Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Summons of a Judge

My friend and fellow pastor, Kenneth Maresco, sent me the following quote by Mark Dever, pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church and head-honcho of 9 Marks Ministries. It reminded me of last week’s cover story in Time magazine on the popularity of the health and wealth gospel and all its variations that make God a divine ATM to our every whim. I don’t buy any of it, but the subtle temptation to try and “sell the gospel” by appealing to felt needs can so easily slip into preaching. I need the challenging, biblical perspective that Dever delivers here:
When we hold forth the good news in our preaching, we should particularly beware of presenting this gospel as an option to be exercised for the betterment of sinners' lives. After all, what would a carnal person consider "better"? Leading questions like "are you scared of death?" "Do you want happiness?" "Wouldn't you like to know the meaning of your life?" are all well-intentioned, and any of them may be used by God's Spirit to convict someone, and to lead to their conversion. But such questions may also be answered by a simple "no." To use such questions as if they are the starting point for those considering the gospel is to make it sound all too optional.

I don't care if my hearers are scared of death, wanting happiness or meaning in life, I know that they will die and stand before God to give an account of their lives. And I know that God will therefore rightly condemn them to an eternal Hell.

So I find verses like Mark 8:38 useful, where Jesus taught "If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father's glory with the holy angels."

Or again, Romans 3:19-20, "Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin."

Or Hebrews 9:27, "man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment . . ."

This demand—rather than a marketer's appeal—is to be the basis of the evangelistic call in our sermons. Our gospel sermons are not to sound like the solicitations of a salesman, but the summons of a judge.
From "Evangelistic Expository Preaching," in Give Praise to God: A Vision for Reforming Worship, Philip Graham Ryken, Derek W. H. Thomas, and J. Ligon Duncan eds. (P&R, 2003), 134-135.

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