Christ Centered Preaching

Christ-Centered Preaching: Preparation and Delivery of Sermons

Here’s an outstanding lecture series resource on the preparation and delivery of sermons. It gives profound and vital insights into the preaching ministry. As the course curriculum states:

Dr. Bryan Chapell explores the unifying principle of grace that binds all Scripture together. He outlines and demonstrates the principles and practice of sermon crafting and delivery to illuminate the message of grace in each passage, and to submit it to God’s Spirit for the transformation of lives through preaching.

I would also VERY highly recommend Dr. Chapell’s book “Christ Centered Preaching” available from monergism books here.

Quotes to Ponder

Phil Vischer, co-creator of Veggie Tales:

“…realized I had spent 10 years trying to convince kids to behave Christianly without actually teaching them Christianity. And that was a pretty serious conviction. You can say, ‘Hey kids, be more forgiving because the Bible says so,’ or, ‘Hey kids, be more kind because the Bible says so!’ But that isn’t Christianity, it’s morality.”

“We’re drinking a cocktail that’s a mix of the Protestant work ethic, the American dream, and the gospel. And we’ve intertwined them so completely that we can’t tell them apart anymore. Our gospel has become a gospel of following your dreams and being good so God will make all your dreams come true. It’s the Oprah god. So I had to peel that apart. I realized I’m not supposed to be pursuing impact, I’m supposed to be pursuing God. And when I pursue God I will have exactly as much impact as He wants me to have.”

“I no longer use the word dream as a noun describing a goal. We misinterpret passages from the Bible like, “For lack of vision the people perish.” From that we run off and go, “Oh, we’ve got to have vision, we’ve got to have dreams!” … when we interpret that verse to apply to our ambitions, we’re completely misinterpreting it. A better, contemporary translation is, “For lack of revelation the people throw off restraint.”

We’re not called to be a people of vision, we’re called to be a people of revelation. God speaks and we follow. We’ve completely taken this Disney notion of “when you wish upon a star, your dreams come true” and melded that with faith and come up with something completely different. There’s something wrong in a culture that preaches nothing is more sacred than your dream. I mean, we walk away from marriages to follow our dreams. We abandon children to follow our dreams. We hurt people in the name of our dreams, which as a Christian is just preposterous.”

Miscellaneous Quotes (42)

“It is easier to cry against one-thousand sins of others than to kill one of your own… It is easier to declaim like an orator against a thousand sins in others than to mortify one sin in ourselves; to be more industrious in our pulpits than in our closets; to preach twenty sermons to our people than one to our own hearts.” – John Flavel

“The safest road to Hell is the gradual one – the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.” – C. S. Lewis

“Anxiety does not empty tomorrow of its sorrows, but only empties today of its strength.” Charles H. Spurgeon

“Before the foundation of the world, it was God’s will that Christ should suffer for our salvation — Can He damn thee, whom He hath redeemed from death, for whom He offered Himself, whose life He knows is the reward of His own death?” – Ambrose (A.D. 380)

“The new birth is the dividing line between Heaven and Hell. In God’s sight there are but two classes of people on this earth: those who are dead in sins, and those who are walking in newness of life… In view of this solemn fact, how momentous is the question, Have I been born again? If not, and you die in your present state, you will wish you had never been born at all.

Tens of thousands of professing Christians are filled with a vain and presumptuous confidence that all is well with them. They delude themselves with hopes of mercy while continuing to live in a course of self-will and self-pleasing. They fancy they are fitted for Heaven, while every day that passes finds them the more prepared for Hell.

The principal device of Satan is to deceive people into imagining that they can successfully combine the world with God, allow the flesh while pretending to the Spirit, and thus make the best of both worlds.” A. W. Pink from Regeneration or The New Birth

“God’s electing a certain definite number is a manifestation of His glory. It shows the glory of His divine sovereignty. God is declaring His absolute sovereignty over His creation. He is showing us just how far that sovereignty extends. In purposely choosing some and passing on others, He shows that His majesty and power are unparalleled. Those who do not see glory and dominion in election simply do not understand God. They are not aware of His greatness, and do not understand grace. Grace is defined in election. God chose His people to happiness and glory long before they were born. He chose them out of the mass of fallen mankind. He loved them before they knew Him. He chose them when they did not deserve to be chosen. That is grace! The doctrine of election shows that if those who received God’s grace had earnestly sought it, it was God’s grace that caused them to seek it. It shows that even their faith itself is the gift of God, and their persevering in a way of holiness unto glory is also the fruit of electing love. Believer’s love of God is the fruit of and because of God’s love to them. The giving of Christ, the preaching of the gospel, and the appointing of ordinances are all fruits of the grace of election. All the grace that is shown to mankind, either in this world or in the world to come, is comprised of the electing love of God.” – Jonathan Edwards, The Works of Jonathan Edwards volume 2 page 936 Sermon 13 in occasional sermons on 1 Peter 2

