Friday, November 15, 2013

Book Review: The Kind of Preaching God Blesses

The Kind of Preaching God Blesses. Steven J. Lawson. 2013. Harvest House. 128 pages. [Source: Book I Bought]

The Kind of Preaching God Blesses is easily one of the best books I've read all year. The book contains FIVE messages Lawson delivered using 1 Corinthians 2:1-9 as his main text. These are wonderful sermons that are especially relevant to those in ministry. I don't think this book is exclusively for preachers, however. 

The chapters: "Everything Except the Main Thing: The Poverty of Modern Preaching;" "Slick Schtick: The Prohibition of Worldly Preaching;" "One Master Theme: The Preeminence of Christ in Preaching;" "Strength in Weakness: The Power of the Spirit in Preaching;" "A Sovereign Wisdom: The Predestination of the Father in Preaching;" "Marching Orders: The Parade of Faithful Preachers." 

Lawson argues in his book that the only kind of preaching God blesses is preaching that is Christ-centered and God-exalting. In other words, "To preach the Bible rightly necessitates proclaiming Christ faithfully. To faithfully proclaim the written Word demands that we preach the living Word. All biblical preaching must declare Christ as its dominant theme. Because the Bible is so Christ-centered, true preaching must likewise be Christ-centered."

From the preface:
The spiritual life of any congregation and its growth in grace will never exceed the high-water mark set by its pulpit.
From "Everything Except the Main Thing"
In this present hour, preaching that is devoid of the person and work of Christ is all too often commonplace. Such lifeless words are a snare into which many pulpits have fallen, the deadly trap in which the Lord Jesus is minimized, if not altogether absent. Rather than giving Him the central place of preeminence, Jesus is demoted to the periphery. Instead of being in the spotlight, Christ is left standing in the shadows. In many pulpits, there is compelling communication that captivates the attention of the listener. There is logical thought with a coherent flow. There is a well-structured outline, an attention-grabbing introduction, and excellent exegesis. There are spellbinding illustrations and relevant applications. There are insightful observations and perfect cross-references. There is even a dramatic conclusion. But if the sermon fails to exalt and elevate Christ, it has missed the mark. Such preaching has everything except the one thing necessary—the person of Jesus Christ, presented by the power of the Spirit. Sure, the name of Christ may be mentioned. But only in a polite manner. Such speech may even be energetic, exciting, and enthusiastic. But if it is devoid of Christ, it is a mere noisy gong and a clanging cymbal. The sad reality is that these barren pulpits are impotent to save and unable to sanctify.
All pulpits must passionately declare Christ to be the eternal Son of the living God, the only Savior of sinners. All preaching must boldly announce Him as the reigning Lord of heaven and earth. He must be fearlessly announced as the One before whom every knee will bow and every tongue will confess. All preaching must assert that this Jesus is the final Judge of every human life. To fulfill this sacred duty, every preacher must proclaim the full counsel of God. Every doctrine in Scripture must be delivered. Every truth must be taught. Every sin must be exposed. Every warning must be issued. And every promise must be offered. If God is to bless our preaching, the supreme majesty of Jesus Christ Himself must be expounded in our sermons. All the lines of our preaching must intersect at this highest pinnacle—Jesus Christ and Him crucified.
The central theme of the entire Bible is Jesus Christ, the Redeemer of all who call upon Him. The entire Old Testament announces the coming of Christ to earth in order to redeem and reign. Then the four Gospel accounts detail and describe His first arrival. Next, the book of Acts records the proclamation of His death, resurrection, and exaltation. Moreover, the epistles define who Jesus is and defend what He accomplished in His life and death. Finally, the book of Revelation declares that this One is coming again in grandeur and glory. Succinctly stated, Jesus Christ crucified is the unifying theme of all of Scripture. This high ground must be claimed in our preaching. Any other footing is a slippery slope that inevitably descends downward into vain rhetoric and mere words. To the contrary, every pulpit must present a towering vision of the unique person and saving work of Jesus Christ. All preaching must point to His sin-bearing, substitutionary death for sinners. All exposition must lift up this Sacrificial Lamb who became a sin-bearing Substitute for all who believe. Every message must exalt this Christ, who was raised from the dead, exalted to the right hand of God the Father, and entrusted with all authority in heaven and earth. This must be the heartbeat that throbs in every pulpit. This must be the strong pulse that marks every ministry. If preachers are to be known for anything, they must be known for preaching the Lord Jesus Christ and Him crucified.
No preacher, regardless of where he serves, is free to reinvent preaching.
From "Slick Schtick"
The modern sermon has tragically been described as a mile wide and an inch deep. Others have said today’s preacher is a mild-mannered man who urges his mild-mannered listeners to keep being mild-mannered.
Martyn Lloyd-Jones, a longtime minister in London, resisted all pressures to adapt his preaching to the whim of the times. In reflecting upon his approach to the pulpit, the Doctor used an analogy drawn from his previous profession as a physician. When challenged to be more compatible with modern thinking, Lloyd-Jones asserted, “I never let the patient write the prescription.” By this he meant that he never allowed his listeners to dictate what or how he preached.
Let me be clear: It matters to God what is preached. And it matters to Him how it is preached. No man is free to preach whatever and however he so chooses.
From "One Master Theme"
The essence of Christianity is centered upon the Lord Jesus Christ. The sum and substance of being a Christian is trusting Christ with the entirety of one’s being. The height of the Christian life is adoring Christ, the depth of it loving Him, the breadth of it obeying Him, and the length of it following Him. Everything in the Christian life revolves around Jesus Christ. Simply put, Christianity is Christ.
The entire Bible is focused on the Lord Jesus Christ, who came into the world to save sinners. From cover to cover, all of Scripture speaks with one voice about the primacy of His saving death. This is the strong heartbeat of both the Old and New Testament, pumping divine life into people’s souls. To preach the Bible means, chiefly, to preach Christ and Him crucified.
By His vicarious death, Jesus did not merely make salvation hypothetically possible based upon man’s response. He actually saved a definite number of sinners. True preaching declares the cross as the only way of salvation. Those in bondage to sin have been redeemed by the blood of Christ. Such preaching constantly unveils the attributes of God in the death of Christ. Such preaching exalts the sovereignty of God in the death of His Son. All preaching must boldly proclaim that holy God is reconciled to sinful men through the blood of the Lamb.
Many people commonly associate Luther’s preaching with the book of Romans and justification by faith. However, this powerful figure preached only 30 sermons on this epistle. What many people don’t know is that this champion of the faith preached more than 1000 sermons on the Synoptic Gospels—sermons which focused directly upon Christ. In addition, he delivered hundreds more from the Gospel of John. The fact is, Luther preached more on John’s Gospel in one year than he did on Romans in the entirety of his ministry.
If you please God, it does not matter whom you displease. And if you displease Him, it does not matter whom you please.
From "Strength in Weakness"
No man is too weak for God to use, only too strong. The more one recognizes his own weakness, the more he will rely upon God for strength. By His sovereign design, God chooses to use weak vessels whom He makes strong.
From "A Sovereign Wisdom"
There is a foundational truth in preaching that must undergird every message—namely, that God is sovereign over all things.

