, Colin Smith, of the Orchard Evangelical Free Church, and the author of Momentum: Pursuing God’s Blessings Through the Beatitudes, Heaven How I Got Here: The Story of the Thief On The Cross, and most recently, Heaven So Near So Far: the Story of Judas Iscariot. Welcome, Pastor Colin.

CS: It’s fun to be together, Kevin.

KH: What does it mean to preach Christ, and why is it so important?

CS: Well, I think first of all, it means more than getting Jesus into a sermon. I sometimes hear guys saying that. How am I going to get Jesus into the sermon has got to be more than getting some reference to Jesus in the sermon. It’s got to be more too, I think, than preaching about Jesus. Even if we say the great things about Jesus, it’s possible to say even the great things about our Lord Jesus, His death, and His resurrection in a way that is detached from people – so that we’re merely giving information about the Lord Jesus Christ. But when Paul says that he’s determined to preach Christ, what he’s saying is not simply, “Tell people about Jesus,” but actually, “Hold Jesus and all that He is and all that He’s accomplished and all the He offers before people in such a way that they actually are confronted by a living Christ who is reaching out to them in the preaching.”

Christ speaks in the proclamation of His Word. And so, when Christ is held forth in the proclamation of his Word, people are able to discern the very voice of God speaking to them. That’s why it’s so important that we proclaim Christ and don’t simply speak about the Bible in a way that’s detached from the one who’s at the very center of the entire Word of God.

KH: Christ uses the task of preaching to reach out to the audience – I love how you said that. As you think about preaching Christ, what are some principles you use or keep in mind?

CS: Well, one of the things I learned early on in ministry back in England. So, I have to put this in an English way. A great English preacher once said that there’s a road from every village and hamlet in the country that leads eventually to London. I thought quite a bit about that. It’s true of course of any other major destination. You know there’s a road from everywhere in America that takes us to Chicago, I guess.

The point is that wherever you are the Bible, there is a road that does lead to Jesus Christ. And so, my job as a preacher, as I’m getting into any part of the Scripture, is to discern where that road is – what that path is. It might be a road that’s quite extensive. It might be a long way. It might not be just one connection; there may be some junctions along the way. But there’s always a road that takes us to Jesus Christ. My task is to find that road and to help people traverse it so that we’re brought to the feet of Christ. This is something that the apostles always did.

A number of years ago in the church here, a group of us sat down and said, “Let’s go through the New Testament and try and identify as many references as we can to preaching, then see what was it that was preached.” So, we started going through Acts. Then we went through the rest of the New Testament and Epistles. In about an hour and a half, we jotted down 39 references to preaching or proclamation. In every case, what we found that was proclaimed was the Lord Jesus Christ or His death or His resurrection or the gospel itself. It was always the same thing. The apostles gave themselves to that proclamation of Jesus Christ. That’s the task. Wherever we are in the Bible is where we begin. Proclaiming Christ is where we’ve got to end.

KH: That’s very helpful. What difference, then, does preaching Christ make for those who are in the pew?

CS: If Christ is not in a sermon, then what good is it ever going to do? I mean, our hope and our life is in Jesus Christ. So, a Christ-less sermon is actually a sermon that’s sub-Christian. It may lay out some moral principles, it may call a person to live a better life, but what use is a call to live a better life if a person doesn’t have the power to live that better life residing within them? That power comes from Jesus Christ. The experience of a person in the pew, if Christ is missing from preaching, is going to be that basically they’re being challenged. There’s a demand that’s being laid out. Here’s what you have to do; go try harder, go live better at the end of the day.

But then you come right up against what the law was powerless to do God did by giving His Son, Jesus Christ. The whole point of the gospel is that it gives to us what the law demands of us. If you take away Christ, you’re simply left with a demand. That’s why people often come out of church feeling that the whole thing was heavy and made them feel worse. Because what they’re confronted with is a challenge that they’re not being given the resource to meet.

Part Two deals with Preaching for Encounters with the Risen Christ.


Preaching for Encounters with the Risen Christ (Part Two)


This post is a continuation of a series on what it means to preach Christ with Colin S. Smith.

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


KH: You’ve written before that preaching Christ must arise out of the Word and should lead us to the table, creating a worshipful experience encountering Christ there, at church. What do you mean by this, and why do you think it’s such an important idea?

