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Taco Bell Christianity

taco bellWe live in a culture of cheap knock-offs, counterfeits, pale imitations and shadows of “real” things.  We are so immersed in imitations that we often forget what the “real” is.  We have millions of people who think Taco Bell serves “real” mexican food. We think that grocery store tomatoes are fine, because we have never tasted one that has been just picked off a vine.  We even think the hard block you buy in a cardboard carton at Wal-Mart is ”real” ice cream.  We consume the imitations by the truckful, often sadly oblivious to what we are really missing.

But it’s more than just food— it pervades all the facets of our lives.  We have millions of people floating aimlessly through superficial relationships and “hooking up” on weekends. Why?  Because they’ve never been around a ”real” marriage, one that has grown over decades into a sweet supernatural bond that transforms both the lives of the spouses and their children and their friends.  There are millions who have given up on Christianity because all they have seen is empty rote religion with no power to truly transform the lives of the people who follow it.  They have given up on church because all they hear is dry dusty theology or pop self-help they can get from Dr. Phil on TV.

John Piper said it well commenting on the sad state of the typical American pulpit:

(There is a reason why) Today so many people say so many minimizing and foolish things about preaching.  They have never heard it.  They don’t know what it is.  They have no basis for judgement as they belittle it and call for alternatives that are more “effective.”

Most people in America have never heard REAL preaching, preaching that is annointed by the Spirit and “soaked with the blood of Jesus and singed by the fire of hell.”  So they either mindlessly settle for the drivel they are given, not knowing any better, or just walk away lost and disillusioned.

Please, let’s not settle for Taco Bell preaching or Taco Bell small groups or Taco Bell Christianity.  There are millions floundering and dying because they don’t have “the real thing” in their lives. Let us strive in our churches for the real thing, for lives and community and teaching miraculously transformed by the Spirit, focused on the life and death of the Son, and glorifying the majesty and love of the Father. 

And when people finally taste the real thing, they won’t be going back to Taco Bell anymore.

The Power of the Spoken Word

I am still thinking about John Piper’s message delivered during the Together for the Gospel conference.  Everyone who heard it was deeply moved.  Here again are both my and Mohler and Duncan’s immediate reactions to it (not that I dare put myself in the same class of those giants):

Me:  “Written words cannot convey even a fraction of the blazing fire of hearing Piper’s oratory”

Mohler: “What John did tonight, the passion he displayed, is something most Christians will never see.” 

Duncan: “After tonight, I wondered if I ever preached a sermon before.” 

The more I think about, the more I marvel at the power of the spoken word.  John is without doubt a great scholar and writer, but he is without equal as an orator, as someone who by his inflection, his gestures, all of his physical skills that God has blessed him with combine to set fire to the words that he had prepared for us.  As the panelists later agreed, true preaching can be nurtured, refined, but it is a gift that cannot be created out of thin air.

Some theologians, citing Romans, feel that God dispenses a special grace to the auditory preaching of the Gospel that He does not do for mere writing.  Whether that is true or not, undoubtedly it was His divine plan to construct our bodies and our souls to respond to auditory communication in a way we simply don’t to mere reading.  In the hands of a master, delivering a God-annointed and God-honoring sermon is like listening to a great symphony, versus merely reading the musical score to it.

Let us be thankful to God for His gift of the spoken word, be thankful to His faithful servants who bring it to us, and be diligent to seek out words of pure and excellent truth to help transform our minds and our hearts, to the glory of God.

A Bee-Line to the Cross

One of the panelists at the Together for the Gospel Conference quoted Spurgeon as saying, “Whatever text you’re preaching, make a bee-line to the Cross.”

As I was turning that quote and its implications around in my mind, I wondered if it had a valid application beyond the mere text of the sermon in our worship services.

Should not all that we do within a church service make a bee-line to the Cross? Whether it is worship music or architecture or interpretive movement or skits or whatever topic we seem to endlessly debate about, shouldn’t the first thing we judge it on is whether it points, without distraction, to the Cross? I think there is a subtle but real danger of things in our church services, e.g. interpretive movement, that might be both inoffensive to God and of technically excellent quality, but still inappropriate if the thing tends to draw your attention to itself instead of Christ.

If the organ music is so strikingly beautiful that we start focusing on it during a service instead of on Christ, is there a problem there? Think about it. That same organ music during a recital would be fine, but if in a worship service we are supposed to be creating a time and space for God to speak to His people, what if something else is speaking louder? I know that a yardstick such as this is highly subjective, but it seems that it should be one we should be seriously considering nonetheless as we plan our worship services. A pastor would never think of preaching in a lime green leisure suit, why?, because people wouldn’t be able to focus on the sermon. Shouldn’t we be reviewing every aspect of our worship services the same way, whether they help or hinder us from making a bee-line to the cross? What do you think?

Thoughts on Preaching:

Quotes from John MacArthur (can’t guarantee they’re all word for word) from the final panel discussion panel at the Together for the Gospel Conference today:

I don’t think we need to bring the Bible in modern times, we need to take people back to Bible times, and then to the applicational aspect of the text. You can stay with the text. 