Nowhere is this kind of preaching more essential than in matters pertaining to salvation. Before man ever fell into sin, God had already foreordained the way by which He would restore their broken relationship. Before sin corrupted the entire human race, God had already predestined the plan of salvation. Before the world became polluted by man’s depravity, He had already predetermined the redemption by which He would restore ruined sinners to Himself. More importantly, God even chose His elect upon whom He would freely bestow His unmerited grace. By sovereign grace, God is the Initiator, never the responder. God is the Seeker, never the one who is sought. God is the Savior, man is the one rescued. God is the Provider, man is the debtor. God is the subject and active verb, man is the object who is acted upon. From start to finish, every aspect of man’s salvation is divinely designed and determined by this foreordination; all glory goes to God alone.
Before the foundation of the world, God designed His plan of salvation by which He would rescue His elect. Before time began, He chose His Son to come into this world in order to save these elect who are unable to save themselves. And pulpits everywhere must be faithful in declaring this bedrock truth. Yet man, left to his own thinking, is constantly seeking to take credit—at least, in part—for that which God alone has accomplished in salvation. Man flatters himself in perceiving that by his own initiative and choice, he chooses to seek after God. He vainly imagines that his pursuit of salvation is other than God first seeking him. But, in truth, it is God alone who seeks and saves.
Charles Spurgeon certainly understood this mandate. He firmly believed that he had received marching orders from his Master to stand at the foot of the cross and remain there until He returned. As long as he lived, he was to tell this simple story of Christ crucified to a perishing world. Spurgeon declared: I received some years ago orders from my Master to stand at the foot of the cross until He came. He has not come yet, but I mean to stand there till He does. If I should disobey His orders and leave those simple truths which have been the means of the conversion of souls, I know not how I could expect His blessing. Here, then, I stand at the foot of cross and tell out the old, old story, stale though it sound to itching ears, and worn threadbare as critics may deem it. It is of Christ I love to speak—of Christ who loved, and lived, and died, the substitute for sinners, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God.
From "Marching Orders"
The Scripture teaches what we are to preach and how we are to preach it. The Bible establishes both the message and the manner in which God’s truth is to be proclaimed.
© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

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