MEMBERS: Preaching [About] the Gospel (Transcript)

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Justin Perdue: Welcome to the members’ podcast. Jon, before we started recording this segment, said something like this: “yeah, I’ve got something that’s going to get you fired up, Justin.” So I’m going to just go ahead and throw it over to Jon and see what this is. He’s trying to poke me and provoke me.

We trust this will be useful and somehow edifying to the saints.

Jon Moffitt: Before I do, I just want to say – and I know we say this all the time – but for those of you that support Theocast and, it’s going to be even harder with the COVID-19 virus because I know there are going to be people who can’t support us monthly because they need the money. So, for those of you that do, it does pay for everything. Every single dime is used every single month to make sure this message goes forth. So, thank you for that.

I think that the responsibility of a shepherd is to not allow the sheep to fall into the mud, into the mire, and to stay there and lose rest, peace, and hope because of sin and being trapped in sin. We are to lead them away from sin and back into the loving arms of our Father.

Where I struggle or what I see is people adequately rebuke and exhort and expose frailty and sin. “You should stop doing those things.” But what they demand is obedience, right? “You need to stop doing this, and you need to start doing that.” If you look at Paul or if you look at any of the writers of the New Testament, there’s always a sandwich effect that happens, there is the hope of Christ. There is the demand for obedience, and then there’s the hope of Christ. And if you do not do this, you will lead people into absolute depression and despair, anxiety, and lack of assurance because the only motivation a believer has is that they are in Christ no matter what they do. The moment that they cannot feel this, they don’t believe this, it’s not in front of them. When sin struggle happens, they will lose hope. They will lose the fight because they think, “I can’t do it enough. There is no way God’s going to approve of me because from what the pastor is saying, I can’t live to that standard.” So please know that it is not either-or. It is not only preaching the gospel and not obedience or only preach obedience and not the gospel. The Bible doesn’t work that way. They’re both. But what is emphasized is most important.

Justin Perdue: I’m going to use language that we use a lot because it’s biblical: the Christian life is identity forward. It’s lived status forward.

Whenever we are talking about obedience, fleeing from sin, or turning from sin in the Christian life, we’re always doing that with that very self-conscious, identity-forward status for reality in our minds. I always take my cue from the apostle Paul in the letter to the Romans, where his response to potential lawlessness is not, “Let me lambaste people with law and tell them that they must obey.” His response to that is, “Let me tell you even more clearly about your identity. Let me tell you even more clearly about who you are and how you have been united to the Lord Jesus by faith, and you’re now in him. Let me tell you also about how you have been set free from the bondage that you once were into sin, and now let’s consider the reality of the Christian life that there is an internal war going on. And that we are free from condemnation in Christ, and God has promised us ultimately that we will be sanctified and finally saved. And now, let’s press on in in the Christian life.” I’m confident – and I would stake my ministry on this – that if we are not preaching obedience to the church that way, we’re wrong.

We cannot just come in from the top turnbuckle, and just elbow drop everybody and use fear and dread as a motivation. Let me nuance this a little bit. I use harsh language at points, as I’m sure you do, Jon, in the pulpit about sin or even in trying to protect the church.

The strongest language that I ever use and the most intense that I ever am is when I’m trying to defend the clarity of the gospel and trying to keep us from weaving works back into it. Because we all tend to do it. When is the harsh language? The harsh language is when somebody has completely lost their senses and are running off into high-handed, self-conscious, unrepentant sin. And that’s when we’re like, “Brother, sister, you need to wake up here.” But in terms of general ongoing nature of saints struggling against sin in the church, it’s a very Galatians 6:1 reality.

The mature among us seek to restore those people who are caught in sin with a spirit of gentleness. We confront them and talk to them about what’s going on in their lives and try to understand. We aim to restore them gently. We don’t beat them up. We don’t beat them to death. We talk reasonably. We pray. We plead humbly and kindly and say, “Brother and sister, you know that this is going to go nowhere. You know that you have been united to Christ and that he is your righteousness. Let’s talk.” That’s my general posture in how I try to think about some of this stuff.