CS: I got that out of the Church of England liturgy, going all the way back to Thomas Cranmer and the way in which the origin of worship in the Church of England was set out. These three elements were put together: there was reading of the Word, there was the sermon, and then there was the Lord’s Table. Cranmer organized that order of service because he believed deeply that preaching should arise from the Word. So, you begin with the Word read, and then you have the Word preached, and where it should end is it should lead us to the table. Now in our church here at the Orchard, we don’t always have the Lord’s Supper every Sunday; we do it once a month. Churches vary in their practice in that regard.

But the point is that when I’m preparing to preach, I’m always thinking, what would be a natural bridge to the Lord’s Table? I want every sermon to end with a sense of, “Thank you, Lord. Thank you for what’s mine in Jesus Christ.” I want every sermon to end with a sense of people being invited to receive what Jesus Christ holds in His hand. There has to be that offer, that invitation, that sense of meeting with Christ at the end. So that very simple little bridge, preaching is a bridge from the Word read to the Lord’s Table. Conceptually, that’s really helped me to think about what I’m trying to do in the course of a sermon.

KH: That’s wonderful, and you really engage with Christ with different senses. You know, auditory, when you hear the Word, but also more tactile through communion and also remembering what He’s done for us. In thinking through preaching Christ, what are some potential pitfalls a preacher might fall into?

CS: The way that I try to think about this and to encourage others to think about it, Kevin, is that we’re called to preach Christ. That’s the first thing. We’re called to do this in a way that is biblical, theological, clear, and compelling. These are like four sides of a sandbox around preaching Christ.

I think the most obvious pitfalls are speaking about Christ in a way that’s dislocated from the text of the Bible. That would be not doing it in a way that’s biblical or missing the great truths about Jesus Christ. That’s preaching Christ in a way that’s theological. [Or, as LRI’s training would put it, using Biblical Theology in preaching.] We want to preach Christ in a way that is clear. We don’t want to get lost in profound language that ordinary people can’t understand. We want to do it in a way that’s compelling. What that means is there must always be a connection between the proclamation of Christ and what a person can actually receive from Christ. It’s not simply information about Jesus. Christ is being held forth as the fount of all the gifts of God in such a way that as I hear Him presented, I’m drawn to say, “Now I must receive from Him.”

KH: I think every preacher wants to be transformative in their preaching. They want their people to leave changed people. Can you speak to the relationship between preaching Christ and application in sermons?

CS: I think that that’s the distinction that I have in mind between preaching about Jesus and preaching Jesus. It’s more than “Oh, Jesus said this, or Jesus did this; isn’t that interesting.” It’s, “Here is Christ. Here’s what Christ does, and here is what He offers to you right now that you can actually receive here and now.”

For example, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13). Christ gives me strength. What’s being held forth in that verse? It’s that Christ actually communicates strength that is matched to the particular burden that any person in the congregation listening to the sermon at that time is actually carrying. I want to hold forth not simply a strong Christ but a Christ that gives strength.

That’s just one example, but there’s a difference. It’s hard to put it into words, but there’s a difference between merely communicating truths about Jesus and actually holding forth a Jesus who has the power of transformation and brings the power of transformation in His own self.

KH: It reminds listeners there’s a living Savior who rose from the dead who intercedes for them and is on their side.

CS: And you can come to Him right now, and He has all that you need. Yes, there’s an invitation. There’s a response, and that’s the heart of application. Someone listening to the sermon needs to have the sense that there’s something here for me, and therefore, they feel a drawing to move towards what is being proclaimed – or rather the one who is being proclaimed.

In Part Three, Colin Smith shares examples of preaching Christ from two passages.

A Testimony that Reminds Us Why We Do What We Do

Dear Friends and Partners,

I thought Helen had always been a godly, mature woman . . . until this week . . . when I learned her backstory – and how Christ changed her into the woman she is today.

Helen has been a dear friend and supporter of LRI for many, many years and is now in assisted living. Her daughters recently discovered a handwritten testimony which she shared with the women of Moraine Valley Church back in the 1980s, and Helen wants you to hear it. It’s a highly personal story that demonstrates why we help pastors learn to study and teach God’s transformative Word.

I wasn’t really born again until I was 30 years old, though I grew up in a Christian home.  My parents took us to a lot of gospel meetings, so I heard the gospel preached in many different ways. We knew the Bible well, but still I was confused about what God was really like and how to approach Him.

