Five Words That Can Change Your Life

Today, I starting a series of posts on this blog over the next few weeks.  These entries will be based on a Wednesday night series I’m doing at my church on Romans 8. The series is called Five Words That Can Change Your Life and it focuses on five themes through Romans 8: freed (verses 1-8), empowered (verses 9-13), adopted (verses 14-17), transformed (verses 18-30), and loved (verses 31-38).

This is seriously one of my favorite chapters in the entire Bible and I am going to love this series! No doubt it is one of the most significant chapters in the Bible as well. This chapter is significant in many ways.

1. It is significant theologically- This chapter helps us grapple with some of the deepest theological issues of our day – election, predestination, and foreknowledge. Not to mention its excellent treatment of the Spirit-filled life, the love of God and our adoption into God’s family.

2. It is significant emotionally- This chapter encourages our hearts – we discover that nothing can separate us from God’s great, everlasting love. When you realize that you have been adopted into the family of God you come to understand God’s love in a deeper and more significant way. Paul proclaims, “What can separate from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus?”

3. It is significant practically- This chapter reminds us how we are to live – not according to our fleshly desires but according to the Spirit who indwells us. We are not just told what to do, but we are also told how to do it. After describing his struggle in the “inward man” in chapter 7, Paul instructs the believer on how to live in the power of the Holy Spirit.

4. It is significant spiritually- This chapter teaches us about our incredible position in Christ Jesus – we are now made righteous in God’s sight because we have been identified with Christ through salvation. “If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His.”

5. It is significant eternally- This chapter gives us an eternal perspective – suffering, pain and heartache are to be viewed with heaven in mind. Paul says, “The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”

This is possibly my favorite chapter of Scripture and I can’t wait to walk through its paragraphs, sentences and words over the next few weeks.  It most certainly will be life-changing!

How Do You Prepare a Sermon?

I’ve been preaching since I was 17 years old.  It dawned on me the other day – that’s half my life!  Hopefully I’ve grown and improved as a preacher since I started 17 years ago.  I know one thing for sure, my studying habits have definitely changed.  When I started as a senior in high school, I would write out everything on a small 5×8 notepad.  Then to study, I would write it over and over…and over…and over again.  After I had written the sermon about 5 times, I had it in my head and in my heart.  These days, my final product is printed off my MacBook Air.  Before printing it looks a bit like this…


I probably spend 6-8 hours on a sermon – that’s start to finish.  Then, on Saturday night and Sunday morning I probably spend another 2 hours of study. Going over my sermon, small last-minute changes, internalizing the message.  Most of my preacher friends can relate to this picture below. (Although many of you are so much more advanced than me…you’ve moved on to digital commentaries, etc. I’m an “old soul” I guess. I love to have a book in my hand!)Image

But no matter how technologically advanced I get – using Logos Bible Software, Evernote, Microsoft Word and my MacBook Air, my sermon always starts like it has always started.  Very simple, very old-school, very plain and very…Mayberry. 


Say what you want about me.  I’m stuck in the past, I’m missing out on the digital revolution, I’m killing trees. But this is pretty much how almost every sermon of mine begins – an open Bible, a blue pen and a yellow legal pad.  Am I the only one?

The Role of the Pastor- Part 4

This series, The Role of the Pastor, comes from a study that we’ve been doing on Wednesday nights at Second Baptist Church in Warner Robins, GA.

This post will conclude the series on The Role of the Pastor. We’ve covered three of the four major functions of the pastor: love, lead and protect.  And here, we’ll talk about how the pastor is to feed the people.

Paul says to Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:1-5, “I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables  But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.”

The pastor/shepherd has the responsibility of feeding the flock.  This refers to the pastor’s responsibility of preaching. The church is fed through preaching, from the Word, by the Holy Spirit. The role of the pastor in feeding the people with the word is of primary importance.  The importance of the preaching ministry of a pastor cannot be over-emphasized.  It is vitally important to the believer and to the body of Christ; to the Christian and to the church.

1. The solemn charge: 1

Let’s take this verse one chunk at a time. “I charge you…” The word “charge” here gives the idea of a testimony in a courtroom.  It literally means “to invoke someone as a witness about something.”  This parallels the last phrase of this verse, “Before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom…” Paul is essentially saying, “I’ve taken the stand as a witness before the righteous judge and I’m testifying to the truth. Because God will judge me and He will judge you one day as well.” This is a solemn charge.

There’s another word that’s easy to miss but very important; the word “therefore.” This refers to something that has just been stated.  What was that? 2 Timothy 3:16-17.  Here’s what it says, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work”

This is a solemn charge because you are dealing with sacred truth. True preaching is based upon the truth of God’s Word.  If it’s not based upon the Word, it’s not preaching.

