Four Marks of Faithful Preaching
Thank you so much Dr. Swain. I can tell you, I so looked forward to every Tuesday and Wednesday to gather together and I hope you do as well. I realize there are the urgencies of life and the business of the academic semester in classes and papers and tests and all that goes with it. But this is always a cherished reprieve for me. Tuesday and Wednesday. And I say that not to strut my personal piety, but just to say I hope there’s a sense in you where you look forward to it and have the music led by Dr Swain and students and the various others who participate just really helps to catapult my heart forward every day we come together and then to sit of the preaching of the word by colleagues and local church pastors. I regret, I was out of town yesterday for Dr. Juan Sanchez, but I’ve heard he did a spectacular job yesterday.
So here we are, we’re having a for the church workshop on preaching. And we began this really last year, this concept and thinking intentionally about how we as a seminary can serve not only the community, the students and those who are on this campus and taking classes here, but can periodically really serve local pastors and local ministers and even beyond the, our locality here to others in the region. So, we kind of hung out a shingle in the spring semester and Dr Köstenberger did a for the church workshop on preaching. Jared Wilson did a for the Church Workshop on the Gospel Driven Church and it just went great. It went very well and we began to plan to do these once or twice a semester going forward. And so I get to step into the batter’s box this morning and today and really on the back side of my new book, out letters to my students on preaching and Dr. Strachan will be holding
And will be speaking for one of our workshops here in just a few weeks on his new book, Reenchanting Humanity. So turn with me this morning in your bibles to second Timothy chapter four verses one through five for our time together and this hour of worship. I’ll be leading us to think together on four marks of faithful preaching. So this is going to be more sermonic. And then as we go to the banquet hall for the hundred and forty of you who registered as we go to the banquet hall afterwards, I’ll dig into more of the mechanics of preparing a sermon and to try to just invest in you as much as I can for two and a half, three hours together. Second Timothy Chapter four verses one through five, four marks of faithful preaching. Now I forgive me for nostalgia or anecdotalism as we begin our time together.
But I can’t help to speak about preaching and this group without just sharing a touch of my personal narrative. I grew up in a middle class, southern Baptist family, happily members of Cottage Hill Baptist church in Mobile, Alabama at a large southern Baptist Church and conservative, Bible believing church. My Pastor, Fred Wolf, served there for about 25 years and still living, ministering in the mobile area. For me though, I grew up as just a kid, like a lost kid. Not openly rebellious, wasn’t doing anything too scandalous on the side, but just was very much given to sports and to kind of enjoying life as a teenager and adolescent and really was tuned out to the things of the Lord. I went off to college my freshman year in college intending to really close the door on my religious life, my spiritual life, kind of moving out of the house, out of parental oversight, wanting to just kind of go live life on my own.
My ambitions were to go into politics. I wanted to get a political science degree. I did get a political science degree and a minor in history, wanting to go to law school, go into politics and make a bunch of money and run for office and do something to make a name for myself. My freshman year in college, just a period of weeks in had a radical encounter with Christ; was convicted of my sin, surrendered to Christ on Sunday morning and my local church and everything began to change both rapidly and slowly at the same time, rapidly new affections, immediately, rapidly new ambitions immediately rapid, a new vocabulary immediately, rapidly a sense of social engagements and where I went and what I did and what I should live for. All that was just being transformed abruptly, immediately, but slowly over the course of about two, nearly three years, kind of like a dimmer switch on a light bulb begins to get brighter and brighter and brighter
that call to ministry began to take shape. The first time I had the thought of like, is God calling me to ministry? I was driving down Old Shell Road, which is the road in front of my college campus. And it horrified me. The thought, I mean the picture my mind was like, God’s going to call me to go live in Africa. I’ll never be heard from again and I’ll die some anonymous death over there. And by the way, Christians do that and that’s not a bad thing, but for me as whatever I was 20 years old processing that and just it was a horrifying thought. And then over a period of months, what went from an absolutely implausible thought began to become a compelling thought and overwhelming thought, an inescapable thought. I must do this thought. At that time I was dating the young woman who’d become my wife and she was, we were talking marriage and she thought I was going to go to law school and she agreed to marry me, think I was going to law school and then I did the Switcheroo, uh, after she said “Yes” to my proposals and I said, “I think I’m going to go to seminary.”