I led a double life. I did everything I was supposed to do at church . . . made a confession of faith, sang in the choir . . . but I was much more attracted to the world. Movies were glamorous and exciting, dancing was fun, and the guys in the neighborhood were more romantic and friendly. Of course, none of this was allowed in our home, so we had to find ways to do things on the sly. I learned to be an expert liar. The older I got, the easier it was.

I was first introduced to Rich in a tavern. That should have given me a clue to what lay ahead, but it didn’t. I was to learn that he was a wonderful guy when he was sober, but when he had been drinking too much, he could simply be crabby, or he might get really mean. It was like being married to two different men . . .  which one would be coming home?

Our marriage started out wrong, because I was pregnant and we had to get married. When you have to get married, you never know for sure if he would have asked you to marry him. Then we did something even worse. When we found out that we were to have our second child, I took some pills to cause an abortion. I lost the child in the fifth month and almost lost my life. It was our only boy.

I had a lot of trouble with the next two pregnancies, but we ended up with three lovely daughters. But how could the Lord ever forgive me?

I began attending Dr. A. W. Tozer’s church. There I met Christians who were really filled with the love of Christ. The women were so kind to me. They really loved me. I didn’t think anyone could love me like that. Now I was really listening to what they said because they had what I was looking for.

On Good Friday in 1958, I kept thinking about Jesus dying on the cross for me. It was as though He was still hanging there and the cross was blocking my way. I couldn’t go another step with my life until I decided for Him or against Him. If I decided to turn away, it would be forever.  There was no way I could do that, and there was no way around it. I had nothing to offer Him. Finally, in the afternoon, I fell on my knees and said, “Lord, I don’t know why you could want me, but if you do, you can have me!”

He did want me! On that Good Friday, I was crucified with Christ, and on that Easter morning, I arose with Him. I was filled with the most incredible joy as I sang the Easter songs in church and took the communion rightfully for the first time. I was a new creature, and I knew it!

My values began to change. I went back to studying the Bible. But I had a lot more to learn than I ever imagined. I seem to have to learn everything the hard way.

In 1960, the girls were at school and Rich wasn’t around much. Although I found a church and was involved in children’s ministry, quite often I felt lonely and depressed. So, I would listen to Moody Bible Radio or sing hymns, read the Bible or a Christian book, or just pray. Sometimes I would think of myself as sitting at Jesus’ feet like Mary did. I could really relate to the women that Jesus knew on earth, especially the really sinful ones who were forgiven by Him and loved Him so. He was so tender toward the women. I’m really glad the Bible tells us about them.

I remember studying Philippians 3, struck by the fact that Paul was willing to give up everything in the world for the joy of knowing God and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings so that he might lay hold of that for which God had laid hold of Him. I wondered what that could mean in my life, so I asked God to show me.

Later Bill Mills became my pastor. He taught us that it was for freedom that Christ has set us free and that our adequacy is in Him. He taught us about the Kingdom of God as opposed to the kingdom of this world, about discipleship, about God’s sovereignty in our lives, and about getting to know God. He taught Philippians 3, about losing your life in order to find it. . . .                    

Rich died two and a half years ago, and our last daughter just got married. Now, it’s just Him and me. It doesn’t matter what change point I’m going through, because for me to live is Christ. Always with the fellowship of his suffering goes the power of His resurrection. . . .

I hope you’ve been encouraged by the transforming power of God’s Word in Helen’s life. We see this same power at work in and through thousands of pastors worldwide.

Rejoicing in His resurrection power,

Craig Parro

President

PS: After Helen was widowed, she cleaned houses to bring in a little income. During that time, she contributed what she could to support LRI. I treasured her gifts as much as any. I still tear up thinking about Helen scrubbing floors so that she might give her widow’s mite. Thank you to each of you who similarly give sacrificially to this ministry. Those are precious dollars. May the Lord reward you!

How to Study the Bible: Jeff Gage on Table Talk with Tyrell

Jeff Gage, LRI’s Program Director for South Africa, joined pastor and host Tyrell Haag on his radio program, Table Talk with Tyrell, to discuss how to study the Bible. In the interview, Jeff shares an insightful summary of LRI’s approach to Bible study and sprinkles in compelling stories about on how God is at work through our ministry in Africa.

Even if you’re very familiar with LRI’s training, you’re not going to want miss this interview. (Their insightful conversation may just inspire you to grow a great beard, too.)