Jon Moffitt: This can even go into what you had ended with, with Christ-centered preaching, where someone says we need to be Christ-centered in preaching. This would go back to the heart of what the podcast is about: if you preach Christ, the facts of Christ, and you don’t lead someone to the hope of Christ, which is grace, then are you truly preaching the transforming truth of the Bible? I’m going to tell you right now that there are a lot of people who believe the facts of Jesus when it comes down to who he is and what he did. Here’s the thing. If you disconnect why from what you have not gospel, you’d have not preached Christ.

People get confused on what the why is, or I would say the result of Jesus’s coming. So, this is all I know. It sounds hairsplitting, and I know that it can sound confusing, but the ministry of Theocast is designed to lead Christians back into rest. And the only way you can have rest is if you have assurance. The only way you can have assurance is not in Law but in grace. Grace leads to assurance, not Law ever.

Justin Perdue: This Christ-centered preaching bit to me is an entire podcast. At some point, I may even write a primer on it because this is something that I’ve been thinking about, and I’ve observed for years in a context that we’ll talk all about biblical theology. We’ll talk about the redemptive-historical framework of scripture to a degree, and we’ll talk about Christ-centered preaching and about preaching the gospel in every sermon. Often what that means for many people is I’m preaching the text, I’m saying a lot of really good things about the text, and I’m showing you my exegetical work here so that you can understand the passage better. This is all fine. But there’s been a fundamental problem because oftentimes the gospel is preached by inserting the plan of salvation somewhere in the sermon.

God created everything, and he made it good, made man in his image, but man fell. Now we stand under the righteous condemnation of God, and now, here’s what Jesus has done, and God is calling all men everywhere to repent of sin and trust Christ. That’s fine. But that is not Christ-centered preaching. Christ-centered preaching begins with this question: where does this text stand in relation to Jesus? If that is not the first question that a preacher is asking himself as he prepares a sermon, where does this text stand in relation to Christ? You’re wrong. You can say all kinds of wonderful things about the passage, but if you’re not preaching it in light of where it stands with relation to Christ, you’re wrong.

Jon Moffitt: And Christ as Messiah.

Justin Perdue: Right. Where does this stand in relation to Jesus, his person, his work, the covenant of redemption, the covenant of grace? Where does this stand? It’s not trying to read Jesus into every page of the Bible like it’s a Where’s Waldo book. We’re trying to understand every text in light of the main point. If you preach a sermon. That is filled with all kinds of astute fantastic observations, but you have read and interpreted the text, not in light of the main point of the Bible. You have misunderstood it, and you have not preached Christ. I think this is where a lot of this confusion comes from, Jon, as you hear a sermon on a passage, and the only Jesus we get is this kind of plan of salvation that’s inserted at minute 37.

Jon Moffitt: Or every passage is in light of lordship salvation. Jesus is Lord. Every application ends up becoming, “Unless you make Jesus Lord, you are condemned.” And that too is not the gospel. It is true that unless you make Jesus Lord, you are condemned. But that’s not good news. That’s bad news.

Thankfully, the good news is that Jesus makes himself Lord of your life. In your absolute rebellion against him, he makes himself Lord.

Justin Perdue: Yeah. He is the Lord. And then he overcomes your rebellion in grace and love and mercy and takes his place – figuratively speaking – on the throne of your heart.

Jon Moffitt: You have the power to grant God the title, Lord? You have that power? You do not. That power is not given to you. That’s called Arminianism.

Justin Perdue: That’s right. Or the idea that you’ve trusted Jesus as your Savior, but now you need to make him Lord again. First of all, I think that that distinction is false and introduced and imposed upon the text. But that’s another conversation for another time. But still, if we’re talking about how about you’ve trusted Jesus as Savior and now you need to do something else, where does the power and the ability come with which we might do that?

And that’s what you were saying. That’s God’s word. It’s God’s grace. It’s something that he will do in you. And how is He going to do that? Is He going to do that because you’re working really hard? Or is He going to do that as you look to His son and trust in Christ and rely upon His Spirit? I think it’s the latter.

