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Preaching Sound Doctrine Matters

Some years ago we did things a little differently at our church than we do now. We had a band that was filled with hired guns and we paid them to play the lights out every Sunday. To illustrate: our guitarist would tour the world with a famous boy-band, then roll in on Sundays to put on a show for our church – true story.

As far as the sermons would go, they were a mixture of some Bible, exciting and emotionally driven stories, and an ending that was designed to move everyone into an emotional response to the message. We were the typically modern, attractional, evangelical church. And make no mistake about it, lots people were dawning our doors. But they were not coming for doctrine – they came for the personalities, the music and the emotion. It was working!

This is why it seemed like our teaching-pastor had lost his mind when he suddenly got up one Sunday having “fired” all the hired musicians and telling the congregation, “If someone is musically gifted and won’t play for free, this church will no longer be a good fit.” Going even further he started preaching verse-by-verse through books of the Bible to grow our church in doctrine, and songs changed from the latest Jesus Culture or Hillsong hits to songs rich in theological truths. Emotionally driven services were replaced by the clear preaching of God’s word. Suddenly there were calls for biblical action out of love and obedience for Christ!

Then, there was an exodus. We went from being a brand-new shiny object – a fast-growing church plant holding multiple services and cruising through the 300-attendance mark – to suddenly having empty seats everywhere. Eventually we grew past where we once were, but this time, it would not be merely numerical, it was spiritual.

Sound doctrine (paired with prayer and patience) did the heavy lifting.

We Need Sound Doctrine

From big name preachers suggesting we “unhitch” ourselves from the Old Testament, to sermon series on mere behavior modifications from self-help books, to entire services being absent of the Bible but full of entertainment, the church today is in dire need of a strong dose of good ole’ fashion sound doctrine.

In short, doctrine matters.

Nothing else will satisfy the deepest needs of the human heart. Nothing else will quench the spiritual thirst of believers who have been transformed by the Gospel, and nothing is more true to the mandate of Christ’s commission in Matthew 28:16-20. Jesus didn’t suggest that someof what He taught be passed along in whatever modernized way His disciples saw fit. Nor did He give the nod to whatever methods get people in the door. He said that “making disciples” included “teaching them to observe all (emphasis added)” that He commanded (Matt. 28:20).

When the Apostle Paul was providing ministry instructions to his young protégé in the faith – Timothy – he hammered home imperative after imperative concerning the importance of sound doctrine! From that model alone there is no question of what a good minister of the Gospel is to do. We must be nourished on – and nourishing others on –  words of faith and sound doctrine (1 Timothy 4:6).

What Exactly Constitutes “Sound Doctrine”?

Sound doctrine in the Christian faith is accurate Bible teaching. “Doctrine” can be defined as the central beliefs that are held by a group of people and “sound” implies that something is reliable. Therefore, when churches spend more time entertaining people and giving shallow sermons, they are not fulfilling what a church is supposed to do and be. We must be preaching and teaching the central beliefs of the Christian faith based on what the Bible teaches – regardless of how the world around us is changing. Like a reliable friend who will tell you what you need to hear vs. what you want to hear, a reliable church (and specifically the preachers) should be giving you the truth and nothing but the truth.

Why Preaching Sound Doctrine Matters

Much is at stake, but great things are in store if a church stops playing games and bolts the Bible to the pulpit and the pulpit to the floor boards. Sure, some people may not like it, but God’s word promises that the blessings will outweigh the backlash.

Let’s look at five reasons that preaching sound doctrine matters:

  1. It is Required of Faithful Pastor-Elders

Do you know a pastor-elder who doesn’t want to be faithful in their duty for Christ? Most of them do. Plainly, the pastor-elders who are called to be the servant-leaders of the church are failing their duty if sound doctrine is not the central focus of the teaching and preaching ministry. Churchstaffing.com does not determine a pastor’s job description, nor does any other agency. God has, and continues to expect His mouth-pieces to fulfill His purposes laid out in Scripture. Men of God must be faithful. The New Testament lays out the role of those who oversee the church in no uncertain terms (Acts 20:17-38; 1 Tim. 4:6, 11-13, 16; 2 Tim. 3:10, 14-17; 2 Tim. 4:1-5). God commands that His people be served spiritual food loaded with sound doctrine. A pastor-elder can be gifted in many ways, but he is only faithful if in all that he does he preaches sound doctrine.

  1. It Saves the Lost

Church growth from disgruntled “transfers” are a dime-a-dozen…especially in America where we treat our churches like restaurants and the customer is always right. But the real deal when it comes to preaching sound doctrine is genuine conversions that happen when the lost come to faith by hearing the word of God (Rom. 10:17). Of course, people transferring from a doctrinally dangerous church to one that preaches sound doctrine is wonderful, but it can be argued that few things are sweeter than seeing new believers come face to face with the awe-inspiring power of the living Word through faithful preaching! From old sinful ways to new creation in Christ, sound doctrine washes over the heart and mind of lost sheep, regenerates their soul, and preserves their faith (1 Tim. 4:16).