I don’t spend a lot of time studying the culture, I think I know enough from living in it. I don’t want to be a student of the culture, I want to be a student of the Bible.

Just be an expert on the Word of God, and you will know what to say to the culture. You can be the cultural expert of all experts if you just read Al Mohler’s blogs. 

You never run out of material to preach if you go to the Word of God. And if you preach the Bible it will stand the test of time and can be translated and passed on. 

Right now in Evangelicalism there is no way of knowing who is in and out, who is on the right side of the fence or not.

I am nonconfrontational on a personal level, but when you come to the text there is nowhere to go, you have to say “This is it.”  People say that I am divisive, but is it me or is it the Word of God that draws the line?  

It’s about the truth to me.  At the end of the day, did I teach the truth, did I uphold the truth? It was the Apostle John’s heart.

My philosophy of church staff is to surround myself with the very best, a team with passion for the lost and to nurture and teach the saints, get the most gifted and pay them. Ministry produces church growth.  Buildings don’t, programs don’t.

Planning for church growth? I have no long-range planning, no short-range planning. No planning.
When I started at the church, I wanted them to see Christ in all His glory, that’s what I started out with, the Gospel of John, in one hundred sermons.

If I went to a church fresh, I wouldn’t get their doctrine straightened out, or their order straightened out, I wouldn’t drop hammers on their head, they are wherever they are because someone led them there. I would show them the glory of Christ. 

Paul said Preach Christ.

We in this country get so caught up trying to fix this life here and now that we forget about the hope of heaven.  If we had an opportunity to have people to sign up to go to heaven on the spot there would be people trying to decide whether or not to go because their kid had a little league game that afternoon.

Expositional Preaching

These are my notes on John MacArthur’s message to the Together for the Gospel conference:

A preacher should not hold a leaf in front of his mouth. Luther

Mohler introduced Macarthur by saying, “When I was a high school student I received some MacArthur tapes, and that more than anything inspired me to go into the ministry. Perhaps no other man in this generation has inspired more men to faithful ministry than John MacArthur.”

Expositional Preaching

I came out of seminary at 24 and was basically useless. I had tools, but didn’t have the maturity. My Dad went to heaven last year at the age of 91, and until six months before his death he faithfully preached the word of God every Lord’s Day. When I was 29 I came to Grace Community Church with the desire to see a church grow Biblically. I was drawn to the ministry of the apostle Paul, who is still my hero.

(John then read 1 Thess. 1 and 2 in their entirety, then said, “I read these chapters without comment, for they need none.” )

Never did I think in Seminary did I think I would spend so much of my ministry defending the true Gospel of God from beyond my church from so-called believers. I am committed to certainty. Without certainty, no clarity, without clarity, no conviction, without conviction, no communion. For we want our people to rejoice in communion of knowing and rejoicing in the truth. Therein lies the mandate for getting it right. But now we have an avalanche of teachers and theologians who declare that certainty is over-rated or even not attainable.

The most important lesson I ever learned in seminary was when Dr. Fineberg told me after my first student sermon, “You missed the entire point of the passage. Never do that again! Never miss the point of the passage!” The best compliment that anyone can say to me after a message is, “The message was clear.” I knew I had to make a commitment to expository preaching. I knew I had nothing to say as important as what God had to say, so as much as possible make sure that every time you go into a pulpit you are there to explain the words of the living God, and be prepared.

Reasons to Preach the Bible Expositionally:

1. It establishes the authority of God over the mind and the soul. “Thus says the Lord”

2. It exalts the Lordship of Christ over His Church. Perhaps the most assaulted doctrine today is the headship of Christ over His Church. That doctrine has sailed down to us on a sea of blood, through the Reformation. Hus was burned at the stake for stating that Christ, not the pope, was the head of the Church. Today we have a flood of people who through their rebellion of true doctrine have effectively taken Christ’s headship away from His Church. I’m not interesting in entrepeneurial ministry, I’m not the head of my church, Christ is.

3. It is the Word of God that God uses to save and sanctify. Open the Bible and tell them what it means. This strikes a blow at pride. I don’t like mavericks, people who think that the exaltation of them is that they do things uniquely. If I never preached a sermon, I would thank God for His sanctifying grace through the relentless study of God’s word. It is the greatest gift God has given me. There is nothing worse than an unsanctified minister. Bible exposition forces me to stay in the study of the Word.

4. You honor by example the priority of Bible study. They get it. They understand the Word matters more than anything else. People learn how to study the Bible by how you preach. You take people through the text. How they treat the Scripture is how you treat it. You model it. I want to be prepared: I never want to give people the illusion that they have heard a word from God when they haven’t.

5. It has a massive impact on the worship. Transcendent worship experience is tied to the depth of understanding of the character of God. People want more drums, more flash because they don’t understand the theology, they don’t understand the words.

6. It protects your people from error and carnality which is deadly to the church. Little sermonettes on self-help give your people nothing to protect them from the wolves. You are no shepherd. You have left them defenseless. The editor of the LA Times once asked me why I never gave my own opinion on anything from the pulpit. I replied why do want my opinion when you have the voice of God through the word.