Listen on Table Talk with Tyrell | Or watch the Facebook video below

This week on TABLE TALK Tyrell Haag discusses Biblical Studies with Jeff Gage of Leadership Resources International. Your questions are welcome, so Tune In…#657AM#729AM#DSTV882

Posted by Radio Pulpit / Radiokansel on Friday, 12 April 2019


Description:

Many people believe that theological study holds little value. They say, “I don’t need theology; I just need to know Jesus.” Yet theology is unavoidable for every Christian. It is our attempt to understand the truth that God has revealed to us—something every Christian does. So it is not a question of whether we are going to engage in theology; it is a question of whether our theology is sound or unsound. It is important to study and learn because God has taken great pains to reveal himself to his people. He gave us a book, one that is not meant to sit on a shelf pressing dried flowers, but to be read, searched, digested, studied, and chiefly to be understood.

  • 0:00:00—Introduction
  • 0:06:00—Introducing Jeff
  • 0:10:30—What are the most common mistakes people make when studying the Bible?
  • 0:46:40—If All Scripture is profitable, why is context important?
  • 0:51:10—Why is the New Testament written in Greek if the disciples were Jews?
  • 1:02:10—Political views and preaching
  • 1:13:35—Eschatological passages and keeping Christ supreme
  • 1:32:20—Conclusion

Helpful Quotes and Excerpts

“There are two ways to read the Bible. One way will crush you, the other way will give you life.”

Jeff Gage: “In Zambia there as a man who was preaching the prosperity gospel. He’s always been doing that as a very fiery individual. He’s an older man now. [After two years of training,] he said this last week, “I will not preach that ever again. I repent from preaching that. That’s not what the Bible is teaching.” We were working the principles in the Gospel of Mark and the call of the gospel to suffer, enter into Jesus’ suffering, count the cost, take up your cross, follow Him really powerfully came home to him. If we had gone in there preaching against the prosperity gospel, he would have dug in his heels and become defensive. Instead of bashing our framework against his, we just got him digging into the Gospel of Mark and seeing who Jesus is and what Jesus was really saying. The Word of God powerfully impacted him. Now when the next guy comes in town teaching something else, this man will not be moved by it because the Word of God has personally impacted his life.”

Tyrell Haag: “If you take a photo of a group of people, when you get that group photo, what’s the first thing you do? You look for yourself. And that’s like what we do with the Bible. We read the gospel and we look at the group photo and say, ‘Where am I?’ Really we should be looking for where Jesus is.”

A Simple, Biblical, and Glorious Approach of Discipleship: The 4 P’s

Do you ever overcomplicate things? Instead of taking the short, logical route while driving, you choose the roundabout way that gets you to your destination twenty minutes late. Instead of simply asking your friend a question, you think through all possible scenarios of how the conversation might go.

We have the potential to overcomplicate everything—even discipleship.

The Vine Project: Shaping Your Ministry Culture Around Disciple-Making, written by our friends Tony Payne and Colin Marshall, presents a compellingly biblical, yet simple way to think about discipleship, “Disciples are made by the persevering proclamation of the word of God by the people of God in prayerful dependence on the Spirit of God” (83). They neatly describe this type of thinking as ‘4 P Ministry.’

If you have overcomplicated discipleship and focused more on programs, events, expensive curriculum, or thought it as something left to the professionals, thinking in terms of the 4 P’s could revolutionize your life and ministry by making it simpler and more effective.

“Disciples are made by the persevering proclamation of the word of God by the people of God in prayerful dependence on the Spirit of God.”

P #1: Proclamation of the Word of God.

Disciples are made by hearing and receiving the Word. God’s living and active Word is able to break through stony hearts and bring new life. Proclaiming God’s living and active Word from the pulpit, in a small group, over coffee with a friend, through a text message or email will not return to God without accomplishing His purposes. That is why pastors and their people need to know God’s Word and proclaim it.

P #2: Prayerful dependence on the Spirit of God.

God is the one who brings growth and fruit to any ministry (1 Corinthians 3:6). As believers make progress in the Christian life, the Spirit of God is active speaking through His Word, renewing our hearts, guaranteeing our future inheritance, transforming us, gifting us for ministry, and giving us boldness to speak His Word.1

As you make disciples, pray for them and rely on the Spirit to work in their hearts through His Word. The Apostle Paul models this type of prayer throughout his epistles. Consider the way Paul prays for the Colossians to grow in Christ-like maturity in Colossians 1:9-10:

“…we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.”