“Humanism was not invented by man, but by a snake who suggested that the quest for autonomy might be a good idea.” – R. C. Sproul

“I find it most true that the greatest temptation outside of hell is to live without temptations; if water stands, it rots; faith is the better for the sharp winter storm in its face and grace withers without adversity. The devil is but God’s master fencer to teach us to handle our weapons.” – Samuel Rutherford
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Recognize any of these lies?

Here’s a powerful musical/drama performance by the YPG in Houston. The song is called “In the Words of Satan” by The Arrows. Listen to the very strong lyrics…

Is the Bible full of errors?

Jonathan Dodson writes:

Most people question the reliability of the Bible. You’ve probably been in a conversation with a friend or met someone in a coffee shop who said, “How can you be a Christian when the Bible has so many errors?”

How should we respond? What do you say?

Instead of asking them to name an error, I suggest you name one or two of them. Does your Bible contain errors? Yes. The Bible that most people possess is a translation of the Greek and Hebrew copies of copies of the original documents of Scripture. As you can imagine, errors have crept in over the centuries of copying. Scribes fall asleep, misspell, take their eyes off the manuscript, and so on. I recommend telling people what kind of errors have crept into the Bible. Starting with the New Testament, Dan Wallace, New Testament scholar and founder of the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts, lists four types of errors in Understanding Scripture: An Overview of the Bible’s Origin, Reliability, and Meaning.

Types of Errors

1. Spelling and Nonsense Errors

These are errors that occur when a scribe wrote a word that makes no sense in its context, usually because they were tired or took their eyes off the page. Some of these errors are quite comical, such as “we were horses among you” (Gk. hippoi, “horses,” instead of ?pioi, “gentle,” or n?pioi, “little children”) in 1 Thessalonians 2:7 in one late manuscript. Obviously, Paul isn’t saying he acted like a horse among them. That would be self-injury! These kinds of errors are easily corrected.

2. Minor Changes

These minor changes are as small as the presence or absence of an article such as “the” or changed word order, which can vary considerably in Greek. Depending on the sentence, Greek grammar allows the sentence to be written up to 18 times, while still saying the same thing! So just because a sentence wasn’t copied in the same order, doesn’t mean that we lost the meaning.

3. Meaningful but Not Plausible

These errors have meaning but aren’t a plausible reflection of the original text. For example, 1 Thessalonians 2:9, instead of “the gospel of God” (the reading of almost all the manuscripts), a late medieval copy has “the gospel of Christ.” There is a meaning difference between God and Christ, but the overall manuscript evidence points clearly in one direction, making the error plain and not plausibly part of the original.

4. Meaningful and Plausible

These are errors that have meaning and that the alternate reading is plausible as a reflection of the original wording. These types of errors account for less than 1% of all variants and typically involve a single word or phrase. The biggest of these types of errors is the ending of the Gospel of Mark, which most contemporary scholars do not regard as original. Our translations even footnote that!

Is the Bible Reliable?

So, is the Bible reliable? Well, the reliability of our English translations depends largely upon the quality of the manuscripts they were translated from. The quality depends, in part, on how recent the manuscripts are. Scholars like Bart Ehrman have asserted that we don’t have manuscripts that are early enough. However, the manuscript evidence is quite impressive:

There are as many as 18 second-century manuscripts. If the Gospels were completed between AD 50–100, then this means that these early copies are within 100 years. Just recently, Dan Wallace announced that a new fragment from the Gospel of Mark was discovered dating back to the first century AD, placing it well within 50 years of the originals, a first of its kind. When these early manuscripts are all put together, more than 43% of the New Testament is accounted for from copies no later than the second century.

Manuscripts that date before AD 400 number 99, including one complete New Testament called Codex Sinaiticus. So the gap between the original, inerrant autographs and the earliest manuscripts is pretty slim. This comes into focus when the Bible is compared to other classical works that, in general, are not doubted for their reliability. In this chart of comparison with other ancient literature, you can see that the New Testament has far more copies than any other work, numbering 5,700 (Greek) in comparison to the over 200 of Suetonius. If we take all manuscripts into account (handwritten prior to printing press), we have 20,000 copies of the New Testament. There are only 200 copies of the earliest Greek work.

