Friday, July 18, 2008–God has blessed me with a couple of opportunities to preach in the past couple of weeks, and the Lord seems to have laid on my heart the Gospel of Mark, where I spent a few years preaching in my former ministry. I pulled most of my commentaries home from George’s office to help in the preparation of my sermons, so I thought, “I might as well put this list of resources on the blog.” So here is a list of most of my commentaries on Mark’s Gospel. This library is available to the members of Redeemer Church, Fort Worth.
Commentaries on the Gospel of Mark as of 7-30-2006
Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, New Testament vol. II, Mark, Thomas C. Oden & Christopher A. Hall, editors. Intervarsity Press: Downers Grove, Ill. 1998 (281pp.). This is a series that every serious Bible student should think about adding to their library. When I study for a sermon I like to see what godly men from many different faith traditions and centuries have written about the text. ad fontes!
The Bible Speaks Today: the Message of Mark, Donald English. Inter- Varsity Press: Downers Grove, Ill. 1992 (254pp.). This wonderful series by InterVarsity has been a blessing to me for many years. While it is not necessarily a verse-by-verse commentary, it does give a good sense of each pericope, story or section. It seems to make the text come alive. A bit more than a devotional commentary, I highly recommend it.
The Daily Study Bible: the Gospel of Mark, revised ed., William Barclay. The Westminster Press: Philadelphia, PA. 1975 (373pp.). Barclay is an old favorite that I have pretty much outgrown. He gives excellent word pictures, stories and historical backgrounds but he does have some liberal streaks that are irritating.
Tyndale New Testament Commentaries: The Gospel According to St. Mark, Alan Cole. Wm. B. Eerdmans: Grand Rapids, MI. 1961 (263pp.). Cole’s work is rock solid and is a good commentary for someone just beginning to build their library.
The New Century Bible Commentary: The Gospel of Mark, Hugh Anderson. Marshall, Morgan & Scott Publ. Ltd.: London, 1976 (366pp.). Not my cup of tea here, I rarely use the NCBC.
The Crossway Classic Commentaries: Mark, J.C. Ryle. Crossway Books: Wheaton, Ill. 1993 (originally 1887), (271pp.). I love reading Ryle! This is a devotional commentary that give a preacher a quick boost.
New International Commentary on the New Testament: The Gospel According To Mark, William L. Lane. William B. Eerdmans: Grand Rapids, MI. 1974 (652pp.). Here is the Cadillac of Mark commentaries, one of the two best. This is a must have for the preacher.
Commentary on Mark, J.D. Jones. (Originally published in London 1914). Kregel Publications: Grand Rapids, MI. 1992 (722pp.). Another good, older commentary that leans toward the devotional but has a bit more substance than JC Ryle.
The New American Commentary: Mark, James A. Brooks. Broadman Press: Nashville, TN. 1991 (288pp.). Good solid work here, very reliable and just enough detail. Quite helpful.
Preaching the Word: Mark, vol.1, R. Kent Hughes. Crossway Books: Wheaton, Ill. I love Kent Hughes’ sermons and this series is a collection of his sermons on Mark.
Preaching the Word: Mark, vol.2, R. Kent Hughes. Crossway Books: Wheaton, Ill. (249pp.).
The Broadman Bible Commentary, vol.8, Clifton J. Allen, ed. “Mark”, Henry E. Turlington. Broadman Press: Nashville, TN. 1969 (pp.254- 402). Good for understanding Baptist thought of 40 years ago, but I honestly do not use the BBC much.
The Four Gospels: A commentary, Critical, Experimental and Practical, David Brown (originally published with the Jamieson, Faucett, and Brown commentary in 1864 in Great Britain). Banner of Truth Trust: Edinburgh, 1969 (pp.137-214). A classic but I struggle with its usefulness.
Word Biblical Commentary, vol. 34A, Mark 1:1-8:26, Robert A. Guelich. Thomas Nelson Publishers: Nashville, TN. A very thorough and solid work that I occasionally refer to. Probably every preacher ought to have the WBC.
Word Biblical Commentary, vol. 34B, Mark 8:27-16:20, Craig A. Evans. Thomas Nelson Publishers: Nashville, TN. 2001 (594pp.).
The NIV Application Commentary: Mark, David E. Garland. Zondervan: Grand Rapids, MI. 1996 (653pp.). Here is my favorite commentary on Mark. Garland’s work is a masterpiece. The whole series is probably my favorite series because they go deep but also are practical and devotional. I relied heavily on Garland for my studies. If you could only have ONE commentary on Mark- choose this one.
The New International Greek Testament Commentary: The Gospel of Mark, R.T. France. William B. Eerdmans: Grand Rapids, MI. 2002 (719pp.). This one combined with the WBC is the best for Greek students and those who really want to go deep into the various critical theories and language.
Baker New Testament Commentary: The Gospel of Mark, William Hendriksen. Baker Book House: Grand Rapids, MI. 1975 (700pp.). Another old favorite, the NTC by Baker is reliable, conservative and inspirational as well as deep enough to touch on most of the important details.
The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, vol.8, Frank E. Gaebelein, ed. “Mark”, Walter W. Wessel. Zondervan: Grand Rapids, MI. 1984 (pp. 603- 796). Part of a good solid set on the whole Bible, but I actually seldom used this one.
Matthew Henry Commentary on the Whole Bible, 1 volume ed., Matthew Henry (1662-1714). Zondervan: Grand Rapids, MI. 1961 (pp.1364- 1407). My very first commentary when I was 17-18. I still use Henry some, very devotional and challenging.
The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament, Craig Keener. Inter-Varsity Press: Downers Grove, Ill. 1993 (pp.132-184). An interesting specialized commentary that gives some good details others might miss.
Thru The Bible With J.Vernon McGee, vol.IV, J.Vernon McGee. Thomas Nelson Publishers: Nashville, TN. 1983 (pp. 156-237). I really never use McGee.
The Bible Exposition Commentary, vol.1, Warren W. Wiersbe. Victor Books: Wheaton, Ill. 1989 (pp.109-168). I love Wiersbe’s writings and they make for a good devotional or a quick sermon outline for the bi-vocational pastor with not much time.
The Bible Knowledge Commentary, New Testament edition, John F. Walvoord, Roy B. Zuck. Victor Books: Wheaton, Ill. 1983 (pp.95- 198). Haven’t really used this one.
The Teacher’s Commentary, Lawrence O. Richards. Victor Books: Wheaton, Ill. 1987 (pp.600-636). Good outlines and devotional material but I seldom use him.
Mark 1 “What Is the Gospel?”
Sunday, July 13, 2008 Bryan E. Walker
New Beginnings Evangelist Church, Pastor Eric Edwards
Brief testimony: I want to thank my friend Eric here for inviting me to come preach the Word this morning. I want to commend Eric to you as someone who walks the walk and not just talks the talk. I work with Eric and I can tell you that he is a hard worker, he is professional, and he carries his Christian faith with him in the workplace. He is a man of integrity and I am proud to call him a friend.
But who am I? I believe that anytime I speak to a new body of believers who do not know me, I owe it to you, the Body of Christ, to briefly share my testimony. I was raised by Christian parents and grew up attending the Baptist church. We went to church Sunday mornings, Sunday School and worship both, and then turned around and went back to church on Sunday nights and Wednesday nights as well.
When I was 8 years old I was deeply listening to an evangelist during a revival service and what I heard convinced me that even though I was young and what you would call a good kid, I was lost in sin, and I needed Jesus in my heart or I would die and go to hell. That night I confessed to the Lord that I was a sinner and I asked Jesus to save me, to forgive me, to come into my heart. God saved me that night and he sent his Holy Spirit to abide in me. Through the years He is the One who has held on to me. I tell you this morning that my testimony is that apart from Jesus I have no hope. Apart from God’s Amazing Grace I have no hope. Apart from the power of the Holy Spirit I have no hope. My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
I have served as a bi-vocational pastor in a Southern Baptist Church for 15 years, but left the pastorate last year and am now serving as a Sunday School teacher in a wonderful church that has tremendously blessed my whole family.
