The following sermon transcript does not match the video version of the sermon—it matches only the audio version. Here's a brief explanation why.
John MacArthur routinely preaches a sermon more than once on the same date, during different worship services at Grace Community Church. Normally, for a given sermon title, our website features the audio and video that were recorded during the same worship service. Very occasionally, though, we will post the audio from one service and the video from another. Such was the case for the sermon titled "Losing Your Life to Save it," the transcript of which follows below. The transcript is of the audio version.
Welcome, tonight, we’re glad that you’re here. I know you’re here because you delight in the things of Christ and the fellowship with other Christians, and what a wonderful time it is to be together.
If you’ve been with us for the last few Sunday nights, you know this is a kind of extended missionary report coming off of my trip. It was just a few weeks ago that Patricia and I had the opportunity to be sent by the church to Europe for…well actually I lasted 21, 22 days over there. Patricia came back a little bit ahead of me. But in response to that, and I know many of you ask questions about it, I have tried to endeavor to communicate with you the big picture of what we’re trying to accomplish around the world. I don’t mean to leave out the details of these faithful and precious missionaries that we have all over the world, and I want you to know that when you spend time with these people, it is a remarkable, it is an encouraging, it is a fulfilling and satisfying experience to see the character and the quality and the diligence and the endurance and the faithfulness and the wisdom and the motivation that these missionaries all over the world have. They are a remarkable group of people.
And because there are many of them and they’re working together, they stimulate one another to love and good works, that’s for sure. They share in each other’s lives. Had a wonderful time in Spain for the first time to be with some of our folks there. A couple of our graduates from the seminary in Leon, Spain, and just a wonderful time. There also Michael Mahoney came, Henry Tolopio(?) was there, Kevin Edwards was there, we had a great conference with pastors, a wonderful time encouraging and instructing church leaders and ministering to the missionaries and the folks in the church there in Leon. And I came away being so profoundly encouraged that these young men who are in that place are going to be used of God in a mighty, mighty way.
There are some remarkable things happening in that city in northern Spain. They have gained the favor of the leaders of the community in some incredible ways which we’ll continue to aid the impact of that church in that community. The opportunity to be with missionaries in Switzerland, to be with those who serve there, John Glass and Martin Manton who leads our training center in Zurich, to be with missionaries from the Croatia area up in Germany with the men who serve in Germany and they came from many other places, men from Albania and other places in Europe who are a part of our mission team there, to participate with folks who are serving the Lord in Italy. And then with our faithful missionaries in the Ukraine and back in Samara, in Russia, I had an absolutely thrilling time to be with these folks. I want you to know, they’re my personal heroes, wonderful, wonderful experience, and I just need to say to you in the midst of everything I’m saying that we are supporting very, very gifted, faithful, diligent folks that the Lord is using profoundly. And I just want to emphasize that lest I leave any of that out. We should continue to pray for them, continue to support them, to support them even more than we have in the past and that’s part of the passion that I have in my heart, to make sure that they have everything they need and more to sustain their ministry so they don’t have to exist on a bare bones kind of budget. And that’s why a few years ago we launched the Faith Promise so that we could continue to add to what we normally give out of our budget to these faithful missionaries around the world. You know, we had no idea what the Lord was going to do. This isn’t something I planned when we started the seminary and started training men and they caught the vision for the world. This is far beyond anything I ever imagined.
But there is a uniform commitment among all of these missionaries, and that is to teach and preach the Word of God in an expositional way. When we talk about expository preaching, we’re talking about explaining the meaning of the Scripture. Spurgeon said, “A sermon is not a lecture about the Scripture, it is Scripture itself opened up.” And that is what we train people to do. Today, I think this afternoon, Henry Tolopio came back from Saba Pecka down in Honduras where he was ministering to a group of pastors that came from all across Central America into that place and that goes on all the time at our training center there, called Maida(?) and they’re training pastors all the time. And what they’re training them to do is exactly what we do at Grace Church, to teach the Word of God, to exposit the Scripture, to give the meaning of Scripture and its implications to the life of all who come under its authority. That’s what we do.
In fact, Spurgeon also said, and I’ll paraphrase him a little bit, he said, “You do not rate a sermon by its length, you rate it by its weight.” And what we want to do is not belong but weighty. We want to train men to be able to give sermons that can be basically measured by the pound, not the minute. Spurgeon also said, “People can’t feel the weight of the truth if they don’t understand the truth.” It’s when they understand the truth of Scripture that they feel the weight of Scripture.