Benefits of Expositional Ministry:

1. A church full of real Christians, who are there to know God and worship God and reach sinners. This church is the real deal. We are not a comfortable zone for hypocrites, not that we beat people up, but if you don’t love who we love you won’t feel comfortable staying around.

2. People develop convictions where they have clarity, and convictions develop strength, and strength makes impact. Footnote: Every Sunday there are unbelievers in your church that show up every week. They are your children. Take your best people, your best material, and start there. There is no more important evangelistic field.

3. Everything you believe is tested and proved against the Scripture. You are not riding a hobby horse.

There is something so wonderful at being at the same church for 37 years. I know their love, I know their forgiveness. I am preaching to the grandchildren of people I first spoke to 37 years ago. You ask, “Do you get tired of the same people?” Well, do you get tired of the people you love? How do I preach effectively? I explain the Bible to myself. I preach what captures me, what thrills me. I promised God, “I will focus on the depth, I will leave the breadth to You.” I never asked for one more member or one more building. I do the same thing, in my same office week after week after week, and just try to get the passage right.

The Pastor’s Watch

Here are my notes from today’s message from C.J. Mahaney at the Together for the Gospel Conference:
Mark Dever introduced C.J. with the words, “C.J. has affected me perhaps more than any other brother in my life. He lives in the knowledge of what God has done for Him.”
C.J. started out by thanking everyone who attended, “I have received more encouragement in the last two days than most men receive during their entire life.”  Then he launched into a short monologue comparing Piper’s message to a Concorde taking off, shaking the ground, while he was a Cessna, just hoping to get airborne.  There is no way to describe how hilariously funny this was— you just had to be there.

Then C. J confessed, “While preparing for this message, God revealed to me that I was more concerned with preparing a message to impress than to serve.  How pathetic, how proud.  Preparing a message is a critical part of God’s process of sanctification in the pastor’s heart.  So, now, I am not here to impress you, but to serve you.”

1 Timothy 4:16
Keep a close watch on yourself and on your teaching; persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.

Spurgeon’s first lecture to his students was on this passage, “The minister’s self watch.”  My practice is to read a Spurgeon sermon on my upcoming text the night before I preach.

Paul’s tender care for Timothy is evident in this passage.  This morning we have the privilege of overhearing this divinely inspired fatherly communication, and we find that we are being addressed as well.  This morning I am convinced that God wants to have a word with you, and a very personal word with you.  He wants to address each one of us personally, and care for our souls.  The Savior wants to care for you, to minister to you, so that you are a different man when you return to your home.

Here we have a summation of our ministry, and on the eternal consequences.

Feel the weight of this verse, feel the implications of this verse on your soul.

Your congregation is at stake on your obedience to this verse.  The implications are eternal.

1.  Watch your life

Watching your life and watching your doctrine are inseparable, both are linked and both must be done and both must be daily practiced and priorities. But in my life the easier one to neglect is watching my life.  It is much easier to study doctrine than to study my heart.  It’s easier to examine my books than my motives.

We watch over our flock’s souls but not our own, to public ministry but not private piety.  There is no substitute for personal piety.  Christian character is the fundamental qualification for pastoral ministry.

Our characters must be more persuasive than our speech. —Spurgeon

If we neglect this command the consequences are inevitable and serious.

This is more than the obvious sins like sexual sin, but also pride, lack of seeking or listening to counsel, laziness, seeking honor. 

How do we watch our lives?  Here are three:

1. The Limitation of Sound Doctrine:
Knowledge of Scripture is essential, not optional, but it is not sufficent for personal godliness.  This conference can contribute to progressive personal godliness, but it could also lead to progressive self-deception if we think that listening and being emotionally moved is all that we need.
It is obedience to the truth that counts in the end.
We spend so much time reading and teaching the Scripture that we are vulnerable to assume that we are automatically growing.
We must apply to our own soul what we are teaching.

2. The war within our regenerated heart never ends:
Romans 7  Our enemy is not just upon you, as Samson of old, but within you. John Owen
There is no pastoral exemption from sin.
If you don’t watch, you will weaken.  Are you watching?  It’s hard work.  And hard work, is hard work.  Are you watching daily, closely, persistently?  If you don’t watch you will weaken.

3. You can’t effectively watch yourself by ourselves:
We need others.  In God’s wisdom He has designed it so.  Left to myself there will be deficient discernment of my sin within.

I wrongly assume that since I perceive your sin clearly, I have no problem seeing my sin clearly.  But sin deceives, sin blinds. 
“Since each of us still has sin remaining in us, we will have pockets of spiritual blindness. The Bible says that we can be spiritually blind and yet think that we see quite well. My self perception is as accurate as a carnival mirror.”  David Powlinson  
You can assume others have observations, and that they will be reluctant to give you these observations, starting with your wife.  You have to create an environment where they can honestly tell you their observations.

Do you specifically confess specific areas of sin and areas of temptation to trusted men in your life?  And with discernment, do you confess your sin to your congregation as well?  I have seen many benefits of that while I was a senior pastor.