You’re applying means if you participate in your sanctification. Just like you participate in life by being alive, right? God is doing it.

Jon Moffitt: The reason why we get very excited about this is that I hear men, and I’m thankful for men who want to be precise and clear, and they want to make sure your brother sending truth. What my criticism is that you are presenting a perspective that is trying to smoke out the nominalist that is trying to go after the Southern Baptist who said a prayer, walked the mile, got baptized, but now lives like a pagan. That’s what you’re trying to smoke out. You assume that fear and that harsh preaching is going to turn them from their ways and going to get them back serious about God. You’ve been convinced that the seriousness of preaching, the Law is going to transform hearts, and the Law does not transform hearts. The Law doesn’t do anything when it comes to transforming one’s heart.

Justin Perdue: If that really is the ammo, if we really think that we’re preaching to a bunch of unconverted people, then the methodology there is not, “Let me just yell at you about how you need to obey God.” That’s absurd. If we think that we’re talking to unconverted people, then we’re preaching the Law in its first use, “Let me preach the Law and all this holiness in all of its righteousness, and in that sense, all of its horrors outside of Christ. And then let me hold Jesus out to you.” It would never be, “Let me scold you towards taking God seriously.”

“You, like me, stand condemned. And you think you’re doing okay, you’re not. Here’s how serious the Law is and how holy the Law is and how righteous the Law is. But now, let me tell you about Jesus.” That would be our posture. It’s a dead giveaway that something is wrong when we think the answer to nominalism, the answer to false profession is for us to scold people with Law and not really give them Christ. I don’t understand it. It absolutely makes my head explode that we think to preach the Law as a standard of righteousness, and in a standard for living without offering people Jesus is the way to curb nominal Christianity.

Jon Moffitt: Even the Lord’s table, unfortunately, turns into this something that has to be received. We make requirements for those two in order to receive it. Listen, the table has a fence around it, meaning that there are those who can and cannot take it. But then we always tell people, “You better not take it in an unworthy manner, or you may die.” And then we dictate what the unworthy manner is outside the context of what Paul was saying in Corinthians, basically saying if you’ve had any kind of sin this week, you are unworthy to take it.

Wait a minute. We’re celebrating the death of Christ for our sin, and yet you have to be worthy in order to celebrate the death of Christ for your sin. How is that?

Justin Perdue: Our church is not that old, and everybody in our church was at a different church not that long ago. And so, we’re all learning and growing together. We’ve had people, especially those who have a tender conscience among us, who have not come to the table because they were like, “I’m not worthy. I’ve had a bad week. I’ve sinned too much. I’m angry with my husband.” Or whatever it is. We’ve had to be redundantly clear that if you understand yourself to be a sinner and you understand you deserve nothing but condemnation from God if you understand that you have failed, you have blown it this week, and you realize that you are utterly dependent upon the grace of God in Christ and have no hope before the Lord saved Jesus, then this table is absolutely for you. You ought to be the first person up here as soon as people are invited to come. Sprint down the aisle and come to Christ and receive Him in the table.

It’s wild though, brother, how many Calvinistic people who love God, in fear of the Lord in terms of reverence and everything else and love His word, would just be wrecked. They’re thinking, “I’ve sinned too much this week. I shouldn’t take the supper.” Sister, brother, know that what we all need is the supper. What we all need is Christ held out to us.

We have pulled the curtain back, and you have gotten a foretaste of at least two episodes that we will maybe do in the future. And like what Jon did at the beginning. I want to thank you sincerely for your partnership with us.

We trust you believe us when we tell you that we couldn’t do what we’re doing without you. Theocast would not exist without the partnership of our members and without your generous support. We hope that you continue to listen in and continue to support the ministry.

Tell others about Theocast. Spread the word. Podcasts and ministries like this tend to grow through word of mouth. That’s a very effective way to see this message of the reformation, and the message of rest in Christ spread to as many people as possible. And I know we all want to see that happen.

So, thank you again. We hope you’ve been encouraged by this conversation today, and we look forward to talking with you again next week.

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