Read Mark 1
Introduction: I chose the text this morning based upon 3 things- 1) the name of your church includes the words Evangelist and Beginnings which are directly related to the words Beginning and Gospel in our text in Mk.1:1. 2) Mark has long been one of my favorite books of the Bible and I preached through this book at my church over the course of about 3 years. 3) My title for this sermon is “What is the Gospel?” and this leads me to my purpose in choosing this text- if I have only one chance at preaching to a congregation I want to very clearly and forcefully preach the Gospel because we live in a day of tremendous confusion over what the true Gospel is. There are many false gospels out there and the Church suffers as a result of a lack of discernment. We live in an age where tolerance and diversity are the watchwords of the culture and unfortunately the Church has grown to tolerate diversity in the content and meaning of the Gospel.
In this sermon then, I want you to see from the Gospel of Mark just what the Gospel is, what the Gospel is all about and what its implications are. The Gospel is not only from God, it is about God and it is for God’s glory first and foremost. The Gospel confronts us in the wilderness of sin and proclaims to us who Jesus is and what Jesus has done for our salvation. The Gospel affects all of life, not just our religious life, and the Gospel of Jesus Christ is our only hope for salvation.
I. Define Gospel…
Since the same Greek word that is translated here as Gospel is also part of your church’s name, Evangelist, I want you to help me define the word. What is an evangelist? What does Gospel mean?
1. Definition and usage- Here is the Webster’s Dictionary definition of gospel: It comes from Old English or Anglo Saxon god-spell meaning a good tale, good story or good news. It is the message concerning Christ, the kingdom of God and salvation. It is one of the first 4 New Testament books; it is an interpretation of the Christian message.
Vs.1 gospel- euangelion. This was not a word that originated with the Christians; it was a pagan word. For the Romans, and Mark’s Gospel was written with the Romans in mind, it meant Joyful Tidings! It was especially related to the cult of the Emperors who were considered divine. If an emperor had a birthday, or a son was born, or the son reached maturity, or the emperor won a big military victory, or a new emperor ascended to the throne (and they usually did that by killing off the old emperor!) then the State would send out heralds who would proclaim the good news, the euangelion. In fact an ancient inscription with a portion of a calendar has been found in ancient Asia Minor (modern day Turkey) that has an entry for the birthday of Octavian, Caesar Augustus, that says, “the birthday of the god was for the world the beginning of joyful tidings (euangelion) which have been proclaimed on his account.” (By the way, this is an excellent example of how the science of archeology has helped the biblical scholars to prove, understand and explain the Scriptures).
Notice how similar this ancient announcement about Caesar is to Mark’s opening line! Do you think that is an accident? Dr. William Lane writes, (p.43 of NICNT) “This inscription is remarkably similar to Mark’s initial line and it clarifies the essential content of an evangel in the ancient world: an historical event which introduces a new situation for the world. In this perspective the Roman would understand Mark’s proclamation of Jesus the Messiah. Beginning with the inauguration of Jesus’ public ministry, Mark announces Jesus’ coming as an event that brings about a radically new state of affairs for mankind.”
But there is another aspect to this opening line by Mark, the Jewish tradition. In vss. 2-3 Mark quotes from Ex.23:20; Mal.3:1; Isa.40:3 and in verse 1 there is also clearly a link to Gen. 1:1 with the phrase “The beginning”. Marks reference to Isaiah in particular points to his understanding that the gospel is to be interpreted in light of the coming salvation promised in the prophet’s words. In Isaiah the good news is the announcement of a future salvation. Mark then links the gospel to creation, the beginning, the Exodus where Israel met God in the wilderness, and to the prophets who looked forward to this day of salvation.
For the Romans then, the good news is about something that already happened. For the Jews it was good news about that which was to happen. And in 1:15 we see Jesus proclaiming that the kingdom of God is at hand now!
OK, this is all fine and good, but how does this affect my understanding of the gospel? How does this impact my life today? The Gospel is rooted in the Old Testament going all the way back to Creation, Gen. 1:1, and the Exodus. It is rooted in God’s Word prophetically spoken by the Old Testament prophets. The gospel is rooted in that which has already happened; it is historical and factual, not fiction. It pertains to us here and now, today is the day of salvation, the kingdom of God is here now! And the gospel always points us to the future as well, for Jesus is coming again and you better be ready. This understanding of the gospel helps us doctrinally too, because we have to realize that our salvation is rooted in what Jesus has accomplished in his life of perfect obedience in the past; in Jesus’ obedient atoning, substitutionary death on the cross- in the past; in Jesus’ literal, physical resurrection, in the past. But the gospel is also current in that if you are a Christian, if you have trusted in Jesus, you experienced the gospel first hand, you repented and believed, you trusted in Jesus, you are currently trusting in Christ and persevering in the faith. The Holy Spirit not regenerated your heart back then, but He abides with you today. And then we also experience the gospel as a future hope in that we still dwell in this sinful flesh, in this sinful, fallen world, but our hopes are for Christ’s return or for our going to heaven when we die. That is our future hope.
2. Literary Context of the gospel- by this I mean that I want to look at the first chapter of Mark and see the context in which he uses this word gospel.
In vss.1-13 Mark uses a key word 4 times. Does anyone notice what word I am talking about? Look at vss.3, 4, 12 and 13. The word I am noticing is “wilderness”. What would be the significance of this word for the Jews or for the gentile converts who were familiar with the Old Testament?
The wilderness is where Israel met God. The wilderness is both a time of testing, a time of drawing close to God, but also it symbolizes their sin because Israel rebelled in the wilderness. Notice that in Mark’s quoting Isaiah we see the voice of one crying in the wilderness. Going to where the people are being judged, going to where Israel was in rebellion. The prophet doesn’t speak so much to those who are in obedience, but rather, he speaks to those in the wilderness of sin, who need to hear the good news.
John did not appear in the big cities; he did not hold crusades in the stadiums of Jerusalem. He preached in the wilderness; but still the people came. The Spirit did not drive Jesus to a nice hotel in downtown Jerusalem, he drove Jesus to the wilderness to be tempted and to tested, to do battle with Satan. Including the story of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness points back not just to Israel’s time in the wilderness, but it goes all the way back to Gen. 3 and Adam’s temptation in the Garden. Adam was in the perfect environment with a perfect wife and perfect relationship with God, yet failed the temptation and test. Jesus was all alone in the wilderness with, as Mark alone includes this detail, the wild animals. Yet Jesus, fasting for 40 days, did not waver or fail. He was obedient where Adam failed.
Now what does this wilderness theme in Mark 1 tell us about the gospel? The gospel comes to us in the context of the wilderness. We all live east of Eden now, we are sinful creatures under God’s wrath in the wilderness, and God breaks into our wilderness and sends us the gospel; sends us his Son. We do not have a God who is far off and tells us, “You must work your way up to find me.” No! We have a God who seeks us and finds us in the wilderness with the good news of salvation in Christ. Christ himself experienced our wilderness. He knows what it is to be alone and tempted, facing danger, hunger and thirst. The gospel is for those in the wilderness.
Notice next that the Gospel context includes the Holy Spirit. In vss. 8, 10, and 12 we see the Holy Spirit. John says in vs. 8 that Jesus will baptize you with the Holy Spirit. Next we see Jesus getting baptized and the Holy Spirit in vs. 10 descends upon him like a dove. Then in vs. 12 it is the Spirit who drives Jesus out to the wilderness. What we see here is that this gospel is accompanied by the Holy Spirit the whole way. When you respond to the gospel, it is Jesus baptizing you with the Holy Spirit that enables you to respond. The Jesus in whom we believe is confirmed to be the Son of God here by the Spirit’s anointing and the Father’s words. Thus the true gospel is a Trinitarian gospel. Here is a key doctrinal point: whenever you hear a preacher in person, on the TV or radio, you need to know what he believes about the Trinity. What we see at the baptism of Jesus is that at the same time in the same place we have the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Three distinct persons yet one God, one in essence. There has always been the Father; there has always been the Son and there has always been the Son. Is the doctrine of the Trinity difficult? Yes. It is a mystery but that is what we find in the scriptures. In my studies and in my personal experience both, wherever the Trinity is compromised there is heresy and sin. Just about every cult in history has surrendered the doctrine of the Trinity and it has led to disaster.