At our church pastoral team members and wives are in small groups, both couples, mens and wives meeting separately monthly, with 3 day retreats as couples yearly.  These are of immeasurable benefit, both for personal growth, marriage, and parenting.

Especially with parenting, it is so easy to have more pride and resistance to counseling regarding the management of our children than our own personal lives.


2. Watch your doctrine
Watching your doctrine must include never losing sight of the Cross. 
The puritans knew that the travelers through the Bible lost their way as soon as they took their eyes off Calvary.  Packer


3.  Watch God work
Here is a promise of effective ministry in a most unexpected place.  If we watch our lives and watch our doctrine then we have the promise that God will work.  What guarantees the effectiveness of watching our lives and doctrine?  The Savior. 

Because of the Savior we have hope in our ministry.

Preaching the Glory of God

These are my notes from John Piper’s lecture tonight at the Together for the Gospel conference. It was hard to get down everything, partly because his message was so rich and dense in its detail and partly because I had to keep wiping away tears. 

At the risk of being melodramatic, I would encourage you, I would beg you, to order a MP3 of this message when it later becomes available.  Written words cannot convey even a fraction of the blazing fire of hearing Piper’s oratory; you will without doubt be blessed by hearing it.

After it Mohler said, “What John did tonight, the passion he displayed, is something most Christians will never see.”  Duncan said, “After tonight, I wondered if I ever preached a sermon before.”  Yes, it really was that good.
John started with a famous quote of George Whitfield, which he said was his desire and prayer as well:

My desire is that we shall see the great Head of the Church once more bring into being His special instruments of revival, that He will again raise up unto Himself certain young men whom He may use in this glorious employ. And what manner of men will they be? Men mighty in the Scriptures, their lives dominated by a sense of the greatness, the majesty and holiness of God, and their minds and hearts aglow with the great truths of the doctrines of grace. They will be men who have learned what it is to die to self, to human aims and personal ambi-tions; men who are willing to be ‘fools for Christ’s sake’, who will bear reproach and falsehood, who will labour and suffer, and whose supreme desire will be, not to gain earth’s accolades, but to win the Master’s approbation when they appear before His awesome judgment seat.

1. Reflections on the Kind of Preaching that God Would Raise Up That Feels the Weight of God’s Glory

Preaching is not conversation or teaching; Preaching is a heralding of a message.
It can be any topic that is then taken into the blazing center of the glory of God.
Many people say such belitting things about preaching because they have never heard it–  never heard real preaching.
“It came to me with the force of electric shock”  Martin Lloyd-Jones
My prayer is that God will raise up thousands of preachers dominated with the holiness of God.
Jesus Christ has laid His absolute claim on planet Earth, everyone will either bow or burn, this must grip pastors.
The sacrifice of the Son of God and the damnation of the unrepentent sinner is the greatest shout possible under heaven.
This has got to grip us!  There is a weight to this office!  Where is this weight going to be felt, if not from you?  From VeggieTales? Not in a million years!  Not from discussion groups, not from radio, not from emergent conversations, but only from you!
The mantle of preaching is soaked in the blood of Jesus and singed with the fires of Hell.
Are you wearing that mantle?
Some of the most prominent Evangelical voices today diminish the power of the Cross and the horror of Hell.
Earnestness comes these days rare.
Today, the joy of millions of Christians is paper thin.  We are amusing ourselves to death with games and 107″ TVs and games on our cell phones and slapstick worship.
In this soul-destroying age, books, seminars, and professors are saying “Lighten up, do something amusing!”  Where is the Spirit of Jesus?  “Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.”  (Luke 14:27 ESV) What is that about anyway? Come on, lighten up, Jesus!  Get Funny!  —these counsels are insane


2. The Glory of God

Your preaching is determined by what you think about the glory of God.
Nothing is more ultimate in the mind of God than the glory of God, the radiant beauty of His perfections.
Everywhere you look in the whole Bible, everywhere when God makes explicit why He is doing something it is for His glory, for His name.
It is so crystal clear if you read the Bible.
It you get this, if you feel this, it will affect your preaching to the depths.  Nothing affects preaching more than to be struck almost speechless by the passion of God for His glory.
From all eternity, God has known Himself and loved Himself perfectly, He has savored Himself infinitely.  He is not only the holiest and happiest being that is, but that can be possibly conceived.  You cannot conceive of a greater happiness than infinite power gazing at infinite glory.
An He intends to share this with us.  Knowing and enjoying His glory is the reason He created the world.
That infinite knowledge and joy of God in Himself will be in us because Jesus will be in us.
God’s purpose to share with sinners this glory is the definition of love.
You do not honor fully what you don’t enjoy.  God is not glorified by being only known, but by being known and enjoyed so much that our lives are transformed by it.
The greatest ethical challenge is so to live so that men don’t glorify you for living that way, but God.
When the glory of God is the treasure of our lives, we will not covet, we will not be mastered by sinful pleasures, we will not nurse a wounded ego or vengeful spirit. 
Every sin flows from a failure to treasure God’s glory above all things.
Therefore, one crucial visible way to show God’s glory is humble, self-sacrifical service to others.