  1. It Empowers the Saved

Sound doctrine catapults the people of God into spiritual growth because they are building their lives on the bedrock foundation of God’s Word rightly taught and rightly applied. They are mobilized and equipped to live mature in their faith and protected from false teaching (Eph. 4:11-14). Sound doctrine empowers Christians to live high-impact lives because they are living out right relationships with God, fellow believers, and the world. A right relationship with God means a proper view of the Gospel and His attributes like holiness and omnipotence. A right relationship with fellow believers means serving one another (Gal. 5:13), loving one another (Rom. 13:8), forgiving one another (Eph. 4:32), exhorting one another (Heb. 3:13), and stirring one another up towards good works (Heb. 10:24)! A right relationship with people in the world means evangelizing them (Rom. 1:16), being a model in your Christian witness (Col. 4:5), and never compromising the truth (1 Cor. 16:13). It’s incredibly amazing what can happen when Christians are taught sound doctrine and live their lives for the glory of God.

  1. It Purifies the Church 

Preaching sound doctrine is important because it not only produces strong believers, it purifies the church of false ones. This may not seem like a very “nice” strategy, but consider for a moment what Jesus did to thin out the ranks of those who were superficially following Him merely for divine favors. Luke records Jesus delivering one of His toughest truths when the crowds were large (Luke 14:25-35). Jesus was dishing out free food, miracles, and wisdom, but the minute He pushed into deep doctrine and hard truths, it divided the real followers from the false ones. True converts love God’s Word, false converts will be repulsed by it. Eventually, as books of the Bible are unpacked and the glorious doctrines contained in Scripture are laid bare for all to see, a decision will inevitably be made by those who hear the truth. Their hearts will either turn towards it, or they’ll scoff at it and turn away. This is a vital part of a preacher’s duty in the ministry of the word. In doing so he is participating in Christ’s building of His church, which includes purging it of imposters.

  1. It Impacts the Future

Now before you imagine “preaching sound doctrine” as a sort-of boring academic forum in the church each week, remind yourself of what sound doctrine is one final time: reliable and accurate Biblical teaching. Preaching sound doctrine is may seem dull and simple, but it’s dynamic!  If the New Testament church was willing to bet their ministries on it, why shouldn’t we? The impact of this is exponential and powerful. When sound doctrine was taught in the early church, it exploded (Acts 2:40-41). If a generation of believers will preach sound doctrine and stand for the truth, they will be modeling faithfulness for those who will come next. In other words, they’ll be discipling the next generation of disciple-making disciples with the foundation they’ll need to glorify God. 

While many more important benefits can be added to this list, the fact remains, preaching sound doctrine matters – both now and in eternity.

Editor’s Note: This article was originally featured in Theology for Life Magazine (Volume 5, Issue 3, Fall 2018) as “The Importance of Preaching Sound Doctrine.” 

Reaching Those Caught in Deception

Like all generations throughout church history, one of the primary focuses we need to be pre-occupied with today is taking the gospel to those who have never heard it before. However, as apostasy increases and seemingly faithful men and women go rogue theologically, we’ll need not only “outreach” (to those who’ve never heard the gospel), but great emphasis on “inreach” (to those believing in a false gospel). Yes, many false Christians are getting the teachers they raised up for themselves (2 Timothy 4:3-4), but within the masses of apostates there are sheep who need to be rescued. We’re faced with the tall task of evangelism within our own ranks and it’s no walk in the park. One moment we see a glimmer of hope in someone we reach try to reach, only to experience another moment of sorrow when someone we love is swept up in deceit. Maybe you’ve blown up a few Thanksgiving dinners trying to tell people like it is, or held personal crusades at work during a lunch break. In the end, many Christians who are trying to reach those caught in deception are left wondering how people could be so blind? How do they not see that what they believe or are being taught is not in line with Scripture? Even when you show them the Bible and put that up next to the lies they’re being taught, they just don’t see it! Why won’t they change in light of the truth? Questions swirl in our mind as we wonder what to do and how to do it.

A Biblical Roadmap for Rescue

No doubt that’s what Jude’s readers would have dealing with as well back in the early days of the church. Apostasy suddenly everywhere; people who’d seemed to have made a genuine confession of faith were being carried away by false doctrines. It was hard to tell who the good guys were and who should be avoided. Further, they would have been seeing friends and family get targeted by deceivers just like we do today.

Is there a clear roadmap for distinguishing when to walk with someone patiently, when to rush in and go for the all-out rescue, and when to put distance between ourselves and the danger? We undoubtedly need to share the truth and be on mission as Christians, but biblical strategies need to be employed.

Jude shows us how: 

Jude 22 – “And have mercy on some, who are doubting…”

The Doubters are the group that may challenge your patience the most because you just want them to wake up and see the plain truth.  Doubting (diakrino) literally gives the picture of someone wavering on the line, then partial to one side but uncertain, then in the middle but hesitant to fully cross over. Imagine the people who drive you a little crazy because you just want them to make a decision already! These are confused individuals; vulnerable and have been manipulated by clever false teachers. Keep the door open for them. Get into their life. Take off your shoes, stay a while, and build relationship with them for the purpose of reaching them. You don’t drive by and toss a study Bible at them saying, “Here! Figure this out then we can talk.” You buy them a study Bible and commit to coffee meet-ups for however long it takes. Your goal is to live between the tension of convincing them about the truth, and depending on God to open their eyes to the truth. Put your own heart issues before the Lord and resist the urge to use brash and harsh words. Remember God’s mercy towards you, learn patience, ask questions, and stick with them. God has you in their life for a reason.

