The Pastor as Prophet

Session 3

Re:Train | Seattle

One of the things we do in teaching and preaching at Bethlehem is to let my sermon from the Sunday before become a guinea pig in the classroom that follows on Thursday. So, I’m going to take just a few minutes here and see whether you want to ask any questions about last night. This is the closest thing we get to doing what I usually do. I preached for an hour and five minutes or so. Just for practical purposes, you can see these papers are what I had with me in the pulpit last night. Except for one of these pages, I wrote all these on the airplane.

This manuscript is what I had. It’s double-spaced and handwritten. I wrote all these on the plane, and these are all notes that I scratched out. I had six of these pages with me last night. It’s all very familiar stuff to me. That was mainly a rethinking of old material. I brought along two cartoons and an advertisement as well, which I didn’t use. It just seemed to work, but those are ready to go if they seem appropriate. Any questions?

A Staggering View of Love

You mentioned in John that statement that Jesus made about staying longer. Can you explain?

The question is in the exegesis of John 11:1–6. I made the case that Jesus staying two more days where he was when they had asked him to come because Lazarus was sick was intentional precisely so that he would die. I’ll reiterate what I said and maybe add one thing. You’re right. It doesn’t say he had planned to stay a week, but he only stayed two days because he was hurrying to get there if perchance he might save him. So, somebody might argue, “That’s what happened. He wasn’t planning for him to die. He was cutting his week short to two days in the hopes that he might save him, and he missed it.” You might argue that way.

I think the therefore is significant. It says, “Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. Therefore when he heard Lazarus was ill, he stayed” (John 11:5–6). That just is so jarring that the other interpretation doesn’t jump to my attention. A second thing I would say is that we do stir into that the fact that in the Gospel of John, Jesus is very much aware of what’s going on. When Nathaniel comes to him, he says, “I saw you under the tree” (John 1:48).

So the Jesus that is presented here earlier in this Gospel is a Jesus who’s not perplexed about Lazarus’s situation. He knows that Lazarus is that close to death. That would be a second premise. I left that unstated. When you read the rest of the chapter, and he gets there, Martha complains to him, “If you’d been here, he wouldn’t have died” (John 11:21), and Jesus doesn’t say, “I got here as soon as I could.” He says, “Didn’t I tell you that you would see the glory of God?” (John 11:30). So, Jesus draws attention to the explanation that I’m offering; namely, Joh 11:4, which says:

But when Jesus heard it he said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God . . .”

And the way he interprets that later when he’s interacting with the sisters is, “Didn’t I tell you?” Lazarus was still dead, and Jesus says, “Didn’t I tell you that you would see the glory of God?” So, the thing he’s referring to back here in John 11:4 is, “I’m going to raise him from the dead. Do you believe that I am the resurrection and the life?”

So, I would just say the whole chapter considered, with all the factors, it would have been much more complete had I drawn in the language of glory at the point of resurrection to tie it back into John 11:4, but I didn’t. I didn’t take the time to do that.

The Bottom of Our Joy

Any tips, clues, or help for those of us who are responsible for worship leadership, whether the music part or the preaching part or any part, to keep us celebrating what he’s done for us from slipping into making ourselves the bottom of our joy or the ultimate goal?

Excellent question. I tried so hard last night. I don’t want to minimize how precious it is that he died for me. I mean, when you read Galatians 2:20, you can’t help but think:

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

That’s one of the few places in Paul where he takes it right home to himself very personally. He says, “He loved me and gave himself for me.” So, I don’t want to minimize that.

I think one thing is to regularly say things, as the Bible does, that are done to the glory of God. You are saved us to the glory of God. Now, this will become over years in your worship leadership trite if you don’t work to make it fresh because most people hear, “Glory of God, glory of God, glory of God’s. That’s all we ever hear. Blah, blah, blah.” So, there have to be ways to make this snap, to make this pop, in order to live for people, which is what I’m constantly trying to do. Last night’s sermon was a fresh effort to make it pop for people because it popped for me on the airplane because of trying to interact with this criticism of my question about God making much of us.

Find fresh ways to say that everything we’re doing here is to make Jesus look good. Now, that phrase itself is my paraphrase for his glory — to make Jesus look good or to make much of Jesus. I mean, 10 years from now, find another phrase, and then 20 years from now, find another phrase. Find a way to constantly make the old, old story of God’s glory sound really powerful and fresh and good.

Cultivating a God-Centered People

That’s another one. Build a theology. This is why it’s just so hard to do worship when the worship leadership and the pastor are just theologically not on the same page. It’s so, so hard because the pastor has the pulpit usually and is forming the heads of the people. If he’s not helping with what’s going on in the 30–40 minutes that precede — if he doesn’t love that, believe in that, build into that, shape that by this — then your job is really hard.

I would say sit with pastors and talk through, “How can we help our people to understand that when we celebrate what he’s done for us, the preciousness of holding us, the tenderness of wrapping his arms around us, walking beside us, and befriending us, that all of that is to enable us to enjoy making much of him. How can we do that?” You partner together to find ways to do that in the teaching.

I would caution you as worship leaders — that is, the ones who are standing in front during the 30 to 40 minutes of singing — from doing too much teaching. I don’t want my guys talking between songs very much. There’s a gift for that, and some guys have it, and some guys don’t. I would caution all of us from the old-fashioned, old-timey way 40 years ago of, “Let’s sing a hymn. Now, turn to page 232, and everybody smile this time. We’re singing to God. We’re not singing to the devil. Everybody smile. Here we go. Mary, play.” That kind of weaving together songs just ruined everything. If anybody had connected with God vertically in the song, it disappeared in those 30 seconds where he told us to smile, he told us to turn to the page, and he told Mary to play a little softer or louder. It just makes you feel like, “Agh. Get out of here.”

