I am still busily preparing for the Lord’s Day but I just wanted to take a moment to post the exert from a book I am reading. I think I have recommended this book before but it continues to gain more stars in my review. The book is written by Sinclair Ferguson and is titled Man Overboard!: The Story of Jonah. Even if you aren’t preaching through this minor prophet I would encourage you to grab a copy of this book and warm your soul.
In responding to Jonah 3, Ferguson records the following story from J. Edwin Orr found in The Second Evangelical Awakening. Speaking of the revival in Northern Ireland in 1859, he says:
The townsfolk of Coleraine, in the part of County Derry close to the County Antrim Revival centers, witnessed some of the most amazing scenes in the whole movement in Ireland. A schoolboy, under deep conviction of sin, seemed so incapable of continuing his studies that the kindly teacher sent him home in the company of another boy, already converted. On the way home the two boys noticed an empty house and entered it to pray. At last the unhappy boy found peace, and returned immediately to the classroom to tell his teacher: ‘I am so happy: I have the Lord Jesus in my heart!’ This innocent testimony had its effect on the class, and boy after boy slipped outside. The master, standing on something to look out of the window, observed the boys kneeling in prayer around the schoolyard, each one apart. The master was overcome, so he asked the converted schoolboy to confront them. Soon the whole school was in strange disorder, and the clergymen were sent for and remained all day dealing with seekers after peace, schoolboys, schoolgirls, teachers and parents and neighbors, the premises being thus occupied until eleven o’clock that night.
Revival stories are not new to me. Yet how often I think we dismiss the power of God to save. I live in a region referred to as the “burned over region” because of the conglomeration of historical apostasy, shallow decision-ism, and Yankee coldness. Yet Jonah, the unwilling mouthpiece, preached to the Ninevites and they repented and turned to God. How I long to see God do a miracle for His names sake and use the sad likes of someone like me to bring lost souls into His kingdom.
Ferguson closes this chapter with a quote from John Owen: “The word can only come with power to our hearers when it has come with power to our own hearts.”
Prayer governs conduct and conduct makes character. Conduct is what we do; character is what we are. Conduct is the outward life. Character is the life unseen, hidden within, yet evidenced by that which is seen. Conduct is external, seen from without; character is internal–operating within. In the economy of grace, conduct is the offspring of character. Character is the state of heart, conduct is outward expression. Character is the root of the tree, conduct, the fruit it bears. — E.M. Bounds (The Necessity of Prayer)
At the Preserving the Truth conference Dr. Minnick spoke twice. His second message was on Personal Separation. His primary text was Romans 12:1-2 (he also drew from Eph 2) from which he exhorted his listeners to not be shaped by the age. Though I’m sure many would immediately roll their eyes when they consider a fundamentalist speaking on this topic from this passage. Not only would most be surprised at the content of this message, I would also challenge them to call his exegesis into question. Dr. Minnick is faithful to the Word, structures his message around the text, and is always engaging. He spoke of the current of this world, and the direction that it sweeps men along. He reveals from Rom 12:1 that anyone who is going to be able to speak on this topic they must first be willing to sacrifice for that is our reasonable service of worship. He gives a stark warning of the imposing dangers that this world poses to contemporary believers that those in ages past did not face. If you are one that rolled your eyes I challenge you to invest the 55 minutes and square with the truths of the Scriptures.
During Pastor Minnick’s sermon he mentioned that the world refers to our current age as the “information age.” This morning I was reading from Mortimer Adler’s book How to Read a Book who wrote the following:
Perhaps we know more about the world than we used to, and insofar as knowledge is prerequisite to understanding, that is all to the good. But knowledge is not as much a prerequisite to understanding as is commonly supposed. We do not have to know everything about something in order to understand it, too many facts are often as much of an obstacle to understanding as too few. There is a sense in which we moderns are inundated with facts to the detriment of understanding. (originally written in 1940, revised in 1972).