The gospel is the good news that the Father has sent the Son and the Father and Son send us the Holy Spirit. The Father ordains salvation, the Son obtains salvation, and the Spirit applies and sustains it.
II. The Content of the Gospel in Mark 1
1. vs. 1 the gospel of Jesus Christ- first of all, the gospel is all about Jesus Christ the Son of God. Right from the beginning Mark identifies the key person of the story- Jesus. He is Jesus which in Hebrew would be YHWH saves. His very name bespeaks the salvation that is promised. This name was as popular in Jesus day as it is in Hispanic culture today, it is the name Joshua. Whereas in all the others named Joshua the parents were expressing their faith and hope in God for salvation, in Jesus his name guarantees salvation. Matt. 1:21 “She will give birth to a son and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” Acts 4:12 “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” Phil. 2:10 “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
The gospel is not about what I can do. It is not about me, it is all about Jesus and who he is and what he has done. Jesus is the Son of God, the Son of Man. 100% God and 100% man. Here in Mark’s gospel 2 we see the wonderful story of the paralyzed man whose friends dug a hole in the roof and lowered him down in front of Jesus while he taught. Look in 2:1-12 and you will see that he does something only God can do. He forgives sins. Oh, by the way, he also healed the man, which only God can do. But he forgave the man his sins. That is either God in the flesh or a bad heretic.
Jesus is recorded in John’s gospel as calling himself various names that the Pharisees considered blasphemous. They absolutely knew he was claiming to be God. In John 6:48 “I Am the Bread of Life.” 8:12 “I Am the light of the world.” 8:58 “before Abraham was born, I Am!” 10:7 “I Am the gate of the sheep.” 10:11 “I Am the Good Shepherd.” 10:30 “I and the Father are one.” 11:25 “I Am the resurrection and the life.” 14:6 “I Am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” The only explanation for these sayings of Jesus is that he is God, God in the flesh.
2. The Gospel is about who Jesus is and what Jesus did. 10:45 Look in Mark 10:45 for a central verse in his gospel that tells us what Jesus was all about. Here we see that Jesus came “to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.” In the context of ancient Rome, the ransom has a couple of very noticeable meanings. Slavery was practiced throughout the Roman world and that meant slave markets. If you were in debt and could not pay, you could be sold as a slave. But if a close relative or friend had the funds and the desire, they could ransom you from the slave block. They bought you back. In warfare in ancient times this is what happened to POWs, they were captured and then sold as slaves. If your army lost some troops, you could purchase them back from the country that captured them with a ransom price.
You and I, all people everywhere, are captive to sin. We are born sinners and are naturally enemies of God. But Jesus dies on the cross to pay the price, the redemption price, to take us back. Now do not even think that God pays the devil a ransom. The devil doesn’t get anything from God except ultimately the lake of fire! The ransom is a figure of speech but the one to whom it is owed is God, not the devil.
The gospel then is all about Jesus perfectly keeping God’s Law, living a perfect life so that he can be the Lamb of God, the perfect sacrifice for sins. Jesus then voluntarily dies on the cross as our ransom, in order to redeem us out of sin and to present us to the Father. The gospel is about what Jesus did!
Paul writes in 1Tim.2:5 “There is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” Jesus said in John 14:6 “I Am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” And Peter preached in Acts 4:12 “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” The gospel, then, is exclusive, not diverse and tolerant. There is only one gospel, one Savior, one way to salvation. These other world religions are all false and leading their adherents to hell. No matter what the politicians and movie stars and TV news anchors say, we do not all worship the same god, all religions do not lead up to the top of the same mountain by different paths. It is Jesus or nothing! Mohammed did not die for your sins. Buddha did not die for your sins. Hinduism has millions of gods, but not one of them died for your sins. Jesus alone died on the cross for your sins.
3. This gospel demands that you repent, believe and follow. Repentance is a key word for Mark in chapter 1. The baptism of John was for a sign of repentance in vs.4. For the Jews, baptism is what a gentile convert to Judaism did. The symbolic act that John is asking the Jews to do is to acknowledge that being born Jewish was not enough. They were still sinners who needed to confess their sins and be baptized as they asked God to forgive them. Jesus’ baptism then, since he never sinned, was an act of humble obedience to identify with his sinful people. It was all too easy for the Jews of that day to trust in their being a child of Abraham and trust in their offerings at the Temple for their salvation instead of trusting in God. Baptism was to remind them to trust in God alone.
Sadly, today when I ask people about their salvation, the most popular answer I receive is they start talking about their baptism. People are trusting in their baptism instead of trusting in the Lord! Baptism does not save you or earn forgiveness of sins. Baptism is a sign of repentance as you trust in God for forgiveness and grace.
Jesus first recorded sermon in vs. 15 involves repentance. What is repentance? The word used here is metanoeite which is an imperative or command to change your mind and turn to God with all your being. Repentance is always costly. People do not like to change their minds, to change the focus of their life. The concept “It’s all about me!” is deeply ingrained in our sinful hearts and culture. Notice that in vs.5 the people coming to John were confessing their sins. We must admit that we are sinners, take responsibility for our sins and cry out for God’s mercy. Most folks today want to blame their sins on somebody else. Well, it’s my parents fault; you don’t know what kind of bad environment I was raised in. It’s the government’s fault. It’s everybody’s fault but mine. That is the attitude today. That is not confession or repentance!
In Jesus’ preaching he also commands us to believe in the gospel. The word for believe is another imperative in the Greek so it has the force of a command. Notice that Jesus commands us to repent and believe. This is no weak invitation. This is a command from the Lord of the Universe, the King of kings. To fail to obey this command is to reject the gospel, to reject the Lord and condemn yourself to God’s wrath and ultimate judgment.
Repentance and faith go together. Many people say they believe, but few repent. Many people fool themselves into thinking that just because they have nice thoughts about God that they are believing. What is faith? This word in the Greek is pisteuete which means to place your trust in. Faith, belief, always has 3 elements. 1) content- there must be a basic content that is to be believed. Genuine faith is not a blind faith, it is an informed faith. We should know that Jesus is God the Son, that he lived a perfect life, died as our substitute on the cross to pay for our sins, that he rose from the grave and that he is coming again. We should know that he promises eternal life to those who follow him. 2) Faith is not just head knowledge it is a heart response. We must agree that this gospel is for us. I must respond to Jesus with love and desire him as my savior. 3) Faith, if it is to be a saving faith, must be a trusting faith that is committed. Many people know the gospel. Many have an emotional attachment to the gospel and to Jesus. But to believe ultimately means to follow, and that is part of repentance. It is leaving sin and self and turning to follow Christ.
We see this dramatically demonstrated in the next story in Mark, the calling of the 4 disciples. Jesus commands them to follow him, and they leave their fishing business and follow him. Notice the urgency in the situation- immediately they left their nets. Notice the authority of Jesus in this situation, he commands and they obey. Leaving and following are symbolic of repenting and believing.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Saturday, July 12, 2008–A friend of mine at work is a bi-vocational pastor, like I was for 15 years, and he has invited me to preach at his church tomorrow. I will be preaching from Mark 1, but in my studies I looked up an old sermon of mine from 1999 when I started preaching through the Gospel of Mark. I will use large parts of this sermon tomorrow, but I will study the text anew so it will be a substantially different sermon. However, this old sermon struck me as being something that I ought to share on this blog. CAUTION: it is a confrontational sermon that goes along with my Worship War series of stories from my days as pastor.
********** BAPTIST CHURCH
“Preaching the Doctrines of Grace and Making Disciples Beyond 2000”
*********************founded 1955, affiliated with SBC
Bryan E. Walker, Pastor since 1992 Telephone:
Sola Scriptura, Solus Christus, Sola Gratia, Sola Fide, Soli Deo Gloria
Mark 1:1 “The Gospel About Jesus Christ- What Is the Gospel?” 18 July 1999 AM
Introduction: Parking Garage illustration
I. What Is A Gospel?
II. What Is The Gospel?
1. The “simple Gospel” 2.Evangelists, Revivals, Billy Graham 3.Tracts
4. Y’all come evangelism
III. Is There A Problem With The Simple Gospel Today?
1. The Simple Gospel, Baby Boomers and a Postmodern World. 2. Revivalistic Preaching vs. Pastoral Preaching. 3. Competition from other gospels.
