Book Review: Graciousness

Posted: Friday, February 9, 2018 in Book review, Counseling, Pastoral

Sometimes we have some important things to say to our Christian brothers and sisters, but the way we say it directly affects the way they receive our message. Sharing your message with harshness, a critical spirit, a condescending attitude, anger, or even a scowl is like communicating wonderful things with terribly bad breath. The person you are talking to could completely miss out on the benefits of your message simply because of the way you deliver it. [Loc 56, Kindle ed.]

31xophoamtl-_ac_us218_Does the above describe something you have done in the past? Or when another person thinks about your character and your approach, would they describe this as part of who you are? A person the means well – but is sometimes just mean? Then John Crotts has much to say to you (me) in Graciousness: Tempering Truth with Love (Reformation Heritage Books, 2018). He offers a biblical understanding of the danger above along with the cure – graciousness.

After defining and associating graciousness with gentleness, kindness and love (Chapter 1), Crotts walks us through the biblical passages that speak directly to the issue (Chapter 2), and offers examples of how Jesus Christ and the Apostle Paul lived out graciousness: Jesus always, without sin; Paul not so much before his conversion, but much so after. Graciousness is something we can learn and ought to be learned from their examples (Chapters 3-4).

But not only is graciousness to be learned (head), it must be cultivated (heart) (Chapter 6). As with any biblical principle or imperative, it is one thing to know, quite another to act; to be doers of the Word and not hearers only (James 1:22). It is in cultivation that our own heart is changed and our mindset and actions for others is changed (Chapters 7-8). This is demonstrated, or ought to be demonstrated, notably in community, in the church, as brothers and sisters encourage one another, exhort one another, rebuke one another, correct one another, etc. And one of the best ways to cultivate graciousness in your own heart is to spend time with other gracious Christians. It is in the context of community that Crotts offers solid, practical counsel on cultivating graciousness (Chapter 9).

Of course, real biblical graciousness cannot be learned or cultivated apart from the transforming grace of the gospel, God saving a person and changing them by His grace and for His glory. This is the final chapter in book, but primary for the chapters that precede it (Chapter 10).

While the Spirit of God faithfully creates the kind of gentle character within the hearts of true believers in Christ that the Word of God requires, believers are also responsible to use every means available to cultivate the heart attitudes that lead to consistently gracious interactions with others. As you grow in your knowledge and love for God’s truth, you must fight your pride against using God’s truth to club those around you. As the Lord Jesus has been so kind, patient, and gracious to you, those marks must melt your heart…

As your heart becomes softened by His transforming grace, you should be motivated to do what it takes, with the Spirit’s help, to communicate that same grace to everyone around you. [Loc 1700, Kindle ed.]

Everyone will profit spiritually from this book. I would recommend it to pastors as a tool for counsel and correction. It is with 20+ years of pastoral experience (in one congregation!) that Crotts has practiced these things. His wisdom is well worth your time.

I received a copy of this book from Reformation Heritage Books via Cross Focused Reviews. I was not required to write a positive review.


The Church: Witness-oriented

Posted: Thursday, February 8, 2018 in Books, Church, Preaching

Here is the third of J. I. Packer’s three requirements regarding the necessity of preaching in the church, along with a summary, 51gpy8n94bl-_ac_us218_taken from his Introduction to The Preacher and Preaching: Reviving the Art edited by Samuel T Logan, Jr. The first was that the church is to be Word-oriented and the greatest means given by God for that to be accomplished is through the preaching of that Word. The second is that preaching is central to the worship of the church. And finally, the church is to be witness-oriented.

Finally, the church must be witness-oriented: that is, God’s people must always be seeking to move out into the world around them to make Christ known and disciple the lost, and to that end they must “always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks [them] to give a reason for the hope that [they] have” (I Pet. 3:15). Apart from the preaching of the Word, however, the church will never have the resources to do this; it will constantly tend to forget its identity as the people charged to go and tell, and may actually lose its grip on the contents of its own message, as it has done many times in the past. History tells us of no significant church growth and expansion that has taken place without preaching (significant, implying virility and staying power, is the key word there). What history points to, rather, is that all movements of revival, reformation, and missionary outreach seem to have had preaching (vigorous, though on occasion very informal) at their center, instructing, energizing, sometimes purging and redirecting, and often spearheading the whole movement. It would seem, then, that preaching is always necessary for a proper sense of mission to be evoked and sustained anywhere in the church.