3. How People Awaken to the Glory of God and Treasure It

Your goal is to have all your people to say “YES!” to a message like this on the glory of God.
“YES!”  “MORE! Less stories, more HIM!”
So how is this done?
2 Cor 3:18   There is no greater verse in the Bible for a preacher than this.
This is God’s way of changing people.
Suppose you find another way to get people to change— it’s not the way and not the change that God wants!
2 Cor 4:3-6  You are going to fail with some people— so are you going to change your method because God has already told you that you will fail with some?
We behold the glory of the LORD most clearly and most crucially in the gospel, so much that Paul calls it the gospel of the glory of Christ.
The gospel is a message, it is words, this is massively important— the paradox is that we must see this glory of God through hearing the word of preaching.
When we preach the gospel we are aiming at the eyes of the heart, this is how we see Him and His glory today in this dispensation.  What appears is the glory of the Cross, the glory of the Incarnation, this is your job!

4. How All This Calls Us to a “Expository Exaltation” Style of Preaching

Expository—why? because the gospel comes in word.  It’s an amazing thing that Paul puts so much stock in the glory of the gospel in the word.

1. The Gospel is a message about historical events— the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, summoning us to explain the narrative events.  Those events are essential to the gospel.
2. The Gospel is a message about what those events achieved— the payment for our sins, the completion of perfect obedience, the destruction of death, the installation of King Jesus, the removal of God’s wrath.
3. The Gospel is a message about the way of transfer of those achievements to people by faith alone.
4. The Gospel is a message about the good things that are true about us because of the transfer of those achievements to us— like redemption, propitiation, justification, sanctification— all of these beg for exposition so your people can live at this awesome banquet table—O what a blessing you could be!
5. The Gospel is a message about our glorious God Himself as our final, eternal, all-satisfying treasure.  So often even good pastors stop at #4.  But if you stop at #4 you fall short of the Gospel.

Exaltation—why?  Woe to us, brothers, if we do this without exaltation over the word. 

Exposition and exaltation are like 2 wings of an airplane, if you lose either wing the plane goes down. 

If we explain these glories and our faces and demeanor and our lives do not reflect the preciousness of the gospel you are lying!  The value of the gospel is as important as the truth of the gospel.  If you do not value the gospel you perish!

Panel discussion:
What is bad expositional preaching? Taking a text and treating your sermon as a commentary.  Or having affections that are false to or out of proportion with the truth of the content. Other people are pathologically serious, there is a constant intensity that is inappropriate, there are people who have no emotional breadth and should not be pastors.  There are others who are so tender that they cannot proclaim some texts appropriately. People can tell if pastors are in touch emotionally with the material they are preaching.  Piper

We need to be listening, scavenging, for everything we can give back to the people of God.  Duncan
MLJ is my default preacher I listen to when I exercise. also Sinclair Ferguson, John Macarthur, Allistar Begg (Piper)
You cannot train someone to preach, but you can identify one with the gift and then nurture them  Mahaney
The difference between an authentic, feeling Christian and a preacher is that a preacher must have the gift of contagion.
The main battle is not fought in the pulpit, it happens as you take hold on Christ and say, “I’ve got to have You! I can’t do this without You! I can’t raise people from the dead!”  Piper

Piper’s last minute spiritual preparation before preaching:
A– I admit that I can do nothing without You
P– I pray for your annointing, I need you
T– I trust Your promise that You will be with me and protect me, I go with specific promises
A– Act, my part

You don’t get ready to preach on Saturday.  “How long did it take me to prepare this message? 30 years.”  Young pastors, cry out to God every day to change you, and will He not hear the cries of His elect?     Piper

(regarding young men contemplating the ministry) If a man has the right passions of the heart, I assume that God is up to some sovereign purpose in their lives. Mohler
A strong expositional preaching ministry is magnetic— God will raise up young men who hunger for the preaching ministry.  Start a seminary in your church!  Give me some competition!   —Mohler
Don’t flatter yourself thinking you are the apostle Paul if Timothy is not with you. (i.e. if you are not actively mentoring) —Mohler
God rests lightly on the American church. (the American church doesn’t sense the majesty, greatness, holiness, the weight of God).  There is a famine of seeing and savoring the glory of God in the pulpits of America. Almost all contemporary church growth strategies are taking us in the opposite direction of sensing the weight of the glory of God.  It is so hard to turn a corner of doing slapstick for the first ten minutes then try to talk about the seriousness of the glory of God.  Pastors are afraid of the serious.  Why do we think the only healthy atmosphere is funny?  Piper

The things that are now sought for transcendence are candles and labryinths and ancient readings instead the presence of the living God.  Duncan
The one thing missing in the church is the one thing most needful—passion.  Kierkegaard

There is no value in “cultural Christianity” any more with the younger generation, there is no value in just going to services or being entertained or being identified as religious.   Mohler

