Sermons, Cultural Studies, and the Heart

Heart and the City

Studying culture is necessary when preparing a sermon. Pastors, including myself, read and devour everything in culture to ready themselves for their sermon. While it is profitable for pastors to know what is going on around them, I think we have to be careful what we take in. Consuming everything is not profitable, and it may even be a subtle way for us to make way for our sin.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones in his Studies in the Sermon on the Mount tackles these subtle sins of the heart. Here is what he has to say:

You have never been guilty of adultery? All right. Would you then answer me this simple question. Why do you read all the details of divorce cases in the newspaper? Why do you do it? Why is it essential that you should read right through these reports? What is your interest? It is not a legal interest, is it? or a social one? What is it? There is only one answer: you are enjoying it. You would not dream of doing these things yourself, but you are doing them by proxy.

You are sinning in your heart and mind and in your imagination, and you are therefore guilty of adultery. That is what Christ says. How subtle this awful, terrible thing is! How often do men sin by reading novels and biographies. You read the reviews of a book and find that it contains something about a man’s misconduct or behavior, and you buy it. We pretend we have a general philosophical interest in life, and that we are sociologists reading out of pure interest. No, no; it is because we love the thing; we like it. It is sin in the heart; sin in the mind!

Could we actually be making way for sin in our sermon preparation? Could we be disguising our cultural studies as a way to make room for our heart to fulfill it’s lusts and desires? I don’t believe that is always the reason we study our culture, but these paragraphs gave me reason to pause and consider the reasons behind the cultural studies I do. It gave me reason to check my heart and see what sin I may be feeding. I hope it gives you reason to do the same.

Questions for Reflection

  1. Why do you study culture?
  2. Have you ever stopped and considered that some of your studies might be done to make way for sin?

Resource

Martyn-Lloyd Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 239.

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Prayer: The Minister’s Duty

Yesterday, as I was preparing to give a devotional at our church business meeting, I read through the book Joel Beeke and Brian Najapfour edited entitled Taking Hold of GodReformed and Puritan Perspectives on Prayer

In the chapter: Prayerful Praying Today written by Beeke, I found this quote by Charles Bridges (1794-1869). He writes on the need for revival in prayer based on Acts 6:4, which says,”We will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word.”

Writing specifically to ministers, and commenting on that verse, Bridges writes,

Prayer is one half of our Ministry; and it gives to the other half all its power and success. it is the appointed medium of receiving spiritual communications for the instruction of our people. Those who walk most closely with God are most spiritually intelligent in the “the secret of his covenant.” Many can set their seal to Luther’s testimony, that he often obtained more knowledge in a short time by prayer, than by many hours of laborious accurate study. It will also strengthen our habitual engagedness of our hearts in our work, and our natural exercises and capacities for it. Living near to the fountain-head of influence, we shall be in the constant receipt of fresh supplies of light, support, and consolation – to assist us in our duties, to enable us for our difficulties, and to assure us of our present acceptance, and a suitable measure of ultimate success. 

Convicted

After reading Beeke and the quote from Bridges, conviction set in. I don’t pray enough. So today, I renewed my commitment to being a minister who prays more.

Challenge

Want you do the same if your prayer life is lacking? Half our duties as a minister is to be in prayer for our people, our work, our community, our family, and our personal growth in God’s Word. If we are not spending the necessary time, then we are neglecting half our God given duties. Neglecting half your work as a business man, farmer, or school teacher would not be acceptable, so why should it be acceptable for a pastor?

Questions for Reflection

  1. Is prayer a priority in your ministry?
  2. Do you spend time in prayer each day asking the Lord to strengthen you, give you insight, and wisdom?
  3. Do you too need to renew your commitment to pray more?

Resources

Taking Hold of GodReformed and Puritan Perspectives on Prayer, edited by Joel Beeke and Brian Najapfour, 228.

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Why I am Going to Together for the Gospel

Bright and early tomorrow morning I am flying to Louisville, KY with three other friends to attend the Together for the Gospel (T4G) Conference. I am excited, and I can’t wait to go! But why? Why have I made it a priority in my busy schedule as a pastor to attend this conference?

Why I am Going to Together for the Gospel

(1) Teaching

The men who will be speaking at this conference are godly men that have been blessed by God with the ability to shepherd other pastors. They are firmly grounded in the Word and all their counsel will be as well. I am looking forward to hearing what they have to say about the gospel, as well as learning more about how the gospel applies to my life, my ministry, and my church.

(2) Books

I love books, they are essential tools for any minister, and there will be tons of vendors at the conference. The best thing is that these vendors will have hand selected a number of solid books and they will be selling them at a discounted price. As well as there will be a lot of books given away for free, which is probably the best part. I plan on coming back with a suitcase full, so much so that I am packing as light as possible, in order to make room for more books. If it is not a necessity, I am not bringing it. I am hoping these books will not only serve to educate me, but that they will also serve my congregation.

(3) Fellowship

I have found that conferences are a great time to meet other godly men from around the country, as well as it is a great time to spend with friends. I am looking forward to connecting with those I have not seen since my last conference, meeting new people, and hanging with my friends I am traveling with. Above all, I am looking forward to learning how God is working in these men’s lives and churches, as well as hearing how the gospel is being spread in their town, and how they are ministering to their community.

(4) Band of Bloggers

I am looking forward to gathering together with other fellow bloggers at the Band of Bloggers meeting to discuss and learn how we may band together as a united front to spread the gospel to the nations through the internet. As well as I am looking forward to meeting new people and discovering new blogs to add to my RSS reader.

(5) Traveling

I love to travel and learn about new places. I am looking forward to exploring Louisville, KY, seeing the campus of SBTS, and eating at a few local places.