The Tulip Driven Life Podcast

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Feeding Sheep: The Lack In Our Preaching

By: Thomas F. Booher

The following is a portion of a chapter from a short book on applying Calvinism to our everyday lives that I am working on.

Preaching needs to take theology and apply it to everyday struggles with sin in the context of our culture and present day situation. This has been, in my estimation, woefully neglected in Calvinistic circles. Theology is practical and has authority over us, therefore, theology should be preached practically and authoritatively. The pastor should exhort with the text. The gospel saves and sanctifies, and we are commanded not to merely trust in the promises of God and the gospel, but to also make war against the flesh by the power of the Spirit. When we cease to seek to apply theology practically and make war with the flesh by the power of the Spirit, we cease to live the TULIP driven life.

Another way in which we grow as Christians is by taking what we learn from Scripture and applying it to our own lives. We need to understand theology practically. How does “x” truth about God change the way I think about this, and the way I do that? Scripture tells me to love my wife as Christ loved the church, but how can I give her Christ-like love when she is so stubborn and doesn’t even recognize my efforts? I know to harbor hatred in my heart and covetousness is wrong, but how can I incline my heart to hate the things that God hates and love the things God loves? These are the types of questions that we must ask and answer when we study the Word of God, and when the Word of God is preached to us. This too requires prayer, but it is also our job to try and grasp the meaning of doctrine in an applicable manner- how the doctrine should affect us in the contexts in which we live.

Plagued with Lecture-Sermons
I imagine it is somewhat natural to deliver lectures instead of sermons from the pulpit when seminarians have been inundated with highbrow, technical classes for years to prepare to become pastors. Maybe more should be invested in homiletics or the theology of pastor itself. I would wager, however, that the problem is in the doctrine of preaching. The pastor is to teach his congregation from the passage that he is preaching on, going to other Scriptures to support the base text. Sermons should be expositional, though that is not to say that sermons can never be topical. Even when one is stressing a certain topic for their sermon, they should not merely teach the theology of their topic, but exhort with their topic, and draw application from it. 1 Timothy has much to say on this, and Paul’s words to Timothy have long been ignored.

2 Timothy 3:16-4:4

 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God[b] may be complete, equipped for every good work.
4 I 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: 2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. 3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound[a] teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.

There are several things that Paul charges young Timothy to do. In 4:2 we get the best description of what preaching is in all Scripture as far as I am concerned. Paul charges Timothy to preach the word, and then spells out the marks of biblical preaching. Components of preaching include:
1.) reproving
2.) rebuking
3.) exhorting
4.)doing these things with patience and sound teaching.
Reproving and rebuking are pretty similar, so for the sake of this short summary I will look at them together. Preaching must bring the congregation under the authority of the doctrine of Scripture being delivered. That is the key to preaching, and that is what separates it from mere Christian education, whether that be Sunday school or seminary. In class, while the teacher may slip into preaching due to his zealous passion (a good thing in my book) and thus charge his pupils to submit to the authority of the teaching and practice it in their lives, generally the doctrine is simply taught and explained so as to be logically grasped. This is very necessary, and preaching should do this as well. The problem is when this is all preaching does. It stops at teaching, and never comes with authority, exhortations, or illustrations. This is where reproving, rebuking, and exhorting come in for the preacher. Doing these things with the text is preaching. One must of course grasp the meaning of the passage before one can rightly be brought under the authority of the truth they are being taught, so care must be made to detailing the theology, but not enough care is given to the practical application of the theology. Without practical application, sheep may have their heads fed, but not their hearts. The distance from head to heart is something God calls pastors to bridge. This must be done by giving examples, scenarios, stories, and so on, with exhortation and authority. If all you have is eloquently expressed exposition of the text, it may very well tickle ears and not prickle hearts, regardless how biblical or unbiblical the teaching itself is. That is the very thing Paul charges (notice he charges Timothy here- he preaches at Timothy, demanding him to do what he tells him) Timothy to protect against! Even if the teaching is sound, if it is not delivered the way Paul tells Timothy to deliver it, it could become nothing more than intellectual dental floss. 

This is one way you get the “frozen chosen” stamp. You have big-headed but cold-hearted Calvinists who love to talk the talk of theology but are lukewarm about walking the walk that the theology demands. This is because the pastors have not demanded with the doctrine. They haven’t preached with it, connecting the orthodoxy and the orthopraxy. They have just intellectually wowed with the Scripture, rather than charge the congregation to do what the Scripture says, and then illustrate how to do what it says based on the doctrine that was just taught. In short, it is my fear and contention that too often, even in reformed circles, pastors have aimed for the head but not so much the heart. Yet preaching separates itself from simple teaching only when it begins to aim for the heart through exhortation, rebuking, reproving, with all authority that the anointed pastor has been given by God.  

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Hymn: This Age is Filled with Hurt and Woe

This Age is Filled with Hurt and Woe
A hymn by: Andrew M. Gilhooley
Set to the tune of ‘Azmon’ C.M.