Thus preaching is able to maintain the church’s sense of identity and calling as the people charged to attend to God’s Word, to obey it as His children, and to spread it as His witnesses. But there seems no way in which without preaching the eroding of this awareness can be avoided. [pp. 20-21

The Church: Worship-oriented

Posted: Friday, February 2, 2018 in Books, Church, Preaching

51gpy8n94bl-_ac_us218_Today I offer the second of J. I. Packer’s three requirements regarding the necessity of preaching in the church, taken from his Introduction to The Preacher and Preaching: Reviving the Art edited by Samuel T Logan, Jr. The first was that the church is to be Word-oriented and the greatest means given by God for that to be accomplished is through the preaching of that Word. The second is that preaching is central to the worship of the church.

The church must also be worship-oriented: that is, God’s people must regularly celebrate what God is and has done and will do, and glorify His name for it all by their praises, prayers, and devotion. The preaching of the Bible is the mainspring of this worship, for it fuels the devotional fire, constantly confronting Christians with God’s works and ways and saving them (redeeming, regenerating, forgiving, accepting, adopting, guarding, guiding, keeping, feeding), and thereby leading them into paths of obedience and adoring response. Indeed, from this standpoint biblical preaching is implicit doxology throughout; the biblical preacher will follow Scripture in giving God glory for His works, ways, and wisdom at every turn, and will urge His hearers to do the same. This is the first reason why preaching should be regarded as the climax of congregational worship. From this flows the second reason, namely that congregations never honor God more than by reverently listening to His Word with a full purpose of praising and obeying Him once they see what He has done and is doing, and what they are called to do. But it is precisely through preaching that these things are made clear and this purpose is maintained. [p. 20]

Have this in mind, proclaimer and listener, shepherd and sheep, as you prepare for the Lord’s Day this Sunday.

The Church: Word-oriented

Posted: Thursday, February 1, 2018 in Church, Preaching

51gpy8n94bl-_ac_us218_Last time I shared a quote from J. I. Packer concerning the necessity of preaching for the church from The Preacher and Preaching: Reviving the Art. He gives a threefold requirement for this – the first being that the church must be Word-oriented.

The church must be Word-oriented: that is, God’s people must always be attentive and obedient to Scripture. Scripture is God’s Word of constant address to them, and woe betide them if they disregard it (see II Chron. 36:15-16; II Kings 22:8-20; Isa. 1:19-20; Jer. 7:23-26; Rev. 2:4-7, 15-17, etc.). God’s people must learn to “tremble at his word” (Ezra 9:4; Isa. 66:5), listening, learning, and laying to heart; believing what He tells them, behaving as He directs them, and battling for His truth in a world that denies it. Preaching, as an activity of letting texts talk, alerts Christians to the fact that God is constantly addressing them and enforces the authority of Scripture over them. The church must live by God’s Word as it is necessary food and steer by that Word as its guiding star. Without preaching, however, it is not conceivable that this will be either seen or done. [pp. 19-20]

Packer on Expository Preaching

Posted: Wednesday, January 31, 2018 in Books, Church, Culture, Preaching

51gpy8n94bl-_ac_us218_The following is from J. I. Packer’s introduction (Why Preach?) to and excellent resource on preaching, The Preacher and Preaching: Reviving the Art. His third point is that preaching focuses and identifies the calling of the church as no other activity does. He rightly asserts that this is an argument drawn from the nature of the church, as we learn it from Scripture. He goes on:

In every age the church has had an identity problem, and in some ages and identity crisis. Why? Because the world always wants to assimilate the church to itself and thereby swallow it up, and is always putting the church under pressure to that end; and to such pressure the church, at least in the West, has constantly proved very vulnerable. The results of it can be seen today in the extremely weak sense of identity that many churches have. Their adherents think of them more as social clubs, like Shriners, Elks, Freemasons, and Rotarians, or as interest groups, like political parties and hikers’ associations, than as visible outcrops of one supernatural society, and they are quite unable to give substance to the biblical thought that God’s people, as the salt and light for the world, are required to be different from those around them. The problem is perennial, and there is always need to proclaim the Bible, its gospel, its Christ, and its ethics, in order to renew the church’s flagging awareness of its God-given identity and vocation. Preaching is the only activity that holds out any hope of achieving this; but preaching can do it by keeping before Christian minds God’s threefold requirement that His people be Word-oriented, worship-oriented, and witness-oriented. [p. 19]

He goes on to reflect on those three requirements – and I will provide those in the three blogs that follow.