Spurgeon said, “If you’re not a theologian, as a preacher, you are nothing at all…you are nothing at all.” That’s the weight of Scripture. And it falls heavy on the heart of a true believer when it is understood.
So what we do all over the world is train people how to handle the Word of God. And then how to apply the Word of God to life in the church so that they have biblical preaching and out of that comes biblical ministry in the church. You’d be amazed how odd we are around the world, how different we are in doing something that seems to us to be the only thing you should be doing. Running in to all kinds of ministries in the world that have seemingly little interest in training people how to handle the weightiness of Scripture, how to explain the Scripture in the depth of its meaning. And we understand that, I understand that.
There are relentless attacks on Scripture. It was a few years ago that I was invited down to the Ligonier conference in Orlando, Florida, and they asked me to give an address on attacks on the Scripture…attacks on the Scripture. And that was a very large assignment because the attacks on the Scripture come from many different places.
I worked out a little bit of an outline and I’ll just kind of run it by you. There are attacks on the Scripture by the complacent, by the complacent. Those are the unfaithful preachers who are essentially indifferent to Scripture. They wouldn’t openly attack it, they just replace it. They just hide it behind their own ideas. They hide it behind their own cleverness. They push it into the background to make room for their own thinking. I call them the complacent because they are complacent toward the Word of God.
Then there are attacks by the critical…the critical. I use that in kind of a technical sense, the critics of Scripture, the unbelievers, the theological terrorists, those that deny the veracity of Scripture, the truthfulness of Scripture.
I did, a couple of days ago, an hour-long dialogue with Phil Johnson of Grace To You, we’re going to turn it into a CD and the entire discussion for one full hour which we recorded was on an organization called Bio Logos. Bio Logos offers itself as a Christian ministry to help Christians make room in their thinking for evolution, for the purpose of having acceptance with the scientific elite. They feel that if we don’t accept evolution, we’re going to be intellectually marginalized. So one of their foundational tenets in Bio Logos is that the Bible is not, of course, inerrant…it is not inerrant. This is not a subtle attack on the Bible, this is a frontal attack on the Bible and it is not new. In fact, it is not at all new, the Bible has been attacked for years, for decades, even for a few centuries by those who were critical in the sense that they deny its inerrancy, they deny its infallibility, they deny its verbal inspiration. And they’re around. And they’ve crawled back in to the framework of broad evangelicalism.
And then there is the attack on the Bible that comes from the cultists…the cultists. You’ve been hearing about it a little bit lately. Robert Jeffers, the pastor of the First Baptist of Dallas made the statement that Governor Romney was not a Christian because he was a Mormon. And as you well know, all hell broke loose in the political world, unimaginable that anyone would deny a person’s claim to be a Christian just because they were a Mormon. The pastor was exactly right, Mormonism is not Christianity, different God, different Christ, and different plan of salvation. The cultists who want desperately to be accepted, embraced in the mainstream of Christianity to be counted as Christians are anything but Christians. But they’re finding their way in because of people like Joel Osteen who says, “I have no problems with the Mormons, they have the same Jesus that I have, and the same God that I have.”
There are attacks on the Bible from the Charismatics. They attack the Bible in a kind of subtle way by saying that the Bible is not the end of revelation. There’s more. Jesus talks to them. And He talks frequently. There are more revelations, new revelations, voices, visions, the Holy Spirit tells them things intuitively. They are driven by a kind of internal, subjectivism that they define as the very voice of God. They collect words of wisdom, as it were, from the Holy Spirit, words of knowledge that are post-Biblical in the same manner that cults are defined by the Bible plus the writings of some cult leader. The Charismatic Movement is defined by the Bible plus additional revelations and visions.
There is the attack from the culture, post-modernism, no absolutes, no objective truth. Truth is whatever you want it to be. That has found its way even into evangelicalism with the hermeneutics of humility, “I’m too humble to say what the Bible means, I don’t know what the Bible means, I admit it.” We talked about that in the past.
There is the attack from the, I guess you could say the capricious, they just take Scripture as if it was some kind of clay and just shape it anyway they want to say anything they want it to say. And that gets pretty bizarre.
I’ll give you an illustration of that. Bible codes, have you heard about that? Bible Codes? The first big book was a book called Bible Codes by Michael Drosnin and started quite a movement that’s still going on today and has also jumped into the evangelical world. It claims that the Bible has embedded in it hidden in numerical ways and in letter encrypting, codes with secret revelations essentially unveiling history before it happens. This has been picked up by a whole lot of people and followed and many other things have been written.
