John Piper, famous wearer of tweed jackets is in the house today, and by the house I mean the Brisbane Convention Centre. There are about 700 ministry types here for a day session, and there’s a sell out crowd of 3,300 coming tonight.
We’re celebrating 100 years of QTC today, and Piper says he is praying for the school at their church (Bible College) 140 years in advance, because that’s how long their church has been around. This shows remarkable faithfulness.
Today’s session is focused on preaching and it’s called “Proclaiming Christ”…
Piper opens by praying for:
“A passion for God’s supremacy as a cause of joy for all peoples. That Christ be magnified in our bodies, by life or by death. And that God would embed a desire to preach Christ in us”
And that’s about as fitting a summary of the content I think we’re going to hear today.
Then he says let there be light, and the house lights came on.
Proclaiming Christ without the Holy Spirit is in vain… our preaching is worthless if it’s not in the power of the Holy Spirit. He’s “setting the stage” for his five steps of proclaiming Christ with that foundation.
You can grow a church without the Holy Spirit. You can achieve lots. But who wants to do that. If we want ministries that reflect the fruits of the Holy Spirit they need to be based on the work of the Holy Spirit.
Proclaiming Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit is what he’d retitle the talk as… if he wanted to be less catchy.
We’re looking at Galatians 3.
“Publically proclaimed as crucified” – doesn’t mean flannelgraph or video, it’s a recreation of the crucifixion before the heart’s eyes of the audience.
“Let me ask you this, did you receive the Spirit by works of the law (no) or by hearing that message with faith (yes).”
The Holy Spirit was received, and it came on the spear of the word – and that spear sank and they received the spirit.
“Are you so foolish, having begun…”
Piper says these are things that only God could have done. That’s the definition we’re working with.
The Spirit is the starting point.
The Spirit has transformative and empowering abilities in all of life, work, sex, relationships, ministry… this happens through the proclamation of the word, but this proclamation only happens through the Spirit’s power.
The Spirit is unleashed to crucify sin and to magnify Christ.
That’s the role, two texts that take us there.
John 16:14 – When the Spirit comes he will glorify me.
JI Packer’s book Keep in Step with the Spirit is the best book on the Spirit, though John Owen is possibly better, but less accessible.
The Spirit and the Word come together like stunt jets. Flying in formation, out of the mouth of the preacher. Wherever the word is flying faithfully the Holy Spirit is doing that work, preparing a slipstream. If the plane of proclaiming power lands the Spirit packs it in. If you get up and make a lot of Christ biblically you’ve got this jet with you. If you get up and magnify yourself you’re a plane crash waiting to happen (that’s an editorial summary of the analogy).
Wherever you magnify Christ, and look for ways to make much of Jesus, the Holy Spirit is right there.
Romans 8:13 – “by the Spirit we put to death the deeds of the body, you will live”
By the spirit, we, and the people we preach to, kill sin.
We want people walking out of church equipped to kill sin in their lives on Monday and replace those with the fruits of the Spirit.
What does this mean though? How does it work? How does the Spirit kill sin? Is it a weapon/sword. Is it an accident that the sword in the armour of God is the word of God?
By the Spirit you put to death sin with the word of God. You don’t helmet people to death, or shield people to death, you use the sword to kill. But not to kill people – to kill sins.
Hear the word, believe it, be transformed by the spirit, and stick your sin with it… that’s the process we’re aiming for in preaching. To be equipping people to pause before they sin and stab it… the work of the Spirit is not like a gas producing amorphous feelings – it’s an active “stabbing” a cutting out, deliberately.
The Five Points
The aim of our charge is love. And faith. There are more ultimate aims – like glorifying God.
Conscious to our minds should be the aim to have people walking out of the pews deeper and stronger in faith in God’s word, and particularly the promise of the gospel.
We want people to walk out like Gideon – confident, valiant, knowing that they are insignificant and God is magnificent.
Why is faith the aim and not a slightly higher bar?
