In Part 1 of this post, I identified three of five convictions I believe undergird a faithful preaching ministry. Here are the other two on my list.
Conviction #4: We need to humbly seek more of the Holy Spirit’s power for our individual lives and our congregations as a whole.
The work of D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, among others, has opened my eyes to the great need we as Christians and congregations have for the ongoing, indwelling work of the Holy Spirit for the purpose of sanctification and renewal. Let me give an example of one of the specific ways my study of the Holy Spirit has challenged me regarding my own life and ministry.
I have been greatly challenged to think through the importance of helping our congregation, through the preaching of the Word, grow in their pursuit of biblical, Spirit-empowered discernment. In ministry, it seems I am constantly having conversations with folks who are asking questions such as: “How do I know right from wrong?” “How do I walk in line with what God wants for me and not what the world wants for me?” “How do I listen to and discern the voice of God?”
The Lord continues to grow me in my thinking of ways I can, as a pastor and preacher, help our people live their lives humbly, submitting themselves daily to the illuminating presence and power of the Holy Spirit, seeking to know and obey the truth of God’s will revealed through his perfect, inspired, authoritative Word. This is the heart of biblical discernment.
However, in order to live lives characterized by this kind of spiritual discernment, Christians absolutely must surround themselves with other believers from whom they can receive insight, rebuke, and encouragement. Sadly, I have been part of several churches (perhaps you have too) that have failed in equipping their people to practice biblical discernment. I pray we can help our churches grow as a community of faith that helps one another, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to rightly discern the voice of truth in a world of deceit, helping them to ultimately mature into Christ-likeness for God’s glory.
Conviction #5: We must aim to preach the gospel of grace for transformation.
When I came to my present church more than 10 years ago, I encountered many sweet, kind, devoted Christians who struggled to understand the role of grace in their sanctification. Our church was filled with folks who were committed to Christ and his teachings, but some struggled with the concept of grace-empowered, gospel-infused spiritual growth. Studying the ways in which preachers and theologians like Thomas Watson, J.I. Packer, Alistair Begg, Dan Doriani, and Bryan Chapel seek to preach truly Christ-centered, gospel-saturated sermons, has been incredibly helpful, as I attempt to shepherd our church toward true, grace-filled, gospel transformation and sanctification.
I don’t know about you, but one of my challenges in pastoring our congregation has been helping folks who come from legalistic backgrounds understand that God’s approval of us, his acceptance of us, is not dependent on whether we are “good” Christians or whether we follow all the right rules, say all the right things, and do the right “stuff.” I believe more strongly than ever that this kind of thinking will steal our life and our joy in the Lord. It is at the heart of legalistic religion.
Bryan Chapell in particular has reminded me of the importance as a pastor of helping our church continually wrestle with the radical difference between religion and the gospel of Jesus Christ in our sanctification. I have been challenged to regularly and intentionally help our people see the emptiness of dead religion that says, “I must do this and not do that” in order to earn God’s approval and acceptance. In contrast, I must constantly communicate through my preaching, leading, and counseling the good news of the gospel that says, “because of what Jesus did on the cross, I am accepted by God and therefore I will seek to joyfully pursue holiness and obedience to Christ.”
People in our congregation need to be reminded every week of how the Gospel sets us free to live life the way God intended. You and I need to be reminded too! We need to hear how the gospel sets us free to pursue godliness and holiness in a way that isn’t filled with guilt because of how often we fail and mess up. We need to hear how the gospel allows us to love God and others with all that we are, because we understand that it is by His love and grace alone that we are saved! We need to hear that it is only through the gospel that we continue to grow in Christ-like maturity.
The shepherd-preacher will be a passionate follower of Christ. He will faithfully preach God’s Word. He will live a Holy Spirit empowered life. And, perhaps most importantly, he will lead with humility and grace. Glory to God!
This post originally appeared on Mark’s blog, Preach Lead Love.,
Published March 12, 2020