The Christian Ministry by Charles Bridges

Bridges quotation of Bishop Reynolds (November 1599 – 28 July 1676), (original is here):
‘ Studiously and conscientiously apply yourselves to this heavenly skill of spiritual preaching. So convince of sin—the guilt, the stain, the pollution of it, the curse and malediction whereunto the soul is exposed by it, that your hearers may be awakened and humbled and effectually forewarned ” to flee from the wrath to come.” So convince of the all-sufficient righteousness and unsearchable riches of Christ, the excellency of his knowledge, the immeasurableness of hia love, the preciousness of his promises, ” the fellowship of his sufferings, the power of his resurrection,” the beauties of his holiness, the easiness of his yoke, the sweetness of his peace, the joy of his salvation, the hope of his glory, that the hearts of your hearers may burn within them, and they may ” fly, like doves unto their windows,” for shelter and sanctuary into the arms of such a Redeemer, who ” is able” and willing to save to the uttermost those that come unto God by him,” that they may with all ready obedience, and by the constraining power of the love of Christ, yield up themselves to the government of this Prince of Peace, by whom ” the Prince of this world is judged and cast out,” his ” works destroyed,” and we for this end ” bought with a price,” that we should ” not be our own,” but his that bought us, nor ” live any longer unto ourselves, but unto him that loved us, and died for us, and rose again. Preach Christ Jesus the Lord. Determine to know nothing among your people but Christ crucified.” Let his name and grace, his Spirit and love, triumph in the midst of all your sermons. Let your great end be to glorify him in the heart, to render him amiable and precious in the eyes of his people, to lead them to him, as a sanctuary to protect them, a propitiation to reconcile them, a treasure to enrich them, a physician to heal them, an advocate to present them and their services to God, as wisdom to counsel them, as righteousness to justify, as sanctification to renew, as redemption to save. Let Christ be the diamond to shine in the bosom of all your sermons.

Cross and Christian Ministry (Part II)

I must confess that I found the first portion of D.A. Carson’s book Cross and Christian Ministry to be stronger than the later.  Here are some excerpts that I noted in the latter portion which focus primarily on Christian leadership and the heart that guides it.

  • If the church is being built with large portions of  charm, personality, easy oratory, positive thinking, managerial  skills, powerful and emotional experiences, and people smarts,  but without the repeated, passionate, Spirit-anointed proclamation   of “Jesus Christ and him crucified,” we may be winning  more adherents than converts.
  • The world pants after strong leaders, but leaders in the church must first of all be servants of the  Lord Christ.
  • Christian   leaders do not try to be independent gurus, all-wise teachers.  They see themselves simply as servants and want other Christians   to see them that way, too.
  • Leaders   are not in a special, priestly class. Rather, what is required in  some sense of all believers is peculiarly required of the leaders of  believers.
  • What it means to be a servant of Christ is to be  obligated to promote the gospel by word and example, the gospel  of the crucified Messiah. That is absolutely fundamental. There is no valid Christian  leadership that does not throb with this mandate.
  • Mere orthodoxy is not enough; Christians must live out their  creed. The gospel of the crucified Messiah must transform not  only our beliefs but our behavior. Biblical Christianity embraces both creed and conduct, both  belief and behavior.
  • We must not stand on our rights. As long as defending our  rights remains the lodestar that orders our priorities, we cannot  follow the way of the cross.
  • to follow the crucified Messiah means Paul must take up his own cross daily, die to self-interest,  and serve the One who bought him. One cannot properly promote   the gospel any other way.
  • Where there is a failure in  discipleship, where there is sin against Christ, where there is persistent   refusal to follow Paul as he follows Christ in the way of the  cross, there too we find an aimless meandering.

I am now reading a book on evangelism written by Mark Dever titled The Gospel and Personal Evangelism. I would love to have other recommendations in this area of Evangelism. I have already read To Tell The Truth by Will Metzger. Please feel free to post suggestions.