But uh, I remember I met with her and then her parents about what God was calling me to do. They were supportive. She of course was supportive and it was an exhilarating season of life for me in college this call to ministry was happening. I’m exploring the scriptures. I’m seeing, I’m learning, I’m reading day to day, week to week, month to month. Life is taking shape and my future is taking shape. Three single events happened in that midst, in college that again, frame preaching for me and frame even the importance of a day like this as I was a college athlete playing basketball and becoming increasingly clear to me that I was not going to make it to the NBA and become increasing clear to me. I didn’t want to make it to the NBA. God had something different for me, something better. I began to have opportunities to share my testimony.
You find yourself as you know, 20 year old college student following Christ, speaking at FCA events and Church youth group events and college ministries and like, so how do I do this? What does it mean to share my testimony? What does one share and not having any idea what was entailed with that? Well, dovetail with that began some little opportunities to like to speak a little bit and teach the Bible in the Sunday school lesson here in a Bible study there. And again, it was inscrutable to me, mysterious to me what, what? How does this work? What do you do? I remember going into the local Christian bookstore in those early months and wanting to buy a Bible to help me and you know, kind of had a thousand bibles around the house as a kid, but one of my own Bible and I went in to discover there are a hundred different translations.
Which one did you pick? I had no idea. I just literally like did the lucky dip method. I just kind of went for that one, bought it and stuck it in my pocket. It was a pocket size new testament NIV and just kind of lived in and out of that Bible for the months that would follow that. That sense of how do I preach or how do I teach the Bible just continued to haunt me. I began to have the opportunity, as I said, to share my testimony some and one of those places was a place called the home of grace, which is just outside of Mobile and it was a kind of a halfway house for ladies. They had one for men and one for ladies. I was at the one for the ladies who are recovering from some sort of substance abuse or some other traumatic life experience.
And they were there and on Sunday afternoons, men from our Church would go and minister to them in a chapel setting. And I was invited to go share my testimony one week and I did. And I kind of went back a time or two over a period of weeks to kind of just be there as kind of a second or third hand to those who are really doing the preaching. And then I was invited by the gentleman who led that outreach to actually deliver the sermon one week. And it was a couple of weeks away and I was both exhilarated and horrified simultaneously; did not know how to prepare a sermon. Don’t know what one would say when one would preach. And I still remember squirreling away in my dorm room in Murray Hall and like taking out a legal pad and my NIV and writing down all the Bible verses I knew.
And right now, like all the preachers jargon I’d ever heard and writing down, you know, some college basketball illustrations and this and that and patching this thing together and going that Sunday to preach and getting up there and you know, going through my notes thinking you had about 30 minutes and you know, I’m done like in 12 minutes and not knowing what to do. So I just start over from my notes again and began to go through them again and we’re driving home that day. And again, it was exhilarating and horrifying. Simultaneously. I’m driving home with the gentleman who facilitated and we were reflecting on the service, which at the end, seven ladies came forward during the invitation. So it ended on a high note, at least momentarily as we were driving home. The gentleman who hosted the outreach said to me, “It made you feel great when those ladies came forward during the invitation?”
I said, “Man, you bet.” He said, “You know, every week those same seven ladies come forward during the invitation.” It was a puncture to my fledgling preaching ego. Well, shortly thereafter I was invited to teach Sunday school. And the gentleman facilitating that Sunday school ministry asked me to teach from the book of Colossians and he gave me two Bible commentaries. One was a MacArthur new testament commentary, the other was one of the NIV, New Testament commentaries. And I had never seen a commentary in my life. I didn’t know these things existed. I had no idea. And I was like, it was like I had hit the lottery. “You mean to tell me there’s a book that helps me understand these verses?” And I got these and I cleared a little shelf in my dorm room and these are my first two starter books, little starter family, these two volumes.
