Archive

Archive for the ‘Sermon illustrations’ Category

Spurgeon: Hezekiah’s Pride

January 26, 2017 6 comments

I always appreciate Spurgeon’s sermons, as they always provide good material for devotion and meditation.  Yet Spurgeon, as with all of us, had his high marks, better sermons—though this is somewhat subjective; we all have our favorite sermons.  Spurgeon’s textual preaching often shows itself in heavily allegorical sermons, in which Spurgeon makes great points, all biblically correct—yet what does it have to do with this particular passage of scripture?  Thus, Spurgeon’s best sermons, for me at least, are the ones that most relate to the actual text, a more expository style of considering the content of the text itself.  In previous posts I have noted a few of these, such as one about King David and his wife Michal’s scorn. I recently read another good, on-topic sermon, from the 1866 volume:  sermon #704, about the last recorded incident in Hezekiah’s life—his visit with the Babylonian ambassadors.

In this sermon Spurgeon considers all the circumstances of the event and temptations for pride: Hezekiah’s background up to this point; the great favor he had been shown, the miraculous deliverance from the Assyrian army, the sun changing its course for him. Spurgeon even adds another interesting point, one that we have lost a sense of in our day of modern medicine, a point also brought up recently by Al Mohler:

Halfway through the lecture, Oberman, through no fault of our own, became exasperated with the class. “Young men,” he said, “you will never understand Luther because you go to bed every night confident you will wake up healthy in the morning. In Luther’s day, people thought that every day could be their last. They had no antibiotics. They didn’t have modern medicine. Sickness and death came swiftly.”

This idea certainly is brought out frequently in the reading of Spurgeon and other pre-20th century preachers—the uncertainty of life, of death at any time—and thus Spurgeon observed this in Hezekiah’s case also:

Remember also that he (King Hezekiah) had this to try him above everything else—he had the certainty of living 15 years. …Mortals as we are, in danger of dying at any moment, yet we grow secure; but give us 15 years certain and I know not that heaven above would be high enough for our heads, or whether the whole world would be large enough to contain the swellings of our pride. We would be sure to grow vain-gloriously great if the check of constant mortality were removed. The king might in his self-complacent moments have said to himself, “Not only am I thus immortal for 15 years, but the very heavens have been disturbed for me. See what a favorite of heaven I am!” He did not say with David, “When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and stars which You have ordained, what is man, that You are mindful of him?”

Spurgeon also addressed the issue of our relationships and offenses, how we expect more from those closer to us, and how God expects more from us, His people, than from unbelievers:

When we admit persons into intimacy and reveal our hearts to them, we expect them to act toward us with a tenderness and a delicacy which it were utterly unreasonable to expect in strangers, and we judge their actions by a peculiar standard; we weigh as it were, the actions of ordinary men in the common rough scales which would not turn with an ounce or even a pound, but the doings of our friends we weigh in such sensitive balances that even though it were but a feather from the wing of a fly the scale would turn. It is a solemn thing to be a favorite of heaven, for where another man may sin with impunity, the beloved of God will not offend without grievous chastisement.

Another sin of Hezekiah’s was his unholy silence concerning his God.  When given the opportunity of meeting the Babylonian ambassadors, he should have been giving praises to God instead of boasting of himself.

Meanwhile, mark that Hezekiah sadly made up for his silence about his God by loudly boasting about himself. If he had little to say of his God, he had much to say about his spices, his armor, and his gold and silver; and I dare say he took them to see the conduit and the pool which he had made, and the various other wonders of engineering which he had carried out. Ah, brothers and sisters, etiquette lets us talk of men, but about our God we must be silent. God forbid we should defer to such a rule. Hezekiah did as good as say, while he was showing them all his wealth, “See what a great man I am!”

After considering the numerous aspects of Hezekiah’s sin – including his delight in the company of the unbelieving ambassadors, leaning toward alliance with them, and putting himself on their level, focusing on material possessions – this sermon considers the punishment and the pardon.  The consequences are not removed, but we must humble ourselves under God’s mighty hand. For our own application, several lessons:

  • See, then, what is in every man’s heart.
  • tremble at anything that is likely to bring out this evil of your heart.
  • cry out every day against vainglory, and
  • see the sorrow which it will bring you, and if you would escape that sorrow imitate Hezekiah and humble yourself.
  • Finally, let us cry to God never to leave us.