Jude 23a – “save others, snatching them out of the fire…”

The Deceived are fully convinced they have the real truth. We are to be in full rescue operation mode with them – boldly confronting their errors and calling them to repentance. Like a coast guard helicopter flying into an offshore storm, we’re on the lookout for those drowning in the sea of apostasy, dropping the rope, and pulling them up. And if they reject the rope? We never stop praying, never stop trying, and never stop hoping they will be awakened to the danger they are in. Jude undoubtedly understands the sovereignty of God in saving His children and in keeping His children saved, but he’s equally aware of the vessels through which God so often saves. That is, the faithful witness of His people! (Acts 1:8; Romans 10:17). Snatching (harpazo) is the same word used in John 10:12 of the wolf snatching the sheep away from the hireling shepherd, and in John 10:28 of no one being able to snatch Jesus’ sheep from His hand. Jude has in mind a quick and alert state of readiness to rescue people. Notice there is no opt-out clause. No amendment. No free pass because of God’s sovereignty. No giving up because they reject you. A true Christian is patiently, yet relentlessly looking for opportunities to snatch brands from the burning.

Jude 23b – “and on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh.”

The Dangerous are those whose garments have been soiled with Satanic deception. They are those who fly the flag of false doctrines with pride, convincing people with their smooth talk and flattery (Romans 16:18). They fill the seats of churches, infiltrate the highest levels of authority, and undermine Christ through greed and heretical teaching (2 Peter 2:1-3). They are bold loyalists to apostasy, enemies of the truth, and set against Christ. We must never sacrifice the truth in the name of unity with these, yet we are called to be merciful so as to not be indifferent to the fact that they still have a soul in need of salvation. Yet, we show mercy with a fearsome devotion to our own morality and doctrinal purity. One commentator writes, “Mercy takes into account moral distinctions. It does not treat evil as of no consequence. Christians have mercy with fear, hating even the garment spotted by the flesh.” What this means is we are acutely aware of where they are heading but believing that God can change anyone so long as they’re breathing. We’re aware that many will fall away but we’re also fixated on our role to evangelize everyone in sight. We’re wincing in agony for their defilement of the gospel but calling them to repentance from a healthy distance.

It is biblical instruction like this that keeps us both tough and tender. Tough on truth – unwavering in our commitment to it. Yet, tender in our hope that apostates turn to the truth – praying for their souls.

Sometimes we’re playing offense. Sometimes we’re playing defense. All along, we must be trusting God’s power to save His people (Romans 1:16), and being faithful to play our part.

4 Ways Pastors Can Cultivate Discernment in Their Church

Pastoral ministry is a serious work that requires work. When it comes to a pastor’s mandate to proclaim the truth and protect God’s people from error, The task is nothing short of a divine burden.Pastoral ministry can be described as a daily spiritual battle for souls that never seems to end. There are times when it can feel like a constant warzone across the landscape of the Christian world with causalities in the pulpit and in the pew. – and it probably is.

One of the ways to reduce spiritual casualties is equipping church members to be discerning. With false teachers using blending so much truth into their poisonous errors, people need faithful leaders to consistently provide objective truth they can depend on. Charles Spurgeon said it perfectly when he explained, “Discernment is not a matter of simply telling the difference between right and wrong; rather it is telling the difference between right and almost right.”

There are many ways that pastors can cultivate discernment in their church. I’ve offered 4 here that can help you get started in the right direction:

  1. Make a Big Deal About Sound Doctrine

A pastor who wants to cultivate theological discernment within the church needs to first be excited about teaching sound doctrine himself! A congregation that is fed a steady diet of sound doctrine is going to be growing like a well-rounded, balanced body. Like resistance to muscles in the weight room, solid doctrinal teaching breaks down old ways of carnal thinking and builds up the mind; bringing a believer to maturity. A pastor shouldn’t view doctrine as an inconvenience, but rather, as essential to the health of the church. Theological discernment can be cultivated not by merely telling the church to be discerning but by serving them a feast of sound doctrine that makes them discerning. Making a big deal about sound doctrine will be rooted in making much about Christ. A pastor ought to teach straight out of the Bible on Christology, Pneumatology, and other “ologies” that help people have a proper view of self and a high view of God. Sound doctrine is kryptonite to biblical illiteracy and protects people from falling prey to false teaching.

  1. Make the “Why” Clear

Pastors can be guilty of assuming people know the reason for everything they’re teaching. In order to cultivate discernment in a church, people have to know why any of it matters. A congregation’s lack of understanding is usually at the root of their indifference to discernment. Furthermore, the word “discernment” sparks thoughts of sinister behavior, deception, and conflict. Those are not things the average church member is eager to face. Most of them are just trying to make it through another day at work without any conflict. A pastor’s passionate sermon may leave them asking, “Why is the pastor on this bandwagon about doctrine and discernment?” or “Did our pastor just turn into one of those guys looking for a heretic around every corner?” Look to biblical examples of faithful men who explained the “why” along with instructions to be discerning and defend the faith. Paul did this in his farewell to the elders at Ephesus (Acts 20:17-38), and when he had to teach the Corinthians concerning their use of spiritual gifts and correct a few things in the process (1 Corinthians 12:1-14:40). Jude did this when he wanted to write about the common faith he shared with his readers, but instead, had to deal with false teaching and apostasy (Jude 3). Train your leaders, and your church on why doctrine and defending the faith matters.

