DashHouse.com

The Blog of Darryl Dash

This blog is about how Jesus changes everything. He changes:

Our relationship with God

Our relationship with others

Our vocations - how we live and work in this world

Our ministries

This blog exists to explore some of the ways that Jesus changes everything. It provides resources and articles that will help you think about the ways that Jesus can change every part of your life.

The Lord himself invites you to a conference concerning your immediate and endless happiness, and He would not have done this if He did not mean well toward you. Do not refuse the Lord Jesus who knocks at your door; for He knocks with a hand which was nailed to the tree for such as you are. Since His only and sole object is your good, incline your ear and come to Him. Hearken diligently, and let the good word sink into your soul. (C.H. Spurgeon, All of Grace)

Give Them a Grand Understanding of God

It's been far too long since I've posted at this blog. But that should change now since I've restructured some things. You may want to take a look around at the site to see some of the changes.

In any case, Trevin Wax's interview with David Platt is a good excuse to post again. Wax and Platt discuss God-centered preaching:

Trevin Wax: How does God-centered preaching lead to passion for evangelism?

David Platt: The gospel begins and ends with God. He is the holy, just, and gracious Creator of the universe who has sent His Son, God in the flesh, to bear His wrath against sin on the cross and to show His power over sin in the resurrection so that everyone who believes in Christ will be reconciled to God forever. And this is the gospel that we proclaim in evangelism.

So how do we best lead and shepherd God’s people to evangelize? By giving them a grand understanding of God. In preaching, we unfold the character of God: His holiness, His justice, His grace, and all of His other breath-taking attributes. As we magnify His Word, people behold His glory. And they believe, deep within their minds and their hearts, that God is great and greatly to be praised. In the process, this becomes the ultimate motivation for evangelism. The more the people I pastor see God’s worth, the more they want to make His worth known in the world.

So week after week after week, as I stand before them with God’s Word, I want to show them God’s worth. As they hear His Word and they see His worth, they will lay down their lives to make the good news of God’s grace and glory known to the people around them and people groups around the world. God-centered, gospel-saturated preaching is great fuel for Christ-honoring, world-embracing evangelism.

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Great insight.

Elevating Our Concept of God

The heaviest obligation lying upon the Christian church today is to purify and elevate her concept of God until it is once more worthy of him and of her. In all her prayers and labor this should have first place. We do the greatest service to the next generation of Christians by passing on to them undimmed and undiminished that noble concept of God which we received from our Hebrew and Christian fathers of generations past. This will prove of greater value to them than anything that art or science can devise. (A.W. Tozer, Knowledge of the Holy)

Preaching That Sticks

Ed Stetzer on Preaching that Sticks:

If you want your sermon to stick, you must pull back the curtain to reveal who God is, who we are and what He really wants. It is too easy for preachers to slip into becoming moral teachers—religious instructors who pass out rules for spiritual living without pulling back the curtain on God and ourselves; pulling back that curtain is what our people need the most!

Your hearers need a clear word about exactly who God is in His character, work and will...

We need to avoid preaching mere ought-to and how-to messages, and instead preach law and Gospel together. This displays God as He is, His law for our lives, our fallen nature and how God offers us grace in Christ. In pulling back the curtain, we then can focus on the need for our hearers to respond to all that God has revealed in His Word.

Man Is Not the Centre

Spurgeon writes in Lectures to My Students:

Just as the earth is not the centre of the universe, so man is not the grandest of all beings. God has been pleased highly to exalt man; but we must remember how the psalmist speaks of him: "When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; what is man, that thou art mindful of him; and the son of man, that thou visitest him?" In another place, David says, "Lord, what is man, that thou takest knowledge of him! or the son of man, that thou makest account of him! Man is like to vanity: his days are as a shadow that passeth away." Man cannot be the centre of the theological universe, he is altogether too insignificant a being to occupy such a position, and the scheme of redemption must exist for some other end than that of merely making man happy, or even of making him holy. The salvation of man must surely be first of all for the glory of God; and you have discovered the right form of Christian doctrine when you have found the system that has God in the centre, ruling and controlling according to the good pleasure of his will. Do not dwarf man so as to make it appear that God has no care for him; for if you do that, you slander God. Give to man the position that God has assigned to him; by doing so, you will have a system of theology in which all the truths of revelation and experience will move in glorious order and harmony around the great central orb, the Divine Sovereign Ruler of the universe, God over all, blessed for ever.