This means if we are going to be skeptical about the Bible, then we need to be thousands of times more skeptical about the works of Greco-Roman history. Or put another way, we can be a thousand times more confident about the reliability of the Bible. It is far and away the most reliable ancient document.

What to Say When Someone Says “The Bible Has Errors”

So, when someone asserts that the Bible has errors, we can reply by saying:

Yes, our Bible translations do have errors—let me tell you about them. But as you can see, less than 1% of them are meaningful and those errors don’t affect the major teachings of the Christian faith. In fact, there are a thousand times more manuscripts of the Bible than the most documented Greco-Roman historian by Suetonius. So, if we’re going to be skeptical about ancient books, we should be a thousand times more skeptical of the Greco-Roman histories. The Bible is, in fact, incredibly reliable.

Contrary to popular assertion, that as time rolls on we get further and further away from the original with each new discovery, we actually get closer and closer to the original text. As Wallace puts it, we have “an embarrassment of riches when it comes to the biblical documents.” Therefore, we can be confident that what we read in our modern translations of the the ancient texts is approximately 99% accurate. It is very reliable.

For Further Study
In order of easy to difficult:

My sermon and manuscript, “Is the Bible Inerrant?”
Can I Trust the Bible? (free preview), by R. C. Sproul
Understanding Scripture: An Overview of the Bible’s Origin, Reliability, and Meaning, edited by Wayne Grudem, C. John Collins, and Thomas Schreiner
The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible, by B.B. Warfield
Text of the New Testament, by Bruce Metzger and Bart Ehrman

This post originally appeared on Gospel-Centered Discipleship.

It is well with my soul

Repost from Sept. 29, and were good friends of D.L. Moody and Ira Sankey for many years. Mr. Spafford’s children had come to Christ through the influence of Ira Sankey’s music and efforts with the children of Chicago. Shortly before the Great Chicago Fire of October 8th, 1871, the Spafford’s son died and the family went into deep mourning.

After the fire ravaged the city, Mr. Spafford found himself financially ruined. He had invested heavily in downtown Chicago real estate, which was now gone. He and his wife turned to the people of the city, helping to minister to those who were homeless and in desperate need.

After two years of ministering to the people of Chicago, Mr. Spafford thought his family needed a vacation. D. L. Moody and Ira Sankey were in England holding evangelical meetings and bringing countless people to Christ. Mr. Spafford decided to take his family to England, where they could vacation and also be a help to his friends Moody and Sankey.

Mr. Spafford booked passage for his family on the ship SS Ville de Havre, but at the last minute was unable to go with his family due to business. He promised to follow them within a few weeks and they would all be reunited in England.
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Two Quotes to Ponder

“Be careful of not making a Saviour of faith. There is a danger – and it cannot be too vigilantly guarded against – of substituting the work of the Spirit for the work of Christ; this mistake it is that leads so many of God’s saints to look within, instead of without, themselves for the evidences of their calling and acceptance; and thus, too, so many are kept all their spiritual course walking in a state of bondage and fear, the great question never fully and fairly settled, or, in other words, never quite sure of their sonship. The work of Christ is a great and finished work; it is so glorious that it can admit of no comparison, so complete that it can allow of no addition, and so essential that it can give place to no substitution. Precious as is the work of the Holy Ghost in the heart, and essential as it is to the salvation of the soul, yet he who places it where the work of Jesus ought only to be, deranges the order of the covenant, closes up the legitimate source of evidence, and will assuredly bring distress and uncertainty into his soul. ‘Righteousness, peace, and joy’ are the fruit of a full belief in the Lord Jesus Christ; and he who looks for them away from the cross, will meet with disappointment: but they are found in Jesus. He who looks away from himself, from his vileness, guiltiness, emptiness, and poverty, fully and believingly unto Jesus, shall know what the forgiveness of sin is, and shall experience the love of God shed abroad in his heart.