  1. Make Sure You Model It

People are quite often a reflection of their leadership. Chances are, if it matters to you, it will eventually matter to them. Pastors who are absent-minded when it comes to theological discernment will often produce a flock who is as well. Modeling discernment is showing people how you got to your conclusions, and more importantly, what the bible says on the issue. If you’re praying for a culture of theological discernment and trying to take steps towards equipping your church to be theologically discerning, make sure you are practicing what you preach. Your example will be a powerful tool in God’s hands.

  1. Make Resources Available to Your People (God’s People)

There is arguably nothing worse than majoring on the problem without offering a solution. Yes, a sermon will certainly do the job and the Bible is all we need to show people the answers they seek. Still, excellent resources are available to engage people’s minds and equip them in specific ways. Online blogs and popular books are bombarding your people each day. If you let the latest Christian marketing fads guide their discernment, you’ll get the results – and they probably won’t always be on point. Give them a fighting chance by resourcing them with trusted material. As the old saying applies: Give a man a fish, he’ll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, he’ll feed himself for the rest of his life. A false teacher, a “new gospel,” and the winds of culture are no match for a church who is equipped to know the truth and discern the truth for themselves.

One of the most loving things that a pastor can do for his church is to equip them to be theologically discerning believers at a time when many are falling prey to divergent doctrines.

7 Habits of the Wise

In the previous post, we looked at 7 Habits of a Fool. It’s easy to pick on fools because they’re so blatantly…well, foolish! But not playing the fool doesn’t necessarily prove that you’re wise either. In fact, Proverbs 17:28 says, “Even a fool, when he keeps silent, is considered wise…” So how do you know if you’re a truly wise or just a silent fool?

For that answer, we go to Scripture. The Bible consistently provides a measuring rod of truth that you can use to test if your faith is genuine, and certainly to test if your wisdom is genuine.

Grab your Bible again, turn to Proverbs, and let’s see how we measure up to the 7 Habits of the Wise.

  1. The Wise Can Discern What Wisdom Is (1:5-6; 4:5-7; 13:10; 13:20; 16:21-22; 17:24; 19:8; 19:20; 20:18; 21:11; 24:6)

A ministry mentor once told me, “Hear many, listen to few.” Getting perspective from others is a humble way to learn and can be very helpful, but when it finally comes to decision time, only your most trusted advisors should have a voice. There’s nothing worse for a family, a business, or a church, then when leaders who do not make well-informed decisions. This is why thing like the “podcast pastor” epidemic is so dangerous. Technology can be a blessing to our spiritual growth, but when we need wisdom to make the right decision, we need to be careful turning on our podcast pastor or only ever googling what John MacArthur thinks (guilty of this!) and go to our actual pastor who knows us, loves us, and can provide well-informed wisdom. Podcasts and faithful Bible teachers can be a huge blessing, but our local church must have a voice in our life. At our church, we tell people all the time, if you can’t trust us as church leaders, we’ll help you find a church where you can. Nobody should be left as an orphan in the body of Christ and every sheep should know their shepherd. In life, we’ll hear a lot of voices, but only the wise can discern which one is true wisdom for their personal decision.

  1. The Wise Work Hard For The Right Things (11:4; 11:24; 12:11; 13:11; 16:8; 16:16-17 ;20:13; 22:1; 23:1-5)

You’re not going to find a wise person trying to get rich quick because they’ll be too busy working hard for their increase. Wise people who happen to be wealthy know they’re blessed to be a blessing and they keep wealth in the right perspective. Wise people who aren’t wealthy live within their means, and trust the Lord with what they’ve been given. God has and always will honor those who work hard, remain faithful, and live generously no matter what their salary is. On a recent Sunday, our Sunday School taught the kids about the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31. One little boy asked the teacher, “Why is the rich man in Hades and the poor man is with Abraham? If he was rich, he must have a good life and should be with poor man in heaven!” The teacher explained that the rich man used his riches for all the wrong things. The Bible doesn’t speak against having a nice house or making a good honest wage, but it does make it clear that the wise work harder at building God’s kingdom, than their own castle.

  1. The Wise Lose the Argument Before Ever Losing Their Temper (12:18; 16:32; 17:14; 17:27; 19:11; 29:9; 29:11; 29:8)

Wise people know that no resolution can be found once tempers have been lost. Proverbs repeatedly offers wisdom to those who struggle with anger, and affirms those who consistently avoid a war of words – or worse. Notice that nowhere in these verses does it say conflict won’t happen. That’s because conflict in life is inevitable. The wise know how to handle their emotions, and practice keeping their tongue under control. So what’s it going to be when a quarrel breaks out? Fight or flight?

  1. The Wise Bring Joy to Family, Friends, and Even Foes (13:1; 14:26; 15:20; 16:7; 23:15; 23:24-25; 27:11; 29:2-3)

Wise people don’t frustrate others because of their foolish decisions! Parents, is there anything better than seeing your kids living for Christ, making the right choice even when it’s hard, marrying the right person, or honoring their commitments? Think about bosses who lead organization ethically and treat employees with fairness, dependable dad’s who work hard, love their wives, and consistently provide a good example to their kids. One more: church leaders who plan ahead, budget properly, spend only what God provides, and stand their ground on biblical truth rather than people pleasing. Even people who may not like you will respect you when they know clearly where you stand. The wise say what they mean, mean what they say, and what you see is what you get.