The Spirit of God uses prayers to grow disciples. Don’t neglect this indispensable part of disciple-making.

P #3: People are God’s fellow workers.

God’s Spirit works through God’s Word as God’s people proclaim it. In God’s infinite wisdom and mercy, He chooses to use imperfect people as His ambassadors to this lost world. We are “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for [God’s] own possession” redeemed to “proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9).

God’s people are His proclaimers. This fact should drive us to faithful proclamation ministries and the ministry of training other proclaimers for God’s use. The more people in our churches we equip to prayerfully proclaim God’s Word, the more the gospel will grow in our church and beyond.

Learn how you can grow as an expositor and equip others to rightly handle the Word in the Fellowship of the Word Program.

P #4: Persevering, step by step.

There’s a reason it is tempting to measure ministry pragmatically: it’s easier to count heads than patiently wait for God’s Word to have an impact. And yet, our calling is patience: prayerful Word proclamation is to be done “in season and out of season” and “with complete patience and teaching” (2 Timothy 4:2).

Growing people in the gospel is often a slow growth like gardening. Day to day, it might be hard to tell if a plant is growing, but over a long period of time, growth is obvious. Evangelism takes great patience as well. God works in people’s hearts with the gospel often months or years before they come to faith. Don’t let slowness discourage your ministry, let it drive you to a prayerful dependence on God and a patience that trusts God to bring growth.

Preacher and professor Tony Merida shares a simple way to grow in patience, “How can we grow in patience as pastor- preachers? Since patience is a fruit of the Spirit, then the simple answer is to walk by the Spirit. Commune with God. Abide in Jesus. As you spend time in God’s presence, in unhindered and unhurried prayer and worship, meditate on God’s patience.”2

The beauty of the 4 P’s is how simply they communicate discipleship. Simple does not mean easy. But knowing that disciples are made by a prayerful proclamation of God’s Word by people with patience should greatly liberate believers by helping them not overcomplicate things, but rather trust God to work through their obedience.

The next time you are tempted to overcomplicate discipleship, remember this simple, biblical, and glorious approach.

For a comprehensive guide to how this simple approach can impact your church, buy The Vine Project: Shaping Your Ministry Culture Around Disciple-Making. Read 25 quotes from The Vine Project or an excerpt on Where Changing Church Culture Begins.


1 The Vine Project, pages 88-89.

2 Exalting Jesus in 1-2 Timothy and Titus, Kindle location 3645.

Enjoying Your God in Prayer

Enjoying Your God in Prayer

Prayer is often called one of the “spiritual disciplines” of the Christian life. Surely, we must exercise regular discipline in our daily walk with the Lord to grow into the men and women God has called us to be in His Son. At the same time, as we consistently spend time with God in the sanctuary of prayer, we want to move beyond looking at our times with Him as just a discipline.

We need to come into His presence for the joy and satisfaction we find in Him. The pleasures of His presence—that feed and fill up our souls—will take us far beyond the discipline of prayer. When we experience our deepest joy in God, our hearts run to Him. No longer do we drag our souls into the prayer room to do whatever we must do to maintain our relationship with Him.

JOY AND PLEASURE IN GOD

King David experienced such pleasure in his relationship with God. When we read his prayers and songs of worship, we know he was drawn to God—not primarily because he needed wisdom, protection, healing, or provision. David was, first of all, drawn to God because he loved Him and enjoyed being in His presence!

We see this same desire in the Apostle Paul. How much David and Paul shared in common with each other: both were murderers and both were transformed by God’s abundant mercies. And from the hearts of both of these servants flow the most beautiful songs of worship in our Bibles.

It is amazing to us as we read Paul’s letters how often he will “interrupt” his teaching with a prayer of intercession for the people he is writing to or insert a song of worship to his God. We clearly see an example of this in Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus.

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 1:1-2)

Paul plainly says that his ministry finds its source in the authority of God. And Paul’s desire is for the believers in Ephesus to also find in God what we all so desperately need: grace and peace that come from Him alone. Now Paul quickly begins to exalt and bless his God as he writes:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 1:3)

Paul begins his letter with prayer! Already, after only a few sentences, the apostle focuses on God as he begins to describe who He is and what He is like. Paul does not say, “We need to begin our letter with prayer.” Rather, his heart opens like a fountain as he worships God and invites the Ephesian church to join him.