IV. The Full Gospel and Our Purpose
1. The Full Gospel, the whole counsel of God’s Word. 2. My Purpose
3. The Three-fold purpose of the Church. 4. Hindrances to our
purpose- lack of hunger for the Word, willful ignorance, pride and
unteachable hearts, rebellion.
Conclusion: Garage ill. or full meal ill. I will continue to preach from the whole of God’s Word and I will continue to preach in depth, providing solid food. Your job is to cultivate a hunger for the Word and obey Him.
Introduction: This morning we are beginning a wonderful journey of examining the Gospel about Jesus Christ, According to Mark. Here we shall see Jesus portrayed as the suffering servant who came to ransom lost sinners from their sin. We shall be asking just a couple of basic questions throughout our study: Who is Jesus? And, What should my response be to Jesus? Tonight we will do an Introducion to Mark’s Gospel including a brief biography of Mark, then, next week we will examine the key vss. of this gospel to get an idea of Marks main points. Then we shall conduct a verse by verse, section by section study of this wonderful gospel that is action packed. After a few weeks of Mark we may begin to alternate with either Genesis or another study.
Let me begin this sermon with an illustration from work this week. At the place where I work we have been constructing a parking garage for the past year. Actually, the planning started in the fall of 1996, and the ground was broken in July of last year. I have learned a lot about construction simply by watching the slow progress step by step. I saw the survey work done, marking off the boundaries; then there were soil samples drilled to see what was beneath the surface; I saw the ground dug up for the temporary parking lot, new dirt brought in and finally asphalt poured, lines painted. Then the old parking lot was dug up, concrete and steel ripped out; a huge hole was dug deep into the rock for the foundation, then a series of 6′ diameter holes were bored deeper still (some up to 60′ deep). Steel rebar 2″ thick was used abundantly in those deep holes then the concrete was poured. Next was the bottom floor of the garage, the forms were constructed, steel rebar laid in and tied together, then more concrete. The columns were next, and step by step the 6 story garage went up. The foreman told me he could only be off no more than 1/8th of an inch in all of his measurements and survey work or the structure would be ruined. 1/8th of an inch could ruin a multi million dollar structure.
When you look at it full of cars now, if you didn’t know about all the foundation work, all the steel and deep concrete, you couldn’t tell because all that work is hidden from view. Hidden, yet absolutely essential! If you ignored the foundation the structure would collapse of its own weight, if the foundation was faulty it may last for a while then deteriorate quickly, maybe a tragic collapse. People will use the garage that know nothing of the foundation and could care less. But the architects, the project managers at my company, the engineers, the construction crew, those who built it, fully appreciate that foundation and all the hidden steel.
This morning we will look at this first verse of Mark’s Gospel and ask the question: “What Is the Gospel?” We will look at what is a gospel, the simple gospel and the full gospel and see how we need all three!
This sermon is needed today because in the world where I work and live there are competing gospels, there are those who do not know the gospel, and here in this church there are different ideas of what the gospel is and how it should be proclaimed.
I. What Is A Gospel?
The word gospel is derived from the old Anglo Saxon “god-spell” meaning good tidings or good history. It is used to translate the Greek word euangelion. This word for gospel appears in Mark more often than any of the other gospels! The Greek word was used to announce history making good news. Its Old Testament roots tie it in with the In-Breaking of God into our world, and that is good news to us! We are not left to our own devices! We have a God who has entered our realm, our world.
But the word gospel came to be used as a word to describe the first four books of the New Testament. Hence we have the Gospel According to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. A Gospel then is one of these four books. This gospel is not really a biography for they leave out way too much; Mark’s gospel does not include a birth account like Luke and Matthew. Why? We will discuss that tonight. But a gospel has biographical material in it, it is the story of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
A gospel is not a history book, although it is historical. Acts is more of an historical account, but the gospels are not histories exactly. They are definitely historical in that they accurately describe real events, real people in space and time. A gospel is a theological work that proclaims Jesus, who he is and what he did, with the purpose of persuading people to believe in Jesus.
In order for us to preach the gospel we must know the gospel by reading and studying the 4 gospels. These are the primary sources for what we know about the actions, teachings, and character of Jesus. Now let us look at the gospel, the good news about Jesus Christ which is the content of the Gospels.
II. What Is The Gospel?
1. The “Simple Gospel” This is the basic message of salvation that announces that Jesus died on the cross to save us from our sin, that we must repent and believe in Jesus and trust in him for salvation. This is good news because we cannot save ourselves with religion, morals, or good works. This is a message of repentance, of trusting in the resurrected Savior, of being born again. If you are to communicate hope to a lost world, there is no hope in any other name than Jesus, and his atoning death on the cross. This is the core of our witnessing, preaching and evangelizing a lost world.
2. This message, the simple gospel, is the main message of evangelists through the centuries. This is the message of Paul, Peter and the apostles. As Christianity spread throughout the world this simple gospel was always the first message to be proclaimed. In America and in the Baptist tradition the gospel message was and is crucial. As revival fires swept the colonies in the First Great Awakening the gospel was preached with vigor from the likes of Jonathon Edwards, George Whitefield, and the Wesleys.
Many of you have fond memories of years gone by when the evangelist came to town and the whole town showed up to hear the preaching. Maybe some of you were saved in a revival? To hear that fiery evangelist speak about the awfulness of our sin, the dangers of hellfire, the great love of God for the sinner, and the blood of Christ, the precious blood of Christ. The message was of repentance, trust in Jesus now.
And of course there is Billy Graham, the greatest evangelist of the twentieth century. I grew up hearing Billy Graham and I attended a crusade in Tacoma in 1984. His messages are the pure and simple gospel, directed at the lost in an easily understood manner.
3. I have been trained to witness since I was in Jr High School and I started witnessing in the third grade right after I was saved. Witnessing has always been a part of my lifestyle, but when I was trained it was usually with a tract and a personal testimony of my salvation experience. The simple gospel! Most tracts say about the same thing: God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life. But we are separated from God by our sins and are incapable of saving ourselves. Jesus is God’s Son and he died to save us. We must repent and believe in the resurrected Lord, placing Christ on the throne of our lives. Then He will indeed forgive us of our sin and we will go to heaven when we die.
4. The Southern Baptists have been known for a strong missions program, foreign and home. But we are known also for Vacation Bible School, Sunday School, children’s camp and youth camp, all evangelistic enterprises spreading the good news. Traditionally the Sunday morning service has been known for being a revivalistic, evangelistic time as well where the people would invite their lost friends to hear the simple gospel preached. The “Y’all come” mode of evangelism has long been the most popular form of evangelism; that is, invite lost people to church so they can hear the Gospel. It is far easier to invite someone to church, after all, than to actually witness to them. It is less threatening for all involved; just get them into the church and the Sunday School teacher can witness or the youth minister or pastor.
III. Is There A Problem With The Simple Gospel?
1. Not with the content, not at all! God has been using it and will continue using it for all time. But, here are two little known but scary facts: a) The year Southern Baptists baptized the most people was in 1955.b)In 1998, for the first time since 1926 Southern Baptists grew smaller. That is we lost members instead of gained. What does this say about Southern Baptist effectiveness? Another statistic, about 70% of our churches have not grown or have shrunk in the past 25 yrs.
We look around at our church and see all the empty pews and wonder where all the people are. Many of you have children and grandchildren who do not go to church anywhere anymore don’t you? Some still go to church but have left Baptist life; others of you still have children who attend a Baptist church, just not this one. Why? Do you wonder why or do you just accept as fact?
Something went dreadfully wrong with my generation when you can have the most baptisms in the 1950’s but look for them now and not find them anywhere. I am going to explain some things about the gospel and my generation that some of you won’t want to hear, but I respectfully ask you to listen.