Well, there are contemporary ways of doing the same thing with guitar and music in the background. I don’t know how to put it into words. I just know you can feel when it’s helping, and you can feel when it’s not helping. I just would encourage you not to become little teachers between songs about the way to sing this song to the glory of God and so on. So, be careful, and yet, I don’t want to overstate that because I know that it helps when a worship leader lets some of his own heart for God show verbally. Not just singing, but between the song or in the song, but this is a love thing here. This is like watching a couple. Some guys are good at it, and some guys are not.

Some guys know how to say, “I love you,” and some guys sound stupid when they try to say, “You’re beautiful.” Just find your language, find your way. Choose your songs carefully. Choose your lyrics. There are songs, and if there aren’t, write ones that help teach that and which embody a Godwardness.

You Give and Take Away

It’s amazing the theology that’s being imparted through good worship songs today into people’s hearts who don’t believe it. I mean, Matt Redman’s song, Blessed Be Your Name, which is old and worn now, is an unbelievably powerful song for Arminians to sing, and it was being sung all over the place for a decade.

When things are bright, blessed be your name. When things are dark, blessed be your name. He gives and takes away. One of the first times I ever heard that song, Dustin Shramek was sitting near the front and was home from the mission field having lost his baby. It was their first baby, and it was in a crisis pregnancy center in Syria. They had to go to Turkey, and they lost the baby in Turkey, and I had my hands out like this. Here’s how I think that song should be sung. I’m really picky about how things should be done.

There’s usually a hard, drum-driven, loud bridge, but when you get to singing that part, I think everything should change right there, and it often doesn’t. Song leaders don’t seem to get it. This is my interpretation. They don’t seem to get that at that moment, you’re putting your baby on the altar. It doesn’t sound hard, driving, or loud. At that moment, you’re taking the baby, and you’re putting the baby on the altar. When my hands are out like this and I’m singing, “He gives and takes away,” I’ve got my dad in mind, or I have my mom in mind. I’ve got my little granddaughter Felicity in mind. I’ve got Dustin’s baby in mind. I’ve got dying saints in my church in mind. This is powerful. I am saying, “Blessed be your name for these dead ones that you took early.’

So write those songs. Write those songs, if they don’t exist, that put compelling tunes together with such compelling, well-crafted lyrics and such profound theology that our people love to sing them, and therefore, find it very hard to resist the biblical truth in them when they might have resisted it in our sermons. So, this partnership is huge guys. It’s really huge.

The name of this class at Bethlehem is Expository Exaltation: Preaching in the Worship Life of the Church, or something like that. I view my job on Sunday morning as seeking to help the worship leader — of which I am one — so that what we do in song is real. Maybe one more question from the sermon last night and then I’m going to shift gears.

Brought to the Peaks of God’s Majesty

Last night, there were those who picked up on you celebrating God’s love for us, care for us, embrace of us, protection of us, and resting in the care that God gives us, and they didn’t seem to break through to where you were trying to take them. How should we be patient with those people in our preaching and also lead them on?

You’re asking my front-burner question. The closest I came to it last night was by saying that it may take time. There may be a person standing on the edge of the Grand Canyon who has been brought there to feel awe at the depth and width and ancient majesty of it, and they may feel so insecure on the edge they can’t see anything great at all.

That’s a picture of broken people in your church that you want to be freed to magnify God and his majesty and his full, free sovereignty, but they’re so wrapped up in their little world of insecurities. Maybe their dad never loved them and smacked them around, and they think, “God could never care for me.” And along comes a preacher who says, “He sent his Son to die for you. He will befriend you. No longer does he call you slaves. He calls you sons. He’s got his arms around you. You’re safe. You won’t fall into the canyon. He’s not feeling contempt for you,” and that feels so good that my pushing them to see more can almost be offensive to them. It is offensive to some.

Helping the Weak

My answer to that is that it might take time, and they need to see fruit in you and me that this pursuit of more of God produces more in us, and that the time will come when feeling loved, secure, and tenderly embraced will be sweet but won’t be enough because it’s not the whole biblical story of how he loves us. There is greatness in God. There’s Isaiah 40. I mean, these majestic parts of the Bible are not in the Bible because they’re distracting from embrace or from intimacy. I think I’m more patient now than I used to be because I’ve watched enough broken people be driven away from me by my pushing them toward the majesty, and for whatever reason, they can’t see it. It does not feel satisfying to them.

Everything intimate, tender, attentive, and warm feels like the God they want, and John Piper’s big, majestic, holy, sovereign God feels distant and unattractive. So they think, “Why would I want to go there? Why would I want to hang out there?” You have to be you as well. What hits you? I am who I am. I probably have majored on this for 30 or 40 years largely because of what has moved, helped, and blessed me and been my portion, and I’ve had to learn maybe the other direction. At 64, I think I know how to enjoy and commend the friendship of Christ more than maybe 30 years ago.

So, we want to be biblical. I don’t know if that was helpful. Let’s stop there. We could talk about that sermon, I’m sure, all morning long.

Proclamation: The Place of Preaching in Changing People

Let’s go to section four in your outline. How are people changed into the image of Christ? I assume you would agree with me that all preaching in its magnification of the glory of the grace of God, supremely manifest in Christ crucified and risen, is aimed to change people into people who do praise that, who live lives in such a way that their marriage, parenting, work, and church life reflect what happens in their heart when that is praised and known.

When the glory of God, the grace of God, and the friendship of God permeate us and become our treasure, changes happen, and they should. You have Ephesians 1–3, and then you have Ephesians 4–6. Ephesians 4–6 is that you should walk worthy of this glorious calling that Paul just unpacked for three chapters (Ephesians 4:1). Walk. Live worthy. So, you’ve got to decide profoundly, how do people change? You have to settle it. Is preaching important in that, or is counseling all they need? Do I just toss a pebble out there and think the real work is done at $150 an hour with the professionals because I can’t change anybody? Should I think, “Preaching doesn’t change people; counseling changes people.”