2. The sacred calling: 2

There’s an all-important phrase in verse 2 that every pastor must consider; “preach the Word!”  The construction of this phrase indicates that this is a command to be obeyed immediately.  It is a sharp command that takes on almost a military tone. The word “preach” means to announce in a formal or official manner.  A herald would communicate a message from the king to the people.  This is indeed what preaching is.  It is a message from the King of Kings to His subjects, His people. This preaching should be accompanied by that note of authority which will command the respect, careful attention, and proper reaction of the listeners.

Kenneth Wuest says, “The “Word” here refers to the whole body of revealed truth. The preacher must present, not book reviews, not politics, not economics, not current topics of the day, not a philosophy of life denying the Bible and based upon unproven theories of science, but the Word. The preacher as a herald cannot choose his message. He is given a message to proclaim by his Sovereign. If he will not proclaim that, let him step down from his exalted position.

This is why I call the task of preaching a “sacred calling.” Because it is handling the great truths of the great King! Therefore we must be “ready in season and out of season.” In other words, be ready at all times; good times and bad times, easy times and hard times; times of sowing and times of reaping.

Then, Paul lists some things that must be done while preaching, “Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all long-suffering and teaching.” If all of your preacher’s sermons are “exhorting” but none are “rebuking” then you have a pastor that doesn’t follow the biblical model.  All of this must be present from time to time in preaching.

3. The sad condition: 3-4

The Bible says there will come a day when people won’t “endure sound doctrine.” The word “endure” literally means to “hold one’s self upright or firm against a person or thing.” In other words, they hear the truth but push it away.

Instead, they “heap up for themselves teachers…and they will turn themselves away from the truth…” They listen to preachers who make them feel good and say what they want to hear.  These preachers scratch them where they itch – “itching ears. Do you want to know why we have so many sorry, wimpy, feeble-minded preachers on TV these days? Because it’s what people want and it’s what they watch.  What a shame!

4. The serious command: 5

Paul contrasts these false teachers with Timothy.  He turns to him and says, “But you…” In other words, it’s going to be different for you, this is not how you’re going to act. He lists four things…

a) Watch: “be watchful in all things…”

Keep your eyes open to your circumstances and surroundings.  Watch out and be aware of what’s going on.

b) Endure: “endure affliction…”

Most of Timothy’s sufferings would come from the “religious crowd” that did not want to hear the truth. It was the “religious crowd” that crucified Christ and that persecuted Paul and had him arrested. Timothy would have to be a faithful soldier and endure affliction for the sake of the gospel.

c) Reach: “do the word of an evangelist…”

A preacher, no matter what he is preaching, should keep the lost souls in mind. This burden for the lost should characterize a pastor’s private ministry as well. Vance Havner once said, “A lot of preaching is motivated by love for preaching, not love of people.”

d) Fulfill: “fulfill your ministry…”

This means, “fulfill whatever God wants you to do.” Do what God has called you to do. Timothy’s ministry would not be exactly like Paul’s, but it would be important to the cause of Christ. A young preacher once complained to Charles Spurgeon, the famous British preacher of the 1800s, that he did not have as big a church as he deserved. “How many do you preach to?” Spurgeon asked. “Oh, about 100,” the man replied. Solemnly Spurgeon said, “That will be enough to give account for on the day of judgment.”

We do not measure the fulfillment of a ministry only on the basis of statistics or on what people see. We realize that faithfulness is important and that God sees the heart.

As I conclude this series of blog posts, I want to make one last point.  The pastor’s role is to feed the people through the preaching of the Word of God.  But it’s important to remember that the people must be willing to receive the Word and obey it. You’ve heard the phrase you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink.  I want you to understand this one: You can lead a sheep to pasture but you can’t make him eat.

The Role of the Pastor- Part 3

This series, The Role of the Pastor, comes from a study that we’ve been doing on Wednesday nights at Second Baptist Church in Warner Robins, GA.

Last time I wrote about how a pastor is to lead the people. In this post, we’ll cover how a pastor is to protect the people. Now remember, this is not a series on the qualifications of a pastor.  Those are spelled out very clearly in the pastoral epistles. This is a series about the function of the pastor or the job of the pastor.