Cross and Christian Ministry

Having completed C.J. Maheney’s very popular book The Cross Centered Life, and now having completed half of D.A. Carson’s book, Cross and Christian Ministry, The: Leadership Lessons from 1 Corinthians, I would strongly recommend the latter over the former. Much of Maheney’s book finds its basis in Carson’s.  I find Carson’s  writing much more in depth and much more Biblically supported. Here are a few excerpts:

  • Crucifixion was reserved for slaves, aliens, barbarians.  Many thought it was not something to be talked about in polite company.
  • Our self-centeredness is deep. It is so brutally idolatrous that  it tries to domesticate God himself. In our desperate folly we act  as if we can outsmart God, as if he owes us explanations, as if we  are wise and self-determining while he exists only to meet our  needs.

  • The gospel is not simply good  advice, nor is it good news about God’s power. The gospel is  God’s power to those who believe. The place where God has  supremely destroyed all human arrogance and pretension is the  cross.

  • For many Jews, the long-expected Messiah   had to come in  splendor and glory; he had to begin his reign with uncontested  power. “Crucified Messiah”: this juxtaposition of words is only a  whisker away from blasphemy,

  • of the world’s  rebellious self-centeredness is precisely what ensures that it cannot   understand the cross, while God’s wise plan of redemption  hinges on God himself taking self-denying action to bring about  the consummation of his authority.

  • I fear that the  cross, without ever being disowned, is constantly in danger of  being dismissed from the central place it must enjoy, by relatively  peripheral insights that take on far too much weight. Whenever the periphery is in danger of displacing the center, we are not far  removed from idolatry.

  • the  Countess of Huntingdon used to say that she was saved by an m:  God’s word declares “not many noble,” not “not any noble.”

  • the better we  know God, the more we will want all of our existence to revolve  around him, and we will see that the only goals and plans that  really matter are those that are somehow tied to God himself, and  to our eternity with him.

  • When the pressure to “contextualize”  the gospel jeopardizes the message of the cross by inflating  human egos, the cultural pressures must be ignored.

  • the good news is  announced, it is proclaimed. God is not negotiating; he is both  announcing and confronting.

  • preaching mediates  God himself.

  • If  he really holds that God has supremely disclosed himself in the  cross and that to follow the crucified and risen Savior means  dying daily, then it is preposterous to adopt a style of ministry  that is triumphalistic, designed to impress, calculated to win  applause.

  • Have  professional competence and smooth showmanship become more valuable than sober reckoning over what it means to focus  on Christ crucified?

  • when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor.  12:10). That is the testimony of a man who has learned to minister   under the cross.

  • It is the truth and power of the  gospel that must change people’s lives, not the glamour of our  oratory or the emotional power of our stories.

  • That is what we need: unction, the anointing of the Spirit, the  demonstration of the Spirit’s power. Where that power is  present, people cannot help but know it, and the faith of those  who turn to Christ is safely anchored in God himself. Where  that power is absent, nothing can repair the loss, and the faith  of new converts is likely to be attached, in part, to the wrong  things.

  • The message of the cross smashes the great idolatries of the  ecclesiastical world: our endless self-promotion, our love of  mere professionalism, our addiction to well-defined methods.

  • the cross is not  only our creed, it is the standard of our ministry.

  • If biblical interpretation is held hostage  to some sort of mystical experience of the Spirit, they say, and  taken out of the realm of words, history, grammar, and exegesis,  then there is no logical stopping place.

  • The message of Christ  crucified is the only fundamental dividing line in the human  race.

  • There is no deep and stable spirituality that does not acknowledge   what an utterly profound privilege it is to know God and be  reconciled to him by the crucified Messiah.

  • If we should express unqualified  gratitude to God for the gift of his Son, we should express no less  gratitude to God for the gift of the Spirit who enables us to grasp  the gospel of his Son.

  • if we are to  understand God, to think his thoughts after him, truly to “know”  him, we are going to have to receive the Spirit of God. We simply  cannot find him by ourselves.

  • The heart of our  lostness is our profound self-focus. We do not want to know him,  if knowing him is on his terms.

  • What it means to be “spiritual” is profoundly tied to the cross,  and to nothing else. More precisely, to be spiritual, in this passage,   is to enjoy the gift of the Holy Spirit-and this means  understanding and appropriating the message of the cross,

  • those who  are most mature are most grateful for the cross and keep coming  back to it as the measure of God’s love for them and the supreme  standard of personal self-denial.