I believe with all my heart in the essential role of one-another ministry in small groups in the local church. Call them whatever you want. All I mean is some smaller structure than corporate worship where saints gather to do all the one-anothering. Things like:

  • Exhort one another” (Hebrews 3:13).
  • Admonish one another” (Colossians 3:15–16).
  • “Teach one another” (Romans 15:14).
  • “Pray for one another” (James 5:16).
  • “Love one another” (John 13:34).
  • “Rebuke one another” (Matthew 18:15).

All these other commandments don’t happen in corporate worship. It’s only one direction because I’m preaching. I tell our small group leaders when I meet with them to empower and encourage them, “You are essential. I cannot do the work of the ministry without you. I work to equip the saints to do the work of the ministry.” They facilitate the horizontal, one-another ministry in these groups, and they can break out into recovery-type groups, and that’s where real biblical counseling should be happening all the time without any charge so that our counselors are kept for the really tough, seemingly intractable things that we’re having trouble with.

But the meat and potatoes of human transformation is a combination of the Word proclaimed and the Word applied lived out together. You have to decide how important preaching is in that, how you help the church be structured into small groups with that, what the role of counseling is in that, and how transformation is brought about in this church. I just believe with all my heart that when Paul says to Timothy, “Preach the Word,” he thinks that preaching is essential in that, though it’s not the whole thing. It’s just an essential piece. Here is some biblical evidence that the word of God changes people.

The Effects of the Word

The truth of the Word awakens faith.

So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

And the context there is preaching. So, faith comes from the Word.

The truth of the Word frees us from sin.

You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free (John 8:32).

The context there is sin.

The truth of the Word frees from Satan.

And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will (2 Timothy 2:24–26).

We read that one already last night where you are apt to teach, and God may grant them repentance, but that was because we were not quarrelsome. We were kind. We were teaching.

The truth of the Word sanctifies.

Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth (John 17:17).

These things shape your prayers as you get up to preach. Do you believe that? When you preach this truth, your people will be sanctified.

The Aim of Our Charge

The truth of the Word frees us from corruption.

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire (2 Peter 1:3–4).

The truth of the Word serves love.

It is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment . . . (Philippians 1:9).

Why? Because you will love better. When my people have some knowledge and some discernment that comes through the imparting of the Word of God, they’ll love better.

The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith (1 Timothy 1:5).

When someone says, “How can I help people love each other?” Paul says, “Instruct them.” Isn’t that amazing?

The Saving Truth

The truth of the Word saves.

Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers (1 Timothy 4:16).

That’s just amazing. Paul is saying, “Watch your teaching because it leads to salvation.”

The truth of the Word gives joy.

These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full (John 15:11).

Do you want your people to transform from gloomy people who seem to never sing, who seem to be sad when they come to church, sad when they leave, and burdened and heavy? Do you want them to experience some release? Jesus spoke to fix that. The reason I gather these texts together is that I think there are so many tricks and things that people offer today to change people to make things better that aren’t truth-based. They’re not Word-driven. I’m seeing exactly the opposite here in the text.

Supplication: The Place of Prayer in Changing People

Now, that’s enough on proclamation. What about how people change? They change because you pray for them. Here, I’m just stirring in something that is not directly about preaching, but if you don’t pray as a preacher, you will probably be a powerless, man-centered, managerial, CEO-type who just runs a really slick organization, and it won’t have the feel of the supernatural about it.

We use the phrase at Bethlehem, or I do anyway, “I want prayer to be the visible engine of the power of the church.” So, I pray a lot. I pray before I preach. I pray at the end. I go to five half-hour prayer meetings every week — one on Tuesday morning, one on Wednesday evening at 5:30 p.m., one on Friday morning, one before the Saturday night service, and one before the Sunday morning service. So, I pray corporately with groups of people for two and a half hours a week. That does not include the staff meetings where we devote 45 minutes to an hour to word and prayer, and that doesn’t include elder meetings where we devote 45 minutes to an hour to word and prayer.

You can smell what drives an organization by how much time they spend praying, manifestly praying. You can always say, “Jesus told us not to pray on the corner, but to pray in the closet.” So, you really don’t know how much a church is praying. Well, if you don’t see people praying corporately — the early church prayed corporately — then you don’t have a lot of reason to believe there’s a lot of it going on privately.

If you really lean on him that way in prayer, it’s hard to just bluster into a meeting without it. I know I’m probably stepping on some of your toes. When I came to Bethlehem, early on I said, “Look, I know you’re used to starting and ending meetings in prayer, but I want to start meetings with seasons of prayer.”

Lingering in the Presence of God

When I came, there were no elders in our church. It took 10 years to get elders at Bethlehem. There was a Board of deacons, and it was a hybrid group. Some were elder-like, and some were deacons. That’s what I inherited. And there was a chairman, and the chairman would say, “Sam, would you open in prayer?” Sam would pray for 30 seconds or a minute, and sometimes, it sounded like he was really connected, and sometimes, it didn’t, and that went on for a season, and when I felt like I had some weight, I said, “Why don’t we not call on Sam to pray but just linger in the presence of the Lord. And anybody can pray who senses a leading to pray, and I’ll close.”

And then you just wait. And you expand that out, and you say, “What I’d like to do as we wait before the Lord and seek his face here for this meeting and for our church would be that any of you who brought anything from your morning time with the Lord, just read it to us, and let that form our prayer.” And this puts them under the thought, “What? I didn’t meet with the Lord this morning. I don’t have anything to bring right now.”

So, I would just encourage you to not be mechanical about praying, thinking, “We pray for 30 seconds at the beginning of a meeting and dedicate to the Lord.” Rather, think in terms of seasons of praying, whether five minutes, 10 minutes, half an hour, or whatever God leads in which nobody’s being named — “Mac, you pray, then you pray, and then you close.” I still go to a lot of groups where people do it that way, and that’s okay. It just feels like, “Well, what if I want to pray or what if they feel burdened to pray? Why are you appointing three people to pray here?” The reason is that people are nervous about silence. They’re nervous about extended times of, “What do you do here?”

