Thursday, September 24, 2020

The Love of God the Spirit

Geoffrey R. Kirkland
Pastor, Christ Fellowship Bible Church (St Louis, MO)

The Apostle Paul speaks in Romans 15:30 about the Love of the Spirit. Consider this amazing reality. The Spirit of the living God has great love for His people. Paul’s language is in the context of him urging the Roman Christians to strive together in prayer to God on his behalf. But he begs them by the Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit. It could be rendered: “the love that comes from the Spirit [διὰ τῆς ἀγάπης τοῦ πνεύματος—through the love of/from/comes out of the Spirit]. As I read this and pondered it in the early morning hours, I wondered: what kind of love is this from God the Spirit?  After some reflection, here are a few thoughts.

It is a SOVEREIGN Love.  — This love from the Spirit of God has come to us first. This love of God is a royal love. It is a Kingly love. It is a supreme love. There is no love like it. This love that the Spirit bestows upon His people is a supernatural love because the Spirit of God, who is Himself fully and truly God, is love. Consider the astonishing initiative that God the Spirit took in setting His glorious and splendid love upon you. What sovereign love we have from the Father, from the Son, and indeed from God the Holy Spirit!

It is a SAVING Love.   — God the Spirit has a saving love for His people. Those whom He loves are His chosen ones. Those whom He loves He regenerates, He calls, He seals, He preserves, and He glorifies! This love of God the Spirit is not a general love trickled to all but a particular love that permeates the elect. Let your heart find joy in this saving love of the Spirit as you realize there was nothing in you that prompted or invited or deserved this love. Rather, by His saving grace and perfect choice, He lavishes love, saving love upon His chosen ones.

It is a SPECIFIC Love.   — The love of God chose His own from before the foundation of the world. It was the love of Jesus Christ that He poured out and demonstrated when he loved them to the max — to the uttermost. It is the love of God the Spirit who savingly and specifically loves those whom the Father has given to the Son. All the elect are specially loved. Let this ravish your heart afresh as you consider the astonishing fact that your name is written in heaven, unable to be erased, penned with precious blood, and loved by God the holy Spirit. He loves you specifically. He knows you individually. He stands with you and dwells in you particularly. Rejoice and be glad in the Spirit’s affection for you, His chosen one.

It is a SECURE Love.   —  Nothing in the universe is stronger than the secure love of God. The Spirit of God is the One who dwells in you, sealing you and preserving you until your final redemption! Oh to think of the strong security, the mighty power, the supernatural preservation, the unalterable hope you have in this great love of the Spirit. Consider how the happy and holy Spirit of God has chosen to take up residence within you and He has promised you that He will be with you forever! He is your pledge. He is your guarantee. He is your deposit. He will be in you and with you forever!

It is a SUPERABOUNDING Love.   —  Many people assert that they love others. Husbands and wives affirm this to one another. Parents say this to their children. Consider, however, the superabounding love of God the Spirit for you! Think of the endless oceans of love that the Spirit pours out and has stored up for each of His beloved ones. Think of the bottomless wells of satisfying joys that we now have and we shall forever enjoy. The Spirit’s love is closer than any other kind of love. It is more faithful than any other kind of love. It includes endless promises and rewards toward you! What tremendous love the Spirit bestows upon us!

It is a STRENGTHENING Love.    — In his epistle, James writes that believers are not to pursue friendship with the world (4.4). Indeed, the next statement shows that it is the Spirit Himself who dwells within us who jealously desires us to walk in holiness (4.5). And, yes, even James continues that He gives a greater grace (4.6). This Spirit so loves His people that He strengthens them by endowing them with grace to live for Him, with power to walk in Him, with joy while hoping in Him. This love that the Spirit presently, at this very moment, has toward each of us is a strong love that equip us, empowers us, and enables us to walk in obedience to the commands of Scripture. This reaches our heart so that our obedience flows out of our affection for Him.  May the love of the Spirit so captivate our hearts afresh that He strengthens us with His power, in His Truth, by His Word, and for His glory!