  • We must come back to the cross, and to God’s plan of redemption   that centers on the cross, and make that the point of our self-identification.

  • does anyone   truly understand the message of the cross apart from brokenness,   contrition, repentance, and faith? To repeat rather  mechanically the nature of the transaction that Christians think  took place at Golgotha is one thing; to look at God and his holiness,   and people and their sin, from the perspective of the cross, is  life-changing.

I hope to complete this book shortly and to post another followup on the second portion.

Crucifixion was reserved for slaves, aliens, barbarians.  Many thought it was not something to be talked about in polite company.

Our self-centeredness is deep. It is so brutally idolatrous that  it tries to domesticate God himself. In our desperate folly we act  as if we can outsmart God, as if he owes us explanations, as if we  are wise and self-determining while he exists only to meet our  needs.

The gospel is not simply good  advice, nor is it good news about God’s power. The gospel is  God’s power to those who believe. The place where God has  supremely destroyed all human arrogance and pretension is the  cross.

For many Jews, the long-expected Messiah   had to come in  splendor and glory; he had to begin his reign with uncontested  power. “Crucified Messiah”: this juxtaposition of words is only a  whisker away from blasphemy,

of the world’s  rebellious self-centeredness is precisely what ensures that it cannot   understand the cross, while God’s wise plan of redemption  hinges on God himself taking self-denying action to bring about  the consummation of his authority.

I fear that the  cross, without ever being disowned, is constantly in danger of  being dismissed from the central place it must enjoy, by relatively  peripheral insights that take on far too much weight. Whenever the periphery is in danger of displacing the center, we are not far  removed from idolatry.

the  Countess of Huntingdon used to say that she was saved by an m:  God’s word declares “not many noble,” not “not any noble.”

the better we  know God, the more we will want all of our existence to revolve  around him, and we will see that the only goals and plans that  really matter are those that are somehow tied to God himself, and  to our eternity with him.

When the pressure to “contextualize”  the gospel jeopardizes the message of the cross by inflating  human egos, the cultural pressures must be ignored.

the good news is  announced, it is proclaimed. God is not negotiating; he is both  announcing and confronting.

preaching mediates  God himself.

If  he really holds that God has supremely disclosed himself in the  cross and that to follow the crucified and risen Savior means  dying daily, then it is preposterous to adopt a style of ministry  that is triumphalistic, designed to impress, calculated to win  applause.

Have  professional competence and smooth showmanship become more valuable than sober reckoning over what it means to focus  on Christ crucified?

when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor.  12:10). That is the testimony of a man who has learned to minister   under the cross.

It is the truth and power of the  gospel that must change people’s lives, not the glamour of our  oratory or the emotional power of our stories.

That is what we need: unction, the anointing of the Spirit, the  demonstration of the Spirit’s power. Where that power is  present, people cannot help but know it, and the faith of those  who turn to Christ is safely anchored in God himself. Where  that power is absent, nothing can repair the loss, and the faith  of new converts is likely to be attached, in part, to the wrong  things.

The message of the cross smashes the great idolatries of the  ecclesiastical world: our endless self-promotion, our love of  mere professionalism, our addiction to well-defined methods.

the cross is not  only our creed, it is the standard of our ministry.

If biblical interpretation is held hostage  to some sort of mystical experience of the Spirit, they say, and  taken out of the realm of words, history, grammar, and exegesis,  then there is no logical stopping place.

The message of Christ  crucified is the only fundamental dividing line in the human  race.

There is no deep and stable spirituality that does not acknowledge   what an utterly profound privilege it is to know God and be  reconciled to him by the crucified Messiah.

If we should express unqualified  gratitude to God for the gift of his Son, we should express no less  gratitude to God for the gift of the Spirit who enables us to grasp  the gospel of his Son.

if we are to  understand God, to think his thoughts after him, truly to “know”  him, we are going to have to receive the Spirit of God. We simply  cannot find him by ourselves.

The heart of our  lostness is our profound self-focus. We do not want to know him,  if knowing him is on his terms.

