• How to Overcome the Fear of Man

    Am I more concerned with what God thinks of me or what people think of me?

    Fear of man grips us all at some time. We are all concerned to a certain extent with what other people think of us. Ed Welch in his great book that everyone should read “When People are Big and God is Small” gives the following steps for overcoming the fear of man:

    Step 1: Recognize that the fear of man is a major theme both in the Bible and in your own life.

    Step 2: Identify where your fear of man has been intensified by people in your past.

    Step 3: Identify where your fear of man has been intensified by the assumptions of the world.

    Step 4: Understand and grow in the fear of the Lord. The person who fears God will fear nothing else.

    Step 5: Examine where your desires have been too big. When we fear people, people are big, our desires are even bigger, and God is small.

    Step 6: Rejoice that God has covered your shame, protected you from danger, and accepted you. He has filled you with love.

    Step 7: Need other people less, love other people more. Out of obedience to Christ, and as a response to his love toward you, pursue others in love.

    Step 4 is the crucial one. We need to grow in the fear of God and I think Isaiah 6:1-8 is the passage we need to keep coming back to to get a right perspective on who God is. Because this passage shows God in all his holiness and greatness. If we truly get Isaiah 6 and let it minister to our hearts we will find our fear of man diminishing.

    Take some time and Read Isaiah 6:1-8 now:

    In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another:

    “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty;
    the whole earth is full of his glory.”

    At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.

    “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.”

    Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.”

    Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”

    And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”

    If we truly get how great God is man will seem very small and our fear of man will diminish significantly.

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  • The danger of being bored with the Gospel

    “If your heart does not leap at God’s grace in Christ, what you need is more grace. Nothing else can save you from your own deadness. Therefore, fear your own hardness of heart more than anything else. Beware of rigidity, ingratitude, a demanding spirit. Beware of an unmelted heart that is never satisfied. Beware of a mind that looks for excuses not to believe. Beware of the impulse that always finds a reason to delay response. Beware of thinking how the sermon applies to someone else. God watches how you hear his Word.”

    Raymond C. Ortland, Jr., Isaiah: God Saves Sinners, pg 83

    Has your heart grown cold or hard to the Gospel?

    Are you bored with the Gospel?

    How do we make sure we are not bored with the Gospel?

    How do we make sure our hearts are continually refreshed by the Gospel?

  • Guest blog: Preaching Isaiah by Barry Webb pt. 2

    Hans’ note: I had the privilege of learning from Barry when I was at Moore College. I can still remember some of the things he said in those lectures because they were profound, biblical and helped me see the beauty of the gospel more clearly. Barry is a warm, generous and beautiful man of God. If you have never read any of his work I would suggest going over to Amazon and buying anything that he has written. You will not be disappointed. These are the handout that Barry gave out when he helped my wife and the other girls who would be preaching at Moore college’s womens chapel. They were preaching on Isaiah and who better to get to talk about preaching on Isaiah than Barry Webb! If you want to read the first post click here.

    4.  General Implication for preaching from Isaiah

    4.1

    The text should not be handled in a way that denies its humanity or disconnects it from history. I assume therefore, that some attention will have to be given to the man Isaiah, his personal circumstances, and the circumstances of those to whom his words were originally directed. This means that sermons will need to have a strong exegetical base. Statements should not be taken as expressing timeless truths unrelated to the particular circumstances in which they were given. To preach with integrity the preacher will need to have settled convictions about the origins of the text and apply these consistently in his preaching.

    4.2

    The text should not be handled in a way that denies its unity. That is, particular passages should be related to their literary context, and some attention should be given to the way they contribute to the message of the book as a whole. This means that the preacher will need to have settled convictions about the basic shape of the book, its major themes, and its theological centre, if it has one. Before beginning to preach it is desirable that the preacher be able to summarise the message of the whole book in a sentence or brief paragraph.

    4.3

    Given the particular responsibility of the Christian preacher, it will be important, especially in the second half of the sermon, to trace at least some of the connections between the passage in hand and the gospel proclaimed by Jesus Christ and his apostles in the New Testament. This is where a genuinely Christian sermon on Isaiah will differ essentially from a Jewish one, or from a one which speaks merely of God and morality. Attention will need to be given here to NT quotations from Isaiah, but also to the way the broad themes of biblical theology develop as one moves from the OT to the NT.

    4.4

    Given a commitment to the inspiration and inerrancy of the Bible, the NT use of Isaiah will not be regarded as arbitrary, or as an unwarranted imposition on the original text. In tracing out the NT developments of his text the preacher will understand himself to be trying to ‘think God’s thoughts’ after him, and will try to help his hearers to do the same.

    4.5

    Given, again, the nature of the preacher’s essential task, the sermon should move from exegesis, to gospel-focused theological reflection, to application. At this point the preacher must grapple with the question of how the particular aspect of the gospel which is illuminated by the passage intersects with the present life situation of his hearers

    5. Particular issues regarding preaching from Isaiah

    5.1

    The size probably precludes consecutive exposition of the whole book, even if this were desirable in principle. Some kind of selection of passages or themes is necessary.

    5.2

    The unity of the book makes it undesirable to divide it, for preaching purposes, into the three sections normally taken as the starting point for historical-critical study (e.g. 1-39, 40-55, 56-66). This makes diversity (and a particular view of the diversity of this book) the controlling datum of interpretation, rather than the gospel. It is probably best, from a preaching point of view, to give people some way of seeing the book as a whole first (e.g. in the first sermon) and then taking up particular passages or themes in more detail in subsequent sermons.

