It was a clear and hot Sunday for October in Southwest Missouri. The doors of Stotts City Baptist Church opened to invite a breeze as the temperature climbed to 88 degrees outside. Inside, a fervor of God brought another kind of warmth that was unique to such a small outpost in God’s Kingdom. A young father had surrendered to a call to preach, and the church body rallied to recognize and endorse this divine appointment.
Before he was the pastor of the largest of church in London, president of the Pastors’ College, founder of an orphanage and dozens of other charitable institutions, and read by people from all over the world, C. H. Spurgeon pastored a small Baptist church in the village of Waterbeach, about five miles outside of Cambridge. At that time, few could have predicted what was to come. And yet, God used his faithful ministry to bring about a transformation to that village during his short time there.
No one enjoys conducting or receiving church discipline. At best, it’s awkward, and if there is no repentance, it can be devastating for individuals and families. The difficulty of addressing these situations can cause believers to shy away from initiating discipline. Yet, this must not stop believers from properly addressing sin in the church. One way to take back your courage is to remember that discipline is not an unloving thing to do, but the most loving thing to do, both for those who have sinned, and those who have been affected by their sin. In fact, there is such a close connection between discipline and love that John Owen lists love as a main purpose of discipline in his Inquiry Concerning Evangelical Churches.
Prior to his conversion, Martin Luther wrestled with the reality of sin in his life. Luther devoted himself to the Roman Catholic system of good works in order to appease his sinful conscience, but none of those works ever satisfied his guilty conscience. Only when he discovered Paul’s teaching of justification by faith, did he discover “the gate of heaven” and receive the grace of God that is found in Jesus Christ. He would devote the rest of his life to proclaiming this good news that justification is to be received by faith alone.
But Luther’s message was not limited simply to preaching about God’s free grace in Christ. Luther understood that before justification by faith made sense, one also had to embrace Scripture’s teaching regarding sin. While Luther experienced deep conviction of his own sin, he knew that not everyone shared his experience or sensitive conscience. Therefore, the acknowledgment of sin could not ultimately be rooted in subjective experience. Rather, like justification, our sinfulness also has to be received by faith based on God’s Word.
Let Dietrich Bonhoeffer help you frame out a general way to pray daily. In the morning, prayers of praise. At noon, prayers for strength. In the evening, prayers for needs. You can do this individually, but also alongside others, whether family, colleagues, or friends. Either way, this three-fold approach to prayer can help you become a person who prays without ceasing.
The value of the Kingdom of God is unparalleled in these two short parables of Jesus. Here are some brief illustrations and quotes that will help reinforce the priceless treasure Jesus offers you and me.
One of the questions I always get asked about the Christian life is some variation of, “how do I know if I am growing in godliness?” Even if you are doing your best to pay attention to your spiritual growth, it can be difficult to measure because it is somewhat abstract. This is a common concern for all believers, both today and in centuries past. For Thomas Goodwin, it was so common that he decided to write a short case of conscience about it, titled “The Trial of a Christian Growth,” based on John 15:1-2.
When we think of some of church history’s great preachers, we naturally think of them at the height of their ministries: preaching to thousands, organizing conferences, publishing books. But this is not where their ministries began. At one point in time, the greatest of men were unknown and inexperienced, and they had many things to learn before they became the preachers we know.
One such person was J. C. Ryle. As the Bishop of Liverpool, he would defend orthodoxy within the Church of England against modern theology, Anglo-Catholicism, and the growth of the Keswick Conference. But long before he ever became a bishop, his first ministry position came in 1841, the curacy in the district of Exbury within the parish of Fawley, “a dreary, desolate, solitary place.”
This is the third installment of a five-part series called, "5 Great Sermons from Church History." See the first here and the second here. This is not meant to indicate that these are the greatest or the best sermons, or even the five most important in the history of the church. However, these sermons were selected based on historical significance, content, accessibility (both good translations and comprehensibility), and each as exemplary of the particular era in which it occurred.