Puny preacher-man

I can’t let Reformation Day 495 pass without a citation from my beloved father, brother, and fellow pastor, John Calvin (1509-1564). What he says here is a great encouragement to preachers who feel unequal to the task, and is humbling to preachers who are up on themselves.

For by this means [God] first declares his regard for us when from among men he takes some to serve as his ambassadors in the world [cf. 2 Cor 5:20], to be interpreters of his secret will and, in short, to represent his person. And by this evidence he proves it to be no idle speaking that he often calls us temples [1 Cor 3:16-17; 6:19; 2 Cor 6:16], since from the lips of men, as from the sanctuary, he gives his answers to men.

Again, this is the best and most useful exercise in humility, when he accustoms us to obey his Word, even though it be preached through men like us and sometimes even by those of lower worth than we. If he spoke from heaven, it would not be surprising if his sacred oracles were to be reverently received without delay by the ears and minds of all. For who would not dread the presence of his power? Who would not be stricken down at the sight of such great majesty? Who would not be confounded at such boundless splendour? But when a puny man risen from the dust speaks in God’s name, at this point we best evidence our piety and obedience toward God if we show ourselves teachable toward his minister, although he excels us in nothing. It was for this reason, then, that he hid the treasure of his heavenly wisdom in weak and earthen vessels [2 Cor 4:7] in order to prove more surely how much we should esteem it.

Institutes of the Christian Religion, 4.3.1 (Italics and emphasis mine)

Gospel Polemics

Timothy Keller has helpfully distilled these “rules of engagement” when addressing doctrinal or other differences:

  1. Never attribute an opinion to your opponents that they themselves do not hold.
  2. Take your opponents’ views in their entirety, not selectively.
  3. Represent your opponents’ position in its strongest form, not in a weak ‘straw man’ form.
  4. Seek to persuade, not antagonize–but watch your motives!
  5. Remember the gospel and stick to criticizing theology–because only God sees the heart.

You can find these in Center Church: Doing Balanced, Gospel-Centered Ministry in Your City (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2012), 372-373.

 

 

Published in: on October 31, 2012 at 9:34 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Gospel joy!

While doing sermon preparation on Galatians 2:17-21, I came across this comment of Martin Luther:

I must listen to the Gospel, which teaches me, not what I ought to do (for that is the proper office of the Law), but what Jesus Christ the Son of God has done for me: to wit, that he suffered and died to deliver me from sin and death.

Amen to that!

Published in: on October 31, 2012 at 1:35 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Sing to God, O kingdoms of the earth!

Call to worship for this Lord’s Day morning:

Sing to God, O kingdoms of the earth,
sing praise to the Lord,             
Selah
to him who rides the ancient skies above,
who thunders with mighty voice.
Proclaim the power of God,
whose majesty is over Israel,
whose power is in the skies.
You are awesome, O God, in your sanctuary;
the God of Israel gives power and strength to his people.
Praise be to God!

With angels and archangels, all the company of heaven and the church on earth, let us worship the LORD!

Published in: on October 13, 2012 at 8:56 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Reformed Catholicity

One of the great legacies of Dr. Jelle Faber, Canadian Reformed Theological Seminary’s first principal and dogmatics professor, was the plea for the church to maintain a robust reformed catholicity, along the lines of the creeds:  “one holy catholic and apostolic church” (I can still hear him enthusiastically reciting these words as he sped his way through the Sunday afternoon liturgy). Even though I never had the privilege of being his student in seminary, his preaching, public lectures, and writings left a deep impression on me since I was a boy, and have influenced my own preaching and teaching and pastoral ministry (including his habit of always including the Lord’s Prayer at some point in the Lord’s Day service). I guess that’s part of the reason that much of what James K. A. Smith writes here resonates with me.