Spurgeon’s conclusion on this last point is a great prayer, so needed by all of us:

Lord, keep me everywhere! Keep me in the valley that I murmur not of my low estate! Keep me on the mountain that I become not giddy through pride at my being lifted up so high! Keep me in my youth, when my passions are strong! Keep me in my old age, when I am conceited of my wisdom, and may therefore be a greater fool than even the young! Keep me when I come to die, lest at the very last I should deny You! Keep me living, keep me dying, keep me laboring, keep me suffering, keep me fighting, keep me resting, keep me everywhere, for everywhere I need You, O my God.

 

1689 Confession Series Study: Christ as Prophet, Priest, and King

May 18, 2015 3 comments

Continuing in a sermon audio series through the 1689 London Baptist Confession, chapter 8 in the confession includes a good study of Christ as our Mediator: our Prophet, Priest and King. The following comes from the introductory message in this mini-series on Christology (number 74) in the full 1689 series, and the introductory message brings out many interesting points.

Christ is the Last Adam. Thus, the First Adam was also, at least in some sense, a prophet, priest, and king – and would have continued in that state if he had been confirmed. Though Adam may not have consciously realized his three roles, Adam’s three roles are implicitly taught.

  • Adam as a prophet, had true knowledge; he accurately reflected God in his thoughts, words and deeds, thought God’s thoughts after Him, and acted as a representative of God, reflecting God and His truth.
  • Adam as a priest offered sacrifices of praise and service, in complete communion with God, and represented a people. No mediator was then needed (before the fall), and Adam could approach God on behalf of himself and others.
  • Adam as a king: he had been given dominion over the lower-creation (the Garden of Eden), and ruled according to correct knowledge.

The Last Adam, Christ:

  • Our Prophet: we come to Him and learn from Him, we study His word, and hear it proclaimed in sermons.
  • Our Priest: daily we confess our sins to Him as we continue in fellowship with Him
  • Our King: the basic understanding of Lordship Salvation, that we obey Him

A right relationship to God includes observing all three of Christ’s offices.

  • Some people only want to have Christ as Prophet (liberal Christianity), saying that He was a good man and a great teacher—ignoring that the one who was a good and great teacher also claimed to be Priest and King.
  • Others will go further, affirming Christ as Prophet AND as priest—Christ our Savior—but claim He need not be our Lord–or, that third part can come later (“Free Grace” non-Lordship and easy-believism views here).
  • Others may claim Christ as their King, with emphasis on obedience, on following the law of God; yet are really taking a self-righteous approach of doing their own works, denying Him as their priest.

A good application: three things to consider whenever we read or study scripture or hear a sermon. We should always ask ourselves these three questions:

  1. What do I learn from this passage, and what am I learning about God? – role of Christ as prophet
  2. What sins do I need to confess and repent of right now? — Christ as priest
  3. What must I now do? What do I learn, in this passage or this sermon, about obedience: what things to stop doing or start doing? – Christ as King

The gospels present Christ as Prophet, Priest, and King, which has implications for evangelism.  A key text is Matthew 11:28-30, in which Christ offers Himself in all three offices:

  • All you who labor and are heavy-laden:   Christ as our Priest
  • Come and learn of Me: Christ as our Prophet
  • Take my yoke upon you… : Christ as our King

The Unbelieving Spouse: A Spurgeon Illustration, and Application

August 28, 2014 8 comments

From my recent Spurgeon reading comes this interesting story: a possibly greater motive, for wives with unbelieving husbands, than the words of 1 Peter 3:1-4:

We have heard of a wife, a godly woman, who for 20 years had been persecuted by a brutal husband—a husband so excessively bad that her faith at last failed her, and she ceased to be able to believe that he would ever be converted. But all this while she was more kind to him than ever. One night, at midnight, in a drunken state, he told his friends he had such a wife as no other man had; and if they would go home with him, he would get her up, to try her temper, and she would get a supper for them all! They came and the supper was very soon ready, consisting of such things as she had prepared as well and as rapidly as the occasion would allow; and she waited at the table with as much cheerfulness as if the feast had been held at the proper time! She did not utter a word of complaint. At last, one of the company, more sober than the rest, asked how it was she could always be so kind to such a husband. Seeing that her conduct had made some little impression, she ventured to say to him, “I have done all I can to bring my husband to God, and I fear he will never be saved. Since, therefore, his portion must be in Hell forever, I will make him as happy as I can while he is here, for he has nothing to expect hereafter.”