And, and then, you know, over time the shelf was filled out and then the case was filled out. And, and on we go. But getting to teach in that setting, to me what was so life-giving, so fulfilling, so enjoyable. So meanwhile, I’m also shelling back and forth between my college basketball team and practicing on Wednesday night and Sunday night and across the street to Dauphin Baptist church where Steve Lawson was the preacher then and I just met him kind of from attending there and I could go there on Sunday night and Wednesday night and be back in time for practice and like my home church, which was further away and couldn’t be back in time for practice. Well, Dr. Lawson, who is a dear friend and to whom I dedicated my new book, he’s just there on Sunday night, Wednesday night like opening the Bible and preaching verse by verse through books in the Bible, the gospel of John on Wednesday night, First John at that time on Sunday night and just, and I had never encountered anything like it.
To me, the Bible was just a random collection of like a zillion memory verses. It just, it was mysterious. It was fuzzy. I believed that, I believe those God’s Word I believed it was true. I believe that it spoke to me. It spoke to others. I believed the right things about it kind of at the gut level, but it was like there was no way this all fit together and he began to take the Bible and open the Bible and just preach the verses of the Bible. And I was mesmerized because I was beginning to see clearly what to me had just been one great fog.
And so as I began to teach Sunday school and hear him preach, I began to see some things. I began to see an appreciation, a profound appreciation for verse by verse expository preaching really for three reasons. First of all, what it did in me as I heard it, it impacted me. It challenged me. It shaped me spiritually unlike any other preaching I’ve ever encountered. Also, what it did for me as I began to study, to teach lessons, to prepare sermons, and again, before it was a an exhilarating, but yet a horrifying reality, to be asked to preach or teach and just not knowing how to do this, and just beginning to kind of feel my way through trying to make something up. But I actually could study the text and there is a fixed meaning and there are cross-references and there are commentaries and they’re really linguistic tools that help.
And it was, I mean light bulbs are coming off by the day, but also through me as I preach, I was able to see people impacted, not based upon my witticisms, not based upon you know, snappy things. But based upon Scripture working in the lives of people. Now I said there were three events that shaped me in the early season. One was that ill-fated first sermon. The second was the opportunity to get to know and sit under the preaching ministry of Steve Lawson. The third was a road trip in college, just as I was leaving the college basketball team to pursue ministry. A couple of other guys were pursuing ministry and one in the group says he and his girlfriend then they’re now married. His name is Randy McKinnon and he and his wife, uh, April, he’s a professor at Cedarville University and he and his wife said to a group of us, “You guys would like the sermon tapes.”
Yes, I grew up in the age of sermon tapes. You guys would like these sermon tapes. They’re by a guy named John Piper. Never heard of John Piper. And I said, “Oh yeah. I said, well, who’s he?” And I’ll never get the description they said, “He is like the John MacArthur of the north.” Now being from the north, he was immediately suspect in my mind, but I gave it a fair shake and the sermon tapes were really powerful. Well then another friend says to me, “You know, he’s delivering the Conger lectures at Beeson Divinity School a period of weeks away, why don’t we go?” So doing what dignified college students do, the four of us decided to drive up and rack in one room together and we began to go and the gentleman who is going to drive, who has the car that seems most fit to make it the 300 or so, give or take miles to Birmingham. His bumper literally is like falling off. We literally take bread ties and fasten it back to the structure of the car. And off we go. We get there, we get there early. We plant ourselves all two or three days on the very front row as Dr Piper preached. And he preached on this passage 2 Timothy 4:2. I’d never heard it preached before. I’d read it a few times, but I was gripped by the power of the passage.
And that event began to further give oxygen to this, to this call to ministry. And what does it mean to, to preach? So look with me in these verses. “I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus.” 2 Timothy Chapter Four, verse one
“I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead and by his appearing and his kingdom,
preach the word. Be ready in season and out of season. Reprove, rebuke, exhort with great patience and instruction
for the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but wanting to have their ears tickled they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires. They will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to
myths, but you be sober in all things endure hardship. Do the work of an evangelist. Fulfill your ministry.” Let’s pray. Father, in the minutes that follow, help us to think clearly from this passage and use it to frame the rest of our time together with those attending the workshop, would you in this room, these individuals, these men who are preachers of your word, these women who are teachers of your word, all of us who are called to speak your word, do something new in our lives this day. We pray in Jesus name. Amen.