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

 Non-Negotiable Features of Faithful Preaching.

Geoffrey R. Kirkland
Pastor, Christ Fellowship Bible Church

1. Faithful
Faithful preaching must be faithful. By this, I simply mean that true preaching must derive from the text of Scripture. The man of God must rightly divide the Word through proper hermeneutics so that the message he speaks is the message out of the text. When this happens, the man of God preaching then Word can say: “Thus says the Lord!” The barometer for all true preaching must be how faithful it is to the text of Scripture that He expounds. True preaching is faithful preaching to God’s Word.

2. Theological
When faithful preaching occurs, and when biblical preaching goes forth, it will necessarily be theological preaching. It will touch upon and expound theology as it arises in the Word of God. Every text will teach something about God (theology proper) or man (anthropology) or sin (hamartiology) or salvation (soteriology) or Christ (Christology) or future things (eschatology). Of course, there are other categories and many sub-categories of theology that Scripture teaches. But all true preaching must present clear, crisp, and cohesive doctrine. That’s why Paul exhorts Pastor Timothy to give himself to the reading of Scripture, to exhortation and to doctrine.

3. Central  
Biblical preaching of the Word of God must take central place in the life of the local church. Every local church can have many ministries and areas of service and parts of the corporate worship service, but the central, non-negotiable, preeminent distinctive of every faithful church is the preaching of the Word of God. It should, thus, take up the majority of the time when the church is gathered to worship God. The preaching of the Word is the occasion when God speaks to His people. Thus, it should take up a majority of the time when the church assembles. It should be a momentous event, a lofty and majestic event when there is utmost reverence for God and for His revealed Word. Thus, faithful preaching must be central in the biblical church.

4. Joyful
Biblical preaching must flow out of a heart that bubbles forth with true, Spirit-given joy as the minister opens His mouth to speak God’s Word to the people. This is far from a show, it is a man on fire with affectionate love for Christ who joyfully preaches God’s Word. This is the heart of a man who does not need to be forced into a pulpit. He does not need to be pressed and obliged and remunerated in order to preach. Rather, his heart is so full of God, so full of Truth, so full of Christ, and so hungry to pour this out to serve God and His blood-bought people, that He preaches with a steadfast confidence in God and in His Word. This kind of preaching becomes obvious to the hearers that the man preaches out of love for God and His people rather than out of obligation of simply fulfilling of “job”. Biblical preaching oozes out of a joy-filled heart!

5. Emotional
Biblical preaching must be emotional. By this, I do not refer to a man who seeks to manipulate people by tugging at their emotions only. No! Rather, this kind of biblical preaching must come forth from the man’s inner being. That is to say, true preaching comes from the heart of the man rather than just out of the mind of a lecturer. Anyone can stand and speak behind a lectern. A preacher of the gospel preaches with his whole heart, from his whole being, with all his emotions because he has been overwhelmed at the glory of God, the grace of the gospel, and the goodness of Christ. He has compassion for lost sinners, just like Christ does. He invites lost sinners, unconverted children, wayward church members, and unknown visitors to come and behold Christ. He trembles and shudders when he preaches on the realities of everlasting punishment that will come upon all rebels. He preaches to woo, to win, to persuade, to invite, to summon people to behold Christ, bow the knee to Christ, and bless Him for all His many benefits. True preaching involves the whole man pouring himself out as he heralds forth God’s Word.

6. Purposeful
Biblical preaching always aims at a goal. It has an intention. Biblical preaching has a singular purpose: the ultimate glory of God. And faithful ministers long for the Word to comfort and edify the saved, convert and warn the lost, strengthen and fortify the weak, build and mature the church, and magnify and extol Jesus Christ. Every faithful preacher knows that he preaches with an end goal, and this purpose is to faithfully expound the Word so that the church is built up in Christlikeness by the Spirit sovereign enablement. The man preaches to save. He preaches to mature. He preaches to help. He preaches to counsel. He preaches to warn. He preaches so that God may be glorified through the primary means that He has appointed to save and sanctify men and women — the heralding of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Pastoral Ministry: Some Reflections.