In a later telling of this account (this sermon) Spurgeon added that the husband was saved as a result of this event.

This week I’ve also been listening to S. Lewis Johnson’s Revelation series, including Revelation 3, the church at Laodicea. The above situation involved someone who was “cold” to the things of God, one who was apart from professing Christianity, knew he was not a believer and wasn’t interested. As Dr. Johnson observed regarding Revelation 3 and the desire that the Laodiceans would be cold rather than lukewarm: Perhaps because if a person is really cold in the spiritual sense it might be possible for them to be awakened, but if a person has a kind of protecting covering of religiosity, it is most difficult to reach such people.

If the godly woman (in the above account) had given up hope of her very ungodly husband ever being saved, how much more the seeming (and perhaps actual) hopelessness for the “lukewarm” professing, nominal Christians who may well be just as lost – only they don’t realize it and are quite content with regular attendance at church but completely secular interests the rest of the week (and even while at church, only interested in secular topics of conversation), lives conformed to a non-Christian worldview. What James said (James 2:19) also comes to mind, to explain the seeming paradox of people who say they believe all the basic truths of the word of God, yet show no application of it in their lives: You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!

Regardless of the type of husband (cold or lukewarm) the godly woman’s actions serve as a very strong motivator for those among us unequally yoked; if anything the case is all the more true and urgent with the “luke-warm” professing husband. “I fear he will never be saved. Since, therefore, his portion must be in Hell forever, I will make him as happy as I can while he is here, for he has nothing to expect hereafter.”  Others are not guaranteed the same outcome this godly woman had (1 Cor. 7:16, “For how do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?”), and realizing that sobering fact that this life may be the best that the unbelieving partner has, the only proper response is to “make him as happy as I can while he is here.”

The Charismatic Movement, A Potemkin Village: S. Lewis Johnson in 2 Peter

August 17, 2013 6 comments

I’m currently going through S. Lewis Johnson’s series in 2 Peter, an evening class (ten sessions) he taught in early 1976, with emphasis on the false teachings of the 1st century as well as modern errors.  Studying the Bible, so many ideas and problems really are timeless, just as true now as nearly 40 years ago: as for instance, Dr. Johnson’s comments regarding the charismatic movement.

The first lecture tells about the “Potemkin Village” expression (something I was unfamiliar with, either never learned or had forgotten) and its background in Catherine the Great’s Russia: the story that the great Russian man Potemkin had exaggerated his accomplishments, then the Queen decided to visit the city he had supposedly built; so Potemkin hurriedly went to the site and built up a scene of impressive buildings rather like a Hollywood movie set..

Upon later reflection I recalled the 1970s movie “Capricorn One”, which presented basically the same idea of a façade, a fake image as supposedly the truth to the people being fooled:  astronauts about to embark for the moon are taken away minutes before launch, to a fake set of a moon landing while the real space launch occurs without them on-board, and all transmissions of the astronauts to the public are really from this movie-set location.

In the 2 Peter series, here SLJ likens the modern-day charismatic movement to a Potemkin Village — something that appears to be the real thing, visually impressive to people who lack discernment, but is hollow and without substance: observations to an issue still with us today (nearly 40 years later).  A friend observed that if SLJ were still with us, she could easily picture him as one of the speakers at the upcoming “Strange Fire” conference.

No one ever gains the favor of God through false doctrine and no one ever gains a sense of peace through false doctrine. You may have a kind of false peace for awhile, but you never will have the true peace with God until you have the right doctrine. This is why I do not think that we can ever expect Christians to find any deep satisfaction in the charismatic movement, because there is no truth in their peculiar doctrines — and sooner or later it will be seen to be what it is, bogus knowledge. …

So he says, “May grace and peace be multiplied to you through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.”  This is why I do not think that we can ever expect Christians to find any deep satisfaction in the charismatic movement because there is no truth in their peculiar doctrines and sooner or later it will be seen to be what it is, bogus knowledge….   A Potemkin Village is a village in which is all façade, in which there is no reality.  Incidentally that story is also greatly exaggerated.  He was an eccentric man but there is no real historical proof that he ever did that.  But nevertheless the figure of speech of Potemkin Village has come into our language expressing that which is supposed to be something but it’s really nothing.  And in my opinion, if I may just pass an opinion, the charismatic movement is one giant Potemkin Village and we are going to see as time passes that it does not satisfy those who are most deeply involved in it.  True salvation comes through the knowledge of our God and of Jesus our Lord, as Peter says.