Well, the context, I will not spend much time rehearsing because you largely know it. We’re on a seminary campus and our time is short in the chapel hour, but just remember the drama. Paul is near death, Timothy, his son in the faith, he has demonstrated vacillation, weakness, questioning and Paul in this last book is writing Timothy to buck up, to be strong, to stand firm. In chapter three, Paul catalogs so much of what is wrong in the world and what is wrong in the church as well. Apostasy has taken place, is taking place. Erstwhile trusted brothers and sisters are
falling away as well. And Paul is seeking to speak a prophetic word of instruction to this young man likely in his early to mid-thirties and charge him to do something, to preach the word. But this charge of course has roared through the centuries from this passage to most every preacher of the Gospel. We receive it. We identify with it. We find ourselves being simultaneously charged by it and encouraged by it. It’s our charge as well to preach the word. It’s a reminder that regardless of what is or isn’t happening favorably or unfavorably in the culture, regardless of what the church is doing or not doing or what church members are appreciating or not appreciating, this charge stands clear. It stands firm.
Preach the Word.
For the minister, the pastor it is the irreducible, indispensable task that we’re called to do again and again and again to preach the Word. Now see with me this morning just kind of quickly but intentionally four marks of faithful preaching, number one: to preach biblically. Now notice chapter four verse one. This is Paul’s way of getting our attention. Paul’s way of getting Timothy’s attention, Paul’s way of getting our attention. He tells him this, I solemnly charge you. Now, sometimes when we read our bibles, we are inclined to run by verses or even entire passages to get to the money verse or the money line. And we kind of tend to think subconsciously that all of those preceding verses and phrases were just kind of a pile-on of words that don’t matter that much. But just savor verse one. This is Paul’s way of getting our attention. It’s not just a charge, it’s a solemn charge. It’s not just a solemn charge. This is a charge, delivered in the presence of God and of his son Christ Jesus, who by the way will judge the living and the dead. In other words, you by his appearing and his kingdom, what is he doing? Paul is grabbing Timothy figuratively speaking and us by the lapels drawing us in,
telling us we must do something. We must preach the word.
So the central charge in verse two again, it just, it just towers above the surrounding passage in some ways, especially for the pastorate, it just towers out and stands out amongst the broader New Testament to preach the word to herald, to lift up one’s voice, to proclaim, to speak boldly, even loudly. Yes, we do more than shout, but there’s nothing wrong with raising your voice on occasion when you preach to do so without fear, without recrimination to make known. In other words, to have something to say biblically and to say it.
Preach the Word. The Word.
There’s a simplicity to this three-word phrase. Preach the word in English. There is no need to clarify which word or whose word, no need to elaborate on which portion of Scripture to or to not preach or to or to not prioritize.
Preach the Word.
Now interestingly enough, and this passage in this moment as Paul is writing Timothy, of course, this is the immediate reference back to the Old Testament, which we refer to as the Old Testament. The apostles teaching the New Testament is literally taking shape as Paul is writing to Timothy and yes, Paul understood that he was writing and teaching divine revelation. He makes that clear in other places in the New Testament. So Paul is saying, this is a special word. This is God’s Word. This is for you to preach and to teach. Why this charge? Well, chapter three which we won’t read through in particular, reminds us why. Because the backdrop is one of death, of decadence, of fallenness, of spiritual need. Just let your eye glance through chapter three Paul then in verse 12 says, “In light of this,” really the truth of the matter is, Timothy, “all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will face persecution.”
But verse 14 “You continue in the things you have learned, what you have become convinced of knowing from whom you have learned them.” Verse 15 “That from childhood you have known the sacred writings, the Scriptures which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith, which is in Christ Jesus.” Now notice verse 16. Verses we’re familiar with. “All scripture is inspired by God. It is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness. So the man of God may be adequate and equipped for every good work.” So in light of the darkness of our times, in light of the state of the church, which is in want. And in light of the power and integrity and inspiration and authority of scripture. Here’s what you do with this. You preach the Word. Now, this book, this notion of the Scriptures and the importance of Scripture just flows throughout. Notice chapter one, just let your eye fall down to chapter one verse 13.