This age is filled with hurt and woe;
The righteous are op-pressed;
The blood of faithful martyrs flow;
The heathen at us jest.

But in this world we seek not rest;
We look not for hope here;
We long for greater coming zest:
The ageless Sabbath near.

So come quickly Jesus our Rock!
And render Thy judgment!
Plant us upon Thy mountaintop!
To dwell within Thy tent!

Lyrics © 2013 by Andrew M. Gilhooley

*Other hymns written by Andrew: Who is this Child?

--Andrew M. Gilhooley is currently a sophomore at Reformation Bible College in Sanford, Florida. Among his hobbies are fishing, archery, playing piano, writing, and reading classic literature. Upon graduation, Andrew plans to attend graduate school and possibly enter into bible translation ministry.  

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

God’s Grace in Reality

By: Nathan Fox
Text: Colossians 1:13-14

My Personal Life of Grace

I must start off by confessing that though it seems that I have my entire life in order and that my days are “peachy,” I am nothing more than a sinner saved by grace. As a matter of fact, those who read this blog and read all the good stuff these contributors provide should realize this: each blogger is sinful and only through God’s grace are we even given the platform to proclaim His name. Before any one of us is magnified, and before anyone reading this blog thinks that we bloggers are just perfect, we must all remind ourselves that God’s grace is the only reason why we can proclaim what we proclaim. He is the source of hope in our life, and the certainly the only good from this life stems from his incomparable love for each of us. So before you take the time to read this blog even further, remember this: I only write what I write because it is God who is good, and not myself. 

God’s Living Grace

Having said all that, let us now turn to the topic and verses at hand: Colossians 1:13-14. I purposely set these aside because in them I think we get such an accurate depiction of how good God really is and how dark we really are. Let’s look at the verses and then break them down. They say this: “He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.” Before we go further we must take note that these two verses are the entire crux of the Christian faith. These two verses answer all the major questions that anyone of us could have about the Bible and about Christianity. Don’t believe me? Take a look:

Who?- Humanity, broken and living in the power of darkness with no conceivable way of reaching light without some sort of divine intervention. In steps God through His Son Jesus, creator of the universe (look at the next few verses if you don’t believe me), and the only one who can save humanity from themselves. 

What?- Redemption. God has stepped in to save us from our wickedness so that we can be redeemed through His blood. Redemption in the purest sense of the word means “deliverance,” showing us that God has delivered us from something, namely our wicked ways. 

When?- Roughly 2,000 years ago on a cross and at an empty tomb. It is through Christ’s death, burial, and certainly His resurrection that we hang our hats on. These two verses mention His blood, setting us up to believe (and rightfully so) that through the shedding of blood there is remission for sins. It was His crucifixion 2,000 years ago that made this reality come alive for us today.

Where?- In our hearts. It is through His regeneration of our hearts and our consequential belief as a result that we have obtained the redemption offered only through Jesus Christ. 

Why?- Perhaps my favorite question to answer. God did all of this for this reason: He simply loves us. Look at the wording of the two verses again. He delivered us, conveyed us into the kingdom, redeemed us, and forgave us. Why would God do all of this other than the fact that He loves us? Oh what a glorious day when we take the time remember why He did all of this. 

Our Reaction to this Grace

Perhaps if you have read this blog for a time you have seen the Gospel presented in some way, shape, or form. That is good, but it can be easily looked over if we are not careful. I challenge all of us, Christians and non-Christians alike, to let the Gospel change us. Even as a believer who has heard the Gospel more times than I can remember, I should still live a life of reflection toward it. Its authenticity and relevance in my life should be evident in how I portray Christ through my words and actions. 

Oh how I need this  Gospel everyday! I am such a sinner, such a dark person. But thank God, who is so rich in grace and mercy, that He would love me enough to die for me. What a life I have now only because of Him! No longer do I live in the defeat of the endless cycle of my sin, but now I stand victorious because of His redemptive work in me. May He get the glory through His amazing Gospel, and may I and all of us never cease to remember how much He has done for us. The Gospel is alive, and it truly changes us to the core of our being. I challenge each of us to live in light of this fact. 

Monday, January 21, 2013

Called To Be Saints (Part 5): Called to Purity

By: Thomas Clayton Booher

1 Thessalonians 4:7 For God did not call us to uncleanness, but in holiness.

In our call to be saints, we are called to be holy. This is undeniably fundamental to the concept of being a saint, but how many of us can say precisely what ‘holy’ means. Take a moment to ponder that question. What does it mean to be holy, for as our text states, God has called us in holiness. Holiness is the sphere into which we have been called. It is the realm in which God has placed us. While living physically in this present evil world (Gal 1:4), we have been transferred into the holy (cf Col 1:13).

The Old Testament high priest went into the Holy of Holies once a year on the Day of Atonement. Once a year, a mortal, sinful human being entered the holiest place on the planet, the place where God was present in all of his fullness, though not fully visible as he is within the intra-Trinitarian fellowship. In that finite cubicle chamber, there was the theophanic presence in the glory cloud and pillar of fire, sure signs of God’s attendance, but as signs, they were also a veil. Though the high priest did not see God in his fullness, it is true that all of God was present at that singular location as certainly as the fullness of God resided in the incarnate Jesus whose appearance was like that of sinful human flesh (Phil 2:6-8; Rom 8:3; Col 2:9).

