John Piper The Supremacy of God in Preaching

03/05/2013

The two lectures that make up the text of this book are concerned with making the glory of God our goal in preaching:

Is this what people take away from worship nowadays – a sense of God, a note of sovereign grace, a theme of panoramic glory, the grand object of God’s infinite Being? Do they enter for one hour in the week – not an excessive expectation – into an atmosphere of the holiness of God which leaves its aroma on their lives all week long? p. 22.

Two obstacles to the goal of preaching are the righteousness of God (how can he give his glory to sinners) and the pride of man (how can we give glory to God), and both are met in the cross of Christ. It “overcomes the objective, external obstacle of God’s righteous opposition to human pride, and it overcomes the subjective, internal obstacle of our proud opposition to God’s glory.

Our authority as preachers comes from the Scriptures with which God has entrusted us:

We are simply pulling rank on people when we tell them, and don’t show them from the text. p. 42.


Preaching and Perseverance

Preaching, following Jonathan Edwards here, is a grave task and the means God uses to enable the perseverance of the saints. It is a confirming ordinance more than a converting ordinance.

[Edwards] saw preaching as a means of grace to assist the saints to persevere, and perseverance as necessary for final salvation. Therefore every sermon is a “salvation sermon” – not just because of its aim to covert sinners, but also in its aim to preserve the holy affections of the saints and so enable them to confirm their calling and election, and be saved.Ibid., p. 80.

Again following Edwards, Piper ends with a list of ten marks of Good Preaching. Preacher, you and I must:

  • Aim to stir up holy affections [emotions] in the hearts of those who hear.
  • Enlighten the mind: “Heat and light; burning and shining; it is crucial to being light to the mind because affections that do not rise from the mind’s apprehension of truth that are not holy affections.” Ibid., p. 85.
  • Saturate with Scripture which means reading out and not merely citing them. (It was striking that Jay Adams’ book on preaching quoted every text cited, even if only as a footnote)
  • Use analogies and images. “[Edwards] knew that abstractions kindled few affections, and new affections was the goal of preaching.” (p. 88)
  • Use (biblical) threat and warning because the Bible does.
  • Plead for a response. “It is a tragedy to see pastors state the facts and then sit down. Good preaching pleads with people to respond to the word of God” Ibid., p. 95.
  • Probes the human heart, like surgery.
  • Yields to the Holy Spirit: “Good preaching is born of good praying” (100)
  • Is broken and tenderhearted. (For more on this see the more recent book by Paul Tripp, Dangerous Calling (First edn, IVP, 2012) Chapter 8) and my review here.
  • Be intense.

Compelling preaching gives the impression that something very great is at stake … Lack of intensity in preaching can only communicate that the preacher does not believe or has never been seriously gripped by the reality of which he speaks – or that the subject matter is insignificant. Piper, The Supremacy of God in Preaching, p. 103.

Conclusion

Who but preachers will look out over the wasteland of secular culture and say, “Behold your God!”? Who will tell the people that God is great and greatly to be praised? Who will paint for them the landscape of God’s grandeur?… Who will cry out above every crisis, “Your God reigns!”? Ibid., p. 109.

John Piper, The Supremacy of God in Preaching 2nd Revised edition ed. Kingsway Publications, 1998.

 

 


God is Sovereign – in practice

29/09/2011

Last week I preached on Romans 9, a great chapter with great truths.

This week Barry Cooper’s blog quoted this from J I Packer:

 

On Our Knees We Are All Agreed

by Barry Cooper
PRAY

“I do not intend to spend any time at all proving to you the general truth that God is sovereign in His world. There is no need; for I know that, if you are a Christian, you believe this already. How do I know that? Because I know that, if you are a Christian, you pray; and the recognition of God’s sovereignty is the basis of your prayers. In prayer, you ask for things and give thanks for things. Why? Because you recognize that God is the author and source of all the good that you have had already, and all the good that you hope for in the future.