Paul tells Timothy, “Retain the standard of sound words which you have heard from me and the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus.” Retain the standard of sound words. Chapter two verse 15 again, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.” Chapter two verse 25,
“The Lord’s bond servant, the Lord’s servant is to gently correct those who oppose, hoping God to grant them repentance so they may come to the knowledge of the truth.” Chapter three verse 10, “You followed my teaching…” Chapter three verse 14 “Which we’ve seen you continue in the things you have learned from me and become convinced of,” chapter four verse three, “they will not endure sound doctrine.” Chapter four verse four, “They will turn away their ears from the truth.” Chapter four verse seven, “But I have kept the faith.”
What do we see going on here? We see throughout this book, this continuing reference back to the power of Scripture, the importance of Scripture, the truthfulness of Scripture. Defend the Scriptures, preach the Scripture, stand firm in the Scriptures. It’s unmissable, it’s unmistakable. It’s there in black and white for us to see. Then in verses 15 through 17 this this clear statement on Scripture, which is one of the most majestic and informative and convicting statements in all the Bible about the Bible. We are presented with the verbal plenary inspiration of Scripture. What in the world does that mean? It means that the words verbal, the words themselves are inspired by God. These words are inspired not just the thoughts behind the words. The authors weren’t merely inspired like a playwright might be inspired or an author might be inspired. The words themselves are inspired and not some of them or a portion of them or most of them, but all of them in a plenary sense collectively are inspired.
So again, this is not just kind of Paul reflecting and drafting his memoirs before he goes to be with the Lord. No, this comes together. The times are dark. The church is experiencing tremendous need. The Scriptures are this powerful. Therefore you must do something now not to play games with what the Bible says or doesn’t say. But I would be remiss not to note that the charge is to preach the Word. It’s not to share the work. It’s not to mumble the Word. It’s not even to counsel the Word or to teach the Word. Some of these have very legitimate and needed and healthy functions within the church, but here Paul again elevates the proclamation of the Word. He is saying this, the Bible is our message. It is our Word. It is a perennial Word. It is a necessary Word. If you’re not convinced of scripture, it’s truthfulness, it’s authority, it’s relevance, it’s power; then you will be disinclined to preach it. You may look to it for sermon points or for sermon fodder, so that’s what evangelical preachers are told to do, but you’ll never let the Word become the point and actual points of your sermon.
Brothers and sisters, the Bible is more than resource book. It’s more than a book of sermon illustrations. We are not doctors who, who rightly diagnose an illness and then prescribe medicine without referencing our medical training or reference books. No, we have no message without this book. Here’s what Paul is saying. Here’s what I’m saying. There is a correlation between biblical conviction and biblical preaching and it’s hard to have a high view of scripture without a high view of biblical preaching. Moreover, you will never engage in a high and lofty view of biblical preaching and of preaching if you don’t have a high and lofty view of scripture. There is a correlation between what is a biblical conviction and of biblical preaching. We know this. Preaching as I have said before, it rats us out.
Who you are tends to come through in the pulpit and if the preacher is, if the scriptures are kind of one book amongst many, you consult on occasion, then it’ll come up one book amongst many in your sermons. If the Bible for you is just a place to go to occasionally be reminded of Bible promises, then your preaching will so reflect. But if you believe the scriptures are the word of God and they’ve gripped your life and you go back to them day after day after day and you pound away in them as you study to preach, then guess what? Your sermons will be bibline.
So why preach the word? Because it is this clear, unmistakable unmissable charge. Four marks of faithful preaching. Number one is that you preach the word. Why? Because the scriptures search us and the scripture searches our people. Unlike any other message we have to preach. I’m not a conspiracy theorist, I’m far from it, but I’m about convinced there’s a conspiracy as far as our iPhones go. And I’m convinced the iPhone not only hears what I say, it knows where I go. It can actually know what I’m thinking. And I’ll be driving down the road with my wife and we’ll mention a restaurant. Guess what pops up in our Facebook feed or Instagram feed? A few minutes later, an ad from that restaurant, you’re around town somewhere and geographically, you know you’re there and you’re in a location. And then ads begin to show up shortly thereafter, pointing you to places and things in that exact location. It seems to know us better than we know ourselves at times.
