Saturday, November 11, 2006

Biblical Priorities for a Healthy Church (2)

How in the world does the church grow?
Biblical Priorities for the Life of Our Church (2) Biblical Preaching

2 Timothy 4:1-4

Introduction (review):
1. On October 22, we began a new series of topical-expository messages on Biblical Priorities for the Life of Our Church
2. On Sunday mornings, we are going to be asking (and giving biblical answers) to questions like: what is the situation in which we as the church and living and ministering? What is the church called by God to do, to believe, to be? What are the characteristics, marks, attributes, qualities and priorities of a healthy church?
3. For the weeks leading up to the Christmas season, and for a few months immediately thereafter, we will focus on the Bible’s teaching about the church and its priorities and commitments.
4. We want to be a church that is faithful to the following important but increasingly rare emphases: expository preaching, biblical worship (both in all of life and in gathered praise), biblical doctrine, a biblical pursuit of godliness, a biblical approach to family life, a biblical understanding of the Gospel, a biblical understanding of conversion, a biblical understanding of evangelism, a biblical understanding of discipleship, a biblical understanding of church membership, a biblical understanding of church leadership, and a biblical view of how the church relates to the world.
5. In our first message in this series, "Where in the world in the Church?," we considered the context in which we live and minister, and we agreed that the Bible teaches us that it is important for us to be aware of our contemporary context, to understand our times (see, e.g. 1 Timothy 3:1-7, 1 Chronicles 12:32 and Matthew 16:3/ Luke 12:56).
6. We also argued that there at least three huge factors impacting the church in our day: individualism, relativism, and consumerism. Individualism - It’s all about me. The world is built around self. The individual is sovereign. Self-interest is the supreme motivation, self-expression is an inalienable right, and self-preoccupation is a virtue. Relativism - There is no such thing as absolute truth. Hence, we have "beliefs" but not truth, "values" but not universal rights and wrongs. We cope with the multiple options we face in our society by declaring them all to be equally valid. Hence, I can believe anything to be true as long as I do not expect others to believe it. Consumerism - we view ourselves, wittingly or unwittingly, fundamentally as consumers – and hence, the customer is always right (which plays into both individualism and relativism).
7. Finally, we said that these cultural myths and assumptions have a massive influence on the church, and often unhelpfully impact the way we view what the church is, should be, does and believes, as well as the way we participate in the life of the church and the way we engage the culture.
8. So how do we compete with this? How do we resist the siren song of the culture? How do we keep from caving in and copying the world? The Bible’s answer is primarily that we do so by having our hearts and minds captured by the word of God.
9. And this has to work it’s way out primarily in the faithful exposition of God’s word - biblical preaching
10. Note: 2 Timothy 3 gives us the theme: live by the book. 2 Timothy 4 gives us the theme: preach the book.

Read 2 Timothy 4:1-4
1. Expository Bible Preaching is not a style but a principle. It’s controlling concern is to expound what Scripture says in a particular passage, carefully explaining its meaning and applying it to the congregation. It is a commitment to hear God's Word and recover the centrality of the Word in our worship. The next generation of preachers must be trained to appreciate the difference between preaching that is Bible-based and preaching that merely uses the Bible as a starting point to discuss the matter at hand.
2. Why are we committed to expository preaching at FPC? Because we aim to live and minister by the book!

I. The solemnity of the charge - before whom does Paul charge Timothy? (1)
1 I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom:
II. The content of the charge – keep on proclaiming the word, message of truth (2)
2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.
See answers to Westminster Shorter Catechism Questions 88 and 89
III. The context of Paul’s charge – people will prefer myths to truth (3-4)
3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, 4 and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.
So, if the preaching of the word is so important to Paul. If it is the main way that God converts sinners and builds up saints, how should we prepare ourselves to hear God's word? Or, to put it even more provocatively, how should we listen to a bad sermon? That is, given the importance of hearing the Word preached, how do we prepare ourselves to hear well, even when the messenger is less than stellar (yet faithful)?
Five Answers (by way of applying points II. and III. above):

1. Listen as if your life depended on it (Matthew 4:4)
2. Recognize the seriousness of your life situation (Ephesians 6:12)
3. Realize that it is God’s word you need in such a circumstance (Psalm 119:105)
4. Understand that it is God’s help that you need (Psalm 40:17)
5. Appreciate that communion with God is your goal (Psalm 27:4; 42:1)

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