  1. The Wise Plan Ahead (6:6-8; 21:5; 24:21-22; 24:27; 27:23-27; )

In 2011 I ran the San Francisco marathon without any training to prove to my sister how “naturally” fit I was. I did it in 4 1/2 hours and have the medal to prove it. I also have the hotel receipt for the additional $300 I had to pay to stay in a local hotel for 2 extra days because I couldn’t walk afterwards. Humble pie was served for dessert that night. There’s a reason why people train for 6 months and plan ahead for marathons. If being a prudent planner was easy to do, everybody would be considered wise. Planning ahead is easy to think about but takes incredible discipline and practice to do. The disappointing thing about being a poor planner is that there’s rarely a good excuse. Churches in Illinois know they’re in Tornado Alley so they build a certain way, Alaskan fisherman know the weather so they dress a certain way, and people know April 15th is when the Tax-Man says pay! The wise don’t assume everything will just work itself out. Lastly, wise people are usually in control of their emotions so they are able to stay balanced and objective even when things do not go according to plan. They simply go back to the drawing board, learn from their mistakes, and trust the Lord.

  1. The Wise Avoid Debt and/or Pay Off Debt (6:1-5; 11:15; 17:18; 22:26-27)

Speaking of planning ahead, the wise know it’s good practice to pay their credit card off every 30 days or to avoid debt alltogether. In a day in age where school is required and not everyone can afford it, let’s leave the debate about student loans off the table for now (let’s leave it at – if you find yourself in student debt, look into getting a student loan calculator to help you pay it off without breaking the bank) and agree that in the very least, credit card spending with money we don’t actually have and balances we can’t actually pay off is living dangerously. Proverbs tells us to not make pledges we can’t pay, and if we have, then to run like a Gazelle (that’s really fast!) to pay it off. Is it time for you to get a side job for a few months or to stop spending what you don’t have? If we’re wise, we’ll take Solomon seriously on this one.

  1. The Wise Man Finds an Excellent Wife (12:4; 18:22; 19:13-15; Chapter 31)

A wise man who marries a wise woman for the right reasons has “power couple”written all over it. God honors men and women who work hard, live faithfully, listen carefully, and keep their eyes on the right things. If you have sons, teach them to marry the woman in chapter 31 and steer clear of a contentious woman no matter how dolled up she looks on Instagram. 31:30 says, “Charm is deceitful, beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised.”If you have daughters, teach them to stay away from fools until a wise man comes.

We’ve all played the fool at one time or another. If you think it’s too late for your kids, yourself, or someone else you love, be encouraged. God’s word is the best solution.

Pray for growth, and open up a chapter a day in the Proverbs – there’s thirty-one.

7 Habits of a Fool

Everybody’s played the fool at some point. That means that once in a while, we’re going to say and do things that aren’t very well informed. But that’s supposed to be the exception not the norm right? Unfortunately, human depravity can quickly turn foolish behavior into foolish habits that do a lot of damage.

The Bible has a lot to say on the subject of foolishness. More specifically, the book of Proverbs gives us time-tested truth about what a fool looks and sounds like. We would do well to spend more time learning from Solomon because as the old saying goes, “You must learn from the mistakes of others because you can’t possibly live long enough to make them all yourself.”

Grab your Bible, turn to Proverbs, and let’s look at 7 Habits of a Fool.

  1. A Fool is Arrogantly Unteachable (1:7; 12:1; 12:15; 13:1 26:12; 28:26)

Only a fool thinks he is always right. He constantly considers himself above the wisdom and instruction of others. There’s a hardened pride that takes over a person who refuses to listen to wise counsel, and by this the fool shows that he does not fear the Lord. Whatever you do, don’t be this person, don’t hire this person, don’t marry this person, and don’t do business with this person. Pray for this person.

  1. A Fool Goes Looking for Trouble (1:10-19; All of chapter 7)

My mother used to make me memorize Proverbs 1:10-19 when I would hang out with the wrong people at the wrong time. Times may have changed, but the Proverb still provides wisdom from parents to youngsters. But adults can learn too. All of Proverbs chapter 7 tells an all-too-familiar story about a man looking for adulterous sex, and a woman looking for just such a man. These two find exactly what they’re looking for and are fraught with consequences.

  1. A Fool Can’t Control His Mouth (10:14; 10:31-32; 13:3; 18:7-8; 18:13; 26:21; 29:20)

Is there anything more deadly that the human tongue? Nothing sets off a war of words quicker than a person who hurls insults. Verbal abuse, assault, murder, low self esteem, suicide, adultery, and divorce have something in common – vicious words that fatally pierce the heart of another. There might be no more an important lesson to learn than this one. May we all do better at controlling our mouths.

  1. A Fool Can’t Control His Temper (14:17; 19:3-4; 19:19; 21:7;25:28; 29:11)

This could easily go hand in hand with #3 but it still deserves its own rank in the list. Though hardly a theologian, it’s difficult to contend with Robert Frost when he said, “Education is the ability to listen to almost anything without losing your temper or self-confidence.”If education of oneself is some indication of learning to control emotions, this perfectly illustrates the fool’s ignorance and insecurity. When tensions rise and emotions boil over, the fool would do well to heed the advice of Martin Lloyd-Jones’ to preachers when he says, “Nothing is more important than that a man should get to know himself. I include that he should get to know himself physically as well as temperamentally and in other respects.” Slow down, learn what triggers you and why, then get help and educate yourself on how to handle emotions in a way that honors God.

