When you find your conversations dominated by complaining, stop and pause for a moment. You have far more to rejoice in than you do to complain about! Let’s stand out as people who know God works all things for our good.
Complaining is a way of life for so many people. It seems to be the default setting in our minds. When something doesn’t quite work out the way we would like, we complain. We complain about traffic, about weather (whether it is too hot or cold or rainy or humid), about our co-workers and family members, about the cost of living, about the government, about anything that comes into our minds.
Just read the comments section on any news article on the internet (and note that the news article is probably also complaining about something!). The comments are just more complaints.
I noticed this complaining bias when I looked online to find reviews of a product I was interested in buying. While I knew it was a good product with a good reputation, there were quite a number of very harsh and critical reviews and a relatively small number of positive ones. Why was this? It is because people who are happy with a product don’t tend to go online to write reviews. The people who go to write reviews are the angry people who are dissatisfied. If we are unhappy with something, the research says that we are far more likely to tell others than if we are happy with something.
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By Matthew T. Martens and Theodore D. Martens — 1 month ago
Written by Matthew T. Martens and Theodore D. Martens |
Friday, August 11, 2023
Study the text. Understand its words. Observe the relationship of the words to one another. Consider the structure. But do all of this not as an end itself. Do it in order to get to the point of the text. Only then can you deliver a truly expository sermon that makes the point of the text the point of your sermon in a way that will thoroughly furnish your congregation unto all good works (2 Tim 3:17).
Common in conservative evangelical circles today—certainly among the readers of ministries like 9Marks—is a professed commitment to expository preaching. We say “professed” commitment because our experience over decades as both a pastor and faithful church member, having either delivered or listened to thousands of sermons, has led us to the conclusion that much “expository preaching” does not in fact meet the definition.
Too many sermons focus on the biblical text, but fail to exposit the main point of the scriptural passage under consideration. To be clear, this critique isn’t merely an academic or definitional one. If a sermon fails to unpack the main point of the text at hand, the pastor is failing to preach the whole counsel of God regardless of how throughly the speaker examines the scriptural passage. Such a sermon fails to communicate what God intended to communicate by inspiring that text.
Let’s be more specific. Two kinds of preaching are often confused with expository preaching because of a superficial resemblance: “sequential preaching” and “observational preaching.” We’ll discuss them below. We pray that this discussion will be edifying to preachers as you seek to feed your flocks.
1. Sequential preaching is not necessarily expository preaching.
Many preachers believe they’re engaged in expository preaching simply because they sequentially preach through a particular book of the Bible. While there’s much to commend about this approach, it doesn’t necessarily equate to expository preaching.
For example, a pastor may preach a 16-week series through the book of Romans. That fact by itself would cause many preachers to think they’re doing expository preaching. But it’s not. Whether the sequential preacher is delivering an expository sermon in any given week depends on two things:
whether the preacher has rightly identified the main point of the week’s assigned passage,
and whether the sermon then keeps as its focus the main point of the passage.
An example may clarify this point. If, in the third week of the series, the preacher delivers a sermon on Romans 3 that centers on and rightly explains the doctrine of inspiration, then the preacher would not be preaching an expository sermon. Why do we say that? Because the main point of Romans 3 is not the doctrine of inspiration, but rather the fallenness of man. The entire chapter builds to man’s fallenness; Paul surveys the Old Testament and concludes that “all have sinned and fall short of God’s glory” (3:23).
To be sure, the doctrine of inspiration is mentioned, but only in passing in verse 2 (“the very words of God,” NIV). Simply put, inspiration is not the main point of Romans 3. Rather, the inspiration of the Old Testament is invoked by Paul to give authoritative weight to his recitation of passages that make his main point.
Furthermore, the main point of Romans 3 is not the unbelief of Israel (vs. 3), the faithfulness of God (vs. 3), the righteousness of God (vs. 5), the coming judgment of the world (vs. 6), or the ways men demonstrate depravity (vs. 13–18). All of those concepts appear in Romans 3 not as ends in themselves, but rather as elements of an argument toward Paul’s main point: we all, Jew and Gentile alike, have a sin problem that we cannot solve.
What distinguishes an expository sermon is not simply that what the preacher is saying is biblically accurate, but that it draws its main truth from the main point of the passage. An expository sermon on Romans 3 requires that the main point of the sermon is the main point—not a sub-point, not peripheral to the main point—of Romans 3.
Of course, there’s value in sequentially preaching through books of the Bible. It helps to ensure that the whole counsel of God is preached and you have “kept nothing back that was profitable for” the congregation (Acts 20:20 KJV). Furthermore, by taking an entire book under study, the preacher is forced to grapple with the flow of the author’s argument throughout. This increases the likelihood that the preacher is rightly identifying the main point of a particular sermon’s text.
By Stephen Unthank — 1 year ago
Though our outer-self is wasting away, our bodies decaying and dying, nonetheless in Christ we have true life, life everlasting, and unending spiritual life. God has not left us for dead but has sent his Son to enter into death on our behalf, and in his resurrection, pull each of those for whom he has died out of the grave with him! His life is now our life and since Christ will never die again, neither shall we. Even our own physical death will only be but a momentary intermission in the now unending eternal drama of living life in the Spirit.
“You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness.”– Romans 8:9-10
We have seen that to be a Christian is to be a person who is spiritually found in Christ, which also means that the Holy Spirit (also referred to by Paul as the Spirit of God or the Spirit of Christ) now dwells in, or indwells, the believer. And that word, dwell, is an important verb to consider. As Leon Morris points out, “the Spirit is not an occasional visitor; he takes up residence in God’s people.” Which is an incredibly comforting truth to consider – God will literally never leave us.