Well, teach your people not to be afraid of silence. Teach your people to be in a small group, bow their heads, and have nothing happen for two minutes. If you tell them it’s okay, they’ll relax. God might show up in two minutes of silence. The tradition I grew up in feels a tremendous need to manage things, so to just get out of the way and let the Holy Spirit do a little something like we did here feels strange to them. It would be like the worship leader said here, “Just do something. If you’ve got something to say to the Lord, about the Lord, go ahead. Say it now. I’m going to be saying my thing.” Let that kind of freedom weave its way into everything. All that to say supplication really matters and why it does.

Praying According to Our Needs

What do you pray for?

I — Incline My Heart to Your Word

I pray for the desire of my heart toward God and his Word.

Incline my heart to your testimonies,
     and not to selfish gain! (Psalm 119:36).

One of the most common prayers you should pray as a preacher is that God would incline your heart to his Word. If you think that your excitement about the Word today is going to for sure be there tomorrow, why do you think that? It might not be. This love for the Lord, this zeal, is very fragile. I pray this prayer as often as any prayer, I suppose, except maybe, “Hallowed be thy name.” I pray, “Incline my heart.” Do you get the picture there? The heart is like a pendulum, and it can incline toward wanting the world, money, sex, fame, comfort, a better life, or better kids. It says, “I want, I want, I want, I want,” and it’s just all world, and you’re praying, “God, incline it.”

How does God do that? He pushes it, and there go your affections and your emotions, and he’s inclining it. Then you are saying, “I love God. I love his Word. I love his Spirit. I love his influence. I love his glory. I love his hope. I love heaven. I love the ministry. Thank you, God.” And now, you’re alive.

Do you pray that way? The psalmist did, and I’m so glad he did because that means real Christians struggle with the inclination of their will. You get up in the morning with no inclination for the Word of God, and you’re a pastor. You’re dead. What are you going to do? If that stays, you’re done. You’re done. It’s over and you sell insurance now, and therefore, you’re scared.

You go to your knees, and you say, “Oh God, awaken. Incline my heart back to your Word. Make me love your Word.” So, pray that a lot for yourself and for your people if they don’t seem inclined to the Word.

O — Open My Eyes

Pray for the eyes of the heart to be opened.

Open my eyes, that I may behold
     wondrous things out of your law (Psalm 119:18).

So, he’s inclined you to the Word, and now, you’re staring at the Word, and you’re not seeing anything wonderful. Well, you pray about that. You pray, “Open my eyes,” and when you get up to preach, you pray for your people, saying, “Oh God, open their eyes this morning so that when I speak wonders from your Word that you showed me this week, and that have thrilled me, they may see what I have seen and feel what I have felt and more.” You pray that way because only God can do this.

Telling the right story and alluding to the right TV program is not going to do this spiritual miracle. Seeing wonderful things in the Word, the law, the instruction of God, is a miracle. Pray for your heart to be enlightened with these wonders. This is Ephesians 1:18, and Paul is praying it for Christians:

[I pray for] the eyes of your hearts enlightened . . .

He prays for the eyes of the heart. Teach your people they have eyes in their hearts. Jesus said, “Seeing they do not see” (Matthew 13:13). What did he mean by that? He meant, “Here I am, the Son of God, standing in front of them. They see me, and they don’t see me,” and that happens every time we preach. We put into words the beauties of Christ, and people hear it, and they don’t hear it.

What you pray is for the eyes of their hearts, not their heads, to be enlightened. The eyes of their head are doing fine. The ears of their head are doing fine. The brain in their head is doing fine, but the mind of the spirit, the eyes of the heart, and the ears of the heart are not doing fine. They’re dead or dull. They’re so angry at their wife sitting next to them that they can’t hear you at all. They went to bed on their anger last night. They gave Satan a foothold, and he’s got him just like this morning, and they need to resist the devil. And they need you to resist him for them and plead with God to open their eyes.

Paul prayed for his churches, the Ephesian church, that the eyes of their heart would be opened (Ephesians 1:18). You should pray that way for your preaching to be effective.

U — Unite My Heart to Fear Your Name

Psalm 86:10 says:

Teach me your way, O Lord,
     that I may walk in your truth;
     unite my heart to fear your name.

I pray this often because my heart is so fragmented. This says, “Unite in my heart.” It’s going in pieces. It’s going after my kids. It’s going after my wife. It’s going after finances. It’s just going every which way, and I need my heart to be united.

S — Satisfy Me with Your Steadfast Love

Are you satisfied in God? Pray:

Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love (Psalm 90:14).

Now, some of you are familiar, perhaps, that there is hidden in here an acronym (IOUS). I come up with little acronyms like this because I’m such an amazing forgetter. I’ve been studying the Bible for 50 years, and there are moments when I feel either attacked by the devil, threatened by some temptation, or dull in my spirit, knowing that I need the Word of God to fight the devil, and I can’t think of a single verse. Isn’t that awesome?

The brain goes blank. It goes blank, and you want to pray Bible, and for whatever reason, your mind is so fragmented, so distracted, so dull, and so numb that nothing is coming to mind out of all of these 1,200 pages. That’s scary. So, I come up with these little acronyms to help me break through. So it goes I — incline; O — open; U — unite; and S — satisfy. I pray that over and over again because I’m fighting for my life.

Demonstration: The Place of Exemplary Behavior in Changing People

If I die or if you die, your church is profoundly wounded, maybe destroyed. So, your life is hugely important, and you pray for its sustaining, and there’s lots more here. I think I’m going to pass on the rest of these texts. You can read them. I’m glad you have this stuff in your hand. Let me go to the third and last thing in this chapter about demonstration.

We’ve been talking about how people change. People change by proclamation; people change by supplication; and now, I’m arguing that people change by demonstration. Don’t exalt preaching so highly that it minimizes prayer, and don’t exalt preaching and prayer so highly that they minimize your example — your living before the people — and don’t do the reverse either.

