In seminary, we were taught that a sermon should never be about the man who preaches it. John the Baptist’s creed, “He must increase, but I must decrease,” (John 3:30) is the model by which all ministers are to approach Gospel-ministry. There is, however, one exception to this rule. In “the Sermon on the Mount,” the One preaching the sermon is preaching about Himself. Without knowing the Preacher, the message of the sermon will have little significance for the hearer.
"Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” These words of the disciples in Mark 4:35 are hauntingly familiar. I think of Job and his questions in response to a life filled with so much pain and trial. I think of David in the Psalms and his being surrounded by enemies and crying out, “How long O Lord.” But mostly, I think about the question that is often upon our lips when bad things happen, "Does God really care?" When we are in the midst of trials this tends to be an all-too-human response.
Cotton Mather - A Life of Suffering
Augustus Montague Toplady and His Defense of the Gospel
Augustus Montague Toplady was one of the many young people who turned to Christ through the ministry of John Wesley. He was also one of the many who called Wesley out on his departure from the teachings of the Reformed confessions.
Effectual Call and Effectual Shock
In 2017-8, the long-simmering, long-suppressed scandal of sexual harassment of women in the workplace broke containment. It began when a handful of strong, brave entertainers credibly accused entertainment's worst offenders of sexual harassment. Men had objectified, harassed, demeaned, and groped them. Bosses had pressed for sexual favors, even forced them, and threatened reprisals if a woman refused to comply or spoke up after the fact. They decided they weren't going to take it anymore. Once a few stood up, dozens, then hundreds of others came forward.
My first exposures to Protestant-Catholic conversation were more like shouting matches than dialogues. Speakers took a confrontational approach and charges flew on both sides. In my mind, they sound roughly like this
Protestants charge, "You…"
Preach salvation by works
Take Scripture from the people
Create rites, saints, and false means grace
Rob Christ of glory and give it to Mary
Christians are frequently reminded to “remember the reason for Christmas,” meaning, of course, that we should turn our attention away from the cultural trappings and to the fact that Jesus was born to Mary in Bethlehem. But this Christmas, perhaps we should fix our attention a little more closely, not just on the details of Jesus’ birth, but on the miracle of the incarnation. In so doing, we join a great cloud of Christian witnesses, who have reflected deeply on this glorious mystery.
There once was a time – within living memory for many of us – when you could go to a place of worship and have a reasonable sense of what to expect during a service and not be taken aback by something that seemed out of place. Those days are rapidly disappearing and it is increasingly the norm that there are no norms for a service of praise. This should give us pause for thought.
For those of us who are pastors, one of our regular responsibilities is to use scripture to minister to the specific needs of our people. This should never merely be spiritual equivalent of offering placebos to those who are struggling – a kind of psycho-spiritual pick-me-up to make them feel better about themselves. Quite the opposite, the verse or passage we may read to our members should be explained and applied in a way that shows them there is substance in the words offered to them.
This month, the Alliance is pleased to offer a free MP3 download of Discipleship from the Alliance Teaching Series. Curated from years of biblical teaching, Discipleship presents listeners with thirteen encouraging messages on sanctification, the Church, and the Christian life. Download your copy here!
Our featured resource this month is The God of Creation – Truth and Gospel in Genesis 1 by Richard Phillips. We've discounted the price, so get your copy at Reformed Resources today!
There’s something of a progression when one moves from the first commandment – “You shall have no other gods before me” – to the second commandment forbidding the making and worship of idols. It’s a move delineating how the one true God is to be worshipped. And it tells us something about God. Namely, that the Creator God is a spirit, invisible, infinite, and holy. In other words, there’s an unholy absurdity in making a finite representation of an infinite and immense God.
The full commandment, promises and all, reads thus:
“As long as he believes in something, that is what’s important.”
With those words the man in front of me simultaneously dismissed the authority of God and justified a younger relative who had embraced an animistic system of belief. For the older gentlemen, it was the act of believing in something supernatural that mattered, not the object of that belief itself.
Theoretical-Practical Theology Vol. II
17th-century Reformed theologian Petrus Van Mastricht wrote a comprehensive treatment of theoretical-practical theology. This extensive collection is gradually being made available in English by Todd Rester, lead translator of this massive work. The second volume, Faith in the Triune God, was released this year. Todd is an associate professor of church history at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia.
All Things for Good
James and Jonathan remove the dust from the cover of a classic book that’s played a big role in their lives. All Things for Good, formerly known as A Divine Cordial by Thomas Watson was originally published in 1663, and it reads as a series of sermons or expositions of Romans 8:28. Throughout the book, Watson offers reflections on the two greatest difficulties he faced in pastoral ministry: To make the wicked sad and the godly joyful.
Richard Webster referred to five widely differing views regarding subscription in the colonial Presbyterian church as: “the Protesters, the excluded, the silent, those who were dissatisfied with both parties, and the absent.” The modern church may find itself in a similar position. The subject of these essays has not always been agreed upon.