If, then, your faith is feeble and tried, be not cast down; faith does not save you. Though it be an instrument of salvation, and as such, is of vast importance, it is but the instrument; the finished work of Immanuel is the ground of your salvation, yea, it is your salvation itself. Then make not a Saviour of your faith; despise it not if it is feeble, exult not in it if it is strong, trample not on it if it is small, deify it not if it is great; such are the extremes to which every believer is exposed. If your faith is feeble and sharply tried, it is no evidence that you are not a believer; but the evidence of your acceptance in the Beloved, is to arise from Jesus alone; then let your constant motto be, ‘looking unto Jesus’; looking to him just as you are; looking unto him when faith is feeble; looking unto him when faith is tried; looking unto him when faith is declining, yea, looking unto him when you fear you have no faith. Look up, tried and tempted soul! Jesus is the Author, the Sustainer, and he will become the Finisher of thy faith. All thou wantest is in him. One glimpse, dim though it be, of his cross, – one touch, trembling though it be, of his garment, – will lift thee from thy lowest depths, lighten thy heaviest burthen, gild thy darkest prospect, and when thou arrivest at Jordan’s brink, will bear thee safely through its swellings, and land thee on the sunny and verdant shores of Canaan. Let this be your prayer, urged unceasingly at the throne of grace until it is answered – “Lord, increase my faith “; and then, with holy Paul, you too shall be enabled with humble assurance to exclaim, ‘I know in whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day!'” – Octavius Winslow

“In order for [Jesus] to qualify as our Redeemer, it was not enough for Him simply to go to the cross and be crucified. If Jesus had only paid for our sins, He would have succeeded only in taking us back to square one. We would no longer be guilty, but we still would have absolutely no righteousness to bring before God.”

We would be free of guilt before God, but we would have no righteousness. This is what Christ merited for us in his life.

“Our Redeemer needed not only to die, but also to live a life of perfect obedience. The righteousness that He manifested could then be transferred to all who put their trust in Him. Just as my sin is transferred to Him on the cross when I trust in Him, His righteousness is transferred to my account in the sight of God. So, when I stand before God on the judgment day, God is going to see Jesus and His righeousness, which will be my cover.” – R. C. Sproul

An Infallible Interpreter?

… a member of the Roman Catholic communion made the following comment:

Again and again. Who has the authority in Protestantism to determine the correct interpretation of the Bible? No one.

Adam Blauser has provided a thorough response, why does Roman Catholicism pull out the arguments of Jacques Derrida and Stanley Fish, when postmodernism destroys Roman Catholicism too? What is the assumption behind this statement: that the only thing that factors into the interpretation of a text is the interpreter. If I allow for the author and his intention to play a role in interpretation, then it is easy to see who has the authority to determine the correct interpretation of the Bible-the authors of the Bible.

Correct interpretation, then, is more of an ethical issue. The interpreter has an obligation to “not bear false witness” against the author of the text, and accurately represent what he is saying. If that is the case, then the issue of interpretation is actually an argument against Roman Catholicism, because, once you impose traditions upon the text, you are changing the world of the author, and thus, not accurately representing the world he has constructed accurately.

More than that, destroying the author as a reference point leads to total and complete postmodernism. For example, why do you accept Rome as the infallible interpreter of scripture and history? Eastern Orthodoxy also makes the same claim, as does Syrian Orthodoxy. Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses make the same claim. Before you go running off to history, let us also remember that these groups claim the right to infallibly interpret history too, just like Rome does. So, who has the authority to decide which group has the authority to infallibly interpret history and scripture? It becomes totally dependent upon which group you are a part of as to what the correct interpretation of both history and scripture is. Hence, it is relative to community. That is utter and complete postmodernism.

Not only that, but if you need an “infallible interpreter” to know which interpretations of a text are correct, then how do we know what the correct interpretations of the Egyptian Book of the Dead are? Scholars disagree. How do we know what the correct interpretation of the Baal epic is? Scholars disagree. How do we know what the correct interpretation of the Epic of Gilgamesh is? Scholars disagree. The point is, there is no text upon which there is not disagreement as to the correct interpretation. However, where is the infallible magisterium of the Egyptian Book of the Dead. Apparently, because it doesn’t exist, that must mean we cannot correctly interpret what the Book of the Dead says. Where is the infallible magisterium of the Baal epic? Apparently, because it doesn’t exist, that must mean we cannot correctly interpret what the Baal epic says. Where is the infallible magisterium of the Gilgamesh Epic? Apparently, because it doesn’t exist, that must mean we cannot correctly interpret what the Epic of Gilgamesh says. Such results in utter destruction of all of our knowledge of what written texts say.

The real problem here is that the church is finite. Not only can other groups claim the authority to infallibly interpret both history and tradition, but, because of the finitude of all of these groups including Rome, the issue can never be settled. Not only that, Rome cannot explain why, in the instance of other texts, we can come to the correct interpretation despite differences of opinion. All of these things relate to the limited and finite nature of the church. I really wish Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox would consider these things before they go making this argument again and again. A limited, finite church is a poor base for meaning in language.

HT: Turretinfan