People are realizing that God is God, and it is right to let Him be so.   Piper

More Thoughts on Justification

Selected Comments from the “Justification” panel discussion today at the Together for the Gospel conference:
We can get a problem when we use terms from the Bible as jargon:
We say “saved” “salvation”, but the Bible uses every tense (past, present, future) of the Greek word, so salvation applies to all of redemption from justification to santification to glorification, but we often confusingly use the word salvation when we mean justification.
We are getting into trouble because evangelicals are starting to use the word justification the way the Romans use it. (Sproul)
Evangelicalism today is largely antinomian in its morality, and people are trying to redress the problem by redoing the doctrine of justification, as if the doctrine is the cause of our current low morality (which it is not).
The biggest issue for most churches is easy-believism, where decisional evangelism gives you a false promise and a false assurance, where justification is assumed.
If the average evangelical pastor would be held captive by terrorists and would need to give an adequate definition of to escape alive, well, we’d have a lot of dead pastors.  —Mohler
I preached a sermon on Romans 12:1-2 entitled “Don’t give your heart to Jesus; He wants more than that!” —Duncan
Salvation gets reduced to an emotional experience which is mere affection for Jesus; there is nowhere in the Scripture that we are saved by mere affection for Jesus.  —Mohler
Pastors reduce the gospel to its most emotional and affective dimensions, and rob it of its objective reality.  –Mohler

Whatever text you’re preaching, make a bee-line to the Cross.   —Spurgeon

The first most widespread pervsersion of the doctrine of justifcation in this culture is “justification by death”—  once I die God will justify and accept me.
The second most widespread perversion is “justification by works”— our congregations still are trying to earn their way into heaven.    —Sproul

Who’s afraid of the wrath of God when we preach that God loves us unconditionally?   —Sproul

Sin and the wrath of God go together; you can’t have a Biblical doctrine of sin without the wrath of God.  –Mohler
Most of the people who soft-pedal sin think the sin problem is a problem without, and not a problem within.  –Mohler
I can’t even think of having a conversation about justification with most televangelists even though they would call themselves evangelicals.   —Dever
“We believe in sin, but it’s not a big deal, Jesus already took care of that on the Cross, we want to focus on people having a dynamic life now.”  —quote from televangelist
But on the day of judgement, that message will evaporate, sin has got to be a part of the message.  —Duncan
People have a stilted view of sin.  We have a responsibility to show the ugliness of sin.  Start with the misery that sin brings, then bring it back to the sin, and show how that sin looks to God.   —-Duncan
If you look back to the Puritans, they preached sin to believers, they preached mortification, and that is missing now.  —Mohler
“sin was a problem, but now it’s not because I’m in grace”— the typical attitude of evangelicals now  —Mohler
Pastors think there must be a light tone thoughout the message which makes it impossible to discuss serious matters such as sin.  —Dever
We read one of the Commandments each Sunday at our church. The Law drives us the Cross, and continues to reveal to us what is pleasing to God and shows us His character.  –Sproul
Each member at our church has to take five vows including one admitting that he is a sinner without hope and that Christ is his only hope.   —Duncan
The most insignificant sin that has ever been committed would ruin the entire cosmos, for it would mar the perfection that God created to reflect His glory.  We steal God’s glory by every sin.  We do not grasp the weight of our sin.
Until we can bring home the ugliness of sin, Satan has another weapon in his locker.  —Duncan
The single most important thing I do to awaken people to the gravity of sin is to increase their understanding of the character of God.  –Sproul
Hybels polled people and found people left church because they were bored; well, there is no record in the Bible of anyone personally encountering God and being bored.  Our job is to present God in the fullness of His character.  –Sproul
One of the most effective evangelistic series our church has ever done is when I preached through everyone that God executed for sin.   —Mahaney

Justification and Preaching

These are my notes from Dr. R. C. Sproul, Sr.’s message today from the Together for the Gospel Conference:

The Importance of Preaching on Justification By Faith Alone  sola fide

Nothing thrills me more than to have an opportunity to encourage pastors.
It’s not our soldiers alone who are in harm’s way, it’s the ministers of the Gospel who are in harm’s way every day.
This (justification) is the article on which the church stands or fall— Luther
Furthermore, this is the article on which I stand or fall.  (Sproul)
This is the hinge on which everything turns. —Calvin
sole fide is the Atlas on which the whole of Christianity rests, and if Atlas would shrug, then the whole of Christianity would fall to the ground and shatter.  —J. I. Packer

However, that is not the current assessment, justification is often thought to be a tempest in a teapot, a minor issue.
This minimalist attitude should not be surprising to us, this lessening of the importance of the justification of faith.

 Luther warned the church, “In every generation the Gospel will have to be reaffirmed, for if you preach the justification of faith boldly and accurately, it will produce conflict.”