Bible codes predicted the assassination of Gandhi in 1954, we are told the assassination of Trotsky, 1940. The assassination of Martin Luther King, the assassination of both the Kennedys, the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, and even the horrible death of Princess Diana. You can find all that in the Bible if you line up the letters going in a certain direction and mingle some letters going I another direction, and this is the secret message hidden in the Bible. Now that we have computers, you can just run all the possibilities through a computer until you come up with that. And by the way, in case you’re wondering how true it is, tests have been done to prove that you can do the same thing exactly with Moby Dick. All kinds of attacks on the Bible and I think we’re all very much aware of those attacks on the Bible.
Eventually you can get worn down by all of that and you sort of capitulate, you sort of give up and say, “Well, I’ve got to find…I’ve got to find a place to land here in the middle of all these attacks, I’ve got to find some safe ground. And if you do that, you’ve compromised. We have only one weapon against all those attacks on the Bible, that’s the Bible itself. And it isn’t so much that we have to defend the Bible as to let the Bible do its own defending. And that’s what I’ve said through the years. I never have felt the need to defend the Bible. The Bible can defend itself. It’s a lion, let it out of the cage, it will be okay. It can handle itself. All you have to do is open it up and it is its own very best defense. And so what we do is in one sense, we try to give an answer to those things as they come along. But the primary thing that we do is not create apologists. We’re not trying to create people who can go everywhere in the world and fight an intellectual, philosophical, rational battle with all of these kinds of arguments that are cast against the Bible. We rather would send people all around the world to open up the Bible and let the bible do its own defending. That’s what we do. We’re not in to the apologetics, although it is good to have reasons for why we believe what we believe. And it’s important to have answers. But those answers have to come out of the Word of God. And so we let the Bible speak for itself. The Bible is its own defense. So we are called to preach it. And that is what we train men to do all around the world. And so you have this growing, escalating, exponential phenomena happening all over the world that starts here with expository ministry, train men, they go, they do it, they train others to do it, they go, they train others to do it. And it just keeps going and going and going, and this is just an incredibly wonderful thing that the Lord has been doing.
Now it’s in the context of understanding what we do around the world that I encourage you to pray for our missionaries and to provide all you can in your giving for our missionaries to carry on this enterprise because we have lots of them in the pipeline ready to go and follow up on this, as much as we have many of them who we will never know because they have been trained and sent from some country where our missionaries went many years ago. But what we do is teach people how to exposit the Word of God. That doesn’t mean expose, it means to interpret. Exposit is a verb that means to interpret.
Now I’m giving you fifteen reasons why expository preaching is essential. And if you will indulge me this final night, I want to finish up those fifteen because I want you to understand why we do what we do. And while I’m not going to take you through passage after passage, these are all, all these fifteen things, and I told you originally I had 63 that I wrote down, they’re all informed by the Word of God. So let’s go back and just have a very, very brief review.
Expository preaching establishes the authority of God the Father. Expository preaching establishes the authority of God the Father because this is the book in which God has revealed Himself. And when this book is the sole authority in the church, then God is given His rightful place as the sovereign.
Secondly, we said, expository preaching affirms the lordship of Christ in His church. Christ is the head of the church. He is the Lord of the church. He needs to speak to the church. The only way the church can hear the Lord of the church is if His Word is given to the church and this is His Word. So we acknowledge that expository preaching establishes the authority of God and the lordship of Christ.
Thirdly, it facilitates the work of the Holy Spirit. Since the Holy Spirit sanctifies through the Word, since He regenerates through the Word, since He comforts through the Word, since He edifies through the Word, all of that aids and facilitates the work of the Holy Spirit. So at the very foundation of expository preaching is this Trinitarian understanding. We are doing everything we can to establish the authority of God, the headship of Christ, and the work of the Holy Spirit in the church. All of that is dependent upon an understanding of one thing and that is Holy Scripture.
Fourthly, we said expository preaching manifests submission to Scripture. In other words, it declares to people that they must bow the knee, the Lord has spoken.
Number five, we’ve turned a little bit of a corner here. I said that expository preaching connects the preacher…connects the preacher personally to the sanctifying grace of Scripture. You know, being a preacher is being in a very vulnerable place. It is a place of immense responsibility. The Apostle Paul understood it. He understood the difficulty of it. You just have to read 2 Corinthians to see how much difficulty that man had. Read 2 Corinthians chapter 4, chapter 6, and chapter 11 and read all the litany of things that he suffered for the preaching of the Word of God. And in all of that, with all of that suffering coming at him, in 2 Corinthians 4, I love this, he said, We have not given up. We have not abandoned our calling. We have not been unfaithful. Here are his exact words. “We do not lose heart,” the Greek word isn’t lose heart, this isn’t about discouragement. The word is ekkakeo, we’ve not engaged in sinful defection.