Moralism is Not the Gospel

Al Mohler writes:

We sin against Christ and we misrepresent the Gospel when we suggest to sinners that what God demands of them is moral improvement in accordance with the Law. Moralism makes sense to sinners, for it is but an expansion of what we have been taught from our earliest days. But moralism is not the Gospel, and it will not save. The only gospel that saves is the Gospel of Christ. As Paul reminded the Galatians, "But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons." [Gal. 4:4-5]

...The deadly danger of moralism has been a constant temptation to the church and an ever-convenient substitute for the Gospel. Clearly, millions of our neighbors believe that moralism is our message. Nothing less than the boldest preaching of the Gospel will suffice to correct this impression and to lead sinners to salvation in Christ.

The Importance of Being Earnest

C.H. Spurgeon on the importance of earnestness in preaching:

Brethren, you and I must, as preachers, be always earnest in reference to our pulpit work. Here we must labor to attain the very highest degree of excellence. Often have I said to my brethren that the pulpit is the Thermopile of Christendom: there the fight will be lost or won. To us ministers the maintenance of our power in the pulpit should be our great concern, we must occupy that spiritual watch-tower with our hearts and minds awake and in full vigor. It will not avail us to be laborious pastors if we are not earnest preachers. We shall be forgiven a great many sins in the matter of pastoral visitation if the people's souls are really fed on the Sabbath-day; but fed they must be, and nothing else will make up for it. The failures of most ministers who drift down the stream may be traced to inefficiency in the pulpit.

Why are they leaving?

This blog post suggests that people are leaving the church because many sermons are polished, but are theoretical and lack the gospel:

Why are people leaving good, established, traditional churches with great facilities, full of quality individuals and extensive children’s programs to attend churches that meet in old schools? Because their pastors have fallen into this trap of theoretical preaching. Therefore, the message is no longer relevant. The pastors are not communicating the life-changing message of the gospel. They are delivering well-polished lectures with biblical points. People know the difference and they vote with their feet.

The Old Story

Paul Tripp blogs on the Bible as a theologically annotated story, which helps make sense of the story of our lives:

Your Bible is not a collection of religious stories. No, it is one story, the grand story of redemption. The Bible has one central character; God himself, specifically in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. From cover to cover the Bible is a narrative of the wondrous works of a God. Perhaps the four most important words in all of Scripture are the first four words; "In the beginning God..." You simply cannot understand yourself, your world, and the meaning and purpose of life unless you view them from the vantage point of the existence, character, and plan of God.

Tripp then explains five things that this story gives us. Read the whole post.

Something to Say the World Didn't Already Know

Karl Barth reflects on his approach to preaching after the Titanic sank:

During my time as a pastor... I often succumbed to the danger of attempting to get alongside the congregation in the wrong way. Thus in 1912, when the sinking of the Titanic shook the whole world, I felt that I had to make this disaster my main theme the following Sunday, which led to a monstrous sermon on the same scale.

Fred Sanders reflects on this sermon:

Barth's seminary trained him in classically liberal Christianity. He entered the pulpit with a set of beliefs that were brittle, insufficiently biblical, and ultimately irrelevant to real people. In the Titanic sermon, you can see him trying to make his liberalism stretch to cover currrent catastrophes. It stretched enough to cover the Titanic, but just barely. This sermon was a real stinker, a real sinker, and it went under pretty fast. But Barth's preaching career kept going until a few years later when the outbreak of World War I would be an even more titanic challenge to the weak Christianity of his seminary training. When that happened, Barth couldn't stretch the thin commitments of liberalism to fit the real world.