Piper wants to leave some deposits of the things he cares about in Australia. He wants people to think deeply about the nature of saving faith. Until you go deeply there you don’t see the transformative power of faith. The thing we miss often is that faith isn’t mainly a decision or affirmation of truth – such an affirmation is an aspect of faith, but it’s not the main aspect – because the Devil believes Jesus died and rose. That can’t be a main, saving, article of faith. It’s crucial that we get “main” right… receiving Jesus seems important, and traditionally we say “as saviour and Lord” and that is right… but this is a bit of a pat answer and isn’t a full understanding of the picture. It misses something essential.
We must receive Jesus as our treasure. That’s what Piper thinks is missing (I think it may potentially be implied in saviour and Lord but we may have lost some of that…). People aren’t driven by Lords and Saviours in our time – they’re driven by what they treasure. Passions. Status. Wealth. Joy. If we don’t fight that fire with a superior fire we’ll lose it. Saviour and Lord don’t resonate with people, the treasure lies in those concepts – but we need to address the competition.
“I count everything as lost because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord”
That’s the attitude of faith, that everything is garbage compared to God… (I suspect that’s a fairly interesting doctrine of creation, but you see his point).
The same aim from different texts – a Spirit given treasuring of Christ as supremely precious.
The lynchpin point in that sentence is “supremely” – the supreme really means supreme.
The aim of proclaiming Christ is that he be treasured as supreme – this is what we should really be thinking when we use the language “believe” not just rationally assent to something…
If that’s the aim in your preaching of Christ then you should, in your preaching, point out as many things about Jesus that are supremely valuable as you can. To me it was given to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ.
If you asked Paul about his content strategy, that’s what he’d say.
Wherever you are in the Bible – go there. Somehow. To the unsearchable riches of Christ.
A word study of “riches of” links the concept to God’s grace, kindness, glory… this gives us a bit of a picture of what the riches of Christ should look like.
2 Corinthians 3:18-4-6 – one of the most ministry shaping passages in the Bible for Piper.
“We all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another, for this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit”
Paul is pushing the idea that because he’s presented Christ constantly he has done his job, he’s washing his hands of their fate if they haven’t listened to his message. He’s left it all out on the floor.
Piper doesn’t have any ideas, in terms of transforming lives, past pointing people to Jesus.
We want to continually find ways to unfold the riches of Christ’s glory. That’s the way it works.
That glory is seen most clearly (2 Cor 4:4) – “The God of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ who is the image of God.”
Where is the glory of Christ seen at its apex? In the gospel. So our ministries should centre on the glory of Christ – which is the gospel.
What is the gospel?
6 Statements that Piper thinks somes up this gospel message.
Mostly from 1 Corinthians 15.
1. The gospel is planned. Christ died according to Scriptures. There was a plan. If there’s no plan there’s no gospel.
2. It’s an event. Christ died. In history. If he didn’t there’s no gospel.
3. He accomplished something at that moment. When he died. Before we were on the scene. Sin was punished. Righteousness was completed. Wrath was satisfied. These things happened before we were born.
4. They are freely offered to faith. Carson says the free offer is an essential component of the gospel itself, Piper agrees. If Christ accomplishes something, and you come and tell them about the accomplishment, and tell people to “work hard” – that’s not gospel. It’s free. Received by faith.
5. It is applied (via the Spirit) (John Murray, Redemption Accomplished and Applied – a good book). The accomplishments are now yours. The wrath taken away. The righteousness given. The punishment taken.
Most people stop there. With those five elements. Historically there’s nothing controversial about those elements. In many cases the sermon ends there. There’s a “who cares” element to all of these five. There are wrong answers to the question “why would I want to be forgiven”… you don’t apologise to your wife to get rid of a guilty conscience. You apologise for her sake.
But here’s point 6. Those points are going somewhere. Towards God.
6. He suffered once, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God. God is the gospel. The end point is that restoration of relationship with God. It’s not about our forgiveness. It’s about God – do you want him.
That’s where we see the riches of the glory of Christ most fully displayed. A ministry that meets our aim will lift up Christ in a thousand ways, but be centred on the gospel…
Paul makes it clear through his choice of words (kerusso in the Greek) that preaching is not evangelism, teaching, speaking…
Paul piles up preparatory statement before his imperative to Timothy to “preach the word” (2 Tim 4).