It’s not easy. Paul says in 1 Corinthians chapter 9, “I beat my body to bring it into subjection, lest in preaching to others I myself would become adokimos, disqualified. Paul understands the high standard, blameless. He does not want to be disqualified. And so there’s a sense in which he beats himself into submission to the Word of God. And how…what is the agent that does that? It is the exposure to the Scripture. It is the Scripture that is the sanctifying agent.
I think the reason there are so many terrible tragedies of failure in the ministry, failure of all kinds in the ministry, defection on all different levels is because people are not, preachers are not, pastors are not regularly, systematically, daily exposed to the sanctifying power of the Word of God in their own lives. If you’re looking for your sermons in the newspaper, if you’re looking for your sermons on the Internet, if you’re looking for your sermons in books that will define something that the culture is interested in, that doesn’t have any sanctifying influence.
And number six we said that expository preaching provides depth and transcendence in worship. Worship only goes as high as your understanding goes low. In other words, you go down into the Word of God so you can go high in worship. Worship, I told you, is not produced by music. Music doesn’t produce worship. What produces worship is truth, is knowledge, is overwhelming emotion in response to the truth that you know. The more you know about God, Christ, the Holy Spirit, the more you understand the glories of salvation, the more you know about what God has done for you now and in the future, will do in glory. The more you know that, the deeper your understanding, the richer your understanding, the higher your worship. Expository preaching then produces depth.
What I said earlier. You measure this kind of preaching not by its length, but you measure it by its weight. You measure it by the pound and weighty things lead to transcendent worship.
Number seven, expository preaching permits the preacher to speak fully for Christ. First Corinthians 2:16, we have the mind of Christ, we know what He desires. We know what He says. We know the mind of Christ. And what an amazing privilege is ours, to speak on every issue the mind of Christ.
Now last time we stopped with number eight, and I’m going to run through it just briefly and then we’re going to go to the remaining ones. Expository preaching by example instructs people in the spiritual discipline of Bible study. Should you study the Word as a Christian? Should you read the Bible? Understand the Bible? Interpret the Bible? Of course. You don’t live by bread alone, you live by…what?...every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God. Expository preaching by example demonstrates and instructs on the priority of the study of Scripture.
I can’t imagine anything worse in a pulpit than superficiality and shallowness with regard to the Scripture. If you model that, if the preacher has a superficial interest in Scripture, a superficial interest in sound doctrine, then, believe me, the people in the pew are going to catch that superficiality and it’s going to become the established raison d’etre, the way they live.
Now that gets us through the first group, let’s pick up the remaining ones in the next half hour, okay?
Number nine…number nine, expository preaching builds a congregation strong and committed to the glory of God. Expository preaching builds a congregation strong and committed to the glory of God. It redirects people toward God, toward Christ, toward the Holy Spirit, toward theology, toward the commands of God. In other words, that’s what the church does. All our joy, all our delight, all our satisfaction is found in the Word. It sabotages a man-centered approach is what I mean by that. It breeds a congregation that is God-centered, Christ-centered, Spirit-centered, truth-centered, not self-centered.
You hear preachers a lot who talk about how you feel and how you struggle and how you have issues and how you going to solve those issues? And here’s four little things to do to solve that issue of personal pain, personal disappointment, personal worry, personal fear, and all we’re trying to do is Band-Aid up everybody’s little anxieties in life. When you exposit the Word of God, there are passages that come and they bring comfort but they don’t bring it by superficial little mental gimmicks, they bring comfort by the knowledge of God and His absolute sovereignty and His eternal purpose in all those weighty matters. Superficiality doesn’t work in the face of real desperation.