That's when he stopped preaching headlines, stopped trying to declare which economic system God hates or what God was up to in the latest disaster, and started preaching from what he called "the strange, new world of the Bible." And that's when he found that he had something to say which the world didn't already know.

more (found via Trevin Wax)

"My challenge is this..."

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I was struck by this thought in Why Johnny Can't Preach. Gordon is responding to those who have dismissed preaching:

I believe the preaching in many churches is so poorly done that it is not, effectively, preaching...If the patients of a given hospital's surgeons continue to die, we could, I suppose, abandon the scalpel. We might also consider employing it more skillfully.

My challenge...is this: Show me a church where the preaching is good, and the church is still moribund. I've never seen such a church. The moribund churches I've seen have been malpreached to death.

The Content of Christian Preaching

Kevin DeYoung has an excellent post based on T. David Gordon's Why Johnny Can't Preach. Some excerpts:

After wrestling with the nature of preaching for 25 years, Gordon has concluded that the content of Christian preaching should be the person, character, and work of Christ. Kind of makes sense. Of course, preaching will included moral exhortation, but it is never appropriate, says Gordon, "for one word of moral counsel ever to proceed from a Christian pulpit that is not clearly, in its context, redemptive. That is, even when the faithful exposition of particular texts require some explanation of aspects of our behavior, it is always to be done in a manner that the hearer perceives such commended behavior to be itself a matter of being rescued from the power of sin through the grace of Christ" (70-71).

Gordon sees four alternatives to this type of gospel preaching: Moralism, How-To, Introspection, and Social Gospel/Culture War. That is, instead of preaching Christ crucified and the grace of God, we end up preaching "be better" or "here are three steps to being better" or "are you really a Christian?" or "we need to do more to fight the bad guys out there." It's not that we can't do any of this as preachers--Gordon says there is a place for three of the four (everything but the how-to)--but "the pulpit is almost never the place to do this" (91). What must predominate in our preaching is the person, character, and work of Christ. And everything else should manifestly flow from these things...

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Sounds like a book that's worth getting.

Moralistic Preaching is so 80s

A great article by Ed Stetzer and Jason Hayes on preaching to the younger unchurched:

Directly connected to the younger unchurched's aversion to simplistic preaching is their aversion to "tidy" preaching. The Church has somehow forgotten that life is not always about having a neat, pat answer...

This means that the moralizing of our preaching past is out like the 80s. Our preaching should encompass more than do's and don'ts. It should reach to the why and the how behind our proclamation. Great preaching requires mining truth down to its deepest core and assigning it to resonate within the hearts of our listeners. As a result, our preaching must go beyond appeals to behavior modification, beyond pithy platitudes on being happy and living well. Our preaching must wrestle with the meat and marrow of human existence, because this is what young adults are already doing. Otherwise it is like tossing a fortune cookie to a man starving in the desert.

Fogging God's Glory

An article by Lee Eclov:

A third way we fog God's glory is by not showing how he stands behind texts that are not explicitly about him. When I see a play I like, I'm invariably curious about the playwright. What of her is written into this story? What prompted him to give such a powerful speech to that character? Many Bible passages don't have explicit statements about the attributes of God, but there is no text that doesn't reveal something wondrous of God. We don't do the text justice if we don't help people see God standing in the wings.

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Sermons on almost every topic

Found this story recently. It's a sobering warning:

Dietrich Bonhoeffer studied for a year in New York City. He visited a number of churches there, and this is what he concluded: "One may hear sermons in New York upon almost any subject; one only is never handled, namely, the gospel of Jesus Christ, of the cross, of sin and forgiveness."

Hope that's not true of us.