What it means to be “spiritual” is profoundly tied to the cross,  and to nothing else. More precisely, to be spiritual, in this passage,   is to enjoy the gift of the Holy Spirit-and this means  understanding and appropriating the message of the cross,

those who  are most mature are most grateful for the cross and keep coming  back to it as the measure of God’s love for them and the supreme  standard of personal self-denial.

We must come back to the cross, and to God’s plan of redemption   that centers on the cross, and make that the point of our self-identification.

does anyone   truly understand the message of the cross apart from brokenness,   contrition, repentance, and faith? To repeat rather  mechanically the nature of the transaction that Christians think  took place at Golgotha is one thing; to look at God and his holiness,   and people and their sin, from the perspective of the cross, is  life-changing.

The Cross-Centered Life

I completed reading The Cross-Centered Life: Keeping the Gospel the Main Thing by C.J. Mahaney. Here are a few excerpts that I highlighted:

  • “The gospel,” writes Jerry Bridges, “is not only the most important message in all of history; it is the only essential message in all of history.”
  • all living lives [are] centered on something. But is it the right thing?
  • “I fear that the cross, without ever being disowned, is constantly in danger of being dismissed from the central place it must enjoy, by relatively peripheral insights that take on far too much weight. Whenever the periphery is in danger of displacing the center, we are not far removed from idolatry.”
  • Legalism is seeking to achieve forgiveness from God and acceptance by God through obedience to God. In other words, a legalist is anyone who behaves as if they can earn God’s approval and forgiveness through personal performance.
  • it’s impossible to resolve issues of yesterday by doing better tomorrow.
  • William Law writes, “We may justly condemn ourselves as the greatest sinners we know because we know more of the folly of our own heart than we do of other peoples.”
  • Far too often we choose to passively listen to ourselves. We sit back and let our view of God and life be shaped by our constantly shifting feelings about our ever-changing circumstances.
  • The cross centered life starts with biblical thinking. Are you going to build your life on what you feel or on what is real?
  • our emotions shouldn’t be vested with final authority. This should be reserved for God’s Word alone.
  • we should “expend our energies admiring, exploring, expositing, and extolling Jesus Christ.” And we can do this regardless of how we feel, because the gospel exists independently of us.
  • That which is subjective changes regularly, like shifting sand. But that which is objective is built on the solid rock of the gospel.
  • An ongoing awareness of grace reminds Paul of the appalling sin from which he has been delivered; an ongoing awareness of sin keeps him dependent on grace.”
  • Only the person who understands that the cross is the center of all human history can understand the Old Testament. Through the lens of the gospel, the Bible truly becomes one book telling one story: the story of sinful man, a holy God, and His plan of salvation through the substitution of Himself for His people.
  • In the darkest night of the soul, Christians have something to hold onto that Job never knew— we know Christ crucified. Christians have learned that when there seems to be no other evidence of God’s love, they cannot escape the cross.
  • Comfort in suffering can never be found by focusing endlessly on the suffering itself, for suffering always contains an element of impenetrable mystery. Hope and comfort and perseverance in the Christian life come from meditating on the cross and the God of the cross.

One book that Mr. Mahaney recommended as a must read for all pastors was Cross and Christian Ministry: The Leadership Lessons from 1 Corinthians by D.A. Carson. I bought the Kindle version of this book and am part way through. I will posts some excerpts from this book shortly.

My Family’s Heart

Yesterday morning I requested that each member of my family choose a Bible verse that God had especially impressed upon them. I asked them to spend some time during their devotions determining the verses meaning as well as what it revealed about God. I also asked that they identify an application of the verse to their lives. We then shared these verses  at family devotions in the evening.  Here are the verses that my family selected:

Abigail: Proverbs 3:5-6  Trust in the LORD with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight.

Lori: 2 Corinthians 12:9   And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.

Kara: Galatians 2:20 “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.

Luke: Romans 12:1-2 (ESV) I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Emily:  2Tim 2:21 (ESV) Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work.

I am a blessed man!