There’s a lot of talk out there today about how people need to see the church serving the world, and let’s just go blank on proclamation. That’s just a terrible either-or that you shouldn’t buy into. It’s both-and. So, here are the biblical texts that show that God has ordained the way we live and the way we love to change people.

Let your light so shine before others that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven (Matthew 5:16).

Presumably, these people were at one point not giving glory to God, at least not as much as they should, and when they saw your light and the light that was manifest in your behavior (sacrificial, loving works), they saw God. Now, that’s a miracle, and one of the biggest questions you’re going to have to face as a leader is, “How do you help your people be the kind of people who do works in such a way that the world gives God glory and not them?”

I used to be a part of a fellowship of pastors in downtown churches. There were about a dozen big downtown churches in Minneapolis, and there were only two evangelicals — two people who believed in the Bible and believed that Jesus rose from the dead in that group — and the rest were so liberal.

But you know what those liberal people did all the time? Good deeds. They were talking about homelessness and alcoholism and good deeds for the city, just endless good deeds. This is what they lived for. Everything else was mythology. So, the reality in their lives was, “We’re the do-gooders” — that is, “We do good for people.” But the catch is that when the Minneapolis Star Tribune wrote articles about them, they never gave glory to God. They said things like, “This is a faith-based blah, blah, blah.”

Salt and Light

Now, fundamentalists historically swung in the other direction, right? They saw that liberals do social service and care about justice issues and homelessness, and clearly, God’s getting no glory for that, and they don’t do it for any biblical reason to magnify Christ and his cross. They’re not broken for their sin. They don’t believe in God opposing sinners. That’s what they live for — making life better here because there’s no such thing as heaven or hell anyway. The fundamentalists don’t want to do that, so they go over here, and they just talk about conversion. But the Bible won’t let us do that. The miracle is, how do you help people do good works in a way that gives your Father glory and not just themselves?

I’d love to linger there on the context of Matthew 5:16. I would encourage you to trace the argument from 5:11–16 and consider where it says, “You’re the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14), and, “You’re the salt of the earth” (Matthew 5:13). Most people that I hear talking about the church being the light of the world and the salt of the earth jump immediately to the function of light and the function of salt and try to figure that out. They think, “Okay, salt tastes good, and salt preserves, and salt was used for fertilizer. So, let’s talk about that.” They don’t even look at the context. They don’t look at the flow. We’re going to talk about flow shortly. Here’s my little take on this for you to consider:

Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you (Matthew 5:11–12).

And then he goes right into saying, “You are the salt of the earth” (Matthew 5:13), and, “You are the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14). I think the saltiness of the church and the brightness of the church are people who are maintaining their radiant joy while serving others and being persecuted for Christ’s sake. That’s inexplicable to the world. He says, “Rejoice in that day when they persecute you and revile you and say all kinds of evil against you falsely.” That’s how you’re the salt of the earth. Those are the saltiest people you will ever meet.

I don’t know if you’ve seen End of the Spear, the movie about the death of the five missionaries down in Ecuador. Here they come with their spears and here are these five guys with kids, and they have guns, and instead of taking out these three or four natives, they shoot them in the air, and the spears stuck into them. And you see Jim Elliot get impaled with the spear, and he falls back in the sand, and the Huaorani man comes over him, and he was whispering a few words that he learned in Huaorani, which I think meant, “I love you” or something.

That’s salt. Just as the blood is gurgling up out of his mouth and he’s dying, he says, “I came for you.” That’s salt. That’s light. That’s inexplicable. That’s utterly different. Anybody can produce a homeless shelter, but they can’t stay happy in producing a homeless shelter when they’re criticized for doing it for Jesus’s sake and they’re radiant.

The Vital Ministry of Demonstration

You get the idea. Demonstration really, really, really matters. Paul says, “Be imitators of me just as I am of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1). Hebrews 6:11–12 says:

And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.

You as a pastor have a tremendous burden. You are an example to your people. Scary, isn’t it? I’m going to stop there on how people change. The point was that proclamation really matters, and the Bible clearly says that truth sets people free (John 8:32). Supplication really matters. We pray, “Incline their hearts and my heart because if you don’t work and open the eyes of the heart, we won’t change at all.” And demonstration really matters. And here’s one more text on that I passed over too quickly. Few verses on sanctification have had more influence on me than 2 Corinthians 3:18. It says:

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

By beholding we are being transformed. You say, “Seeing is believing,” but beholding is becoming. If I understand that, the key to profound and lasting transformation in our people is to help them see glory. You can see how definitive that is for me. As you go down into 2 Corinthians 4:4–6, it’s the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ who is the image of God. This glory here in 2 Corinthians 3:18 is glory seen in the gospel. We must unpack Christ’s work.

Let’s pause for a question or two before we move on to the next one. Anything on proclamation, supplication, or demonstration as a means to how our people change?

Beholding the Glory of Christ

Question: What do you do to encourage believers to behold the glory of Christ? What does that look like?

Answer: What I mean by behold is what they do when you’re preaching. You’re praying that the eyes of their heart be opened. They behold with these eyes first, or their ears or brain. They’re processing your grammar, your exegesis, your stories and illustrations, and the sequence of your thought. They’re processing all of that, and that is the prerequisite of the heart seeing. You’re praying that the eyes of their heart would open. You ask that they would behold glory, beauty, something compelling, something infinitely valuable because my goal in preaching is that the people treasure something, not just that they know something. I want them to treasure something.

They came into the room treasuring money, or treasuring sex, or treasuring a new job, or treasuring power and popularity. They were treasuring something that was governing their behavior. I want them to treasure more, and the way you treasure something is by seeing it. The kingdom of heaven is like a man who found a treasure hidden in a field, and he opened it, and he saw that this is valuable (Matthew 13:44). How do you know that he saw it as valuable? He went and sold everything he had. I want people to see that value, so I’m preaching in a way that commends the worth of Christ, the worth of God.