That’s the scriptures. It searches, they search, they know. And as we preach, that takes place in the lives of our people as we study to preach. It takes place in our own lives. Point number two, mark. Number two, not just preach biblically, but preach authoritatively. You preach the word. Be ready in season and out of season. Reprove, rebuke, exhort, reprove, rebuke, exhort this call to be ready. Verse two–it’s this unique command and it means to stand up, to, to be equipped, to be alert, to be poised and on hand, to be ready, always ready, equipped and poised. John Stott says here “it appears to take on the flavor of not just of alertness and eagerness, but even of insistence and urgency.”
Preach. Be ready to preach authoritatively. Now notice these three words here in verse two, be ready in season and out of season. What does that mean? Well, it means whether it’s popular or not, whether your hearers want to hear it or not, and frankly, whether you as preacher feels like preaching it or not, be ready in season and out of season to do three things: reprove, rebuke, exhort. What does it mean to reprove? Well, if you are a parent, you do this on occasion with children. If you have oversight responsibilities, you have to do this perhaps on occasion to those who are entrusted to your charge. If you’re a military commander, you do this frequency. If you’re a sports coach, you do this occasionally. What does it mean to reprove? It’s a negative, corrective word. It’s the same word he referenced in Chapter Three Verse 16 where Paul references the function of Scripture. One function is for reproof is say corrective word– and listen to me this morning, friends–preaching is to be corrective.
Not only is there nothing wrong with that, there is something wrong with it not being corrective. If you can attend church Lord’s Day after Lord’s Day and never be challenged and never be reproved by what’s coming to you from the pulpit, find another church. If you find yourself preaching Lord’s day after Lord’s Day and never reproving those within your hearers, another vocation
Reprove and then notice, rebuke. It’s a reference to the heart. Bringing a person under conviction of sin. John MacArthur writes, “To reprove, discloses the sinfulness of sin, whereas to rebuke, discloses the sinfulness of the sinner.” And then notice, exhort woven here together, packaged together to come alongside of and encourage. So the point is not reproof, reproof, reproof, rebuke, rebuke, rebuke. But notice exhort, encourage. But, but something is to happen when we preach such that the act of preaching is not mistaken as just a data dump on Biblical backgrounds and Word Studies. For Heaven’s Sake, bring it to bear. For Heaven’s sake. Actually let folks know that they have encountered the Word of God. Several years ago, I had to leave the campus very early in the morning about 4:00 AM as I recall to get to Tulsa, Oklahoma for an important development meeting. And we were leaving the house at 4:00 AM, myself and a seminary colleague who for this story, we’ll just, we’ll just call him Charles because that’s who it was.
And Charles Smith is there with me and we’re driving down together. He’s driving and I’m an early riser. I love to get up early. I do not like to communicate early. And so I’ll let you get up early to have hours to kind of study and do what I need to do before I get into heavy conversation. Well, we’re there leaving the driveway about 4:00 AM and Charles is driving, I’m in the passenger seat and I’m working on a sermon that I’m set to preach here very soon. And I’m reviewing the notes and Scripture and trying to work and thinking, well, Charles is like chatting 90 to nothing. He’s talking, asking me questions about life and ministry and seminary and everything and all good things. And I’m trying to focus and I’m trying to get this sermon done and he’s talking. And finally I say, “Charles, man, I don’t want to be, I don’t want to be rude, but I just cannot talk right now. I have to focus on this.” So, “Great understand.” Well, like 30 seconds later I hear him say into the phone, “What y’all doing?” And I’m thinking, who in the world can he be calling pre 5:00 AM to wonder what they’re doing?
And it was just like another channel with whom he could chat and I said, “Charles, I need to not only you to not chat with me, I need you to chat with no one for a couple of hours. Just let me focus here.” Nothing wrong with chatting with friends, but there’s something wrong with preaching if it just resembles a casual chat with friends.