My generation was raised on evangelistic preaching Sunday after Sunday, we were taught the gospel, the simple gospel, in Sunday School and at camp. But we wee not discipled, we were never taught doctrine from the pulpit in any organized, systematic way. We were never taught to think christianly. We were not given reasons for our faith, we were just told to believe, do it this way because that is how we have always done it.
Remember my opening illustration of the parking garage? My generation is like a beautiful garage with out any depth to the foundation. We are missing the 60′ piers and all the reinforcing steel. We are a crumbling generation that had a religious experience in the 50’s and 60’s but never received the whole gospel.
2. We were raised on revivalistic preaching for several reasons. I am going to tell you a little about preaching that maybe you don’t want to know, but you need to know and understand. When a pastor invites an evangelist into his church there are a lot of factors that come into play. One factor is that the evangelist has about 20-30 standard sermons (if that many), that are highly energetic, and quite polished. He comes to town for a week and preaches 8-10 sermons then goes on to the next church. He can use the same sermons several times throughout the year. Evangelistic sermons are among the easier kind of sermons to prepare; you can change the text and the illustrations some and have a whole new sermon. The local pastor sometimes had to fight jealousy and envy because of the polished sermons of the evangelist. When the evangelist left town the pastor would hear the comments “Did you hear how great that evangelist was!” etc. To some degree the pastors would feel like they had to get the same results as the evangelist, therefore the pastors would also preach the simple gospel sermons. The people of the church responded favorably to this approach, and the pastor got compliments on his newly improved preaching.
In short, pastors became compared with evangelists in their preaching even though the two jobs are very different! In seminary the preaching professors taught us the different kinds of sermons and the purposes of the different types. I was warned by Dr Tatum in class not to always preach the simple gospel sermon, the evangelistic sermon. Pastoral preaching is far different, but he acknowledged that the people preferred evangelistic preaching. He told us to preach at least half of our sermons from the Old Testament because 2/3rds of the Bible is Old Testament. “We must preach the whole of God’s Word”, Dr Tatum used to say. And again, “The most important thing we do as we preach is to explain the word of God” The 6 types of sermons are: Evangelistic, Devotional, Doctrinal, Consecrational, Ethical, and Supportive.
The pastor’s job in preaching is to communicate the whole gospel to the people through the years, week by week, going through the whole of scripture in expositional sermons. I have studied some of the greatest preachers in the world, I have read their sermons, and heard them preach live and on radio or TV. From the great men of God like John Calvin, Martin Luther, the Puritans, CH Spurgeon, G. Campbell Morgan, Martin Lloyd-Jones, WA Criswell, John MacArthur, James Montgomery Boice, Chuck Swindoll and many others it is clear that the best, deepest preaching in the greatest churches of the world is systematic exposition of books of the Bible verse by verse, with some thematic series occasionally as well. This manner of preaching is far tougher than the evangelist’s kind of preaching. This type of preaching is Gospel preaching, however, it preaches the whole gospel, it provides the deep foundation of doctrine that my generation missed. It provides the hidden steel in the structure that gives it strength and endurance.
3. There is competition out there for the ears of the people. There are other gospels that are heretical and spurious, cotton candy sermons that tickle the ears. Please listen to me here, I do not say this to hurt or harm. In my work place I witness a lot, I share the Gospel with folks virtually every day. People come up to me with questions about the Bible and my faith. I have studied evangelism in seminary and have practiced it all my life. There are false gospels out there that are dangerous but sound a lot like our simple gospel. They use the same words we do but with different meanings.
Specifically in my workplace I am presently engaged in spiritual warfare with about 20 Mormons who I work with, who have a different Jesus, a different God, and a salvation by works- another gospel. This past week a Mormon lady began witnessing to one of my friends who is lost. She has now talked with me and has some questions for me about the differences between Christians and Mormons. Yet, while I am engaged in this kind of evangelistic enterprise, real spiritual warfare, I bluntly get no support from this church because the whole issue of Mormons is taboo here. I have another friend at work who is Jehovah’s Witness, again another gospel altogether. I have some agnostic and atheistic friends, the simple gospel must be explained in depth to them. I have friends who have bought wholesale the health and wealth gospel, an out of balance gospel at best.
The pulpits of America, and in particular this pulpit, ought to be preaching the whole gospel from the whole of God’s Word to prepare God’s people for these kind of encounters.
IV. The Whole Gospel and My Purpose and Our Purpose
1. The Full Gospel contains the simple gospel but is bigger and more comprehensive than the simple gospel. Do not ever get the idea that I am opposed to the simple gospel. It has been said in this church publicly numerous times that I do not preach the gospel. I think what that comment means is that I do not limit my preaching to the simple gospel, the evangelistic revivalistic sermons that I grew up on and that most of you remember fondly. I know that several of you do not like my preaching because I am not evangelistic enough to suit you. Let me reassure you that I preach the whole gospel; the entirety of Christian doctrine supports and strengthens the simple gospel. The doctrine of scripture, of God, of man, all have bearing on the gospel.
Now, if you believe that I do not preach the gospel in any way shape or form, that my preaching is in fact heretical, I have manuscripts and tapes available for us to have a reasonable discussion on the subject. If I do not preach the gospel I deserve to be fired, pure and simple. If I do not preach just the simple gospel the way you like it, but if I in fact preach the whole gospel then i humbly ask you to not put your preferences to the front in such a manner. We all have preferences for sermon texts; we all have our favorite passages. Do you think that i only preach from texts that I want to preach from? Do you think I preach only the easy texts, those that minister to me especially? I preach verse by verse to keep myself honest! I try to let God’s Word speak for itself. That way the Gospel comes out instead of my hobby horses.
In this church the preaching from the Old Testament has always been controversial since I have been here. The thought of a portion of God’s Word, the largest portion, would be so dishonored, so neglected, so reviled by God’s people never occurred to me before coming here. I have been very careful to show you Christ and grace in the Old Testament, the gospel in the Old Testament, yet I know there are those who come to Sunday School and check the bulletin and leave if I am preaching from the Old Testament again. The Old Testament is the 60′ piers upon which the NT gospel is constructed. The OT has the steel of doctrine we need. For too long Baptist pulpits have separated the Law from the Gospel, and my generation has paid the price. My generation is lawless in part because we did not receive the steel supports of the OT Gospel.
Hebrews 5:11-6:3; Eph 4:11-16; 2Tim4:2-5.
2. My purpose is to glorify Christ through leading the church back to sound doctrine, forward into pure worship, effective discipleship, biblical evangelism and being the salt and light of the world. Perhaps preaching is the single most important thing a pastor can do, week in and week out bringing the Word of God to the people of God. Preaching sound doctrine is essential and is not to be relegated to Sunday School alone. The pulpit ministry takes priority over the Sunday School, and preaching the whole gospel from Genesis to Revelation is essential. All of Scripture is about the Lord Jesus Christ, and his gospel.
3. Our Threefold Purpose as a church, our priorities are: First, Worship. We are saved with the purpose of worshipping God, we are God worshippers. Proper worship is built upon the whole gospel, sound doctrine from all of God’s word. Second, disciples, we must make disciples. We must be disciples ourselves; mature believers who do not murmur and complain about God’s word would be a good starting point. Disciples are mature believers who can witness, teach, pray and carry out the ministry of the church. Third, evangelize; evangelism is an out growth of worship and discipleship. My generation was evangelized but never discipled. Discipleship starts in the pulpit ministry. Disciples then go out and evangelize, that is the biblical pattern.
4. There are some hindrances to fulfilling our purpose as a church. Age and physical limitations are certainly understandable. But we must ever be vigilant against the sins of lack of hunger for the deeper things of God. If you do not enjoy the deep riches of God’s Word and complain about studying it Sunday by Sunday I would ask you to pray about your desire for the things of God. Again, I have deliberately patterned my preaching after the best pulpit expositors in the world. If you seriously question my preaching come talk with me about it and I will show you some resources that will hopefully change your mind and get you excited about God’s word.