The Shield of Faith: The Shield Metaphor (Spurgeon)

July 10, 2013 1 comment

From my recent Spurgeon sermon reading, an overview of sermon #416, “The Shield of Faith”.  From the text Ephesians 6:16, Spurgeon looked at several aspects of the shield as a metaphor for our faith.

One interesting point (new to me) is that the ancients used many types of shields, but that the shield in view here is a full-size one able to completely cover a man.  Often I picture the sword fighting scene in the modern-setting “Pilgrim’s Progress” movie and the relatively small shield that Christian holds in his hand; but the shield Paul was thinking of was much larger:

Different kinds of shields were used by the ancients, but there is a special reference in our text to the large shield which was sometimes employed. I believe the word which is translated “shield,” sometimes signifies a door, because their shields were as large as a door. They covered the man entirely.

Spurgeon also references the psalmist’s idea, “You, Lord will bless the righteous, with favor will You compass him as with a shield.” (Psalm 5:12).

Faith is like a shield in the following ways:

  •  A shield protects us from attack

The large shield covered the whole body: it guards the head and the heart, and protects the armor. Similarly, faith guards the head, the heart, and our armor.

  •  Receives the blows which are meant for the man himself

Why enlist, young men, if you are not needed to fight? What is the good of a fair-weather soldier—one who stays at home to feed at the public expense? No, let the soldier be ready when war comes; let him expect the conflict as a part and necessary consequence of his profession. But be armed with faith—it receives the blows! So must our faith do—it must be cut at, it must bear the blows.

Spurgeon has strong words regarding the cowards who do not receive the blows, the persecution, as they ought to.

Ashamed of Christ they make no profession of Him, or having professed Christ, ashamed of the profession, they hide themselves by deserting their colors, by conformity to the world. Perhaps they are even called to preach the Gospel, but they do it in so quiet and gentle a way, like men who wear soft raiment, and ought to be in kings’ houses. Unlike John the Baptist, they are “reeds shaken with the wind.” Of them no one says anything bad because they have done no ill to Satan’s kingdom!  Against them Satan never roars—why should he? He is not afraid of them, therefore he need not come out against them.  “Let them alone,” he says, “thousands such as those will never shake my kingdom!”

  • It has good need to be strong

A man who has some pasteboard shield may lift it up against his foe, the sword will go through it and reach his heart. … He who would use a shield must take care that it be a shield of proof. He who has true faith, the faith of God’s elect, has such a shield that he will see the swords of his enemies go to a thousand shivers over it every time they smite the shield of faith!

  • It is of no use, except it is well handled.  A shield needs handling, and so does faith.

So there are some silly professors who have a faith, but they have not got it with them when they need it. They have it with them when there are no enemies. When all goes well with them, then they can believe; but just when the pinch comes, then their faith fails.

Spurgeon then suggests three practical ways to handle the shield:

  1. Quote the promises of God against the attacks of your enemy
  2. With the doctrines.  Handle the shield doctrinally.
  3. Experimentally:   we remember how God has helped us in the past
  • Like in olden times and days of chivalry, the shield (our faith) carries the Christian’s glory, the Christian’s coat of arms

what is the Christian’s coat of arms? Well, good Joseph Irons used to say it was a Cross and a crown, with the words “No Cross, no crown”—a most blessed coat of arms, too! … Some of the old Reformers used to have an anvil for their coat of arms ,and a significant one, too, with this motto, “The anvil has broken many hammers.” By which they meant that they stood still, and just let men hammer at them till their hammers broke of themselves!

Salvation: Going Beyond Charleston (Illustration From S. Lewis Johnson)

February 5, 2013 7 comments

S. Lewis Johnson’s Gospel of John series, in John 16, is chock full of great exhortations to study the word of God and the importance of God’s word and its depth.  One great illustration to share:

Let’s just imagine a person in England who about fifty years ago has heard about this great city in the United States of America, and since he’s had some relatives have come over here, he’s wanted to come.  So he gets on a boat and he leaves England and he comes to Charleston, South Carolina.  He finds the country magnificent.  Well, it so happens that he’s come through storms on the sea and when he arrives in Charleston, he praises the captain for his skill in bringing the boat through the storms.  He praises the boat because the boat has been able to withstand the storms.  He thanks them for the fellowship that they’ve had, and he arrives in this country.  And then he does not investigate the United States of America at all, but stays in Charleston and about two or three months later goes home.