This is not the place to chat. This is not the place to share a few nuggets about life. This is the place to preach and the place to preach authoritatively. Third, preach pastorally, 2b through 4. “With great patience and instruction for the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but wanting to have their ears tickled they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires. They will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.” Paul here I think is speaking a bit more specifically, not just theoretically about preaching but it’s as though he’s saying to Timothy, those to whom you preach, understand what’s at stake. Your church, your people, they are inclined to drift away from sound doctrine. They are inclined just to receive an unfiltered way and kind of buy into the conventional thinking of the age.
And in fact, if left unguarded they will actually go find a preacher that will encourage that and do that. You see the end result is devastation. Turn away their ears from the truth, pursuing myths. For every preacher, and I have been there, my goodness, I’ve been there. You’re there talking to a sweet old lady in your churches, you know, in her eighth or ninth decade of life. And she says something you like this: “Preacher, I saw the best sermon on TV this week.” And then you immediately are like poised to die. And who do they hear? “And I heard the best sermon from Joel Osteen this week,” and like a little part of me or a big part of me dies in that moment. You’ve been there. The reality is you have about 40 minutes, maybe a little less, maybe a little more on any given Sunday to try to preach a week’s worth of nonsense, cultural confusion, bad televangelists and everything else that has gone in their ears and before their eyes and into their hearts that week out of them. It’s urgent. It’s urgent. We do that with a pastoral touch. Again, we’re not trying to win preaching awards by how harsh we can preach. We’re not trying to brandish our reputation amongst other preachers as to how firm we are. But no, these are real people who we know, whom we serve. And so we want to speak with patience and instruction, but we do that, verse three, out of the about heart of protection, wanting to guard the flock, to guard the sheep.
Because it’s so easy for their ears just to turn away, just to drift away.
Time is racing here. So let me just quickly draw you to the fourth mark.
Fourth mark. Preach persistently. Verse Five, “You be sober in all things. You endure hardship. Do the work of an evangelist fulfill your ministry.”
I’ll tell you what my number one prayer for my life is. This morning, every morning and a lot of prayers and a lot of desires, but I find myself daily praying something that sounds like this: “Lord, help me this day to steward wisely and faithfully what you’ve entrusted to me and Lord help me this day to be faithful.” I long ago have quit pining about success in ministry. I long ago quit romanticizing what it would be to preach to a church of 5,000. I long ago quit romanticizing about the accoutrements of a successful ministry. Our desire needs to be faithful, to be faithful. We have to be persistent,
be sober, alert to the times to the challenges and during hardship. Why Paul would you have to say that to Timothy? Because hardship was his and he was weak. Hardship is ours and we’ll be increasingly so. If God does not send revival to our nation and to our churches, hardship will be perhaps in abundance.
But through that we do the work of the evangelist. We are called to fulfill
Preach persistently by way of identity. It’s who you are. If you’re called to preach
by way of calling, it’s what God has set you apart to do. By way of urgency is what our churches need
and by way of having no other option, it’s spelled out that clearly
before us. Preach persistently. Now,
to pull this together in my fainting, 30 seconds. It’s a glorious, exhilarating calling to be a minister of the Gospel, to get to preach. I wouldn’t relive those initial months of couldn’t find genesis from revelation 20 plus years ago, but in a sense I wouldn’t exchange them for everything, anything, because it forced me to study and learn and buy books and read and seek out mentors and talk to people and ask questions and bird-dog key pastors and just keep exploring, learning, asking, looking back, I would have driven over my mother that to get to do that here with professors like this. During that time of life and that season of calling brothers and sisters, we have that here. We have faithful professors and instructors and staff members who are eager to invest in you students and to all of us. I say we get to do a lot of things as a seminary and a Spurgeon College.
The heart of that is to train pastors. At the heart of that calling to train pastors is to equip preachers. Let’s pray. Father, thank you so much for this morning, for these verses, for our time together. I do ask Father, as we look towards next week, may it be a couple of days of profound encouragement in Christ this day. For those of us who are going to be together the next several hours to think more intentionally and thoroughly about preaching, help us to learn much and to leave here in courage and with your churches be further inflamed from the truth of scripture because of it. We pray these things in Jesus name.
Comments are closed.