Earlier this week I took Rich Gregory who works with me and we spent about an hour with Dan Martin. And he went to be with the Lord this morning, cancer. Started on the outside of his head and basically ate away his head and face and this morning he went to heaven. So I’m sitting there, just as close as I can get to him, and asking him how he’s doing and it’s a horrible sight to see, I can’t even describe it. And he’s got machines going just to survive, and he’s on morphine, but he’s himself and he’s coherent and we’re having fellowship. And I said, “What do you want me to pray for? How do you want me to pray?” And he said, “Get me out of here, I just want to go to be with the Lord.” Complete hope, confidence, the worst of situations, inconceivable pain and a heart bright with hope. In fact, he was so much himself that he took out a napkin and he starting giving me a scientific diagram cause he was a space scientist. And through the years I’ve made him think I understood what he’s been saying to me because it’s good for our friendship. Now that he’ll never know, I probably understood fifteen percent of what it was. But there was some joy in his heart. He had his normal sense of humor. He was on the brink of death in the most excruciating pain and his comfort was amazing.
The Word of God does that because the Word of God reveals the truth about God, about our relationship to Him, and about our hope. So expository preaching then builds a congregation strong and committed to the glory of God and Christ. Whatever God wants, he said to me, whatever the Lord wills for me, I’m content in that, I know He has plans for me. I give Him all the praise and all the glory. People are redirected away from their pain.
If you have a psychologically oriented kind of church and if you’re talking all the time about the issues that people raise in their own life and in the issues of life, they get self-focused, self-absorbed, they start contemplating their navel all the time and everything becomes man-centered. It’s far-more important that they be God-centered, focused on the glory of God, the glory and honor of Christ. And that’s what expository preaching does. It makes the center of everything the Word of God, not the person. You’re not the center. People sometimes say to me, “In a big church, how can you know the needs of your people?” How can I know the needs of my people? Look, I don’t know every need of every single person here, I don’t know all the issues in all their lives. Somebody does and somebody cares on a personal level and is coming alongside and bringing whatever instruction and support and discipleship and prayer and that’s all very important. But my responsibility is not to figure out what everybody’s anxieties are and try to say something that’s going to make a difference in their anxieties.
My task and my job and that of any preacher is to focus people away from all those issues of life and put their trust fully in God with such confidence and such hope that those problems which they face in a routine way diminish and pale in comparison to what the Lord has prepared and promised for them. That’s a congregation that’s consumed with the glory and honor and purposes of God.
Number ten, expository preaching gives people, and this is kind of another way to say the last one, their only true source of help. Expository preaching gives people their only true source of help. The only true help you have is divine help and ministered to you through the knowledge of divine truth. You don’t want to be dependent on stories. You don’t want to be dependent on analogies. You don’t want to be dependent on clever insights to understand life. You want to be able to find help and the only place that help can come from and that’s from the Word of God. Jeremiah 8 excoriates certain prophets because it says they treated people’s wounds superficially, treated people’s wounds superficially. They think they’ve heard from God when they haven’t. It’s superficial.
They put the obligation on the preacher to somehow change the way people view their lives by cleverness. It’s just very superficial, very temporary. That is why we hear the words that I mentioned to you last time in Titus, “Speak with authority and let no one evade that authority.” If you don’t have authority that comes from biblical interpretation, biblical truth, then your words are no better than, listen, anybody else’s words. If it’s just your ideas, they may come across more clever. You may be a better communicator. You may have the pulpit. You may command their attention. But if you’re not giving them the truth of God out of the Word of God, you’re words while they may be more interesting and they may be more dominating because of the pulpit that you have, they are no better than anybody else’s words. Your ideas are no better than anybody else’s ideas. Your insights are no better than anybody else’s insights because they are powerless. The only truth that has power is that which comes from God.
Number eleven, expository preaching makes an essential connection between life and doctrine. Makes an essential connection between life and doctrine, or better, doctrine and life. You know, this is an old statement, I say it again, you’ve probably heard it. Life imitates theology. Everybody has a belief system. Everybody has a believe system. The first thing you want to do is get rid of the idea you can believe in yourself. That will only take you so far. You want to believe in something beyond yourself, something greater than you, and that, of course, is God as He’s revealed on the pages of Scripture.
Sometimes we’re accused of being divisive because theology is divisive. I’ve been accused of that through the years many, many times. You’re divisive, you’re doctrine error, you’re too doctrinal, you draw too many broad, hard lines. You put up too many walls, you’re too theological.
Let me tell you what I mean by theology. Theology is simply a way to express convictions. And when you read the Bible, I’ll just give you a little thing to follow. The first thing that happens when you read the Bible is you get information. You get information. When you read the Bible or when you’re taught the Bible in an expository fashion from a Bible teacher, you get information. That’s the first thing. Your mind has information. That’s just the very beginning. You know something.