Well it’s nice of course to have come.  It’s nice to have seen Charleston.  But he has failed to see the United States of America, with all of the magnificent beauties and glories of this country.  I’d like to suggest to you that that’s a picture of many believers.  They have come to faith in Jesus Christ.  They praise the Lord for the salvation that has come to them.  They thank him for the way in which he has brought them through the storms of life to safe harbor.  They enjoy the fellowship on the way, but so far as really coming to know the vast land of the salvation that we have in Christ, they’ve staying in Charleston.  Isn’t that sad?

Many Christians I know are like that.  They thank the Lord for the fact that Christ saved them.  They praise Him for the blood of the cross.  They rejoice that they are saved, that they are going to heaven.  But so far as the vastness of the salvation of God and the truth of God, they have little comprehension of it and little appreciate it.  May God help us to realize that it’s not enough to be saved. Salvation is an entrance into the beginning of the knowledge of God.  That’s the reason we are saved, that we might know him.

Bible Verses Misused: Missionary and Other Topics

November 13, 2012 4 comments

Many of us can think of particular misapplications of scripture verses, such as topical sermons where the preacher starts with the topic and then picks out certain Bible verses to “fit” that topic—especially a problem when the text chosen has nothing to do with that particular topic.  Often, indeed, the idea being taught is found in the Bible, but we realize that other verses, more to the point, would have been more suitable.

A particularly bizarre time, from a layperson filling in for the regular pastor, involved a sermon about the salvation of children and how children come to know the Lord – from Jeremiah 48:11:

 ​​​​​​​​“Moab has been at ease from his youth and hassettled on his dregs; he has not been emptied from vessel to vessel, nor has he gone into exile; so his taste remains in him, and his scent is not changed.”

The book of Revelation, including narrative sections describing events such as Revelation 11 or Revelation 13, being taught only as basic soteriology, is another obvious example.  The way some preach through Revelation, one wonders why God chose to give us that book of the Bible and why it was included in the canon of scripture.  After all, the way it comes out in some sermon series, the only truth found in Revelation is that which is already taught, very clearly and in abundance, elsewhere in the New Testament.

Another common area for scripture misuse, that I’ve especially seen in the last few weeks:  Old Testament texts treated as having to do with the spread of the gospel and missionary work throughout the world in this age.  A visiting missionary with a pragmatic topical message about getting people involved in evangelism and sharing the gospel with all the foreigners now among us in the U.S., who took part of Exodus 9:16 as the sermon verse:  “But for this purpose I have raised you up, to show you my power, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth.”  Only the last part of the verse was referenced, of course, because Exodus 9:16 is actually a great statement about God’s sovereignty, God’s sovereign purposes especially in election of saved individuals: the same meaning of which is taken up by Paul when he quoted it in full in Romans 9:17.  The missionary took a declarative statement, similar to other great statements such as Habakkuk 2:14, about God’s name and God’s glory being proclaimed throughout the earth, as the purpose statement for mission work.

Agreed, mission work is important and not to be neglected:  but so is the truth and context of God’s word.  Many other passages are suitable, ones that actually relate to mission work: the “Great Commission” of Matthew 28, for instance, as well as Romans 10 and especially parts of the book of Acts, the main book describing actual missionary work, its adventures and its fruit.

Furthermore, such misuses of Bible verses lead to error, perhaps subtle, but nonetheless error – what would be avoided by careful teaching and preaching of the actual verses that do speak to missionary work.  The subtle, implied idea behind Exodus 9:16 as a missionary statement, is man’s involvement and even the necessity of man doing the work, in bringing about what God has already declared: that His name will be declared in all the earth.  Yes, agreed, God uses means to accomplish His work, and that work does include the work of missionaries to foreign lands, bringing the gospel to areas so that people can hear God’s word – so well brought out in Romans 10.  But to take Exodus 9:16b as a statement for missionary work comes across as a way of attempting to rob God of His glory, since that verse especially has to do with God’s power and sovereignty, a passage and section of God’s word focused on the attributes of God, not on men doing evangelism and missionary work.  My glory will I not give to another  (Isaiah 42:8) comes to mind.