With the lessening of the significance of sola fide, there is also a growing lack of understanding of the true nature of sola fide as well.
One of the best ways to understand sola fide is to understand the Roman view and how the Reformation started:
Rome taught, and continues to teach, that justification is sacredotal— it is administered through the church, through the sacraments.
In the Roman view, the grace of justification, the righteousness of Christ, is infused, poured into the soul through Baptism, but it still requires the person to cooperate and assent to the grace to such a degree that you actually become righteous before God.
When a person commits a “mortal” serious sin, one’s justification is lost, even though faith might remain, and the righteousness must be regained through another sacrament, penance (made of confession, absolution, and works of satisfaction).  Works of satisfaction produce congruous “fitting” merit to regain the righteous state.
So often Protestants don’t understand Roman salvation in saying that it is faith vs. works, but Rome believes that faith is the foundation and root of justification, it is a necessary condition for justification, but not a sufficent (only) condition.  Protestants says that faith is a sufficent condition, it is all you need for justification.  The difference is not between faith vs. works but faith plus works vs. faith alone.  Rome says yes, you need Christ’s righteousness for justification, but you also need your own as well.

The controversy over the instrumental cause in justification:
When a sculptor creates a statute, the tools that he uses are the instrumental cause
Rome says the means, the tool, that causes justification is baptism and penance
The Reformation says the only instrumental cause is faith, the faith is just a tool in the hand of God, it has no virtue in itself.
It’s not our righteousness, but the imputation of Christ’s righteousness, a righteouness outside of us, to us that justifies us.
That’s why Luther said that we are both saint and sinner, which Rome rejects as a lie.
Gentlemen, I beg you, don’t ever negotiate the imputation of Christ’s righteousness, because without Christ’s righteousness, all we have to offer God is our own filthy rags of our own righteousness.
We have to contend with our all for this doctrine.
Without His righteousness I am naked, I am foul in the sight of God.

We are not justified by the doctrine of justifcation by faith alone.  We can believe, we can contend for this doctrine but still not possess true saving faith.  The doctrine doesn’t save, it just describes what does save us.

Before my conversion I didn’t know about the doctrine of justification; but I heard someone explain the gospel, and I went into my room overwhelmed with my sin and overwhelmed with the understanding I was utterly lost apart from Christ, and I got down on my knees, and I didn’t recite a catechism, I prayed, and I got off my knees justified.

I love my Catholic friends, but I weep for their gospel, for it is a bad gospel, a false gospel, it is no gospel at all.
Quoting the latest Catholic catechism, if I die tonight with “any impurities on my soul,” I must go to purgatory where I may have to spend millions of years until I got rid of every impurity of my soul.  Is that good news?  No.
Here is the good news:  I despair of my own righteousness, I acknowledge my sin, and I put my trust in Christ and Christ alone, and the instant I do that, all that He is, and all that He has, is mine.  And now I am not justified, not for today, not for this week, not until I commit another sin, but for all eternity.  Is there any better news than that?

This doctrine is easy to get in our head, but not so easy to get in our bloodstream.  So we must continue to preach this doctrine over and over and over again.

Preaching with the Culture in View

These are my notes from Dr. Mohler’s lecture this morning from the Together for the Gospel conference:

Dr. Mohler’s introductory comments:
If you do not have deep friends in the ministry, you desperately need them.
Just look at the New Testament, and you will see a band of brothers, you will see brothers and mentors.
Our excitement and hope in gathering together is that we will stand together for the gospel, the church, the truth.
We are also together for several specific concerns, we are meeting in the midst of a very tepid evangelicalism, we have a sense of loss, we are having to try and recover greath truths that have been marginalized and minimalized and even renounced.
There is also a sense of crisis, urgency, we need to do something, not just talk about these things.
The things we are learning need to be translated in our churches and soon, not “I want to do that someday.”

Preaching with the Culture in View
2 dangers of thinking:
1. that the culture is irrelevant or
2. that the culture becomes such a thing of fascination that their ministry becomes captive to it

The true narrow road is preaching with the culture in view

Expository preaching is where our primary attention is to the text and not the culture
Our first task is to present the Biblical text, its truth and authority is unchanged and unchanging
But unavoidably we must both link and apply the Word to the culture, the worldview, the context in which we live
Here we are not talking about cultural renewal or transformation, but that we are preaching the gospel to sinners, and those sinners exist in a culture.
The text is innerrant, authority, in contrast to the culture. 
The Word is transcultural in its authority.
We have the only such message which is for every person in every culture.
We need to put the culture in its proper place.
We have had a tendency to swing to both of the dangerous extremes listed above.
Culture is that which allows humans to relate to one another.
We live in a time where we celebrate culture and diversity, but that celebration of cultural diversity is very arbitrary.
Aristotle said the last person you should ask what it means to be wet is a fish, since he has never been dry.
And so when we are immersed in a culture we have trouble understanding the culture’s effect on us.
In the 1950s evangelicalism did not see culture as hostile, and yet now many do.

