Posts Tagged ‘Exposition’
I am becoming more and more convinced that two qualities of life that are absolutely necessary to preaching the gospel are humility and love. Of course these two qualities are necessary whether one is preaching the gospel publicly in a formal setting or preaching the gospel “across the fence.” However, my thoughts are more inclined toward the public proclamation of the Word of God to God’s people (as that is my delightful duty). I am going to get a little personal in this post. First I must preface this by saying, I know that these qualities need to be added to a greater degree in my own life. I know. . . who would be so bold as to say that they have no pride or lack of love? But I am being genuine here. I know that often I am arrogant and loveless in ministering God’s Word. I am acutely aware of my failures, and I hate the pride and lack of love often prevalent in my life. From my own ministry experience, I have seen my love for God begin to fade at times; I have been able to associate with the church at Ephesus who “lost their first love.” That lack of love for God so quickly turns into a lack of love for God’s people. Bitterness, angst, sarcasm, and self-love then begin to grow and fester-May God squeeze my rock of a heart until it crushes into a thousand pieces and is replaced with a fleshy heart of love for God and his people. I have also experienced both successes and failures in public ministry in God’s Church and at times I have begun to pat myself on the back, congratulating my soul for the hard work–May God continually humble me as he humbled David, Elisha, Moses, and Jacob. May God search my heart and test me and purge me from my own weakness and spiritual failure! As I said, I am very much “in-tune” with my sinful flaws and godless doings.
But at the same time, I praise God that he has been maturing within me an increasing love for his dear name and along with that a deep desire for his people. I recognize this by the compassion God has placed within my heart for his people. As I grow closer in relationship to God’s Church, I have begun to view God’s people as His prize (I know, as a pastor I should have come to this conclusion long ago. . . sometimes I am a little slow). I have been learning what it means to wrestle with ideas and philosophies not people. I have been coming to an understanding of what it means to rage against the captor while loving the captive. Bluntly put, God has been teaching me how to love his people with the same kind of love He has for them and me. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am far from loving as God does, but that is the goal he works in us, making us “Christ-like” in our love.
God has also been causing me, by his grace, to humbly seek his will and face, to bow my heart and will to his sovereign design, and to trust His care and tender mercy to guide me, equip me, and enable me. One way in which God has increasingly humbled me is by teaching me to tremble at His Word (Is. 66:1-5) both in preparation and proclamation. As I have spent more time in the preaching ministry, I have found myself becoming more confident in God’s Word and less confident of my knowledge of God’s Word. Another way to put this: I have increasingly learned that there is so much in the Word that I haven’t learned. By God’s grace, I am beginning to see even more clearly that God’s Word and the doctrines of the Scripture will take a lifetime to understand and an eternity to master. But I am also seeing that it is worth the lifetime commitment and effort. I am becoming more convinced that the saint’s faith (and my own as well) will only grow through the faithful, consistent, systematic preaching/teaching of the plain text of Scripture. So if I love God, I will love his people, and if I love God’s people, I will humbly commit my life to the careful exegesis of His Word-so faith can blossom (Rom. 10:17).
So, I have been a little personal in this post. No doubt if any one reads this, some will question my motive or genuineness, but what is written is written from my heart. But now I am going to switch directions. While acknowledging that I have not attained these two graces (humility and love), and noting that God is working these in my life; I think it important to point out that there are many who fancy themselves ministers of the Word who show nothing of these two characteristics. I doesn’t matter if someone is a professional minister (a pastor) or a traveling preacher (some call them evangelists), or just a person who desires to preach (Bible study teacher, pulpit supply, substitute preacher) without these two qualities, they are not fit to stand in the pulpit or lectern and proclaim the Word of God. What does it matter if a man knows Hebrew and Greek language better than their own, without a genuine love for God manifested through loving others, and without a real humility, they should not open their mouths. What does it matter if they can generate Bible “outlines” on a whim, alliterate points and create whimsical illustrations? Who cares if they can compel crowds to hear their words, or elicit “decisions” for Christ? If they have not love and humility, it is wasted air. I acknowledge that God can use any means to spread His Word, but God using man’s failures is no excuse for those failures, “Should we do evil that good may come?”
All the while recognizing that God is still creating in me as his workmanship more love and humility, I believe that it would be an offense to my High and Lofty God and a discredit to my Humble, Loving Savior to permit such an one to stand in the pulpit and speak to the church God has allowed me the responsibility to under-shepherd. I believe it would be foolishness for me to approach the pulpit on the Lord’s Day not having humbled myself before God in prayer and His Word often, and to not have interceded on behalf of the people whom he loves relentlessly. God give me the humility and love needed to preach the Word, and to protect the flock of God from a proud and loveless preacher, even if that preacher is me.
In the previous post, I said that this one would be practical concerning the presentation of exposition. I am going to deviate a little bit here because I think that I missed an important point concerning why we should be committed to exposition as undershepherds, and why the people of God’s pasture should desire and demand expositional preaching.
Need for Exposition
The definition of expositional preaching is explaining a specific Biblical text (without our personal, cultural, or traditional opinions and biases) within its own context and providing implications concerning our lives. Since this is the definition, we must recognize that Biblical exposition may not always have immediate application in our lives. (Although I have learned that the Holy Spirit has a way of meeting a specific need that I had no idea existed when I have preached the Word). But that is okay! If we are living from sermon to sermon in order to “survive” as a Christian we are exhibiting immaturity and frailty in the Christian life. The Psalmist says, “Thy Word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against thee.” (Psalm 119:11) Often we use this verse to promote Bible memory, and that is good, but hiding God’s Word in our heart is better understood as storing up sustenance that will keep us in the moment of trial and temptation. That is why we must be active in receiving Biblical exposition even if the preacher’s sermon is not what we “need” today. Preventative treatment for illness is far better than prescriptive rescue when we are failing in spiritual health. No one would argue that counseling with a married couple on the verge of divorce is better than premarital counseling or consistent teaching on Biblical roles in marriage long before there is conflict. However, the church has long ago left this concept behind and has moved along with the culture in seeking instant gratification in all areas, even the spiritual. “I’m sick, fix me!” is the cry of the anemic Christian, or rather “My job is in danger, my kids are struggling, my marriage is suffering, etc. . . Fix it. . . Now!” Perhaps the cry should be, “I may become ill, build me up in the most holy faith in a consistent, thorough fashion!” (Personal note* As a pastor, that would thrill my heart more than a million statements like, “good sermon pastor, it was just what I needed today.”) One view seeks a solution from Christ, the other seeks after a relationship with Christ. Crisis preaching (topical preaching patterned to focus on man’s current need) views God and the Word as means to an end. Expositional preaching (systematic explanation of Biblical texts) views a relationship with God through the Word as the end itself. One is man-centered, the other is God-focused. I will let you guess which is which.
If we are committed to thorough, Biblical exposition, we will take great joy in preaching through texts that seem to have nothing to do with the “big issues” of today. The opposite is dangerous in my opinion because the preacher becomes tied to the issues at hand and may begin drifting toward a man-driven ministry rather than a Word-driven philosophy of ministry. On the flip side, it is a misnomer that some texts are alive while others are dry and boring. The entirety of the Word of God (even Leviticus) cries out concerning the beauty and glory of our great and mighty God. He is in every phrase and paragraph of Holy Scripture. We can delight in God through any passage of Scripture because the Bible is the revelation of God Himself, not a book of virtues or morals. Perhaps the style and type of preaching will reveal the preacher’s view of the Book itself and even the God of the Book?
Shepherds, be committed to expositional preaching. Flock be demanding expositional preaching from your shepherds. The health of the local church, present and future, depends upon it.