Gospel of John: Jesus the I Am, Walking on the Water

October 1, 2012 7 comments

Just a few interesting things to note from S. Lewis Johnson’s study of the gospel of John, now in chapter 6 — the account of Jesus walking on the water.

When Jesus speaks to the frightened disciples:  the expression “It is I” refers back to Exodus 3 and God’s words to Moses in the burning bush:  I am who I am.  Here we also note the time period, described by John, that it was near the time of the Passover.  The Jews’ Passover ceremony included emphasis on Isaiah 43:2: When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you.  Here the disciples were, literally passing through the waters and experiencing a storm on the sea of Galilee.  Jesus came to them, walking on the water, providing them a real-life picture of the promise from that Passover text in Isaiah.

This was the second incident of a storm in the boat.  In the first one, Jesus was with them, asleep.  But this time they were on their own, and terrified at seeing the figure walking on the water.  Here too is a picture of our growth as we experience the storms of life:  this situation as more difficult than the previous one, and a challenge to grow.  I have seen the spiritual application of this in my own life as well, that the challenges in my early Christian years were much easier than later experiences.

John’s account of Jesus walking on the water specifically mentions that immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going.” The other accounts do not mention this, and S. Lewis Johnson here observed that John is especially considered the apostle of love.  This description expresses John’s great love for His Lord. After all, when you’re in love, the time spent with that person passes by so quickly: the time after Jesus joined them on the boat went by so quick, that John describes it as immediately.

For a typology lesson, SLJ also notes the parallels between this incident and this church age followed by Christ’s Second Coming.  I never saw this in the text, and certainly do not base my belief and understanding on this typology alone (and we have plenty of other texts for doctrinal support of the Second Coming), but the observation is interesting to consider:

I think this story is not only history and it’s not only parable in the sense that we find spiritual principles in it, but it may also be designed to be something of a prophecy of the course of this age.  The disciples are on the sea, toiling in the midst of difficulties, the Lord Jesus is on the mountain praying; but there is a climactic triumphant conclusion.

Well, if you think for just a moment, that’s characteristic of this age.  We are in the boat in the midst of the storms of life.  The Lord Jesus is at the right hand of the Father, therefore living to make intercession for the saints of God; guaranteeing that they are all going to reach the predestined determination that the will of God has set for us.  The church is in the midst of the nations of the world and in a tremendous struggle.  We are in the world but not of the world, engaged in the struggle for the souls of men.

But the Lord Jesus is going to return at the fourth watch when things appear to be very difficult and as if there’s no true conclusion to be reached.  He is going to come.  And sad to say some are not going to recognize him when he does come.  Some are going to think perhaps that it is a ghost.  But he’s going to come and he’s going to still the storms of this human existence and he’s going to establish his kingdom upon the earth.

The Man Who Was Saved By His Good Looks

June 13, 2012 Leave a comment

A great illustration, even better in that it comes from a true story, shared by S. Lewis Johnson in his series “The Jewish People, Jesus Christ, and World History”.

A farmer related this story to a preacher, of how he had been saved by his good looks – at three scripture verses expounded by a visiting preacher who borrowed his barn for some church meetings.

The first look:  Isaiah 45:22

Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth.

Next, Hebrews 12:2

looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith.

Finally, at Titus 2:13

Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ

We look to God to be saved (Isaiah 45), and fix our eyes upon Jesus our redeemer.  And we look ahead to the blessed hope, the eager anticipation of our Lord’s Return.  Such a great thought of what is involved with each of us in our own salvation. It’s also a great picture of that glorious future day, referenced in Zechariah 12:10 when the people of Israel “shall look upon me whom they have pierced” and be brought to salvation.

