The great challenge of the preacher is to follow Paul in 2 Corinthians 4:5, “What we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake.”
But there are more ways to preach ourselves than one might think. This word from James Denney has exerted a sobering effect on me since I first read it in 1982. He had these words framed and posted in the vestry of his Scottish church.
No man can bear witness to Christ and to himself at the same time. No man can give the impression that he himself is clever and that Christ is mighty to save. (Quoted in John Stott, Between Two Worlds, 325)
I asked my son Abraham if we could include as our Easter blog entry his personal post from yesterday. He was willing.
6 Months Gone at Easter Time
Empty hangers, empty closet, empty clothes.
Empty crib, empty bath.
Empty bottles, empty breasts.
Empty lungs, empty blood, empty heart.
The Apostles’ Creed says, “[He] was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended into hell. The third day He arose again from the dead.” There are many meanings given to this phrase. I simply want to ponder the traditional interpretation that Christ went to the place of the dead to preach the gospel to Old Testament saints that he might set them free for the full experience of heaven. This is the view of the Catholic Catechism and many Protestants as well. I don’t think this is what the New Testament teaches.
The view is based mainly on two passages in 1 Peter.
Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put …
Why did God create the universe and why is he governing it the way he is? What is God achieving? Is Jesus Christ a means to this achievement or the end of the achievement?
Jesus Christ is the supreme revelation of God. He is God in human form. As such he is the end not a means. The manifestation of the glory of God is the meaning of the universe. This is what God is achieving. The heavens and the history of the world are “telling the glory of God.”
But Jesus Christ was sent to accomplish something that needed doing. He came to remedy the fall. He came to rescue sinners from inevitable destruction because of their sin. These rescued ones will see and savor and display the glory of G…
Today is Maundy Thursday. The name comes from the Latin mandatum, the first word in the Latin rendering of John 13:34, “A new commandment (Mandatum novum) I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” This commandment was given by the Lord on the Thursday before his crucifixion. So Maundy Thursday is the “Thursday of the Commandment.”
This is the commandment: “Love one another as I have loved you.” But what about Galatians 5:14? “For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” If the whole law is fulfilled in “Love your neighbor as yourself,” what more can “Love one another as Christ loved …
The love of Christ for us in his dying was as conscious as his suffering was intentional. “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us” (1 John 3:16). If he was intentional in laying down his life, it was for us. It was love. “When Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end” (John 13:1). Every step on the Calvary road meant, “I love you.”
Therefore, to feel the love of Christ in the laying down of his life, it helps to see how utterly intentional it was. Consider these five ways of seeing Christ’s intentionality in dying for us...
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What happened on Wednesday of Jesus’ final week before the cross? According to Matthew 26:2, "after two days the Passover is coming.” That probably means it’s Wednesday. We can’t be sure because fragments of days count as days, and because when Passover starts is reckoned in different ways. But it’s close.
The next verse says, “Then the chief priests and the elders of the people gathered in the palace of the high priest, whose name was Caiaphas, and plotted together in order to arrest Jesus by stealth and kill him.” What did they say behind those closed doors?
We get a glimpse of what they may have said from an earlier conversation in John 11:47-53. It is astonishing.
Judas left the fellowship of the twelve apostles after the anointing in Bethany and arranged to betray Jesus for 30 pieces of silver (Matthew 26:14-15). But when they met again at the last supper, there he was! Near enough to dip in the Savior’s cup.
When our family read this for devotions last night I was angry at the absolute wickedness of Judas coming back to eat Passover with the one he had just sold. I said to my daughter, evidently with more emotion than she was used to, “That is utterly wicked!”
She said, “What is so wicked?” I said: “What if I went out tonight and arranged for a cruel man to kill you on the way to school tomorrow morning? That would be horrible. But then would it not…
William Robertson Nicoll (d. 1923) was a pastor in Scotland who edited the Expositor and founded the British Weekly. During one illness of six months duration he read the entire collection of Charles Spurgeon’s sermons (over 60 volumes!). He wrote something concerning Spurgeon relevant to our day:
Evangelism of the humorous type [we might say, church growth of the marketing type] may attract multitudes, but it lays the soul in ashes and destroys the very germs of religion. Mr. Spurgeon is often thought by those who do not know his sermons to have been a humorous preacher. As a matter of fact there was no preacher whose tone was more uniformly earnest, reverent and solemn. (Quot…
From one of the best books on preaching that I know comes this word on the danger of pride in us preachers:
Pride is without doubt the chief occupational hazard of the preacher. It I has ruined many, and deprived their ministry of power.... In some it is blatantly obvious. They are exhibitionists by temperament and use the pulpit as a stage on which they show off.... Other preachers are not like Nebuchadnezzars, however, for their pride does not take the form of blatant boastfulness. It is more subtle, more insidious, and even more perverse. For it is possible to adopt an outward demeanor of great meekness, while inside our appetite for applause is insatiable. At the very momen…