Titus 1:10-13 says, “For there are many insubordinate, both idle talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision, whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole households, teaching things which they ought not, for the sake of dishonest gain. One of them, a prophet of their own, said, “Cretans arealways liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.” This testimony is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith…”

Remember, the Bible portrays the pastor as a shepherd.  And part of the shepherd’s job is to protect the sheep.  From what? From “wolves in sheep’s clothing.” In other words, from false teachers. The enemy is sneaky and he knows how to deceive. The most dangerous lie is one that has just enough truth to make it believable. And the best way to be protected from false teaching is to learn the truth.  That’s why it’s so important that we preach, teach, learn and live the Bible!

1. Who they are: 10-12

It did not take long for false teachers to arise in the early church. Wherever God sows the truth, Satan quickly shows up to sow lies. Paul says here, “there are many…” Anytime God is at work the enemy will try and infiltrate the ranks. And the greatest dangers we face are from inside the church, not from outside the church. How do you know if someone is a wolf in sheep’s clothing? How do you know if a teacher should be followed or confronted? In this text, there are several characteristics of those who oppose the truth…

a) They are unwilling to submit to authority: 10

“For there are many who are insubordinate…” “Rebellious” would be a good translation. It refers to teachers who will not put themselves under authority. Beware of men such as this.  Our ultimate authority is always the Word of God.

They were “idle talkers.” What they said impressed people, but it had no content or substance. When you “boiled it down,” it was just so much hot air; they excelled in talking, not in doing. If a pastor talks more about himself than Jesus…you’ve got a problem!

There are “deceivers” out there who lead people astray by their false doctrines.  And sadly, many of them have their own TV show.  Paul is referring here to those of the “circumcision party.” These were Jews within the church who were trying to impose Old Testament standards and traditions.  They deceived people into believing that even though Christ had ushered in the era of grace, they must still fulfill the law.

b) They are unconcerned about others: 11

They didn’t care about others.  Their practice was to deceive.  While true shepherds have a great concern for the flock, false teachers only have concern for themselves. They were in it for themselves, “teaching for dishonest gain.” You know what these false teachers were? They were celebrities, not servants. They lived it up at the expense of their followers.

Paul told Titus that a true elder is not “greedy for money” but these false teachers are in it for “dishonest gain.” And they would “subvert whole households” in the process.  That’s what doctrinal error will do; it divides families, friends and churches.

c) They are unfaithful to pure doctrine: 12-14

Do you see how false teachers “turn from the truth?” They have no concern for pure doctrine.  Their only commitment is to themselves, their fame and their fortune.

Crete was known throughout the entire ancient world for being an incredibly immoral place. They probably had a slogan that went something like this: “What happens in Crete, stays in Crete.” Paul doesn’t personally criticize the Cretans for their morals.  Instead, he lets another Cretan do it.  “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.” But then, Paul affirms this statement, “this testimony is true.” And all of this carnal and worldly living came from a basic denial of truth and pure doctrine.  That’s what happens when doctrine doesn’t matter; morality deteriorates.

2. What they need: 11b, 13

It’s important that we identify false teachers, but what must be done once they are detected.  How is a pastor to protect his flock?

a) They need to be rebuked: 11b

After you recognize and identify false teachers, it’s important to rebuke them. Notice two important phrases here.  Verse 11 begins by saying, “Whose mouths must be stopped…” You don’t negotiate with false teachers; you silence them. You don’t stand by and let them take over; you confront the situation and take care of business. The only weapon against Satan’s lies is God’s truth.

Notice another phrase in verse 13, “rebuke them sharply…” Confront those who teach false doctrine and rebuke them sharply.  The idea is one of urgency.  This is no small or trivial matter—it is an urgent situation.

b) They need to be restored: 13b

Notice that phrase at the end of verse 13. “That they may be sound in the faith.” Why do we rebuke false teachers? We rebuke them in the hopes that we can restore them.  That’s the goal…but sadly, it doesn’t happen very often.

The word “sound” there gives the idea of being healthy and strong in doctrine.  It is sound and healthy doctrine that brings stability and strength to the church of God. We must know the truth so we can confront others when they speak that which is not truth and bring them back to the truth whenever possible. This is why it’s so important for us to know the Word!

The Role of the Pastor- Part 2

This series, The Role of the Pastor, comes from a study that we’ve been doing on Wednesday nights at Second Baptist Church in Warner Robins, GA.

We continue the series on The Role of the Pastor. This is a four-part series that covers four major roles of a pastor: love, lead, protect and feed.  In my last post, I covered how the pastor is to love the people.  In this post, we’ll discover how the pastor is to lead the people.

Remember, the objective standard for defining the pastor’s role and responsibility is the Word of God – not my opinion, or your opinion, or the opinion of any denomination.  The Bible gives the objective standard for the role of the pastor.