The way into that holy compartment was through the blood of an animal, which God accepted because it pointed to the sacrifice that was yet to be offered once and for all giving access to the Holy of Holies in the heavenly realm (Heb 9:12).

Whatever it means to be called in holiness while living in an unholy world, we know that our final destination will be the same heavenly Holy of Holies that Jesus entered into through his own blood. Jesus bore the sins of his people, those whom he has called to holiness, who have come to repentance and faith in Christ. By that blood, he has opened the way for us to enter with him, which we will do in that day when the present evil world will be destroyed and all of God’s people will dwell in the Heavenly Jerusalem (Rev 21:2, 3). It will be a place where nothing can enter into it that defiles (Rev 21:27).

When Paul says we are not called to uncleanness, but in holiness, he is saying that we have been called into the realm of the holy, and because our final destiny is to co-dwell with God in the Holy of Holies par excellence, our presence now in this sinful world should not be an occasion to tarnish us. It is line with Peter’s admonition, but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct (1 Pet 1:15), and John, And everyone who has this hope in Him [the hope that we shall be like Him when he appears] purifies himself, just as He is pure (1 John 3:3).

But Paul is not speaking of uncleanness in the abstract. Nor is uncleanness simply an aberration of socially or culturally approved behavior. It is specifically sexual immorality from which we must abstain. There follows the reason why abstinence is mandatory, so that each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor (v 4). The ESV translates the word ‘vessel’ as body, and the word ‘possess’ as control (hence, to control his own body so as to avoid sexual immorality). The NET retains the word ‘possess’, but also translates ‘vessel’ as body. However appropriate this translation is to the context, the word ‘possess’ is more in line with the idea of obtaining or acquiring rather than controlling. What is acquired is a vessel, and it should be done a) not in the way the unbeliever does it, which is in the passion of lust (v 5), and b) not in a way that defrauds his brother (v 6).

This points away from a reference to one’s own body but to something else. Peter uses the word vessel to describe the wife - the weaker vessel (1 Pet 3:7). There is good reason to think that Paul is using vessel as a metaphor for wife or spouse. Assuming Paul is warning against acquiring a wife through sexual immorality, he goes on to give the reason why, so that one may not take advantage of and defraud his brother (v 6). Again, if Paul is giving his reader directives on how singles are to obtain a spouse, this defrauding would refer to such things as taking the wife of the brother, or behaving immorally with his sister. Wife swapping and the lending of one’s wife to another man were common practices in the ancient Roman world. In addressing the immorality in the Corinthian church where one had his own mother, the defrauding of a brother seems to be in mind, because Paul describes the situation as that of a man who has his father's wife (1 Cor 5:1).

Given these considerations, we see how this interpretation coheres. I think the translation, Each of you should know that finding a husband or wife for yourself is to be done in a holy and honorable way (v 4, GW) is closer to Paul’s meaning. We are not to obtain a spouse in the passion of lust, or as a “try it before you buy it” approach. This is the way of the unbelieving world who does not know God (v 5). The implication - we know God and therefore we know better.

Sexual impulse or sexual attraction has to be one of the most powerful bents that God has put into our human nature. It is with us everywhere we go. It intrudes into every situation of life. It seduces us into impure thoughts which, if unchecked, by and by lead to impure behavior. Yet, God does not give any flexibility. We are to be sexually pure in all our behavior. Even our thoughts must be pure (Matt 6:28).

Who among us can claim such purity? Who among us can cast the first stone? (John 8:7). It is the bane of us all, the albatross that hangs around our necks. What shall we do when tempted?

The biblical answer is not to stay around and wait it out, but to flee.

Paul advised young Timothy to flee also youthful lusts (2 Tim 2:22). One of my Old Testament heroes is Joseph. He suffered patiently the terrible rejection of his brothers and the abject humility of slavery and imprisonment. When things seemed to get better, disaster was around the corner. Joseph endured daily overtures from the wife of Potiphar to sleep with her. With raging hormones, he continually resisted, and when that moment came when she seized him by his clothes, he did not try to talk her out of it or hold out until she gave up. He ran. What a godly man! What faithfulness to his God!

David should have averted his eyes the moment they fell on Bathsheba and fled from the rooftop. But he hesitated, and it was too late. Not only did it defraud Uriah her husband, but at the bottom of a downward spiral, David murdered him.

All of us who are called to be saints are called to sexual cleanness. It is a fight that we must wage to the last ounce of energy God has given us. It is walking circumspectly (Eph 5:15), looking about how we might avoid the temptation. For the vast majority of us, it is a fight we will have to wage until our last breath. But we must fight to the end. It will be worth it (Rom 8:18), for a day is coming when in the heavenly Holy of Holies the fight will be over, and we will enter an eternal rest (2 Thess 1:7; Heb 4:1; Rev 14:11).