…This is all luminously clear to us when we are actually praying, whatever we may be betrayed into saying in argument afterwards. In effect, therefore, what we do every time we pray is to confess our own impotence and God’s sovereignty. The very fact that a Christian prays is thus proof positive that he believes in the Lordship of his God.

Nor, again, am I going to spend time proving to you the particular truth that God is sovereign in salvation. For that, too, you believe already. Two facts show this. In the first place, you give God thanks for your conversion. Now why do you do that ? Because you know in your heart that God was entirely responsible for it. You did not save yourself; He saved you. Your thanksgiving is itself an acknowledgment that your conversion was not your own work, but His work. You do not put it down to chance or accident that you came under Christian influence when you did. You do not put it down to chance or accident that you attended a Christian church, that you heard the Christian gospel, that you had Christian friends and, perhaps, a Christian home, that the Bible fell into your hands, that you saw your need of Christ and came to trust Him as your Savior.

You do not attribute your repenting and believing to your own wisdom, or prudence, or sound judgment, or good sense. Perhaps, in the days when you were seeking Christ, you labored and strove hard, read and pondered much, but all that outlay of effort did not make your conversion your own work. Your act of faith when you closed with Christ was yours in the sense that it was you who performed it; but that does not mean that you saved yourself. In fact, it never occurs to you to suppose that you saved yourself.

As you look back, you take to yourself the blame for your past blindness and indifference and obstinacy and evasiveness in face of the gospel message; but you do not pat yourself on the back for having been at length mastered by the insistent Christ. You would never dream of dividing the credit for your salvation between God and yourself. You have never for one moment supposed that the decisive contribution to your salvation was yours and not God’s. You have never told God that, while you are grateful for the means and opportunities of grace that He gave you, you realize that you have to thank, not Him, but yourself for the fact that you responded to His call. Your heart revolts at the very thought of talking to God in such terms. In fact, you thank Him no less sincerely for the gift of faith and repentance than for the gift of a Christ to trust and turn to.

This is the way in which, since you became a Christian, your heart has always led you. You give God all the glory for all that your salvation involved, and you know that it would be blasphemy if you refused to thank Him for bringing you to faith. Thus, in the way that you think of your conversion and give thanks for your conversion, you acknowledge the sovereignty of divine grace. And every other Christian in the world does the same.

There is a second way in which you acknowledge that God is sovereign in salvation. You pray for the conversion of others. In what terms, now, do you intercede for them? Do you limit yourself to asking that God will bring them to a point where they can save themselves, independently of Him? I do not think you do. I think that what you do is to pray in categorical terms that God will, quite simply and decisively, save them: that He will open the eyes of their understanding, soften their hard hearts, renew their natures, and move their wills to receive the Savior. You ask God to work in them everything necessary for their salvation. You would not dream of making it a point in your prayer that you are not asking God actually to bring them to faith, because you recognize that that is something He cannot do. Nothing of the sort! When you pray for unconverted people, you do so on the assumption that it is in God’s power to bring them to faith. You entreat Him to do that very thing, and your confidence in asking rests upon the certainty that He is able to do what you ask.

And so indeed He is: this conviction, which animates your intercessions, is God’s own truth, written on your heart by the Holy Spirit. In prayer, then (and the Christian is at his sanest and wisest when he prays), you know that it is God who saves men; you know that what makes men turn to God is God’s own gracious work of drawing them to Himself; and the content of your prayers is determined by this knowledge. Thus, by your practice of intercession, no less than by giving thanks for your conversion, you acknowledge and confess the sovereignty of God’s grace. And so do all Christian people everywhere.

The situation is not what it seems to be. For it is not true that some Christians believe in divine sovereignty while others hold an opposite view. What is true is that all Christians believe in divine sovereignty, but some are not aware that they do, and mistakenly imagine and insist that they reject it.

…On our feet we may have arguments about it, but on our knees we are all agreed.”

(J. I. Packer, Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God, 17ff)


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