Niebuhr’s typology of Christ and culture:
Christ against culture–> you see culture as the enemy only  reaction: withdraw (Amish)    problem: doesn’t work, can never completely withdraw
Christ of culture–> no distinction between Christ and culture, like Victorian England, the church and the culture are synonymous, there are no claims
Christ above culture—> Christ makes claims that are above the claims of culture, but “let’s negotiate with the culture, let’s avoid going to extremes”
Christ and culture in paradox—> 2 completely separate kingdoms without any type of relation or synthesis possible
Christ the transformer of culture—> believes that the mission of the church is to transform every dimension of the culture, it promises redemption through the culture, it promotes Christian activisim

So what’s the right answer?  The answer is that you have to engage the culture differently in different times and different cultural situations, there is no one right approach that is right in all situations.

We tend to see the culture alternatively as an enemy and an opportunity.
We have to be honest there is no golden era in the past or the future, every culture and time has had its own problems, its own ways it rebels against God.
We must see all cultures as passing, as temporary, as subsidiary to eternal truth.
We understand the truth.  We know about sin.  What do you get when you get sinners together?  They translate their sin into culture.  And yet culture is also being restrained and molded and blessed by God’s common grace.
We are not the first generation to think of these things.  Augustine interpreted the crisis of culture in his time in The City of God.
Augustine understood there is only one city that is eternal, the City of God.  Why would we have thought otherwise?
It is the Christian’s responsibility to think of the City of Man only through the lens of our true citizenship in the City of God.
There will be no struggle in the heavenly city to manage one’s passions, one’s allegiance— there will be only God.
So what do you do with the city of man?  You do not love the city, but you love the ones that are in the city.
The city of man is falling and passing, but it is filled with men whose passions are filled with trying to find themselves through the things of the city of man.  So we cannot be suprised to find sinners sin; to find them trying to fulfill themselves with the things of the city of man.
In one sense we must see the culture as a gift, so we can use the culture through God’s common grace working in the culture to communicate the gospel.
But we must always keep the culture at a distance, to never give it our full allegiance, for our citizenship in heaven.
But this culture is so easy to steal our allegiance, to make it easy for us to forget our citizenship in heaven.

Some current cultural distinctives that are missiological challenges:
self-fulfillment, radical individualism, the primary question is “Am I well?”  everyone is either in therapy or in denial
Americans feel that it is normal to think of the self as the center of meaning
Most Americans believe that what is wrong is something that has happened to them, they have an alien problem that requires an inner solution, instead the gospel says they have an inner problem that requires an alien solution, Christ’s righteousness
self-sufficency— all that we need can be found within, our authority is also within, our society rewards those who appear to be most self-sufficent    The Gospel, however, is not about how we can become self-sufficent
self-definition— we have the ability to define ourselves, we can define sexuality, marriage, humanity, gender, authority, we can define everything for ourselves    so you deny any truth or authority that is fixed
self-absorption— “it’s all about me” “all reality can come to terms to me”  you even see people divorcing “so I could become the self I needed to be”
self-transcendance— that’s why people are so enamored of spirituality, why people can listen to Christian teaching and just add it to their montage of their spirituality.  We’ve got to be very clear about the mono in monotheism— we are living in Canaan, in a radically polytheistic society, this is the society that our church members are living in.
self-enhancement— anabolic steroids, life extension, plastic surgery, what kind of lie have we absorbed on what it means to be human
self-security— modern medicine, warnings on coffee cups, retirement investments and insurance, and we feel safe.  Most humans throughout the centuries have not felt safe. Most humans have lived in fear of constant death. This makes the gospel more difficult to understand to this culture, for most humans never had an alternative source of safety apart from the gospel.

We are “elect exiles” according to Peter, do we live like it?

Comments from the question and answer session:

Responding to the theraputic culture: Had that abuse never happened, you would still be a sinner.  The problem of you, your sin, pre-existed anything that happened to you.   Mohler
Front load your sermon’s application in your introduction, let it be related to the Biblical text but pull the person out of their cultural context into it.  Duncan
If people are seeing “your sermon is not meeting my needs”  maybe you aren’t adequately explaining what the text really means, how its truth does impact the culture.  Dever
Expository preaching isn’t done until you answer these 2 questions: (1) how are we going to have to change our thinking  (2) how are we going to have to change and live differently  Mohler
I pull out our member directory, look at the photos, and think “What difference will this make in his and her life on Tuesday because of what I’ve said?”  Dever
The text does set the agenda.   Mohler
You need to intentionally do some detox in your preaching, knowing your congregation has been poisoned by pagan ways of thinking they have absorbed from the culture.  The Word of God can do this.   Congregational reading is wonderful. Mohler
Effective preaching reveals to an individual where they have been conformed to the world.  Mahaney
I am newly attuned that there is a patriotism I find conflicting with the Gospel.  We feel so comfortable here that we think “a good American” is good.  We need to be more subversive with this culture, we need to be willing to betray any earthly kingdom if necessary.  People think this is theoretical; it is a nearer danger than that.  Alot of our people are more concerned about being good Americans than faithful Christians.  There is no grounds for cultural optimism, moving either forward or backward.  Mohler
We need to clarify, cultivate and celebrate the Biblical pattern of manhood and womanhood, realizing that all of our congregation comes in breathing feminist air.  Mahaney
We live in an age with a massive anti-doctrinal sentiment, so we need to affirm there is content to our truth and not just slogan.  Duncan