Now, besides my preaching, I am going to try to help them read their Bibles on their own. I try to preach in a way that models for the people how to read the Bible. I want enough of how I found my points in the text to be visible in my preaching so that they will be able to spot the same indicators and do the same thing. So you are training them in reading their Bibles.

Thirdly, I want them in small groups, so that they point each other to beautiful things, and hear testimonies from another person about what they’ve seen in Christ and in the world. Maybe the fuller answer to your question will come when we get to this next unit about how the pastor fights for joy and how he helps his people fight for joy. That’s really a question of how you see. How do you see glory? How do you behold?

How a Pastor Fights for Joy

This next unit about how a pastor fights for joy is so big it could consume the rest of our day, and I was debating last night, “What do I do with this? How do I do this?” What I’m going to do is move fairly quickly through it for two reasons. First, you have it all there in written form. Second, I wrote a book called When I Don’t Desire God: How to Fight for Joy. That book is these 15 things expanded to 250 pages, more or less, because over the years what I found was that when I preached on the role of the affections in the life of the Christian, and that God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him, people came to me and said, “That sounds biblically right, but I don’t have those affections for God. What can I do?” That’s what this is, because pastors feel the same way from time to time. We go up and down.

So, that became a book, and it’s this part of the talk, and probably, we’ll fill up the remainder of our time here, although maybe we shouldn’t let it given how much more there is to do. Let me zip through these. I circled one evidence for each one. Let me see if I can just tick these off quickly.

Here’s the reason for this in a class on preaching, if someone were to ask, “Why do you have a section like this in a class on preaching? This sounds like just sanctification for everybody.” Well, it is. The reason is that preaching is absolutely dependent on your being in a vital, joyful communion with Jesus Christ. If preaching becomes mechanical for you — you collect your stories, do your exegesis, make your doctrinal points, and call for some change — and there is no powerful affectionate relation to Christ, I don’t think it’s preaching. It’s something else. So, maintaining your joy is essential to preaching. This is fighting for your life.

1. Realize That Authentic Joy in God Is a Gift

Step one, realize that authentic joy in God is a gift. The fruit of the Spirit is joy (Galatians 5:22). So, in a sense, it is out of your control, but only in a sense because even God’s gifts sovereignly given by the Spirit are to be pursued along certain paths.

2. Realize That Joy Must Be Fought for Relentlessly

Realize that joy must be fought for relentlessly. I think this is one of the most important verses in the Bible on the role of a pastor. Second Corinthians 1:24 says:

Not that we lord it over your faith, but we work with you for your joy.

Isn’t it amazing that Paul says, “He works for their joy?” Do you? Is that your self-conscious job description, that you are preaching for the joy of your people? That’s mine. I want to wean them off the joy of television, wean them off the joy of movies, wean them off the joy in the internet, wean them off the joy of food, and wean them off the joy of workaholism onto joy in Christ so that everything changes. It’s a joy issue.

3. Resolve to Attack All Known Sin in Your Life

Hidden sins, coddled sins that you know are there and you don’t make war on will undo you, and I don’t just mean bring you to adultery or embezzlement someday. I mean, they will be an ongoing laming and maybe deadening of your life.

If you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live (Romans 8:13).

That is what I’m going to preach on tomorrow morning — putting to death the deeds of the body. John Owen said, “Be killing sin, or sin will be killing you.”

4. Learn the Secret of Gutsy Guilt — How to Fight like a Justified Sinner

5. Realize That the Battle Is Primarily a Fight to See God for Who He Is

We just talked about that on the basis of this text, which we just read. The main battle in life for you, every time you read your Bible, or for your people every time they hear a sermon, is, do they see him? Is God merciful and powerful in and through us so that the words we speak break through to actual spiritual sight? If you’ve never read Jonathan Edward’s sermon A Divine and Supernatural Light, Immediately Imparted to the Soul, there isn’t much more outside the Bible that’s more important that you could read.

Preaching is like the incarnation. Jesus comes into the world, and he’s really God, really man, and he’s walking through the world, and some see him and some don’t. “We beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). Well, so did the Pharisees, but they didn’t. They did, and they didn’t. So, what makes the difference? This is a real struggle for me because if you read books on preaching, they’ll always say, including my own, “Do this and this and this and this and this,” and the assumption is that if you do those things, more good things will happen in your people than if you don’t, as though Jesus could do more to help the Pharisees get over their blindness. And it’s true.

External Changes Alter Internal States

Do you remember what he said?

Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you.

Do you see what that implies? It implies that if the deeds done in Chorazin and Bethsaida had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented. And of course, the natural question is, “Well, why didn’t you do those deeds? If you’re telling them that if these deeds that you did here would have been done there, they would have repented, why didn’t you do them?” Do you know what I’m saying? We could think, “Well, Jesus do them!” And he didn’t. He said, “Judgment’s going to be worse for you. I didn’t do all I could have done.”

This was judgment on them. But what it does show is that external changes alter internal states. So, a word you choose in a sermon, a fresh new word, might penetrate to produce repentance, which if you hadn’t spoken it wouldn’t. Isn’t that awesome? And yet, you don’t want to say their repentance is dependent on you. But if you didn’t believe in some sense it was, you wouldn’t be preaching. This is really heavy.

The battle is a fight to see God in and through his Word, and so words that are chosen are important. If we have time, I’ll talk about the kinds of words we use, and it’s so dangerous to do that because then you’ll think, “If I’m clever enough, or shrewd enough, or sharp enough, or if I’m like C.S. Lewis or G.K. Chesterton enough, then my words will really have some clip to them, and they’ll awaken people, and people will get saved and sanctified, and marriages will be made better.” There’s something right about that and something so dangerously wrong about that. The words we use matter and yet, they’re not ultimate. God opens the eyes.

6. Meditate on the Word of God Day and Night.

These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full (John 15:11).

So if you want joy, as Jesus said, “I spoke to you for your joy,” then surely, you’re going to spend a lot of time focusing on what Jesus said. That’s huge.