    5.3

    Selection of passages and/or themes for inclusion in a preaching series will depend to a large extent on the convictions of the preacher about the structure of the book and its major, most distinctive themes. A series on Isaiah should, among other things, give the hearers a eel for what is Isaiah’s special contribution to the message of the Bible. Passages or themes should be chosen with this in mind, and not selected arbitrarily

    3. Planning a sermon series on Isaiah: An example

    3.1  Introductory talk or sermon:

     

    Isaiah’s Vision: God is King.

     

    • Why study Isaiah? Because of Jesus (Luke 4:14-21)
      • The world of Isaiah
      • The man Isaiah
      • The book of Isaiah
      • Why study Isaiah? To see Jesus’ glory (John 12:41)

     

    3.2  Sermons on selected passages

     

    1. The King’s Holiness Isaiah 6:1-13
    2. The King’s Wrath Isaiah 24:1-16a
    3. The King’s Trustworthiness Isaiah 37:1-20
    4. The King’s Gospel Isaiah 40:1-11
    5. The King’s Servant Isaiah 42:1-9
    6. The King’s Banquet Isaiah 55:1-8
    7. The King’s Justice Isaiah 56:1-8
    8. The King’s City Isaiah 65:17-25
    9. The King’s Mission Isaiah 66:12-24

     

    This sermon series has passages from all seven parts of the book, and touches on most of its distinctive themes: the holiness of God, the Servant as the key to God’s purposes, the new Jerusalem as the centre of God’s coming kingdom, justice as the essence of true religion, trust as the proper response to God, mission to the nations as the plan of God.

    __________________________________________________________________

    Resources

    Reid, A., and K. Morris, Two Cities: Isaiah (Sydney: Matthias Media, 1993)

    Roth, Wolfgang, Isaiah (Knox Preaching Guides; Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1988).

    Recommended.

    Williamson, H. G. M. “Preaching Isaiah.” Chapter 8 in “He began with Moses”: Preaching the Old Testament Today. Edited by Grenville Kent, Paul J. Kissling, and Laurence A. Turner. Downers Grove, Ill.: IVP Aca

     

  • Guest blog: Preaching Isaiah by Barry Webb pt. 1

    Hans’ note: I had the privilege of learning from Barry when I was at Moore College. I can still remember some of the things he said in those lectures because they were profound, biblical and helped me see the beauty of the gospel more clearly. Barry is a warm, generous and beautiful man of God. If you have never read any of his work I would suggest going over to Amazon and buying anything that he has written. You will not be disappointed. These are the handout that Barry gave out when he helped my wife and the other girls who would be preaching at Moore college’s womens chapel. They were preaching on Isaiah and who better to get to talk about preaching on Isaiah than Barry Webb! I hope you enjoy today’s and tomorrows posts as much as I did.

    Preaching Isaiah

    1. 1. Assumptions about the nature of Christian preaching

    1.1

    My starting assumption is that the essential task of the Christian preacher is to preach Jesus Christ, and that the two basic resources for doing this are the Bible and the Holy Spirit. This needs to be elaborated via a theology of the Word of God and of the ministry of the Holy Spirit in relation to the Word.

    1.2

    My second assumption is that preaching (as opposed to lecturing) entails application as an essential element. Given what I have just said under 1.1, I take it that the application will have an essentially Christocentric, gospel focus.

    1.3

    I understand the role of the Spirit in preaching to consist essentially of (1) enabling both the preacher and the hearers to understand the Bible, (2) empowering the preacher to proclaim its message effectively, and (3) bringing conviction and appropriate response from the hearers. A corollary of this is that I understand good preaching to have a prophetic dimension to it.

    1. 2. Assumptions about the Bible

    2.1 The Bible as the Word of God

    I understand the Word of God to be essentially Jesus Christ himself, and secondly the gospel, which is the announcement of what God has accomplished for us in him. I understand the Bible to be the word of God in two senses. First, in that it is inspired by God and is therefore revelation given by God. Second, I understand it to be the word of God in that it is the gospel writ large, so to speak – all of it in one way or another part of a total revelation which has Jesus Christ as its focal point.

    2.2 The diversity of the Bible

    I understand the diversity of Scripture in terms of its connection with history. The revelation it contains was given through many particular people in many particular situations over a long period of time. The Bible is truly human, just as Christ was and is truly human. This means that, at one level at least, understanding the Bible requires the same attention to the particulars of time, place and style that is required for understanding any piece of human communication.

    2.3 The unity of the Bible

    I understand the unity of Scripture in terms of (1) its divine origin, and (2) its connection with Jesus Christ and the gospel. As the word of God Scripture expresses the mind of God, and must therefore be coherent. The gospel describes that unity essentially in terms of promise and fulfilment. In literary terms the unity of the Bible is manifested in its basic plot line.

    2.4 The inerrancy of the Bible

    My assumption here is that the genuine humanity of Scripture does not necessarily entail error, and that the divine inspiration of Scripture actually excludes this. There is a real analogy between the humanity and divinity of Jesus Christ and the humanity and divinity of Scripture. My basic reason for accepting the OT in particular as inerrant is that this is evidently how Jesus himself accepted it. This means that no part of the text may be dismissed as irrelevant to a proper interpretation of it on the grounds of alleged error. A commitment to inerrancy entails a commitment to a holistic interpretation of the text.

    1. 3. Assumptions about the book of Isaiah

    As part of the Old Testament canon, I assume that the book of Isaiah has all the characteristics of Scripture I have just listed.