But it can’t stop there. You need to go from knowing it, to believing it, and that’s conviction…conviction. When you talk about someone who believes something, that becomes a conviction. And a conviction is something you live by. A conviction is what you don’t give up. It’s a sort of a fixed commitment. It’s an established belief. And so you will then live out your convictions. That’s what you do. You live out your convictions. So we want to get you to the place where you not only know what the Scripture says but where you believe what the Scripture says, so that it becomes part of the fabric of the life you live. It’s sort of a controlling element in involuntary responses. You react a certain way because of the system of convictions.
Now it shouldn’t stop there either. There’s another step and that’s affection. And then you really become immovable. When you know something to be true, you believe it to be true so that it becomes a conviction, and then you love it. It is an affection. Very hard to dislodge somebody from convictions, but it might be done. But it is even harder to dislodge somebody from affection when you love the truth…when you love the truth.
So expository preaching builds theology. Theology is simply a set of convictions that certain things are true. And those control your life. That’s exactly what everybody lives by. If you believe something, you act on it. And so, life imitates theology. So if you want to live life correction, you have to have the right belief system, you have to have convictions that have become affections to anchor you to those beliefs. Expository preaching creates the connection between theology and life.
And one way it does that, just a footnote, is because theology is taught in the Bible in the midst of life, right? Old Testament, New Testament, biblical theology, start in Genesis, go all the way through to the end, systematic theology, pull it all together, wrap it all up in a systematic fashion, and theology whether it’s biblical theology coming progressively through the history of redemption or whether it’s the systematic result of theology all collected and put into packages, it is all basically come up out of a history book called the Bible, theology comes out of life and is connected inextricably to life.
Number twelve, and I’m giving you again just to connect you to the foundation here, reasons why we are so committed to expository preaching and teaching people all over the world to do this. Expository preaching, number twelve, honors God by revealing the truths that trouble, offend and terrify the sinner. Is that important? Very important.
There are people who don’t want to do expository preaching because there are lots of things they want to avoid. They want to stay away from. There are just too many things that offend them and that they think will offend people. Expository preaching has a manliness about it, it has a ruggedness about it that will assault the sinner’s comfort. I’m talking about the unregenerate sinner, and I’m also talking about the believer. The church largely, and I hate to use this because it’s unfair, but the church has largely been feminized by the tolerant mood of today. One reason to strip down the preaching to get away from being expositional is, if you do that you’re going to run into things that are very, very troubling, very offensive, terrifying even, frightening, threatening. And at the same time, if you avoid all of that, then you forfeit the blessedness and the tenderness of grace and mercy. If you’re weak on the Law, then you’ve stripped grace of its meaning. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, right? People need to fear, Proverbs 9:10, they need to fear it, they need to have a healthy fear of God.
The gagging of God, the editing of God is pride at an incomprehensible level. Who do I think I am to say, “Oh, I’m not going to preach that. I’m going to shut the mouth of God on that. I’m not going to say that, that would offend people. I’m not going to say that about behavior. I’m not going to say that because that’s something the culture would never be able to handle.”
You’ve gagged God, boy, frightening pride indeed. I’m reminded at this point of 2 Corinthians 10 just saw that I had written it down in the margin here. Second Corinthians 10 Paul says that the weapons of our warfare are not fleshly, not human, but are mighty unto God, verses 3 through 5, mighty unto God for the destruction of fortresses. And that’s a great passage, that’s a very watershed passage because those fortresses are called in the next verse ideologies, logismos, ideas, theories, philosophies, psychologies, religions, any…any complex of ideas. They’re fortresses. In other words, they’re massive, granite fortresses in which people are incarcerated. Same word for fortress is the word for prison, same word for tomb. They’re ideological fortresses in which people fortify themselves that become their prisons and end up their tombs. People die in the fortification of their ideologies.
So what are you going to do? You’re going to shoot rubber bands at them? You going to shoot them with Ping-Pong balls? What are you going to do? You have to smash these ideologies. You have to crush these ideologies. That’s why Paul says, “Our weapons are mighty unto God, that smash these ideologies.” Then he defines these ideologies in this way, “Every high thing raised up against the knowledge of God.” What he means is every complex of high sounding ideas that are anti-biblical. Everybody has his own complex of ideas, his own belief system, his own world view, his own mindset. And we have to smash those fortifications, smash those prisons, smash those tombs, lead people out and bring every thought captive to Christ. We have to trouble them. We have to offend them. We have to terrify the lost, that’s part of it. We have to talk about everything the Bible talks about, the way the Bible talks about it because that’s what the Lord has called us to do. Fear is a motive.