The full story as related by S. Lewis Johnson:

Mr. Wildish told a story once of, it was recorded in a book of biblical illustrations about walking over the fields with an Englishman who was an old farmer, he said he was a fine man, had a cheerful face and twinkling eyes.  He was proud of his land, he kept pointing out the cows and crops, and suddenly, he turned to me and he said, “You know, I was saved by my good looks.”  And Mr. Wildish laughed and he said, “Well you’ve got to tell me how you were saved by your good looks.”  He said, “Well it was like this,” he said, “you know, you can see my farm and my cattle and everything else,” he said. “An evangelist came to town some years ago and asked if he could use my barn.  And I wasn’t using it at the time and so I agreed to let him use the barn, and after he had been using it for a few days my wife said to me, ‘Why don’t you go down and take a look and see what’s happening down in the barn, you haven’t been down there.'”  And so he thought, well I’ll go down there and look at the barn.  And so when he got down there, he went in. He said the barn was full of people; they were singing heartily.  As the singing finished the preacher gave out his first text as Isaiah chapter 45, verse 22, “Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else.”

He told Mr. Wildish that he talked about the cross, he talked about the blood that was shed, he caused me to look at Christ hanging on the cross, and caused me to understand what was transpired.  And he said, “I looked to Jesus on the cross and I proved for myself the truth of that saying, ‘Look unto me and be ye saved.'”  He said, “But then he turned to another verse and the next verse was Hebrews 12:2, ‘Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.'”  And so he pictured a risen savior, able to save unto the uttermost, those that come unto God by him.  And he said, “I’ll learn to look to Jesus on the throne for all of my daily needs in my Christian life.”  And finally the old man went on, “Before the preacher closed his talk that night he gave us one more wonderful verse in Titus 2:13, ‘Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ.'” And he said, “What a thrill it was to hear about the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ and I learned to look for the second coming of the Lord Jesus.”  When the farmer finished, Mr. Wildish said “I just put my arms around him and I said, ‘Bravo, that’s wonderful, now I understand how you were saved by your very good looks,’ looking into the face of Jesus and tasting of his great salvation.”

Dan Phillips Sermon Series: Thinking Biblically

May 8, 2012 2 comments

Pyromaniacs blogger Dan Phillips is now also the pastor at Copperfield Bible Church in Houston, and I’ve had a chance to listen to some of his preaching, including his introductory message to a new series, “Thinking Biblically”: understanding the Bible and systematizing theology.

The audio encryption rate is only 16 bits, thus the voice loses a little quality and sounds a bit metallic, but the words and message are clear enough.  After reading his online material for a few years, and his two recently published books, I agree with a friend who noted that his voice doesn’t quite sound like what I expected, and his preaching lacks the sarcastic humor seen online. (No doubt the sarcasm comes from the context of dealing with sometimes difficult people online, a different setting than a local Sunday morning sermon.)  I have noted some style similarity, though, as in his use of the word “evidently” both in audio and writing.

His speaking style is easy to follow, casual like his writings.  The content is a good example of what all preachers who claim to uphold “sola Scriptura” should preach: actually looking in detail at what the Bible says and what it means.  The first message, an introduction to the series, considers three basic questions, and answers them — with scriptural support, in a message that covered a lot of ground in a survey-style approach.

  1. Is it possible to define the faith?  (reference 1 Corinthians 15:3-4, Hebrews 1:1-2)
  2. Is it desirable?  Should we put together what the Bible says? (reference Psalm 19, Psalm 119:1)
  3. Is it Necessary? (Matthew 28:18, John 8:31-32)

On this last point Dan noted the meaning of the word disciple:  a pupil, a student.  The Great Commission in Matthew 28 is not what people often think, that this means to go out and evangelize and save everyone.  The wording instead is “make disciples”: enroll students in the school of Christ. A good analogy here, regarding the error of just preaching the basic salvation message and “get everyone saved,” would be if a church were to decide to promote and focus on marriage, and to do so by having a bunch of wedding ceremonies.  “The wedding is only the beginning.”

Throughout the listening, I could not help but notice the very obvious contrast between Dan Phillips and the poor preaching seen recently at a certain local church:  actually doing what you say you believe, by actually teaching the content of the word of God and explaining why it’s important to study.  It’s all too easy to just skim the surface superficially, and make a whole sermon filled with general statements about how important and how valuable God’s word is, and how we uphold “sola scriptura,” and recount the story of Martin Luther upholding the faith, etc.  Such a message only becomes hypocrisy, though, when the one preaching it rejects the truth of Genesis 1 and errs at numerous other specific points of scripture, with a superficial and loose interpretive approach of “what it really means.”  Unfortunately, it fools a lot of people who only listen to those great words rather than the detail.  Yet how much more satisfying is this positive, Bible teaching message, of actually delving into the word of God and noting what the Bible says about itself and about everything else, and to our biblical worldview.