1 In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: 2 Preach the word;
Kerusso is a herald. The “hear ye” yeller of Roman times.
Preaching, not just teaching, is a distinction the Bible makes. John is worried that it’s not an operational distinction in Australia. If church is just teaching we lose something about the experience of the church to come. Small emotions for Jesus is blasphemy – it’s out of step with who he is and what he values. Preaching is designed to be the kind of communication that pulls together right thinking and right emotions. Expository Exultation is what Piper calls his methodology (he spells it out so we don’t think it’s exaltation). We worship when we preach. We worship when we experience God’s word made plain in a way that resonates emotionally.
A spirit filled preacher should see Christ clearly, not check out his mind with sloppy exegesis and hormones… he sees clearly and savours Christ deeply and exults over the word. The manner is expository. And a treasuring of Christ emotionally. There has to be lots of thinking but also experiencing.
Lucid exposition and authentic exultation comes from Spirit given thinking and Spirit filled praying.
Think over the passage. Think over what it says. Use your tools (cheap plug for Accordance), then think. Think. Think. Think.
Most of the time in sermon preparation is spent thinking, and scribbling pictures with a pen. Pastors have to outthink everybody in the church. They have to think about all the objections, or at least the key ones. People love to have their pastors successfully outthink them. Best compliment he’s ever had is when somebody told him he anticipated and answered their problems in his preaching.
The Lord giving understanding, via the Spirit, comes after thinking. It’s not unfaithful to do the hard work of thinking. God uses it to show us truth. God didn’t have to give us the Bible, he could have done a direct communication thing via the mouth of the pastor… You have to learn to read to preach, or at least somebody has to do your reading for you and tell you what to preach.
Prayer. “Lets get really practical” – you pray before, middle, after, during, every 30 seconds. Help me. Help me. Guard me from pride. From fear. From rabbit trails. Help me. Every few minutes as you’re doing your preparation you should be praying for guidance.
Piper prays an acronym – IOUS.
I – incline my heart to your testimonies. (Psalm 119:36)
O – Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your word. (Psalm 119:18) What do you do when you look at the Bible and just see black marks on a white page? Pray that.
U – Unite my heart to fear your name (Psalm 86:11) – Sometimes we feel like our heart is fragmented by the worries of our minds. There’s crazy thoughts everywhere. So this is a good principle to get it together around…Don’t you just hate it when you start, mid preaching, watching yourself and wondering how it’s going. There’s a lack of integrity there, as soon as that process starts – either way you’re either starting to feel pride or insecurity. “Give us the miracle of self-forgetfulness.” We don’t just mean avoid fragmentation, but let there be just one of us – the one doing it.
S- Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love. We want to love what we’re doing, and what we’re saying. Even in times of his deepest depression, he has always recovered on Sundays. And he’s had low points (shares anecdote about forgetting his childrens’ names when writing a book dedication).
How do we speak/serve in the power that God supplies?
We serve in the strength that God supplies. But what does it feel like. It feels like we’re doing it. When we preach. I’m doing it. I’m moving my hands, and my mouth. So what does it feel like to serve in the power of God.
Another acronym. APTAT.
This has been Piper’s method, sitting on the pew, every time he’s spoken for 25 years.
A – Admit that we can do nothing (John 15:5). Say “Lord you know, I’ve prepared and I’ve thought, but I can’t achieve any plans for this church without you.” We can’t do anything without God.
P – Pray for help (Luke 11:13) – what we’re promised in Luke is the Holy Spirit, that’s what we’re asking for. Grant us the fullness of the Holy Spirit.
T – Trust a specific promise. This is the nub of the matter. You’re going into the pulpit to preach in the power of another. Piper picks specific promises from his devotions (say, Psalm 32 – God’s steadfast love surrounds us). Believe it as you speak.
A – Act. You just get up in the pulpit and act. Use your will. Your minds. Your mouth. You just do it. You don’t check out and become a vacant vessel. Get up and use your gifts. Preach, trusting that God is at work.
Thank him – Thank God that it is him at work.