We cannot lose our salvation and we cannot lose the presence of the Holy Spirit. Paul says here in verse 9 that “anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him,” meaning, without the Spirit of Christ you do not belong to Christ. But if you do have the Spirit then you do belong to Christ. And Christ himself promised, “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out… this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day” (John 6:37, 39). Do you see? To have the Spirit dwell within you means to have Christ forever!
It also means Christ is in you! Do you see that in verse 10? “But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness.” Again, I’m stunned at the depth of Paul’s Trinitarian theology. In verse 9 he’s speaking about the Spirit within us and now, in verse 10, he says that’s the same thing as having Christ within us. Next time Jehovah’s Witnesses or Mormons approach your front door, ask them to read Romans 8:9-10 with you and show them the truth of the Trinity. John Chrysostom, the “Golden-tongued” preacher of the early church remarked that “Paul is not saying here that the Spirit is Christ but is showing rather that anyone who has the Spirit has Christ as well. For where the Spirit is, there Christ is also. Wherever one person of the Trinity is present, the whole Trinity is present too. For the Trinity is undivided and has a perfect unity in itself.”
Consider too the insight from Saint Augustine that “The Holy Spirit is in a certain sense the ineffable communion of the Father and the Son…
By Mary Eberstadt — 2 years ago
The religious divide of our time is between those who think they can compromise with the sexual revolution without compromising their faith—and those who are awakening to the fact that this experiment has been tried and has failed.
Solzhenitsyn famously defined the principal trait of the twentieth century in four words: “Men have forgotten God.” So far, the twenty-first century might be summarized in six: Men are at war with God. Awakened from agnostic slumber by new forms of temptation, chiefly the sexual revolution, humanity is at war with God over a question that reaches back to the beginning of time: Who, exactly, should have power over creation?
Christianity and Judaism teach that the answer is “God.” The culture dominant in the West today teaches the opposite. It says that the creation of new life is ours to control—more precisely, that it is woman’s to control. It says that we can dispose of life in the womb for any reason whatsoever, from simple whim to a preference for a boy rather than a girl. It goes further, saying that we can erase life on the basis of rationales that continue to expand. In Belgium, a middle-aged woman was recently euthanized because she was distraught over the surgeries done and chemicals taken in the vain hope that she could change her sex. She was seduced by the prevailing culture, which says that we can re-invent ourselves in new genders, cosmetically accessorized by surgeries and chemicals.
How did we reach the point where our society repudiates creation? Let’s begin in the present. Many voices, both supportive of and opposed to identity politics, have discussed what this new code of conduct is doing to us. We need to ask a different question: What is the nonstop obsession with identity telling us—about ourselves, our civilization, and the wounds that our complicity with the sexual revolution has caused us to inflict on ourselves?
By way of answer, consider this syllogism. The sexual revolution led to the decline of the family. This weakening in turn has fueled the decline of organized religion. (I lay out why this is the case in How the West Really Lost God.) Both of these losses have left elephantine holes in the Western sense of self. As a result, many Western people now scramble to fill those vacancies with something else.
The revolution robbed many of a familial identity. By spurring secularization, it also robbed them of a supernatural identity, which is why swaths of the materially advanced societies once rooted in European civilization now suffer unprecedented uncertainty about who they are. This is especially true among the young. They are racked by the compound fractures of what is now a sixty-year experiment, motivating frantic, often furious attempts to construct an ersatz identity. We are told to see ourselves as members of political collectives based on race, ethnicity, gender, and the rest of the alphabetized brigade. This divisive project has in turn given rise to today’s sharply politicized turns of public discourse, street unrest, and the rancorous, unforgiving tone of much of our politics.
Famous experiments on animals demonstrate that artificial isolation from their own kind produces dysfunction. We need to understand that humanity is running an analogous experiment on itself. The revolution ushered in facts of life that had never before existed on the scale seen today. Abortion, fatherlessness, divorce, single parenthood, childlessness, the imploding nuclear family, the shrinking extended family: All these phenomena are acts of human subtraction. Every one of them has the effect of reducing the number of people to whom we belong, and whom we can call our own.
Outside consciously religious communities, which now amount to a counter-culture, generational reality for most people can be summarized in one word: fewer. Fewer brothers, sisters, cousins, children, grandchildren. Fewer people to play ball with, or talk to, or learn from. Fewer people to celebrate a birth; fewer people to visit one’s deathbed. In a way that is not generally acknowledged, the sexual revolution has produced a relationship deficit. And since we are social creatures and define ourselves relationally, this shortage means that we face an identity deficit. Who am I? This is a universal, inescapable question. Because of the revolution, many of us have lost the material with which to construct an answer.
As our individual lives become more disordered and bereft, so do our politics. The first use of the phrase “identity politics” appears in a manifesto published by radical African-American feminists in 1977—just as the first generation born into the revolution was coming of age. For those who haven’t read it, the Combahee River Collective manifesto is a poignant window onto modern times. It declares, in essence, that its signatories—all women—are giving up on the men in their lives. They are banding together for a future that does not include unreliable boyfriends and husbands. There is a straight line from that declaration of failure to the one uploaded by Black Lives Matter last year (and subsequently removed), which likewise denied healthy relations between the sexes and within the natural family, and failed even to mention fathers or brothers. Both proclamations signify that political identity has become a substitute for familial and communal bonds. Both are rooted in a fury at creation itself—an anger at the disruption of the natural order, which the creature now claims the right to re-order.