OUR HOPE: IN CHRIST

God, who brings us His grace and peace, has already poured on us all of the blessings that fill the heavens! How has He done this? In Christ! How rich the believers at Ephesus were—along with you and me. The heavens are filled with the presence, glory, and power of God. The mutual love, joy, and exaltation God finds in Himself as the Trinitarian God fill the heavens. He has blessed us with His love and joy because we are in Christ.

This is our one hope: God loves His Son. All the eternal affections of our holy God are focused on His Son, Jesus Christ. Because we are “in Christ,” God loves us! This is the reason we have confidence in our Father’s acceptance, mercy, and affection. Because He loves His Son, and we are in His Son, we possess all of the pure affection God reserves for His Son!

[E]ven as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will. (Ephesians 1:4-5)

Paul’s worship of God flows from his pen like a song as he teaches us who we are in Christ and why we are in Him. Nothing about our performance, potential, or sincerity motivate God’s love and favor. We are in Christ because of God’s sovereign choice from eternity to make us His children and pour out His mercy upon us.

[T]o the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. (Ephesians 1:6)

We are in Christ because of God alone. If any merit of our own contributed to our salvation, then that would distract from the glory of God. He did it all to the praise of His glorious grace! One day we will join in the throne room with myriads of angels and the redeemed from every tribe, tongue, people, and nation. We will together fall at His feet, crying out before the Lamb who is worthy that He is the only reason we are saved. We worship Him alone.

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight. (Ephesians 1:7-8)

All the blessings of heaven are ours as God’s adopted children. We have received redemption and forgiveness through the riches of God’s grace that He lavished upon us in Christ. This is our God! Nothing about our Lord is ever measured out carefully. Everything about Him and His works are poured out. That is why we live poured out lives for His glory, rather than measured out, carefully balanced lives where everything is properly proportioned for our comfort. Our response of worship and delight in our Father reflect the measureless giving of our gracious God.

[M]aking known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. (Ephesians 1:9-10)

Paul continues in his letter to reveal the mystery of God’s purpose. He shows us how God, through His Son, will bring all things—in time and eternity and in heaven and earth—together to fulfill His plan. God not only chose us in Christ, but predestined us for His purposes. What hope and confidence we have in Christ! God did it all to the praise of His glory, and we worship Him!

As Paul teaches the Ephesians, we clearly see how much he enjoys God and delights in Him as he prays. Paul desires the brothers and sisters in Ephesus to also enter into this delight with him.


Language of the Heart Front CoverThis article is an excerpt of Language of the Heart: 20 Worship Prompters and Meditations on Prayer by Bill Mills, available in paperback or eBook format in our store or on Amazon.

Enjoying the Beauty of Jesus

unnamed (1) copy

This post continues from Part One: Enjoying Your God in Prayer.


When Paul writes to the church in Colossae we see he uses the  pattern of “interrupting” his instruction with a prayer, exaltation of God, or benediction. Paul had never visited this city and had not personally met these brothers and sisters. But he had heard about their faith in Christ and their love for one another from Epaphras. Near the beginning of Paul’s letter, he thanks God for the Colossians and tells them how he is praying for them. As Paul writes about what God has done through His Son, as he did to the Ephesians, he seems to break out in a song of worship right in the middle of his writing:

He is the image of the invisible God. (Colossians 1:15a)

As Paul lifts up the Lord Jesus before his readers, he glorifies Him by describing who He is, what He is like, and what He has done. Jesus is God who can be seen. We are able to know who God is and what He is like through Christ.

[T]he firstborn of all creation. (Colossians 1:15b)

Of course, Paul is not describing Jesus as a created being. He is revealing Christ as God’s most highly exalted Son. This is the same way the Apostle John describes Jesus as God’s “only” Son (John 3:16)—unique in His eternal Person and position. In Greek and Jewish culture, the firstborn son in a family always held the preeminent position. As “the firstborn of all creation,” Jesus is preeminent over everything He created.

For by him all things were created. (Colossians 1:16a)

Paul continues to magnify Jesus Christ. He is not created. He is the creator who ranks supremely over all that exists. Everything we see has its source in the Son of God.