Hudson Taylor

Today marks the anniversary of  the death of J. Hudson Taylor (d. 1905) the founder of the China Inland Mission. The two volume biography of Hudson Taylor is some of the best devotional Christian reading available. This biography is exceptional because it reveals the heart of a Godly man. A good biography reveals the joys and sorrows the successes and failures, it reveals God’s grace and his admonitions; such is the case with this biography. Here is a brief excerpt from this man that walked with his God:

How incomprehensible is the love of God! His ways are indeed past finding out. How many of His providences are like the cloud between the Israelites and the Egyptians – if looked on by unbelievers, or without faith, it is a cloud of darkness; but if viewed according to the privilege of the Lord’s people, it is no longer darkness, but light and safety. May this be your experience; may you feel that the Hand which inflicts the wound supplies the balm, and that He who has emptied your heart has filled the void with Himself.

I have this biography in Kindle format. If anyone is interested in obtaining this please let me know and I will upload the files. Here is a link to the book in Google books to vol 1. Here is link to a roughly formatted html version of both volumes.I own and strongly recommend buying the two volume set, you will not regret the purchase or the hours spent in reading.

We Are Becoming What We Love

I have completed A.W. Tozer’s God Tells the Man Who Cares and would like to share one final excerpt. I believe that the chapter We Are Becoming What We Love held perhaps the greatest blessing for me. The copy that I have opens with a quotation from Chrysostom “To be another than I am I must abandon that I am.” Luther, Edwards, Wesley, Tozer among many others wrote significant pieces regarding the relationship of the will, intellect, emotions. It is a vital and profound subject for each child of God to ponder. What do we love and what is it making us into?

We are all in the process of becoming. We have already moved from what we were to what we are, and we are now moving toward what we shall be.  .  .

Not only are we all becoming; we are becoming what we love. We are to a large degree the sum of our loves and we will of moral necessity grow into the image of what we love most; for love is among other things a creative affinity; it changes and molds and shapes and transforms. It is without doubt the mosst powerful agent affecting human nature next to the direct action of the Holy Spirit of God within the soul.

What we love is therefore not a small matter to be lightly shrugged off; rather it is of present, critical and everlasting importance. It is prophetic of our future. It tells us what we shall be, and so predicts accurately our eternal destiny.

Loving wrong objects is fatal to spiritual growth; it twists and deforms the life and makes impossible the appearing of the image of Christ in the soul. It is only as we love right objects that we become right, and only as we go on loving them that we continue to experience a slow but continuous transmutation toward the objects of our purified affection.

. . . The love we have for God is not the love of feeling, but the love of willing. Love is within our power of choice, otherwise we would not be commanded to love God nor be held accountable for not loving Him.

The taking over of the romantic love ideal into our relation to God has been extremely injurious to our Christian lives. The idea that we should “fall in love” with God is ignoble, unscriptural, unworthy of us and certainly does no honor to the Most High God. We do not come to love God by a sudden emotional visitation. Love for God results from repentance, amendment of life and a fixed determination to love Him. As God moves more perfectly into the focus of our hearts our love for Him may indeed rise and swell within us till like a flood it sweeps everything before it.

Now I would hasten to disclaim all sympathy with the popular salvation-by-willpower cult. I am in radical disagreement with all forms of quasi-Christianity that depnt upon the “latent power within us” or trust to “creative thinking” instead of to the power of God. All these paperthin religious philosophies break down at the same place–in the erroneous assumption that the stream of human nature can be made to run backward up over the falls. This it can never do. “Salvation is of the Lord.”

For His own children our Heavenly Father has provided right moral objects for admiration and love. These are to God as the colors in the rainbow round about the throne. They are not God but they are nearest to God; we cannot love Him without loving them and as we love them we are enabled to love Him more. What are they?

The first is righteousness. . . The next is wisdom. . . Another object for Christian love to fix upon is truth. . . It is unnecessary to name or try to name all the other good and holy things God has approved as our models. The Bible sets them before us–mercy, kindess, purity, humility and many more, and the Spirit-taught souls will know what to do about them.

The sum of it all seems to be that we should cultivate interest in and love for the morally beautiful. Was that why Paul wrote to the Philippians (4:8) “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things”?