  1. A Fool Refuses to Discipline His Children (13:18; 13:24; 19:18; 23:13-14; 29:15)

Some parents use a “switch” or wooden spoon, others use incentives, still others take away privileges and toys. There is one thing in common with all of these methods and it is that there are serious consequences for disobedient behavior – period. A person who does not have a structure of discipline in place in the home is playing with fire and playing the fool. Not to mention, raising one.

  1. A Fool Blows Paychecks to Party (20:1; 21:17; 23:20-21; 23:30-35; 31:3-5)

We can all relate to this either from personal experience or from someone close to us. A fool doesn’t plan for the future and spends most of his time thinking of instant gratification. How can I feel good now? Proverbs 31:3-5 provides specific instructions to leaders who do not practice some level of sobriety. No wonder employees loathe working for a lush. Hollywood movies may make it look fun and endearing, but the life of the party will drain your paycheck, and lead you to poverty one way or another.

  1. A Fool Never Learns His Lesson (26:7-9; 26:11; 27:22; 29:1)

I’ll let Spurgeon take this one home. He says: “Wisdom is the right use of knowledge. To know is not to be wise. Many men know a great deal, and are all the greater fools for it. There is no fool so great a fool as a knowing fool. But to know how to use knowledge is to have wisdom.” There’s a very specific reason that Proverbs 26:11 compares a fool to a dog returning to it’s own vomit. It’s meant to paint the repulsive picture of our own lives when we do not learn from our mistakes.

Ultimately, even though the Proverbs speaks to many practical issues of life, it is not merely secular, prudential wisdom. Instead, all of wisdom is grounded in one’s relationship with God. Naturally, reverence and relationship are a good place to start.

So ask yourself, how often have you been playing the fool? Are you ready to increase your reverence for God, and be more intentional about cultivating your relationship with God.

There hopefully comes a time in every person’s life when this Proverbial truth hits home. Thankfully, God’s grace is sufficient for your weakness, and you can always draw from the timeless practicality of the Proverbs.

In the next post, we’ll look at 7 Habits of the Wise.

The Preacher’s Proclamation

An old sermon illustration that makes its way around from time to time goes like this:

There was a young preacher who was not lazy, just conceited. He frequently boasted in public that all the time he needed to prepare his “great sermons” was the few short moments it took him to walk from his parsonage, to the church just next door. Well, one day the congregation decided it was time to burst his bloated ego and help the man improve his preaching ministry. So, they bought him a new parsonage eight miles away!

Now that’s a congregation with their priorities in order and one lucky pastor.

In Lectures to My Students, Charles Spurgeon stressed the vitality of preaching when he wrote,

We do not enter the pulpit to talk for talk’s sake; we have instructions to convey important to the last degree, and we cannot afford to utter petty nothings…If we speak as ambassadors for God, we need never complain of want for matter, for our message is full to overflowing. The entire gospel must be presented from the pulpit the whole faith once for all delivered to the saints must be proclaimed by us.

When it comes to those who preach the Word, the church can settle for nothing less than faithfulness to the Word of God. New fads are a dime-a-dozen, the latest pragmatic gimmicks change like the weather, but one thing remains tried, tested, and true – God’s Word to His people.

The preacher and the people are both responsible for protecting the pulpit in the church. When the pulpit isn’t held in high regard, sheep become malnourished by fast-food style preaching that contains little nutritional value. When pastoral ministry becomes just another career requiring a beefy resume and social media platform, pulpits fill with hireling preachers who take a paycheck, wear a title, but run at the first sign of hard work. The church needs fearless heralds who will put on their work-boots, roll up their sleeves, and boldly feed Christ’s precious flock no matter what the cost. Like waterless clouds that produce no rain, so is the preacher who makes a proclamation to people but fails to preach God’s Word. When there is no divine food for the soul, there will be spiritual famine in the land.

The preacher must proclaim the truth and the people must proclaim, “We want the truth! And nothing but the truth!”

When the Apostle Paul provided young Timothy with one of the first handbooks on preaching – and boy, is it ever still a best-seller – he gave him timeless wisdom that we must still heed today. Throughout the pastoral letters, Paul gives numerous imperatives that every preacher should pay close attention to, but five of these can prove immensely useful in governing the preacher’s proclamation. These imperative commands are inspired by the Holy Spirit, and through them, we are given the greatest church growth strategy this world has ever known, that is, spiritual growth.

1. Preach the Word (2 Timothy 4:2a)

Paul was never one to mince words when it came to the message. In his mind, preaching was to be unadulterated, Christ-centered, Gospel truth. After all, that is the power of God unto Salvation (Romans 1:16). That doesn’t leave room for much else. On other occasions he told Timothy to avoid worldly fables (1 Timothy 4:7), empty chatter (1 Timothy 6:20), to be accurate (2 Timothy 2:15), and that Scripture was all he needed to be fully equipped (2 Timothy 3:16-17). A preacher doesn’t need another proclamation – and neither do the people.

