Sunday, 29 November 2009

Ed Clowney on meeting Jesus

I read this gem of a quote from Ed Clowney yesterday:

The word of the Lord constantly presents the Lord of the word. Coming to the word is coming to the Lord. This central truth cuts both ways. We cannot detach the word from the Lord and, like the scribes and the Pharisees, profess to cling to the Scriptures while refusing the Lord. On the other hand, neither can we profess obedience to the Lord while rejecting his word. To separate a living Lord from a 'dead' book or a divine Lord from a merely human book is to reject the apostolic gospel....

Those who read the word of God, and surely those who teach it, must never forget why the word is given and whom it reveals. The word shows us that the Lord is good; his words are sweeter than honey to our taste because in them the Lord gives himself to us.

-- The Message of 1 Peter: The way of the cross, pages 79-81

It is a sad situation in UK evangelicalism that people often divide themselves into either 'Bible people' or 'experience people'. What Clowney says is helpful. Being a Christian is all about experience, because it is all about relating to the living Lord Jesus. But the Bible - when properly handled, and with the Spirit's help - brings us to the Lord Jesus himself, so that readers experience him, and taste and see that the Lord Jesus himself is good.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Jack Miller: Preaching Christ by Faith

Here's an extended quote that I read yesterday from one of my heroes, Jack Miller, on preaching. I considered that it was worth sharing. It has brought me to repentance in my attitude to preaching:

Preaching ought to have the best wit, wisdom, clarity and logical order that a preacher can give it. But these qualities by themselves will not add up to preaching Christ by faith. Something more is called for. That something more is aiming the message at people with the purpose of bringing them to Christ. The goal is to change them by the power of the gospel.

If we as preachers have another goal, we will have short-circuited the whole process and confirmed ourselves and the congregation in our spiritual introversion. I think that we preachers must admit that we often are captured by other goals. Sometimes we make an eloquent message our primary goal. We become intent on producing a work of art or a scholarly composition. The sermon can become the end instead of a means toward an end. Phillips Brooks wrote in his Lectures on Preaching that this the cause of the failure of so 'many of the ineffective sermons that are made.' The prevailing intention of the heart of the preacher is to 'produce something which shall be a work of art' rather than a message 'aimed at the men,' with a view to their transformation into Christlikeness.

The preacher can hardly expect the Spirit of Christ to breathe through an art object that exists for its own sake.... The preacher should instead see preaching much more as a declaration of war, a conflict in which well-disciplined words march as to war to bring the hearers to surrender to Jesus Christ. We need to use the pulpit as a battle station.
- C. John Miller, Outgrowing the Ingrown Church, pages 123-124