Garrison Keillor on preaching

I've heard a lot of sermons in the past 10 years or so that make me want to get up and walk out. They're secular, psychological, self-help sermons. Friendly, but of no use. They didn't make you straighten up. They didn't give you anything hard. ... At some point and in some way, a sermon has to direct people toward the death of Christ and the campaign that God has waged over the centuries to get our attention. (Garrison Keillor, Leadership, Vol. 6, no. 3)

Preaching to Postmoderns

J.D. Greear on preaching Scripture focused on Christ rather than on us:

The Bible was not primarily intended to explain to us what we should do for God, but to point us to what God was doing for us in Christ.

Take the popular Old Testament story of David and Goliath. The teaching usually goes like this: "Like David, we have giants in our lives. Through the power of God, we can knock them down like David did!" The main point of the David narrative, however, was not simply the ability of one man to defeat in this life every giant that comes against him, but that David a young Jew, hated by his brothers, who went out and defeated a giant who had completely immobilized Israel, and through his victory all of Israel was saved, even though they didn't lift a finger to help him! Then all Israel shared in his victory. In this way, David was pointing us to Jesus. Because Jesus, the "greater David," has conquered the "giant" of our separation from God, we don't have to worry as much about other so-called giants, like cancer or vocational failure. Through Jesus' work, no longer does death really defeat us or personal failure devestate our sense of personal worth!

...Postmoderns have lost the centrality of God in the universe and replaced it with the centrality of themselves. It is the preaching of the Gospel which reverses that. It is only when we teach people to trade their self-centered story for the story of God that we can truly be "preaching the Word." Preaching the Gospel means to teach people to put Jesus back in the center of the universe where He belongs and to trust what He has done and can do on our behalf.What we should be exposing from the Bible is the Gospel!

Excellent post.

Center Preaching on God

A good reminder from Biblical Preaching:

Based on the nature of Scripture, I think it is vital that we grasp the necessity of theocentric interpretation, and consequently, preaching. Kent Edwards, in a journal article, stated:

The point of a biblical story is always a theological point. We learn something about God and how to live in response to him when we understand a biblical story. The narrative literature of the Bible is concretized theology. (J.Kent Edwards, JEHS 7:1, 10)

How true that is! Even if you were to study Esther, the story in the Bible where God is textually absent, it doesn’t take long to recognize that God is very much present as the hero of the story! Let’s be sure we don’t study Bible passages, stories in particular, and merely derive little lessons for life. We can leave that with Aesop’s Fables. Let’s be sure we grapple with the theological point of every story, the intersection between God and humanity. God’s Word is all relevant and useful, so our preaching should likewise be relevant and useful to life. But we also center our preaching on God, because the Bible is centered on Him!

The Danger of Practical Preaching

One of the best little articles I've ever read on preaching is found in The Art and Craft of Biblical Preaching. The title of the article is "The Danger of Practical Preaching: Why People Need More than the Bottom Line." The author, Lee Eclov, writes:

The Bible spends much more time on shaping the spiritual mind than commanding particular behavior. We need far more training in the ways of grace, of spiritual perceptions, and of what God is really like than we do on how to communicate with our spouse. Understanding the glory of Christ is far more practical than our listeners imagine. Properly preached, every sermon based on a passage of Scripture is fundamentally practical. Every author of Scripture wrote to effect change in God's people. It is our job as preachers to find the persuasive logic of that author and put that clearly and persuasively before our people through biblical exposition.

How to Develop A God-Centered Church

If you are interested in God-centered preaching, you may be interested in this article at 9 Marks:

A common question that church planters face is "How can you develop a God-centered church when most of the people attending aren't mature believers?" Assuming that you're not trying to fill your seats only with believers who are already mature, you're going to face this question. How do you create a God-centered culture?

The post expands on five suggestions:

  1. Prayer
  2. Set an example of God-centeredness
  3. Preach the Word of God
  4. Patience
  5. Confidence

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