Word-saturated preaching does what nothing else can do. Such preaching increases people’s faith (Romans 10:17), reveals God’s will (Deuteronomy 29:29), increase biblical literacy (1 Peter 2:1), and gives people lasting peace (Ephesians 2:17-18).

Ever wonder what it is that makes a congregation go from worrying, doubting, and complaining to saying, “Ahhhh, I needed that”? It is the Word of God soothing their soul and setting their minds on Christ.

Give the people what they need. Preach the Word.

2. Be Ready In Season and Out of Season (2 Timothy 4:2b)

Paul continues with an imperative to instantly be ready. Whether it’s popular or not, convenient or not, with or without your bible app – be ready. This is one of the quintessential marks of a true preacher and his mandated proclamation. His message is internalized. He is living it, breathing it, and armed with it. It doesn’t matter what political firestorm is brewing, he is ready with the Word. It doesn’t matter what polemical drama is stirring, he is ready with the Word. It doesn’t matter what he can personally gain by compromising the message, he is ready with the Word.

Our Christian culture today can greatly benefit from taking a page out of Paul’s book. Though we face some varying levels of persecution, he serves as a lofty inspiration. Whether shipwrecked, chained to a guard, beaten, questioned, or threatened with death – he considered every difficult obstacle still as an opportunity.

No matter the climate or the cost, the preacher is always ready.

3. Reprove (2 Timothy 4:2c)

Tolerance is the climate of today’s millennial culture – but our preaching must be counter-culture. Simply put, the preacher is to reprove if he is, in fact, a preacher. This means that he must correct people’s thinking with the truth of God’s Word and trust the Holy Spirit’s work in convicting people of their error. What good is a pastor if he doesn’t tell you right from wrong or truth from tricks? Furthermore, what good is a pastor who does not reprove out of love for the people?

Martyn Lloyd-Jones wrote, “The trouble with some of us is that we love preaching, but we are not always careful to make sure that we love the people to whom we are actually preaching.” Therein lies wisdom for every preacher who reproves the people. God’s love for His people is directly related to His loving correction of His people (Proverbs 3:12; Hebrews 12:6; Revelation 3:19). What better way for a preacher to show his love for people than to show them the way of truth?

4. Rebuke (2 Timothy 4:2d)

The second of two negative commands settles the matter: preaching the Word includes giving people the hard truth. Rebuke must be clear, and as already stated, it must be done in love. The preacher is a not a rigid surgeon with cold hands and a sharp scalpel – he is a warm, kind, and caring shepherd. To rebuke is not to use the staff to beat the sheep – it is to use the staff to draw the boundary lines of safety. The preacher is never desirous of pugnacious controversy. We must, like Paul in Philippians 3:18, even deal with false teachers through “weeping.”

There is also no room for passive aggressive manipulation in the preacher’s rebuke. To sharply and clearly tell people about the consequences of their error requires that a preacher be forthright and honest. Little is accomplished when preachers attempt to rebuke people with “hints.”

Better is open rebuke, than love that is concealed (Proverbs 27:5). The preacher who rebukes proves he is a lover and protector of God’s people.

5. Exhort (2 Timothy 4:2e)

The preacher must afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted. He must walk with his people and be an encouraging voice as they are taken captive by God’s grace. To bring people to a place of great conviction, and to offer a clear correction, but offer no encouragement is to merely place weights on people and walking away. Exhortation is the call to action through the grace and power that the Holy Spirit provides. The preacher proclaims the truth and encourages the people to walk in a manner that is worthy of their calling and to look to Christ as the Author and Finisher of their faith.

Unfortunately, exhortation is often misunderstood as a license to unleash on people but offer little help in the wake of such a lashing. We get exhortation wrong when confining it to the likes of drive-by evangelism, or drive-by discipleship. When a preacher is brash with people from the pulpit, then too busy to walk with people after the sermon, exhortation has scarcely been achieved. It’s an ivory-tower preacher who appears once a week in the pulpit but does not come alongside the people throughout the week. That style of ministry is not what Paul had in mind as he instructed pastors and preachers.

In the end, Paul says that the preacher’s proclamation must include one key element: “great patience and instruction” (2 Timothy 4:2f). People are not won to truth by verbal assaults. Such preaching is easy. Anyone can be angry and use the Bible as a hammer, but Paul capstones his call for the preacher’s method by raising the bar. Translated in English as “patient,” the Greek word makrothume (meaning to abide under; or endure) makes it quite clear that in all of the preacher’s proclaiming, he must be patient with people. That is what sets him apart as God’s mouthpiece.

On the topic of effective preaching H.B. Charles Jr. wrote, “Our preaching is not the reason the Word works. The Word is the reason our preaching works.”

Always remember: Churches don’t die. God’s voice in them does when a preacher fails to preach the Word, and the people fail to demand that Word be preached.

Preach the Word.


This article originally appeared on “For the Church” @ www.ftc.co

 

Pastors and Politics: The Trump Card

We’re cruising into the first year of Trump in the White House. A bitter divide has unquestionably developed and many Christians have found themselves in middle of the mayhem. You’d be hard-pressed to find a single pastor who hasn’t been influenced, pressured, or scolded on both sides of the table. It’s been that way since Trump’s campaign began.

As a pastor observing the political climate that can saturate a church, it’s been a year of incredible growth, and challenges. I’ll never forget the Sunday that a congregant came right up to me and said, “Why doesn’t he [the teaching-pastor] man up and side with Trump from the pulpit? That Hillary was from the Devil! God’s man is in the White House.” His wife pleaded with him to let it go, but to no avail.