You don’t think fear was a motive, then remember what Paul wrote to the Thessalonians about God sending Christ in the future in flaming fire, taking vengeance on those who obey not the gospel. In confronting sin, confronting corruption even in the life of a believer, part of it. Expository preaching does that, it honors God by revealing those truths that trouble offend and terrify the sinful.
Number thirteen, and I think this is such a wonderful thing, expository preaching connects people to the legacy of the past. Expository preaching connects people to the legacy of the past. You know, I don’t know what the superficial preacher said in the past because fortunately none of it is around today. You know, there are a few books that have hung around, they’re never reprinted. My Dad had a few books on his shelf and when he went to heaven, I inherited them. And they’re little, well he used to call them sermonettes for Christianettes, just little frivolous, superficial kind of things, devotionalized, over-simplified truth. These books have all disappeared. And when you go back to the library and you’re looking for something weighty, something important, something rich with biblical truth, you head for the great theologies, the great preachers, you’re going to find they’re just saturated with Scripture, the critical doctrines, or the things that they were preaching about, writing about.
We hold on to the hymns that we even sung tonight from the past because they’re loaded with theology. Profound truths that when we sing them lift our hearts, capture our minds. There’s an attitude today of disdain for that, for past illumination. There’s an attitude of disdain toward even older preacher who are still alive from a young generation. But there’s nothing but disdain for past illumination, the expositions and the theologies that have stood the test of time in redemptive history. No history in linking with the saints of the past. So much today that boldly, brashly ignores all the glorious past illumination of the Holy Spirit. Never raising as the Old Testament puts it, raising an Ebenezer to what God has done. It sort of all begins with us. And we look at the culture, we define the culture and we say what we think the culture wants to hear.
We invent the church. We reinvent the church. We make the church what the culture would want the church to be. That movement has gone to seed, as you know. It started really with the Crystal Cathedral, and you can see what’s happened to that. Time and truth go hand-in-hand. Given enough time, the truth comes out and you find out whether there’s any real life. But at the very beginning, the message that was being given to everybody is survey the community. Whatever it is they want, that’s what you give them. Out of that came the Crystal Cathedral, gave them what they wanted.
There is still an interest in doing that, to finding what the culture wants, giving the culture exactly what it wants musically, intellectually, if you could even use that word, experientially. And that’s a very sad thing because it then as a corollary demonstrates disdain for the great work of the past. There’s nothing more wonderful to me than to find a book that’s unaffected by the current culture. It’s hard to find them. You have to go find dead people, pretty much. I mean, there are some, of course. But the popular books today are so weighed down with the culture. It’s wonderful to be able to go back and define those who handle the Word of God accurately, to build on them. But that’s not the interest of many young men today, but we’re training people to make treasures out of the accurate exposition of the past and the great theologies of the past. They still are mountain peaks in the history of the church for all of us to climb.
Let me give you two more. And this one is very important, as you would understand. Expository preaching lets people know they’ve heard from God…they’ve heard from God. What else could you do for people? They’ve heard from God. “Well, we went to the church today and we heard from God.” Nothing can beat that.
And one final point. Expository preaching protects the church from deadly error. That’s kind of where we started and that’s where we want to end. Expository preaching protects the church from deadly error. Children are tossed to and fro and carried about by every wind of doctrine, right? How do you get out of being a child? Turn to 1 John, and we’ll end with 1 John, a very important portion of Scripture, 1 John chapter 2. And here we find three stages of spiritual growth that John writes about. First of all, in verse 12 he refers to little children, and that’s just a word that embraces everybody who is born, it’s not particularly identifying them as children in years. But you are all the children of God by faith in Christ. So it’s a generic term. We are all the children of our parents, no matter what age we are. So he uses that sort of broad, general term. Writing to you all as the children of God, God’s own little children, because your sins have been forgiven you for His namesake. So you’re all the forgiven. This is all believers.
Then he breaks the believers into three groups. “Writing to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning. Writing to you, young men, because you’ve overcome the evil one. Written to you, children, because you know the Father.” Says it again in a little different way in verse 14, “I’ve written to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning. I’ve written to you, young men, because you’re strong and the Word of God abides in you and you’ve overcome the evil one.”
Now when it comes to protecting the church, this is critical for us. This is the last point. “I have not failed to warn you night and day with tears,” Acts 20, “concerning the things that are going to come on you.” From the outside, people are going to come in. From the inside, false teachers are going to rise up. You are…you are vulnerable to error coming from all over the place. Look, if I were to…if I were to define the church today in the most broad sense, I would say it is just loaded with misunderstanding of the truth. The absence of discernment is pandemic. The church can’t protect itself, it has Spiritual AIDS, Spiritual AIDS, it has a deficient immune system it can die of a thousand diseases, a thousand heresies could kill the church.