For today, preacher, be reminded that we are not called to solve the world’s problems in the world’s ways or issues of today in the wisdom of the world. We are to preach the Word and the Christ of the Word in the power of the Spirit for the sake of our own flocks, the greater Church, and for the world. That, and that alone, is our hope of glory!

MacArthur on Expository Preaching

Posted: Monday, January 29, 2018 in Preaching


Below is and outline of three lectures John MacArthur gave on the dangers of non-expository preaching. I encourage pastors to listen (link below). You will be encouraged and challenged.

Steve Lawson’s messages are also worth a listen!

The Danger of non-Expository Preaching

  1. A failure to do expository preaching usurps the authority of God over the mind and the soul.
  1. A failure to do expository preaching replaces the Lordship of Christ over His Church.
  1. A failure to do expository preaching hinders the work of the Holy Spirit.
  1. A failure to do expository preaching demonstrates pride and a lack of submission to Scripture.
  1. A failure to do expository preaching severs the preacher personally from the regular sanctifying work (grace) of Scripture in your own life.
  1. A failure to do expository preaching removes spiritual depth and transcendence from the people and cripples worship.
  1. A failure to do expository preaching prevents the preacher from fully developing the mind of Christ critical to perform His work in the Church.
  1. A failure to do expository preaching depreciates by example the spiritual duty and priority of personal Bible study.
  1. A failure to do expository preaching prevents the preacher from being the voice of God on every issue of his time.
  1. A failure to do expository preaching breeds a congregation as weak and indifferent to the glory and honor of God as the preacher is.
  1. A failure to do expository preaching robs people of their only true source of help.
  1. A failure to do expository preaching puts the responsibility on the preacher to change people.
  1. A failure to do expository preaching reduces the preacher’s words to the level of everyone else’s.
  1. A failure to do expository preaching portrays an attitude of self-love instead of loving the Lord with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength.
  1. A failure to do expository preaching creates a destructive disconnect between sound doctrine and life.
  1. A failure to do expository preaching eliminates the truths that trouble, offend, and terrify the lost and sinful.
  1. A failure to do expository preaching disconnects God’s people from the legacy of the past.
  1. A failure to do expository preaching removes protection from error deadly to the church.

Grieving for the Departed

Posted: Saturday, January 6, 2018 in Counseling, Pastoral

The holiday season can be a difficult time for those who have lost loved ones over the past year. I encouraged our saints to be much in prayer for this particular group over the past days. I ran across the following from a sermon by Robert Murray McCheyne on 1 Corinthians 7:29a: “This is what I mean, brothers: the appointed time has grown very short.” [ESV] I found it interesting that he dealt with the topic of a godly grief but found it helpful for my future counsel in this matter. May it feed your soul as well…

Sit loose to the griefs of this world. They that weep should be as though they wept not. This world is the vale of tears. There are always some mourning. No sooner is the tear dried up on one cheek that it trickles down another. No sooner does one widow lay aside her weeds, than another takes them up. Those that are in Christ should weep as though they wept not; “for the time is short.” Do you weep over those that died in the Lord? It is right to weep: “Jesus wept.” Yet weep as though you wept not; “for the time is short.” They are not lost, but gone before. The sun, when it sets, is not lost; it is gone to shine in another hemisphere; and so have they gone to shine in a brighter world. It is self-love that makes you mourn for them; for they are happy. You would not mourn if they were with a distant friend on earth–why do you mourn that they are with the sinner’s Friend? “They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore, neither shall the sun light upon them, nor the heat; for the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto fountains of living waters; and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes” (Rev. 6:16,17). “The time is short;” and you will follow after. A few days, and you will be leaning together on the bosom of Jesus; you are nearer them today than you were yesterday. “The time is short;” and you will meet with all the redeemed at the right hand of Christ–we shall mingle our voices in the new song, and wave the eternal palm! “Weep as though you wept not.”

Do you weep over those that died out of the Lord? Ah! there is deeper cause for weeping here; and yet the time is short, when all this will be explained to you, and you will not be able to shed a tear over the lost. A little while, and you will see Jesus fully glorified, and you will not be able to wish anything different from what has happened. When Aaron lost his two sons, he help his peace.