1 Peter 5:1-4 says, “The elders who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that will be revealed: Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock; and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away.”

One thing I notice about this particular text is that each of the three Greek words mentioned in last wee’s post that describe the function of a pastor appear here: elder- presbuteros, overseer- episkopos and shepherd- poimen. We’ll look at three truths from this passage concerning how the pastor is to lead the people that God has entrusted to him.

1. The pastor’s association: 1

When you read the word “association” don’t think your local Baptist association or convention.  Instead, consider the wonderful encouragement offered from other pastors with whom you are associated. Peter says in verse 1 that he is a “fellow elder.” When I read those two words it almost seems as if Peter is saying, I’m in this with you.  I want to “exhort” you in the faith as you lead.  He is offering  advice and encouragement to pastors.

He not only calls himself an “elder” but he also calls himself a “witness.” He was a witness of the “sufferings of Christ.” The word “witness” is martyr in the Greek. It gives the idea of one who would testify to the truth of something. He was a witness to the sufferings of Christ but he was also a “partaker of the glory that will be revealed.”  Peter was on the Mount of Transfiguration and saw a glimpse of the glory of Jesus Christ.  But he recognizes that there is more to come. In this simple phrase, Peter takes us from suffering to glory; from the cross to the Second Coming of Christ.

This is who we are in Christ as well.  We are witnesses to His work upon the cross and we are partakers of the divine glory because of the Spirit of God that has been granted to us in salvation.  We are associated, aligned and allied with Jesus Christ.

From what I can tell, pastors walk in very good company. It is a great cloud of witnesses, no doubt. There are some incredible men down throughout the ages who have held that great title and here, Peter claims the title for his own.  Not a bad association if you ask me.

2. The pastor’s assignment: 2-3

In verses 2-3, Peter spells out the pastor’s assignment.  He says, “Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock…”

The phrase “shepherd the flock” would be very familiar to Peter. On the night of Christ’s betrayal and arrest, Peter denied the Lord three times. Jesus was crucified and Peter went back to fishing.  But after the resurrection, Jesus appeared to the disciples and specifically took time to restore Peter. You can take time and read John 21 for the entire account, but to summarize, Jesus says,  “Peter do you love me? Then tend my lambs.”  In other words, shepherd the flock of God. There is no doubt this is what Peter has in mind here as he passes on the Lord’s instructions to fellow pastors and church leaders. He goes into detail with three contrasts…

a) Not by compulsion but willfully

Pastors should lead the church willingly.  In other words, they are not do grumble and complain as they go about the work of the ministry – they are to be filled with joy. Being a pastor is not something I have to do, it’s something I get to do. It is a joy, a privilege, a pleasure, a passion, a calling and a delight.  There is nothing else in this world that I would rather do.

b) Not for dishonest gain but eagerly

Paul says that the laborer is worthy of his hire and that elders who rule and teach well are worthy of double honor.  So, I believe it is biblical for churches to bless their pastors. But Peter makes it clear that financial gain should never be the pastor’s goal.  Not for “dishonest gain.” The goal of ministry is not money, it’s the Master! The pastor should go about his job “eagerly.” The word translates to mean “of a ready mind.” It should be a joy to lead the people of God.

c) Not with arrogance but humbly

There is a very important balance that the pastor must realize and a tension that he must live with. The pastor is called to lead and to oversee the affairs of the church.  But this should be done with humility, not arrogance; with love, not lording it over others.  If I have to continually get up before the church and constantly remind them that I’m the leader, then I’m really not the leader.

3. The pastor’s accountability: 4

Pastor, you must remember your accountability before God.  Shepherd the flock of God, because one day, the “Chief Shepherd will appear.”  Peter speaks of the reward for those who have been faithful in leading God’s church according to His Word.  “You will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away.” What an amazing promise. But this promise of reward also comes also with a reminder of our accountability before God.  One day, we will all stand before Christ and give an account of our lives to him. This fact may bring you joy or may make you sick.

When I was growing up the phrase, “Wait till daddy gets home” had a couple of different meanings. It’s a promise of reward or a promise of punishment.  If I had an especially difficult day, sometimes I would hear that phrase and it would strike fear into my heart.  “Just wait till your daddy gets home.” But sometimes, after dad had been gone awhile and I’d been wanting to throw the ball, that phrase was a promise of reward.  “Wait till daddy gets home…it won’t be long now.”

You see, the promise of this verse is a joy to those who can’t wait to see the face of Christ.  To others, it’s the promise of judgment. Live (and pastor) in such a way that you know when you stand before Christ you will “receive the crown of glory that does not fade away.”