And how do you get over that? Well let’s go back to this. “I’m writing unto you,” he says first of all, he mentions little children at the end of verse 13, different word. This is not the generic word for being a child of any age, this is the word for little babies, infants, who lack discretion, judgment, wisdom, experience, knowledge, discernment. All they know is the Father. You have known the Father, papa, dada, that’s it. That’s the stage of spiritual growth. You know God is your Father. You know the Lord, your sins are forgiven and you’re in the spiritual dada category. And, of course, Ephesians 4 says you’re tossed to and fro and carried about by every wind of doctrine because you’re children. You don’t have discernment, experience, wisdom, you don’t want to stay there because that’s a very vulnerable place.
Where do you want to go? Well you want to move to the next step, verse 13, “Young men…Young men because you’ve overcome the evil one.” Well, that’s pretty amazing. You could actually past tense, have overcome the evil one.
How does that happen? Verse 14m “Young men, how could you overcome the evil one? Because you’re strong. How did you get strong? The Word of God…what?...abides in you.” The Word of God has gone from the pages of Holy Scripture into your mind. That’s how you became strong. And when you became strong, you overcome the evil one. What does that mean? Satan is disguised and all his ambassadors or messengers are disguised as angels of light. He works in religion. He’s not the one who makes you sin, the flesh makes you sin. He is the one who creates the lying systems that trick the children that toss them around.
So when you’ve overcome the evil one, it simply means that Satan no longer can seduce you into false teaching. I don’t have a problem with false teaching, I know the Word of God, false teaching doesn’t trick me, it doesn’t fool me, it doesn’t seduce me, it doesn’t draw me in. And that would be true of most of you. When you get to be a spiritual young man, you’ve reached the point where you have, past tense, overcome the evil one who operates in false religious systems. They no longer allure you because you’re doctrine is sound. This is the place that any pastor wants to get his people, strong with the Word of God in them so that they are no longer going to defect or be distracted or drawn away by error.
That’s not the end of spiritual growth. He says, “I write unto you, fathers, because you’ve known Him who has been from the beginning.” He says it twice, once in verse 13, once in verse 14. That’s even better. You not only know the Bible, you know the God of the Bible. What is that? That is saying there’s a level of spiritual development where you go beyond the knowledge of the Scripture to the deep knowledge of the one who is the source of Scripture. This is the ultimate in spiritual growth. And you’re not going to get there in that deep epignosis, the deep true knowledge of God that sweet communion with God, that blessed fellowship with God until you are strong in doctrine and invulnerable to deception and lies.
Expository preaching protects the church from error. It sends the church in the direction of being spiritually strong. And then from that to being intimately acquainted in fellowship with the author of Scripture.
This is why we do what we do. At least 15 reasons why we do what we do. There could be more and some of those even overlapped a little bit. I hope it’s been helpful to you. I know it’s a little bit different, it’s not really a sermon as such, more of a kind of a personal pastoral talk, I guess. But I want you to understand the vision that we have here around the world, it’s this focus. Do you understand that? It is this intensely focused. We are training people around the world to do this because this is what the priority has to be. And, you know, thank you for your help, for your prayers, for your gifts, and we’re going to continue to invest in this as we go forward because this is right, this is the work that God wants us to do and it is by strong pulpits that the Lord builds strong churches and by strong churches effective evangelism happens and the Kingdom advances, right? That’s what we’re after.
Father, thank You for a wonderful day in so many ways of fellowship. Thank you for these precious and faithful folks who have come tonight to fellowship, to worship, to enjoy the look at Scripture and the look at the priority of expository preaching with us. May they be rewarded in their own hearts and their own lives and strengthened in their convictions, encouraged and comforted in the power of the Word which is available to us all at all times. We thank You that as the Apostle Paul said, the Word is even nigh to you, it is near to you, it is in your mouth. Oh how wonderful is that, because when we meditate on Your Law day and night, when we observe to do all that is written in it, then you make our way, then we have good success. So may we be strong and courageous and faithful to Your Word and continue, Lord, to multiply the faithful folks who will go around the world and produce preachers and teachers of Holy Scripture who can be the instruments that You use to transform lives and advance Your church, we pray in Christ’s name. Amen.
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