Sometimes the sin of willful ignorance besets us, which is we get exposed to a little bit of truth that pains us, so we do not go deeper into that area, we stop listening. This is frequently accompanied by a spiritual complacency that says I have learned enough of God; I know the word enough and have no need to press on. This sin can ruin a man, a church. Pride can enter in as well and we can refuse to learn from anyone. Many of you have taught me a lot, and I am grateful. But some of you refuse to learn from me. You may criticize me but when I seek to correct you….
In conclusion, let me say that I love and like each of you, you all have held this church together and have blessed me immensely. I know that many of you do not like my old testament preaching, my doctrinal preaching, and my in depth preaching. You have said that I do not preach the gospel. There is a constant undertow here of complaining and murmuring that quite simply must stop or we will never grow. The options are these: 1) stay the same- this is not a good plan! We are really struggling as a church and need to make some progress. The constant murmuring has a heavy spiritual price! 2) In dissatisfaction you can leave, quit. That is a not a good plan either because this church needs every one of you! That would dishonor the Lord. 3) Fire the preacher. I know that some of you want me to leave, but then I would be just like all the other pastors who were forced out of here or who conveniently left due to some of the same struggles. This would not be honoring to the Lord either.4) Agree to disagree agreeably. If we share different opinions and interpretations of various scriptures, that is understandable. We are grownups here and ought to be able to talk over these differences. 5) Repent and change your minds about the word of God, because, ultimately, that is what the complaints are about. Again, it mystifies me why anyone would complain about expositional preaching. If we do not consume the whole of the Word of God, the whole Gospel, we will be less than what God expects. Studying the Word of God, the Gospel about Jesus Christ ought to thrill our souls and be fun as well as challenging. I urge you as we begin this study of Marks Gospel to take up the challenge of God’s Word.
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“The mormon church is not another denomination of the Christian Church and the gospel proclaimed by the mormons is a false gospel that will lead people to hell.” With words like these I attempted to address a newspaper article that accompanied the beginning of the Southern Baptist Convention in June of 1998. The headline in the Star-Telegram Religion section was “Are Mormons Christian?” I told the congregation the answer was NO! After about the first 5 minutes of the sermon, one prominent family in the church stood up and walked out.
I approached the sermon this Sunday with fear and trembling because of 2 things: 1)I knew that with all the controversy surrounding the SBC meeting in Salt Lake City that year, and with the nightly news and even talk radio talking about the subject, and with the Fort Worth Star Telegram having front page articles about the issue of Baptists calling mormons a cult, that I was called of God to address the issue. 2) I also absolutely knew that preaching on this issue would possibly get me fired.
Why would a Baptist church possibly fire a preacher for preaching against mormonism? This one prominent family in our church had a grown daughter who had married a mormon and the grandkids were being raised in the LDS. The mom and dad were key leaders in the church- she was the children’s Sunday School teacher for 4th-6th grade and he was a trustee and on the building and grounds committee. She was also key on the all important fellowship committee and worked in VBS every year. He was an usher and money counter. They were greatly loved and respected in the church. But they absolutely believed that mormons were just like Baptists! They had gone to church with their daughter in the mormon church and came away saying they were just like Baptists. In a few previous sermons in my first 5 years as pastor I had mentioned mormonism and compared their doctrines with ours and shown how they departed from orthodox teachings on several points. This family had approached me the last time I had done this and threatened quitting the church if I preached on the subject again.
So here I was confronted with a choice: do I do what I really believe God was wanting me to do, or do I miss this opportunity to proclaim the truth in order to keep the peace (and my job?)? I fearfully opted to confront the issue as compassionately and humbly as I could. I began the sermon by spending time explaining the role of pastors in protecting the flock and teaching the truths of Scripture. I explained that I in no way wanted to hurt or embarrass anyone with the sermon and that I was willing to meet 1 on 1 to discuss this subject (I had previously approached this family and inquired if they would be open to having a private discussion about mormon doctrine…they not only declined but were somewhat upset that I would even approach the subject.)
The sermon carefully but briefly dealt with the mormon distinctives: authority, the nature of God, the Trinity, how people are saved, etc. and I cited the best of references from distinguished scholars and preachers. But by this time the couple was long gone from the sanctuary.
The 2/3 of the church expressed thanks and encouragement for the sermon. The 1/3 that always opposed me sent emissaries (deacons and a couple of others) later complaining that I had hurt this families’ feelings and that I should go apologize to them. The couple stayed out of church for a few weeks, but eventually came back and picked up where they left off, but actively despised me from that time on and were finally successful in ousting me in 2007. When I was urged to apologize them my reply was that they needed to repent and apologize to the church for their outrageous behaviour.
Folks from the 1/3, the Old Guard, persuaded the couple to come back despite my “stubborn refusal to apologize” and our relations were frosty. We eventually got back to a truce and cooperated well until about 2005. I must confess that after this incident I did compromise and did not bring up the cults, especially mormonism, in my sermons much anymore, and I deliberately avoided it when they were present. Whenever I did bring it up, usually on Sunday nights when they weren’t there, I would see members of the Old Guard whisper to one another with serious, disgusted facial expressions. I heard through the “grapevine” that reports of my sermons were passed on to the couple, letting them know that I was still preaching against those mormons. Seriously, that went on in this church.
During these years I also happened to also work with several mormons at my job. During one particular season, around 2000-2002 I believe, there was a young lady who had served as an LDS missionary (not many female missionaries in the LDS) and came back very enthusiastic and evangelistic. She was trying to spread her faith to others in the workplace so several folks came to me with questions (they all knew I was also a Baptist pastor). So I met with several folks over a few weeks at lunch in the breakroom to discuss the differences between biblical Christianity and the mormons. Word swiftly reached the mormons that I was countering their efforts. One day I was talking with 2 ladies who came to me with some questions on mormonism and two entire tables of mormons were sitting across the breakroom literally staring me down while I talked. There were about 16 mormons in this building and 8 of them were attempting to intimidate me! After answering the questions from these ladies, I stood up, walked across the room returning stare for stare and pulled up a chair and sat in the middle of this gaggle of 8 mormons. I figured the odds were about right for a fair fight. I told them what the situation was with folks coming to me with their questions and I told them some of the basics of what I understood the mormons to believe and we talked for about an hour that day and again in the following days. After that direct approach the mormon proselytizing stopped. I also went to a mormon church with one couple and got to see first hand some things that were quite interesting.
Meanwhile, back to the church story…the bottom line with the church was that they did not care to hear about what other groups believed, they did not like polemical preaching at all. They only wanted to hear the “Good News” and never anything that was remotely controversial. Ignorance was bliss.
After 9-11 I preached a whopper of sermon that next Sunday and put in just a little bit about Islam. At one point in the sermon I quoted from Paul in saying that the false gods that are worshipped are really demons. Allah is a demon. A couple that had been visiting whenever they were in town for a few years had a visible reaction when I said that. I could tell they were not responding favorably. When they walked out at the end of the service I did not receive the usual greeting from them…and they never returned. They had previously been very complimentary of the sermons, but calling allah a false god was too much for them. After 9-11 most of my polemical preaching was directed towards islam, for obvious reasons. Mormons were not bombing American buildings! (By the way, I have a lot of admiration and respect for the mormons as individuals who are moral, patriotic and hardworking. i seriously question their intellectual honesty for believing the Book of Mormon, however. Most of them overlook the intellectual difficulties in favor of the familial and social relationships and pressure to remain a mormon).
I believe that one of the key problems in the Church today is that Pastors do not teach their people about the dangers of false philosophies, religions and cults. People have a misguided notion that all religious beliefs are personal, subjective and of equal value and the Church is not spending enough time correcting this.
In retrospect, I still simply am aghast at the attitude of the 1/3 who were the old guard in my former church. They absolutely, time and time again valued relationships over truth, man’s opinion over the Word of God. In their belief that I should only preach the “Simple Gospel” they were willing to compromise the true gospel. Why did I tolerate the woman teaching kids in Sunday School when she did not even have enough spiritual discernment to realize her own daughter and grand kids were in a cult and headed to hell? In the structure of this church the pastor did not have the authority to “fire or hire” Sunday School teachers. the church wanted her to teach the kids because she was the only one willing to teach the kids. You heard me right. That was quite simply the way it was and I couldn’t do anything about it.