In another confrontation, a congregant raged, “Trump is train-wreck! Christians who voted for him are poorly mistaken.”

Few things can pacify political charged Christians. Only one thing has sustained us.

Outside of our local church, the airwaves rang out from each side while the world peered on from the bleachers. Like two heavyweights trying to land the knockout blow, back and forth the haymakers swung.

One pastor declared, “We are going to see another great spiritual awakening.” Another affirmed, “The Lord’s hand is upon this man, even though the world does not realize it and cannot realize it due to their spiritual blindness.” Others weren’t so convinced. “How anyone sees Trump as the savior of the evangelicals is beyond me. Doesn’t have a Christian bone in his body,” sneered a doubter. “We’re all sinners… but c’mon… the evangelical right is choosing this guy to lead their ‘spiritual awakening?’”

In a sobering statement, a pastor told Christianity Today, “The election was fueled with anger and slander, and we’re culturally fatigued.”

He’s absolutely right, and there’s no end to the consternation in sight.

Regardless of your position on Trump’s campaign for change, and whether or not you believe America is better than it was, we’re in this together for at least another few years. Before you throw in the towel on finding common ground, there is something we can (and definitely should) agree on. That is, that the one thing hasn’t changed: a pastor’s calling to preach Christ.

In a year where optimistic enthusiasm and apocalyptic outcry have jousted for top headlines, pastors looking to give people hope need look no further than the Hope of the world. What people need the most is a renewed perspective that hinges on a kingdom that is not of this world. For the Christian, our King is not dependent on an election – He’s already won victory over the god of this world. Death could not hold Him, Satan couldn’t stop Him, and He’s given His people a Great Commission that transcends an oval office. The Prince of Peace can comfort those who are conflicted by the government. The comforting Redeemer can heal the broken-hearted. The Rock of Ages can calm the anxious soul.

Quite honestly, little attention and direct instruction are given in Scripture with regard to pastors and the topic of politics. But what is? Preaching Christ.

Where do Christians who change the world find their inspiration? Jesus.

Where do Christians who are anxious find their peace? Jesus.

Where do Christians who are fearful find their courage? Jesus.

So, what else do we need? Combine the greatest pre-game speech, and the most riveting political rally cry and they’d still fall astronomically short of a single word from Jesus.

Paul said it many different ways but his point was always the same. People need Christ, Christ, and more Christ! “Let men regard us as servants of Christ,” he declared to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 4:1). “Preach the word,” he stressed to young Timothy (2 Timothy 4:2). “For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified,” he said as he explained his own reliance on the Spirit to fulfill his calling (1 Corinthians 2:2).

It was Charles Spurgeon who humbly said, “I have a great need for Christ; I have a great Christ for my need.” Even the famed Prince of Preachers saw himself as a mere compass pointing to the True North. He must have lived that reality because, as the story goes, a man went to see one of the other well-known preachers of the day and after hearing him preach he was overheard saying, “What a preacher!” A short time later, this same man went to hear Spurgeon preach and afterward he exclaimed, “What a Savior!” Therein lies the ultimate achievement of every preacher who dawns the pulpit.

I don’t know what strategy your church has taken to bring perspective to a wild year, but there is a particular book that offers incredibly worth-while wisdom.

When the author of Hebrews penned a beautiful letter to his primarily Jewish audience at the time, the goal was crystal-clear; elevate and exalt Christ. No political agenda. No social initiative hiding behind spiritualized lingo. Just Jesus. In just the first few verses this is accomplished with precision, and pastors do well to take notice. Throughout the book of Hebrews, the author celebrates the changeless and powerful King! He was, is, and forever will be the Savior of this world. No matter how many heroes that humanity concocts, one Hero trumps them all. And no, it’s not the Donald.

Want to utilize a time-tested strategy to encourage people through the ups and downs of politics and vacillating cultural fads?

Remind them to turn their eyes upon Jesus. Look full in His wonderful face. And the things of earth will grow strangely dim. In the light of His glory and grace.

After a year of political wars, personal struggles, celebrating victories and mourning deep losses, most Christians can sometimes find themselves just holding on for dear life. Right there at the beginning of that letter to the Hebrews are eight Christ-centered truths that remind us all who is in control.

Here they are:

  • Christ is the voice of God to us (Hebrews 1:1-2a)
  • Christ is the Heir of all things (Hebrews 1:2b)
  • Christ is the radiance of God’s glory (Hebrews 1:3a)
  • Christ is the exact representation of God’s nature (Hebrews 1:3b)
  • Christ is upholding all things (Hebrews 1:3c)
  • Christ has made purification for sin (Hebrews 1:3d)
  • Christ is seated at the Father’s right hand (Hebrews 1:3e)
  • Christ is better than the angels (Hebrews 1:4)

Each one of those could be a sermon in and of itself. What if people were given those truths from the pulpit more often? What could happen if politics were kept in their proper place and the pulpit roared with righteous zeal for the risen Christ?

He’s coming back one day. Republicans, Democrats, and everyone in between will bow, and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.

Our job is to preach that message every chance we get and keep the main thing the main thing. Let’s make sure people are ready for their moment with Him.


This article originally appeared on “For the Church” @ www.ftc.co