Geoffrey R. Kirkland

Pastor, Christ Fellowship Bible Church (St Louis, MO)

I have served as a pastor for about seventeen years total. I have learned much and I still have boatloads still to learn. But one thing I can say with great confidence is that I love pastoral ministry. Recently I was on vacation with my family and I found myself repeatedly considering pastoral ministry. As I reflected on pastoral ministry, my mind returned to a few important elements that I do well to rehearse in my own mind.

1.  Ministry is a CALLING.
To truly serve in pastoral ministry means that God has called that man into the ministry. Far from being a self-propagated call, the true call into ministry must consist of a supernatural call. God calls the man. God summons the man.  God makes the man. God humbles the man. God, by His own prerogative, raises the man and replaces the man according to His sovereign will. As I reflected on pastoral ministry, I found my heart repeatedly giving thanks to God that He has called me into ministry. He has summoned me. He has arrested my soul and drawn me to serve in His ministry. It is a calling from God. I did not choose this on my own. No man, no committee, no seminary, no self-generated intuition or feeling or vote or coercion directed me into ministry. By God’s grace, He has called me into His service. Thus, I’m owned and His for He called me into His ministry and service.

2.  Ministry is HUMBLING.
My mind reflected on the humbling nature of pastoral ministry. It is quite frequent that I go for prayer walks and find myself utterly begging God for wisdom and insight as I feel like I’m in way over my head. As a young man serving Christ and His people, I often find myself humbled and inadequate for the work that lies before me. And strangely enough, I am humbled but I am still being humbled. I feel like I live in a state of a progressive humbling humility. God is humbling me. Often this comes in the form of dependence upon God, the precious saints of God, expectations that go unmet, and a plurality of leaders and godly men that surround me and help me in my progressive growth in Christ. Christ has enrolled me and continues to test me in the school of humility.  And for that blessed pain, I rejoice. May He humble me deeply to use me greatly.

3.  Ministry is ALL-CONSUMING.
There is simply no way around this. True ministry, true pastoral ministry, the life of a shepherd, is all-consuming. It never ends. A shepherd may sleep but in a sense he can’t sleep. He must always be watching and stand on alert. By God’s grace, I serve and shepherd the most precious flock of God in the whole world as they are near and dear to my soul. I love them. I pray for them. I long for their maturation in Christ and I grieve when sin invades. My consumed heart often can say with Paul: Who is weak without my being weak? Who is led into sin without my intense concern? (2 Cor 11.29). Indeed, I joyfully praise God for the all-consuming nature of pastoral ministry. With this, I thank God for a special help-mate that He has given to me to support and encourage me in the ministry. The consuming ministry is not only for the man but also his family.  This reflection is not negative, but a positive affirmation that the life of an under-shepherd must emulate that of the Chief Shepherd — who knows His sheep, calls them by name, and cares for them.

4.  Ministry is a DELIGHT.
Most frequently, I thank God for the ministry of being a pastor. I absolutely love it. Amazingly and stunningly, I get paid to do this. But I would indeed work and pay money to do what I get to do. What an honor to serve the Lord by praying for the saints, by studying His Word, by preparing sermons, by counseling the flock with the all-sufficient Word, by discipling and mentoring men, by visiting and encouraging the saints on this journey to heaven. No greater joy in the world exists for me than to rest my soul in the hands of a Sovereign God and know that even amidst my weakness, God’s purposes will stand. And, in fact, God will use me for His glory in His ministry. What a delight to be caught up in God magnifying Himself in this little church where I serve. God passionately pursuing His own glory and I am swept in to point eternal souls to this glorious Christ, to this delightful God, to this precious Word, and to the joy of holiness. May this delight in God sustain me in the ministry of the Lord. Like John, I have no greater joy than to hear of my children walking in the Truth (3 John 4). May this delight in God propel me to even greater service, in greater faithfulness, for God’s greater glory!

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