7. Pray Earnestly and Continually for Open Heart-Eyes and an Inclination for God

We’ve already talked about the role of prayer, so I’m skipping that one.

8. Learn to Preach to Yourself Rather Than Listen to Yourself.

David is speaking to himself in Psalm 42:5–6 and says:

Why are you cast down, O my soul,
     and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
     my salvation and my God.

Martin Lloyd Jones has this great quote on preaching to yourself, not listening to yourself. I think my discouragements in my family often are deepened and sustained by the fact that I get into a frame that’s so ugly because I’m angry at my wife or a child or somebody, and I’m angry at what they did. I feel very justified in viewing this as wrong, and I’ve been wronged, and it seems so right to feel this way, and it is deadening my spirit; it is dominating my emotions. I am not feeling compassion. I am not feeling joyful in God. I am feeling justifiably angry, and I don’t want to preach the Gospel to myself because it will deliver me from what I’m savoring at that moment. I’m savoring being hurt. I’m savoring self-pity. It feels right. I feel good at that moment to be that angry and to be that discouraged because if I preach the Gospel to myself and begin to respond in a positive and hopeful way here, it will look as though I wasn’t really wronged.

Oh, this is subtle. So, preaching the gospel to yourself is not always an easy thing to do. Emotionally, sometimes you feel like it’s impossible to do because if you start preaching good news to yourself, you might start being happy, and if you start being happy at that moment, it’s going to look like it’s glossing over the injustice that was done to you, and if that gets glossed over, it’s just going to confirm that in that person, and they will go on. Do you see how amazingly subtle this is?

9. Spend Time with God-Saturated People Who Help You See God and Fight the Fight

I just put Hebrews 3:12–13 here to exhort one another every day. This is brotherly camaraderie — Acts 29, or whatever you have in your town, or whoever you have in your staff. Wherever you can get it, get it. Be around God-saturated people, so that you get help. When they’re up and you’re down, they lift you up.

10. Be Patient in the Night of God’s Seeming Absence

There are going to be times, brothers, in the ministry when he seems very far away. You may say in your head, “He’s not far because he said, ‘I’ll never leave you, and I’ll never forsake you (Hebrews 13:5)’, and ‘I’ll be with you to the end of the age’ (Matthew 28:20).” You’ll say that in your head, and you won’t feel it. What do you do? Well, you do what David did:

I waited patiently for the Lord (Psalm 40:1).

How long? It doesn’t say, and I’m so thankful it doesn’t say. Was it a day? A week? A month? A year? Sooner or later, David says, “He inclined to me. He heard my cry” (Psalm 40:2). So, you’re crying while you’re down there. You’re crying really, and you’re crying out to him. He continues to say:

He drew me up from the pit of destruction,
     out of the miry bog,
and set my feet upon a rock,
     making my steps secure (Psalm 40:3).

It was pit-like. It was destruction-like. It was miry. You can’t even move. Do you ever have one of those dreams? I don’t know if I’m weird like this, but when I was a kid, I had repeated dreams about either being chased or being in some dangerous situation, and I couldn’t move. I could only move my arms a little bit. So, I felt like, “I can’t do anything.”

That’s something like how we feel spiritually. David says, “He set my feet upon a rock” (Psalm 40:2), not quicksand. Though it was feeling like mire and quicksand, now it’s on a rock. He says, “He made my step secure” (Psalm 40:2), though beforehand while I was waiting patiently, I felt fragile. I felt vulnerable. He says, “He put a new song in my mouth” (Psalm 40:3). It wasn’t any song. I wasn’t singing down there. I was horribly depressed. It’s a song of praise to our God (Psalm 40:3). And here’s the outcome in Psalm 40:3. It’s beautiful:

Many will see and fear,
     and put their trust in the Lord.

So, the reason God had left him for a season while he was waiting patiently for the Lord is so that evangelism would happen. That’s not the only thing he does through your difficulties. I hope you all are the kind of lovers of God’s sovereignty that can say to yourself and preach to yourself in the seasons of darkness when you can’t see any good reason why this should be happening that there are good reasons, and you’ll see them sooner or later.

11. Get the Rest, Exercise, and Proper Diet That Your Body Was Designed by God to Have

Busy pastors, especially if they’re not into sports, find it very difficult to sustain regular exercise. I have a treadmill, and I built a little room in the attic for it. It’s a getaway room. It’s an exercise room. It’s like the upper room, prayer room. And when I’m home, I run on it three days a week for 30 minutes and listen to Mark Driscoll, and lots of other preachers that feed my soul. I just beat my body as hard as it will take. I also have a Swiss Exercise Ball up there because I’ve got a bad lower back, and I lay on it to do an exercise, and I do push-ups, and I do wall sits with the ball against the wall, and then I do stomach crunches by laying on it backward and going up and down. This takes about 40 minutes, three times a week.

I think my sanity depends on it. I don’t think this is a luxury. This is necessary. This is spiritually necessary. I do not understand the brain. I don’t know what endorphins are or anything like that. I just know that if I enter a season where I don’t exercise it isn’t good. I’m in one right now because I went to Cairo last week, and I didn’t jog at all. So, I’ve gone for about 10–15 days now, and I did not run at all.

When I get home on Tuesday, I’m hitting the treadmill big-time to try to make up for lost time. Just know yourself. Find what works for you. A lot of guys just say, “Nothing works for me,” and they don’t do it, and they slip into modes like that. They go for months like that, and then they begin to gain weight, and then they get discouraged, and then their heart goes bad and their knees give out on them, and they set a bad witness. This is a big deal.

Training the Body and the Fruit of the Spirit

Now, theologically, here’s the catch. I once struggled with the truth that patience is a fruit of the Spirit according to Galatians 5:22. The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, etc., and the fact is that patience is a fruit of sleep. If I go without sleep for a number of nights, if I get four or five hours of sleep instead of the seven or eight that I need — and I do need that much — I get crabby. I get short-tempered with my wife. Well, now, wait a minute. Is patience the fruit of sleep or the fruit of the Spirit? That’s the interplay that we’re facing all the time. Are you saying that there are spiritual things that happen by getting exercise and spiritual things that happen by eating well rather than eating stupidly? I’m saying, “Yes.” It’s not the ultimate explanation, but I can’t escape it.