I am not suggesting with this quote that we need an anti-intellectualism, quite the opposite. The signal to noise ratio is very high in the information age. What I am suggesting is that we need to much more discerning in what we give our minds to.
This morning I listened to a workshop presented by Chris Anderson, titled Music that Glorifies God that he presented at the Preserving the Truth Conference. Anderson’s approach to the subject of music is refreshing, it was very honest. I think I can boil it down to “lets put aside our preconceived extra-biblical biases and see what the Scriptures says.” He is faithful to the Scriptures not making it say more than it does but also not allowing it to say any less. He works quickly but effectively through Colossians 3:16:
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.
Anderson affirms the regulative principle of worship and his presentation is built around that. He presses his listeners to be intentional in their approach to worship in song. Just as we wouldn’t read single verses of scripture that do not directly related to one another and call that a sermon; neither should we choose music that way.
I would encourage layman and pastors alike to listen to this presentation. We need to get beyond the hubbub and deal with this Scripturally and conform our hearts to the knowledge we glean.
Here are the notes that he distributed during the session. If you don’t have time to listen at least download this sheet and read it over.
There is no gain but by a loss:
You cannot save but by a cross.
The corn of wheat, to multiply,
Must fall into the ground and die.
Wherever you ripe fields behold,
Waving to God their sheaves of gold,
Be sure some corn of wheat has died,
Some soul has there been crucified;
Someone has wrestled, wept and prayed,
And fought hell’s legions undismayed.
Taken from Man Overboard! by Sinclair Ferguson
“It is always self-giving with Christ, and believe me people that must be the pattern and the picture of Christianity that the world sees if they are ever going to believe that we have anything real; and I am afraid today in a lot of circles of Christianity, the world looks at us as people who want to get rather than people who want to give; they’ll never comprehend a God of grace if they see a whole lot of Christians that want to receive rather than give.”
I listened to Alistair Begg’s sermon from the book of Ruth this morning. Let me first say that I appreciated this more than Keller’s message but not as much as Mohlers. Begg, in the context of a conference on preaching Christ in the OT, accomplished what he set out to do. I think he was attempting to balance preaching in depth exegesis with sketching several shallow models. He had intended to give three “sketches” in this sermon and after using 20-minutes for introduction really only had time for two 10-minute devotionals. With that said, I was blessed by these devotionals.
The first sketch he titled “Three women on the road to somewhere.” He noted that the choice for Naomi’s daughters-in-law had was between “everything minus Yahweh in Moab” or “nothing except Yahweh in Bethlehem.” Ruth’s response to her Naomi was “I can’t go back to my old gods, I’m not what I once was.” This idea of nothing being everything where God is, is a concept that is especially dear to my heart. Changing our vision and evaluation of life is key if we are to be disciples of Jesus Christ. The second sketch he titled “The name of the man is Boaz.” In this sketch he discussed the interaction of Ruth and Naomi after she providentially begins her service in Boaz’ field. He addresses the unmerited favor that Boaz extends to this Moabite. Ruth 2:13 Then she said, “I have found favor in your eyes, my lord, for you have comforted me and spoken kindly to your servant, though I am not one of your servants.” Clearly, Christ’s grace, in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us, is pre-figured in Boaz. Begg didn’t have sufficient time to develop this but the jist was addressing God’s sovereignty and grace. He never really got the third sketch off the ground and I didn’t really catch it. He snuck some interesting tidbits in at the end but they weren’t cohesive.
He could have spent two hours addressing these sketches even with a shorter intro. Personally, I wish he would have picked one of the sketches and really preached it. The book of Ruth with the picture of the kinsman-redeemer, and the picture of God’s redemptive grace makes the case for preaching Christ in the OT without an advocate. The thought that came to me was, Ok, you have demonstrated this in some simple places, I could do that, but what about Numbers, or some of the deeper parts of Jeremiah, Lamentations etc.. How about showing some heavy lifting? Demonstrate how you convincingly preach Christ in those more difficult passages.