[I]n heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities. (Colossians 1:16b)

Everything unseen was created by Jesus—from subatomic particles to the invisible spiritual realm. Paul then teaches us about the sovereignty of Christ over every kingdom throughout history. He is over every king who ever sat on a throne and every person who ever claimed authority. Every human and demonic ruler has always been subject to the One before whom every knee will bow (Philippians 2:10-11).

[A]ll things were created through him and for him. (Colossians 1:16c)

Christ is not only the creator of all that exists, He is the recipient as well! Everything in heaven and earth was created for Him. We find our pleasure in Him because He created all things for His pleasure.

And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. (Colossians 1:17)

As we read Paul’s prayer of worship that he shares with the Colossian church, we join with him in seeing Jesus more fully in His power and glory. And our eyes fill with wonder once again. He alone is preeminent and worthy of worship.

Christ is not only the source and the recipient of all that is, He is also the “glue” in the universe who holds it all together! He alone holds the planets in their orbits and keeps the stars in place. He alone binds molecules together. Christ alone holds marriages, families, and churches together. He provides the cohesive power that keeps the universe in order according to the Father’s design.

And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. (Colossians 1:18)

In His preeminence, Jesus reigns as head of His Church. He is not only from the beginning, He is the beginning (John 1:1). God has designed all of time and eternity for one purpose: that His Son might reign supreme and be worshiped by every creature.

For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. (Colossians 1:19-20)

In Christ lives all the fullness of our God! And because God’s fullness is in Christ, God was able, through Him, to reconcile everything to Himself. We could never reconcile God to us, but God can lift us up and reconcile us to Himself through the blood of His Son shed on the cross.

Paul returns later in his letter to this theme of the fullness of Christ:

For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. (Colossians 2:9-10)

What a description of Jesus! Everything that God is, living in a body. We can see who God is and what He is like by looking at Jesus. We can know Him and live confidently in His love as His children through Jesus. We are filled in Him! In Christ, we have the fullness of our Father’s love, His approval, and the fullness of His power and joy.

Our relationship with our Father in prayer can express this same fullness. As we pray, we want to thank God for what He has done, bring Him our needs, and intercede for others. Then, as Paul models for us in his letters, we also can go on from there. Paul goes from teaching, to praying, to exalting his Savior, and exulting in Him. Paul clearly enjoys his God.

May the joy of God be the fountain that also carries our prayer lives far beyond the needs and concerns of this world. Let’s pray for the joy we find only in God and enjoy Him even more as we pray.

MEDITATION AND PRAYER

Father, how often I have “dragged myself into Your throne room” because I knew I ought to pray. Please cause me to run to You for the pleasure of Your presence. Call me with the joy of exalting You so I will know the same delight Paul experienced as he exalted You in his letters.

Teach me, Lord, to wonder at Your greatness and be in awe of who You are, what You are like, and the majesty of Your redeeming works. Father, let me never move from the amazement of Your mercy and grace poured out to me in Christ. My heart is filled with praise because You have designed all of time and eternity so He reigns supreme and forever receives the worship of Your angels, every creature, and every nation.


Language of the Heart Front CoverThis article is an excerpt of Language of the Heart: 20 Worship Prompters and Meditations on Prayer by Bill Mills, available in paperback or eBook format in our store or on Amazon.

Why does biblical engagement matter?

Why does biblical engagement matter?
Let me take you back to 620 BC. Judah, the Southern Kingdom, had been in decline for almost a century, with only a brief revival under King Josiah. His sons proved to be ungodly leaders who abandoned the God of Israel. God, in his mercy, sent prophets to urge both the leaders and the people to repent. If they refused, Jeremiah, Habakkuk and others warned of a coming invasion and devastating defeat, followed by a bitter exile.

But other prophets contradicted these warnings with comforting words that only stirred false hopes. Jeremiah 23 reads:

Thus says the Lord of hosts: “Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you, filling you with vain hopes. They speak visions of their own minds, not from the mouth of the Lord. They say continually to those who despise the word of the Lord, ‘It shall be well with you’; and to everyone who stubbornly follows his own heart, they say, ‘No disaster shall come upon you.’” (v.16-17)

These false prophets spoke lies, “the deceit of their own hearts”(v.26). They offered up their own dreams as a word from the Lord saying, “I have dreamed! I have dreamed!”(v.25). They would hear an impressive-sounding prophesy from one of their own, and then plagiarize the message and preach it as if it was their own (v.30).