Now I am in a great church that is elder led, not an Americanized democratized everyone’s opinion is of equal merit church like most SBC churches have become. This kind of nonsense would never be tolerate at Redeemer!
My word of advice to any young preachers out there- do not be afraid to bring polemics into the pulpit. The church desperately needs to hear the truth about the cults and false religions and philosophies that are out there. My pastor at Redeemer is currently preaching from Ecclesiastes and is certainly contrasting the worldly thought of our day with the truths of scripture in a very bold way. There is a price to be paid for polemical preaching. But the price for NOT preaching against the false ideas, religions and doctrines is far greater and the church of today is already paying that price.
Thursday, April 24, 2008- These stories are from the viewpoint of a bi-vocational pastor who served in a small, elderly, traditional, neighborhood, Southern Baptist Church from 1992-2007. In these blogs I am attempting to figure out what went wrong and what went right in my 15 tumultuous years as pastor. The entire time was filled with fighting and controversy, not the least of which was over my preaching. About 2/3 of the church enjoyed my preaching, but the 1/3 that did not, really, really did not! Unfortunately, the 1/3 that could not abide my preaching was the third that ran the church. In my 2 previous posts about Preaching I have written about preaching on political issues and preaching from the Old Testament, both of which were highly controversial in my church. Today I will address Polemical Preaching, and how it, too, was despised by many in the church.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 3 so far )
“Preacher, we are a New Testament Church and don’t need to hear from the Old Testament; you need to stick to preaching from the gospels. We have had 13 Old Testament sermons in a row and we are tired of it.” So began my awakening to a little known fact that Baptists have a canon within the Canon. In my first year as pastor I found out that the members of my little church were not only unfamiliar with the Old Testament, but, practically speaking, did not consider it to be the Word of God. Time and again through the years I would be chastised for any Old Testament preaching and told that, “The Old Testament was for Israel, the New Testament is for the Church”.
I vaguely remember some OT preaching from my youth and college days, but it was when Dawn and I were at FBC Lakewood in Tacoma that we both fell in love with the OT as preached by our pastor, Ruffin Snow. He took us through Israel’s wanderings through the wilderness, conquest of the Promised Land, the time of the Judges and the life of David. We were enthralled by God’s Word faithfully proclaimed. The OT shows us our awesome God at work in a powerful way. All through those sermons back in the early 1980’s we saw God’s grace, our need for Jesus and picture after picture of Christ in the OT. The thought of complaining about the OT never entered our minds; God matured us and blessed us through those sermons.
In Seminary I took preaching class my very first semester and the professor did warn us that OT preaching had fallen on hard times and that we would receive pressure to preach only from the NT. He recommended that we ought to preach 50% OT and 50% NT, stating that the OT comprises about 2/3 of the Bible. Our pastor in Seminary at Birchman, Miles Seaborn preached an outstanding sermon series from Deuteronomy. The longest paper I wrote in Seminary was for Hebrew- an exegesis of Gen.12:1-3 that came to about 100 pages. I had a blast writing that paper. I love the Old Testament!
My first clue that I was in trouble preaching from the OT was in my first 6 months as pastor. I attempted a sermon series that paralleled the Sunday School lessons from Rev.1-3. The lesson material did not deal much at all with the OT roots of the Revelation verses, so I crafted a sermon series based upon the OT texts that lay behind the scenes of the 7 churches. Several in the congregation went to the deacons to complain about the OT sermons. Later that year I did a series from 1-2 Chronicles and the decline of the kingdoms of Judah and Israel. It was very appropriate to a congregation that had been in decline for 25 years, but it was not well received.
Now do not get the idea that I preached only from the OT. I preached for a whole year from the Sermon on the Mount in my first two years as pastor. After being at the church for about 4 years and hearing complaint after complaint about the amount of OT preaching I was doing I actually counted up all my sermons to see how many were OT and how many NT. I was averaging 30% OT sermons over the 4 years. I preached 3X a week, Sunday AM and PM, and again on Wednesday nights, and about 1/3 of the sermons were OT.
In all fairness I must say that most of those sermons were preached on Sunday mornings, and that may have been a mistake. In my own estimation and in the eyes of many in the congregation, the OT sermons were among my finest. There was 1/3 of the congregation, however, that constantly complained about those sermons (but that group complained about everything).
The issue that underlay these complaints was that of the authority of the Word of God in the life of the Church and the individual Believer. Throughout these blogs that issue surfaces time and again. Personal preference always seemed to take the place of God’s Word in this church. A high tolerance for sin and a low esteem for the Bible were the key elements in this church from the beginning. There was a truncated view of the gospel and of gospel preaching that was deeply held. This view basically said the only parts of the Bible that presented the gospel were the 4 Gospels and some of the Epistles.
The 1/3 of the church that controlled the church wanted to hear evangelistic, revivalistic sermons with heart stirring emotional stories and funny jokes every Sunday morning. They openly told me that on numerous occasions. Several times I was publicly accused of not preaching the Gospel by the leaders of the 1/3. The other 2/3 of the church, however, were very supportive and encouraging and told me to not listen to that other element. The difficulty was that the 1/3 controlled the church with its positions, natural leadership ability and money.
In my earlier OT preaching I have to admit that I did not do as good of a job as I should have in proclaiming Christ from the OT. My sermons did usually have an excellent presentation of Doctrine and practical considerations for the Christian life. With experience I grew to proclaim Christ from every text. From 2000 to 2005 I preached through Genesis. I would take breaks of up to 3-4 months between various parts of the sermon series, so I did not preach straight through. Most of those sermons I did preach at night as I had learned by then to focus on the NT sermons on Sunday mornings. The Genesis series was very well received by the church, mainly because the complaining group did not attend much in the evening services. But a few did and I would get grief from them for preaching through Genesis. After I finished Genesis I moved straight into Exodus. I preached Exodus from 2005 to Feb. 2007 when I was asked to leave, and I was just at Ex.20 ready to start on the 10 Commandments. Genesis and Exodus are very full of Jesus, grace, and our need for a Saviour.
As you can tell from the rest of my blog I am back to teaching Genesis at our new church. My class averages about 20, mostly young couples in their 20’s-30’s. The response has been very positive despite my rather detailed approach. Perhaps there may be a generational difference at work here. It may be that the older generation I had been trying to minister to, was somehow taught at a young age to look askance at the OT.
Clearly the Church in general seems to have an issue with the canonicity of the OT and its usefulness for NT Christians. I really do not think that there are many pastors today who are preaching expository, doctrinal and evangelistic sermons from the OT. The American Church reflects the culture at large which has an anti-historical point of view. Are we becoming the Church of What’s Happening Now? I have heard missionaries speak of the great usefulness of the OT for reaching third world people groups. But can the OT be used to reach 21st century Americans who have it all?
Having somewhat of a Don Quixote complex my entire life, I will continue to preach and teach the OT along with the NT. I will constantly seek new methods of getting the whole Gospel across the culture gap to post-modern Americans.
Friday, April 18, 2008- These are the stories of my years as a bi-vocational pastor of a traditional, small, neighborhood church that was quite elderly, in Fort Worth, 1992-2007. The stories are an effort at finding peace and some degree of healing as well as trying to figure out the things that went wrong and what could have been done better. To an extent these stories are an attempt at educating/warning young ministers as they prepare for the pastorate. I do not give the name of the church or of the folk involved unless I mention someone in a positive light. Sadly, there doesn’t seem to be much that is positive in these stories. This was 15 years of almost non-stop fighting and bickering. I am thankful the Lord has brought my family through these times to a church that is fundamentally different. Where we attend today there is peace, the ability to worship biblically, and the small petty stuff is non-existent as far as I can tell.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
My first inkling that I had a problem with politics in the church was in the Nov. 1992 Presidential Race. As the weeks drew near for the election I occasionally included some moral issues related to the election in some of my sermons. Mind you, I did not preach a political series, but as I preached, if I saw an opening for something about the pro-life position, I spoke out against abortion. Not a whole sermon, but a line here and there.
