>Discerning a Gospel-Based Preacher

>by Tullian Tchividjian

Two weeks ago I mentioned in my sermon that God grows Christians by feeding them his Word. One way he does this is by providing the church with teachers and preachers. This means that if we are going to grow we need to be sitting at the feet of reliable carriers of God’s truth. This, however, begs the question: how can we identify a reliable carrier of God’s truth? The Bible makes it clear that there are many unreliable carriers of so-called truth. Satan masquerades as an angel of light seeking to deceive. So we need a lot of biblical discernment here. Just because a teacher or preacher comes in Jesus’ name with a Bible under his arm doesn’t automatically mean he is reliable.

Thankfully both the Bible and church history give us some direction here. So I want to provide you with a brief list of five questions (based on the five sola’s of the Reformation) that can help you discern the reliability of a particular teacher or preacher.

Question 1 (Sola Scriptura)
: Does the preacher ground everything he says in the Bible? Does he, in other words, begin with the authority and sufficiency of Scripture? A reliable carrier of God’s truth seeks to revel in, wrestle with, and expound from, the Bible. He starts with the Bible. All of his comments flow from what a particular passage in the Bible says. He doesn’t simply use the Bible to support what he wants to say. That is, he submits to what the Bible says, he does not seek to submit the Bible to what he says. He cares about both the Old Testament and the New Testament. He refuses to take verses out of context. He recognizes the unity of the Bible. He acknowledges that both the Old Testament and the New Testament tell one story and point to one figure, namely that God saves sinners through the accomplished work of his son Jesus Christ.

Question 2 (Sola Gratia): Does the preacher freely emphasize that because of sin, a right relationship with God can only be established by God’s grace alone? Beware of any teaching that emphasizes man’s ability over God’s ability; man’s freedom over God’s freedom; man’s power over God’s power; man’s initiative over God’s initiative. Beware of any teaching which subtlety communicates that a right relationship with God depends ultimately on human response over Divine sovereignty.

Question 3 (Sola Fide): Does the preacher stress that salvation is not achieved by what we can do, rather salvation is received by faith in what Christ has already done? It has been rightly stated that there really are only two religions: the religion of human accomplishment and the religion of Divine accomplishment. Does the preacher emphasize the former or the latter? A reliable carrier of God’s truth always highlights the fact that God saves sinners; sinners don’t save themselves.

Question 4 (Sola Christus): Does the preacher underline that Christ is the exclusive mediator between God and man? Does the explainer both affirm and proclaim that Jesus is “the way, the truth, and the life” and that nobody comes to the Father but by Christ? Does he talk about sin and the necessity of Christ? Preachers must learn how to unveil and unpack the truth of the Gospel from every Biblical text they preach in such a way that it results in the exposure of both the idols of our culture and the idols of our hearts. The faithful exposition of our true Savior from every passage in the Bible painfully reveals all of the pseudo-saviors that we trust in culturally and personally. Every sermon ought to disclose the subtle ways in which we as individuals and we as a culture depend on lesser things than Jesus to provide the security, acceptance, protection, affection, meaning, and satisfaction that only Christ can supply. In this way, good preachers must constantly show just how relevant and necessary Jesus is; they must work hard to show that we are great sinners but Christ is a great Savior.

Question 5 (Sola Deo Gloria): Does the preacher exalt God above all? A reliable explainer will always lead you to marvel at God. A true carrier of God’s truth will always lead you to encounter the glory of God. A God-centered teacher is just that: God-centered. He will preach and teach in such a way that you find yourself hungering and thirsting for God. You will listen to sermon after sermon and walk away with grand impressions of Divine personality, not grand impressions of human personality.

This is just a start, but I hope it serves as a resource to help you determine the reliability of a particular teacher or preacher.

>The (U.S.) Mission Field

>Though I remain convinced that the Spirit-powered Word of God is bigger than statistics and surveys, the following video (thanks to my friend John Gilberts for pointing me to it) is stunningly convincing that, first, our nation is a HUGE mission field (as opposed to those who declare it “gospel-saturated”) and that we need to seize the technology available to supplement the “foolishness of preaching”
http://vimeo.com/moogaloop.swf?clip_id=2301882&server=vimeo.com&show_title=1&show_byline=1&show_portrait=0&color=&fullscreen=1

Our Mission Field from City on a Hill Productions on Vimeo.

>"Satisfaction through Substitution"

>
John R. W. Stott’s “The Cross of Christ” is a fantastic book (and is orderable on the “carousel” at the left). In days of “cloudiness” over what the Cross represents, clarity is found in this incredibly worthwhile book.

Here are two vital paragraphs that I urge you to read slowly and prayerfully:

“We strongly reject, therefore, every explanation of the cross of Christ that does not have at its center the principle of “satisfaction through substitution,” indeed divine self-satisfaction through divine self-substitution. The cross was not a commercial bargain with the devil, let alone one that tricked and trapped him: nor an exact equivalent, a quid pro quo to satisfy a code of honor or technical point of law; nor a compulsory submission by God to some moral authority above him from which he could not otherwise escape; nor a punishment of a meek Christ by a harsh and punitive Father; nor a procurement of salvation by a loving Christ from a mean and reluctant Father; nor an action of the Father which bypassed Christ as Mediator.

“Instead, the righteous, loving Father humbled himself to become in and through his only Son flesh, sin and a curse for us, in order to redeem us without compromising his own character. The theological words satisfaction and substitution need to be carefully defined and safeguarded, but they cannot in any circumstance be given up. The biblical gospel of atonement is of God satisfying himself by substituting himself for us.

“The concept of substitution may be said, then, to lie at the heart of both sin and salvation. For the essence of sin is man substituting himself for God, while the essence of salvation is God substituting himself for man. Man asserts himself against God and puts himself where only God deserves to be; God sacrifices himself for man and puts himself where only man deserves to be. Man claims prerogatives that belong to God alone; God accepts penalties that belong to man alone (158-59).”

>Best Weapon Against Heresy?

>
J. C. Ryle lived from 1816 to 1900. Sometimes we think the heresies and other imitation “Christianities” are new…but they are old. The following quote from Ryle remains true today; and that is why I will spend the weekend telling teenagers they MUST get into the Word regularly and systematically in order to fight the good fight.

“What is the best safeguard against false doctrine? I answer in one word, ‘The Bible: the Bible regularly read, regularly prayed over, regularly studied.’ If we want a weapon to wield against the devices of Satan, there is nothing like ‘the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God.’ But to wield it successfully, we must read it habitually, diligently, intelligently, and prayerfully. This is the point on which, I fear, many fail.” (emphasis added)

~ J.C. Ryle

>A Trio of Prayers for Every Day

>HT: Between Two Worlds

From Paul Tripp’s chapter, “War of Words,” in The Power of Words and the Wonder of God, pp. 43-44 (Justin’s emphasis):

I have committed to pray three prayers each morning.

The first one is a confession: “God, I’m a man in desperate need of help this morning.”

The second prayer is, “I pray in your grace that you would send your helpers my way.”

The third prayer is, “And I pray that you would give me the humility to receive the help that comes.”