God sarcastically prods the false prophets to keep what they’re doing in order to make the contrast crystal clear.

Let the prophet who has a dream tell the dream, but let him who has my word speak my word faithfully. What has straw in common with wheat? declares the Lord”(v.28)

The contrast between the false words of the lying prophets and the words of the living God is sharpened even further. Is not my word like fire, declares the Lord, and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?”(v.29).

What can we say that will really make any difference in people’s lives? How can we help those consumed by anger? What can we say that would deliver people from jealousy or greed? Do we actually think that our words could free people for their enslaving habits? Our words are such weak things compared with the powerful temptations that our people wrestle. Our people need a word from God that is full of power…that brings life…that consumes the dross in their lives. We, as teachers and preachers of God’s Word, simply don’t have that capacity within ourselves. Only God and his Word have the transformative power that can change people at the core of their being.

In Jeremiah’s day, the faithful proclamation of God’s Word would have brought repentance and mercy.

But if they had stood in my council,
    then they would have proclaimed my words to my people,
and they would have turned them from their evil way,
    and from the evil of their deeds.(v.22)

This is why biblical engagement matters today. Only God’s Word empowered by God’s Spirit can bring the salvation, the deliverance, and the freedom that our people need.

Read more in the series:

Why does biblical interpretation matter?

lightstock_333439_download_medium_kevin_

I became a believer in 1970 while a freshman at the University of Illinois. The early 70’s were a time of a great spiritual harvest on the college campuses across the country, and God, in his great mercy, included me.

A few months later, I began to receive postcards from Chuck, a young man who had lived with us. My mother was a high school English teacher with a huge heart. She ended up welcoming troubled high schoolers into our home….sometimes for a few days or, as in the case of Chuck, for several months. When Chuck left us, he was lost…trying to find his way in life. But then these postcards arrived, full of Bible verses. “Cool!” I thought. “Chuck has become a believer just like me”. One postcard brought me much joy. Chuck informed us that he was going to visit us over the Thanksgiving holiday.

Unbeknowst to us, Chuck had joined a cult, the Children of God. Upon his arrival, he began to explain that if I really loved Jesus, I would join their group. Remaining in school was not an option if I was going to be a serious follower of Christ. Universities and corporations were all part of the world’s system. Genuine followers should abandon the world and join with the only true believers, the Children of God.

I was confused, so I invited Gerry, a fellow student who was discipling me, to meet with Chuck. Gerry became confused as well and eventually we both became convinced that we should drop out of school and join them. When I told my mother that I was leaving to join the Children of God, it broke her heart. She later told me that it was the most painful experience of her life, almost as devastating to her as the death of my father a few years earlier.

But, what could I do? Chuck and his friends reminded me that Jesus said that to follow him we must hate our father and mother. The Children of God encouraged their new members to take from their families as much money as possible as well as a car and other valuables. After all, when Israel left Egypt, they took “the spoils of Egypt and plundered the Egyptians.” I left the Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend, telling my mother that I might never see her again.

The brainwashing began my very first night with the cult. They began to indoctrinate me with five different Bible studies. The next morning I awoke confused, exhausted and scared. I sought the Lord in the Scriptures and read, For those who guide this people are leading them astray; And those who are guided by them are brought to confusion.” (Isaiah 9:16) Unfortunately, I wasn’t sure which leaders were leading me astray…was it my campus leaders or the Children of God???

God in his great mercy delivered me from the cult later that day. Miraculously, my older brother and a couple of my campus friends were able to find me and come to my rescue. But I remember driving back to the university with confusion and shame filling my soul. As a campus friend drove, I opened my Bible and discovered Ephesians 4:14  “…so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.”

That long, sobering drive to Champaign, IL began to form in me a conviction that I needed to give myself to study, learn, and love God’s Word. God has used my experience with the Children of God to profoundly shape me…for good.

Does biblical interpretation matter? I can’t think of anything that matters more.

Read more in the series:

     

    Launching Pastoral Training Movements Worldwide

     

    The mission of Leadership Resources is to launch pastoral training movements worldwide. This blog shares articles, resources, and updates from staff of God’s work around the world through our training. If you’re new to our blog, start here.

     


    Never Miss a Post

    Subscribe to our blog and receive the eBook Finishing Well in Life and Ministry: God’s Protection from Burnout.


    Choose a Frequency



  • Connect with Us on Social Media

  • Subscribe to our YouTube Channel