Perhaps I need to begin with stating where I am coming from theologically and politically. I was a raised a fundamentalist Southern Baptist, I went hunting by myself the first time when I was 6-7, I proudly voted for Reagan in 1980 and ’84, and served as an Infantry Officer in the US Army. Theologically I have moved out of fundamentalism and into Calvinism, but hopefully without the attitude. In short, I am a conservative, Reformed Baptist, pro-gun, pro life, Reagan Republican who supports the war on Radical Islamofascism. I kind-a sort-of don’t think the church knew what they were getting with me, nor did I know what I was getting with them.
As the election drew near I started to hear from the people that they were supporting Bill Clinton believing that Pres. George H.W. Bush needed to go. I called for a special prayer meeting the night before the election. I advertised in from the pulpit, placed it in the calendar of events in the bulletin and when that night came…two young families showed up and that was that. In an informal survey I conducted the overwhelming majority of the church voted for Bill Clinton not once, but twice! Not one of the younger folks voted for Clinton, but only 4-5 of the older folks voted for Bush. Now I was never a fan of Bush the elder (or younger) and felt like that was one of Reagan’s larger mistakes. I admire George HW Bush as a true gentleman, a warrior, and fine moral man. But his politics always seemed a bit weak to me. Like father like son. But I was astounded that my church overwhelmingly voted for Bill Clinton, twice. This is one of life’s great mysteries, how could Christian people vote for somebody who is pro abortion, pro homosexual, pro socialism, etc. ?
When I was a student at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary 1985-89 I took a couple of classes that opened my eyes to the fact that Baptists were very messed up when it came to politics. I took an Ethics class called Christians and the Political Process during the fall of 1988 when George Bush was running against Michael Dukakis. It was a small class of no more than 10-12, but I was 1 of 2 conservatives in the class and the only other conservative was a girl who would not say anything. It was me against the other 10 plus the teacher. I gave ’em what for that semester, the odds were about right. But I was really shocked at how liberal the students and professor were.
Now here I was in in 1992 and my church was filled with liberal democrats voting for a liberal Baptist like Bill Clinton. When only a couple of younger folks showed up for the election prayer meeting, I got the message.
After the election, in January was the annual National Right To Life Sunday. I preached a strong pro-life message. I distinctly remember the woman leader of the church coming to me after the service to tell me she did not think preachers ought to preach on “Issues” because it confuses people and hurts people’s feelings because “You just don’t now who might be in the congregation that day.” Specifically she told me about a woman in the church, she left out the name but I figured it out eventually, who had to have an abortion because of a birth defect in the child that had afflicted two of her other children. I got talked to by this woman again a few years later for preaching against drunkenness because a woman in the church was married to an alcoholic. I got talked to about preaching against racism because “some people feel differently about it than you do”. I got talked to about one sermon where I addressed the issue of unwed pregnancy because one of the ladies in the church had a daughter who “had to get married”. Every time I preached about an “issue” I got told why I shouldn’t preach about it.
Now I understand there would be a problem if I only preached about “Issues”. I was not a topical preacher. I preached some topical series, but overwhelmingly I preached expositional sermon series from books of the Bible. So where was this church coming from?
They believed that the only sermon that should be preached on Sunday morning was the old time revivalistic, evangelistic, salvation sermons that they grew up with. Every Sunday morning they wanted a revival service “Because you never know, peacher, when some lost person might be in the congregation.” Now I grew up pretty much under that kind of preaching. I knew exactly what these folks were talking about. And I had seen what devastating effects that kind of preaching had on people. It was an emotion based style that stirs the hearts of the congregation,warms their souls with fond memories of revivals in their past and produces weak Christians who never get discipled, never get a Christian worldview, and don’t know anything except a weak gospel message.
I will deal with this in a later blog on preaching but for right now let me say that my definition of “Gospel Preaching” includes the whole counsel of God’s Word and teaches us the full Gospel which is not just about coming to Jesus but how to live for Jesus every day. My preaching about “Issues” was an effort at confronting our world with its sin, attempting to get Christians to think biblically and live out the Gospel. My church disagreed. My church wanted to have their ears, egos and memories tickled with nice, emotionally charged, revival sermons. They were not interested in hearing the whole Word of God for the Whole Man.
I remember one year during the Sunday School lessons a lesson was in the book on abortion for National Right to Life Sunday. The lady who would always tell me what not to preach was the older ladies’ class teacher. She refused to teach that lesson and changed to another lesson entirely. She told the class that it was not pertinent to their age group. She did the same thing when there was a lesson on alcoholism because, again, there was a lady present whose husband was an alcoholic and she did not want to make her feel uncomfortable. This is the lady who ran the church. She was the real pastor and opposed me from the very first day. She was one of the most helpful and energetic and talented women aroun, and I dare say, that if she and her husband had not been there for that church, it would have closed in the early 1980’s. She and her husband were great workers and leaders in the church. But I intruded into their space from day one I guess. They are wonderful god-fearing folks with a fantastic family, but opposed me on everything and eventually led the final charge that got rid of me.
When she asked me why I preached on issues I told her that I knew the older folk did not really like to hear those things, but that there were young folk in the church who needed to hear these things. If the youngsters and youth did not hear it from the pulpit ministry, but only heard the world’s viewpoint as taught in the public schools and portrayed in the media, they would suffer. She just shook her head and disagreed.
What I have observed with the older generation is that, because they grew up and lived most of their lives in a religious society, most in small towns as farmers, where going to church and having a revival was the only means of entertainment most of them ever had, they just assumed that their values, morals and biblical understanding of things would automatically be passed on down to the next generation and the next. They absolutely could not understand that in today’s schools you have homosexual teachers, classes on how to put on a condom using a banana as a teaching tool, that yo will see kids having sex on the school bus, and in dark corners of the school during the school day, that the kids will listen to music portraying the use of drugs, sex and even murder and rape as being good, etc. etc. Toto, I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore.
Basically the world around them had changed and left the older generation of Baptist Christians in the dust. They desperately wanted to hold on to something of value from days gone by, so they attempted to control my preaching. My sermons in “issues” reminded them that times had changed, even in the church, and that disturbed them. Eventually, their side won, and I had to leave.
Saturday, February 2, 2008– These are the stories of my battles as a bi-vocational pastor of a small, elderly, tradition bound, Southern Baptist Church in Fort Worth, TX. 1992-2007. In the church’s 50 year history, I am the only pastor to have stayed beyond 3 years. Across Tarrant Baptist Association this church has long had a reputation of being a “problem Church”. These stories will leave out my former church’s name and I will only use real names of people when I am speaking positively of them. My goal in writing these stories is to find some healing and peace of mind and to sincerely try to figure out what went wrong. This church is not all that unusual, sadly it is actually typical of churches founded in the 1950’s. My stories could be repeated by hundreds of pastors from hundreds of churches. Though this church is still meeting today, it died a long time ago. All of my efforts amounted to CPR on a corpse. Yet, I believe staying faithful to the task to which the Lord called me may have somehow given Him some glory and perhaps a few people were blessed along the way.
Today I temporarily depart from the general theme of “Worship Wars” to a more specialized aspect of our worship, Preaching. With Super Tuesday coming up this next week for the Presidential Primaries I thought I could go ahead and write about preaching on Political Issues. Here is the bottom line: I was and remain absolutely convinced that the Pastor has an obligation under God to preach biblical sermons on the important moral issues of the day. This necessarily involves mixing politics and religion. This is part of the prophetic calling on the Church, the ministers and the average Christian. If the Church fails to confront the evils of their day with the Truth of God’s Word, then we fail in one of our essential tasks. Part of the faithful proclamation of the Gospel is to confront sin with the Truth of God’s Word.
The other part of the bottom line is that my church was led by a group of old women, and a few old men, who absolutely disagreed with everything I just said. My church (that is, the dominant group of lay leaders- not the majority) did everything they could to stop me from preaching about moral/political issues. Here is that story.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 9 so far )