So, the way I put the two together that it’s the fruit of the Spirit is that the Spirit doesn’t just produce patience by snapping its finger over an impatient soul that hasn’t gotten sleep. The Spirit also produces patience by giving me the humility to go to bed on time. The internet is a great sleep robber, guys. You know it is because the thing is so unbelievably, endlessly fascinating that it’s hard to turn it off — so is the television, and so is a good book that you’re reading or anything else. I had a friend one time who said, “When it comes to getting the right amount of sleep in my life, it’s not difficult to get up in the morning. Everybody knows that when that alarm goes off at 6:00 a.m. or 6:30 a.m. or 7:00 a.m. or whatever it’s hard, but you will always do it. You always do it because you have to be at work, or you have an appointment. You have a breakfast meeting or something. So, you force yourself to do it.”

But in the evening, nobody’s making you turn anything off at 10:00 p.m. That’s where the battle is fought. Turn off the television. Stop reading the book. Stop surfing the internet, and get your pajamas on. Sit in bed. Read something boring and then fall asleep. Here’s a little tip by the way, and it’s almost sacrilegious to say it after that sentence. If you read your Bible at night, you win both ways because Satan, first of all, doesn’t want you reading the Bible, and second, he doesn’t want you to sleep. So, he’s trapped. Either he’s going to help you not read the Bible by getting sleepy, which is exactly what you need, or he’s going to keep you awake to make you miserable, but he’s going to lose by having you read the Bible.

I think that’s a great trick to use on the devil. So, sit up in bed if you’re not sleepy, and read Leviticus or any part of the Bible. Or maybe read something more immediately edifying, and then you win either way. It may seem like a funny emphasis in a class on preaching, but you can kill yourself early. I don’t want you to die early. You can kill yourself before you die by making yourself miserable physically, and I just believe there are mysteries in our body that have to do with our spirits that nobody understands but God.

12. Make a Proper Use of God’s Revelation in Nature

Psalm 19:1 says:

The heavens declare the glory of God,
     and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.

If that’s true, God intends you to look at it. And then just broaden that out to every magnificent thing in nature. Get the BBC DVD series called The Earth and The Blue Planet, and there are others. Then sit down and worship for about six hours with whales, squid, mountain lions, seals, and mating slugs that are so unbelievably beautiful in the way they do it. I mean, the wonders that are in the world. Of course, it’s silly to send you to a DVD. Here, you are sitting in your dark living room watching a DVD instead of going outside and just looking at every plant in the neighborhood, looking at every tree, looking at every cloud, and looking at every mountain.

A Stiff Walk in the Wind’s Face

If you’re the most urban guy in the world, you can find something God made to be marveling at. C.S. Lewis is a great helper here. Poetry is a great help here, and this quote from Spurgeon who’s one of the great seers is good:

A day’s breathing of fresh air upon the hills, or a few hours’ ramble in the beech woods’ umbrageous calm, would sweep the cobwebs out of the brain of scores of our toiling ministers who are now but half alive. A mouthful of sea air, or a stiff walk in the wind’s face, would not give grace to the soul, but it would yield oxygen to the body, which is the next best . . .

Now, I’m not so sure that a walk in the wind’s face would not give grace to the soul. What he wants to preserve there is the uniqueness of God in the impartation of grace, but God uses means. What if while walking on the beach, a wind hits you in the face, and the power of the wind and the coolness of the wind awakens a memory of wind on the Sea of Galilee? I just think there are a hundred ways the wind might awaken grace.

If what’s happening right at that moment is depression about your marriage, and all you can feel is discouragement about ministry and marriage and kids, and you decide to just go walk and hope that something might happen, and you’re walking, who’s to say that the wind hitting you in the face, making chill bumps going down your arm, and the invisibility of it and the power of it suddenly awakened something in you that is bigger than your problems? It might be an avenue of grace.

I just believe nature is given to us according to Psalm 19:1 to do that sort of thing. So, don’t read all your books and hunker down in your study and watch TV and never go out into this incredible drama called the world and see.

13. Read Great Books about God and Biographies of Great Saints

We’ll talk more about the intellectual life of the preacher shortly.

14. Do the Hard and Loving Thing for the Sake of Others — Witness and Mercy

Sometimes, we are hindered from the full experience of the grace of God because we are shirking some difficult ministerial tasks. We just don’t like it. We don’t want to do it. It’s a visitation we have to make. It’s a call we have to make. It’s an evangelistic opportunity we need to engage in. It’s a paper we need to write. It’s a proposal or something that we just know, “We have to do this,” and we won’t do it. It might be a ministerial thing that’s clearly loving for our church, and we need to push through, rely upon grace, get it done, and the finishing of it releases us from a burden that God meant to lift that way.

15. Get a Global Vision for the Cause of Christ and Pour Yourself out for the Unreached

Here’s Jay Campbell White. We’ll close with this:

Most men are not satisfied with the permanent output of their lives. Nothing can wholly satisfy the life of Christ within his followers except the adoption of Christ’s purpose toward the world he came to redeem. Fame, pleasure and riches are but husks and ashes in contrast with the boundless and abiding joy of working with God for the fulfillment of his eternal plans. The men who are putting everything into Christ’s undertaking are getting out of life its sweetest and most priceless rewards.

In other words, a vision of the global work of God and your part in it is a great awakening instrument in God’s hands. I’m going to let Rick tell us how long we’re going to break here in a minute, but let me pray with you, and given what I’m dealing with this voice, it might be better if I just sit quietly for 10 minutes instead of talking. I would much rather talk to you, but I think if I’m going to make it for another hour and a half, I better be quiet for a few minutes.