Friday, April 27, 2007

Banner Minister's Conference Report 2

On Tuesday, united prayer was followed by a 15 minute "short" by Chad Van Dixhoorn on Seven Marks of a Puritan Pulpit Ministry. They were: 1. That Minister's should by called of God and ordained to preach the Word. 2. That Ministers should be educated and trained to preach. 3. That preachers should be godly men. 4. That Christians should be hearers of God's word. 5. That preaching is God's ordinary means of grace. 6. That we must preach Christ in all his fullness. 7. That preacher need to rely on the Holy Spirit. The Wednesday "short" was led by Martin Holdt, who spoke very helpfully on Jesus as a man of prayer.
John MacArthur preached three times (Tues, Wed & Thur) on The Shameful Cross, 1 Cor 1:18-2:5. MacArthur spoke on the contemporary context where evangelicalism seems to be trying to remove the shameful aspects of the cross in order to make the truth acceptable to the world. He urged us not to be ashamed of the gospel (Romans 1:16). The preacher helped us to see just how shameful the cross was in the shame-based culture of the first century. He explored this theme under six headings:
1. The Shameful Sentence
The cross teaches us that sinners are perishing and under the judgement of God. Only grace can save us. This principle was illustrated vividly with a helpful exposition of the parable of the prodigal son. How shameful was the younger brother's behaviour. How shameful of the father to run and embrace his errant son rather than punish him.
2. The Shameful Stigma
The only hope for perishing sinners is that God died on a cross. This seems to be an idiotic message. Sheer foolishness. The cross was an offence to cultured Greeks and a stumbling block to the Jews. Crucifixion was a common death for common criminals. To the Jews it was a sign that the condemned person was under God's curse. Here is no seeker friendly message with a built-in feel good factor. What we have to offer is a crucified Messiah.
3. Shameful Simplicity
This message does not flatter the human intellect. It was foolishness to the Greeks. In fact, we cannot understand the cross apart from the work of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:14). The simplicity of the cross offends our intellectual pride and humbles us to the dust.
4. Shameful Singularity
This is the only message that can save sinners. It is the power of God unto salvation. The exclusivity of the gospel offends postmodern people. But we have nothing else to declare but Jesus Christ and him crucified.
5. The Shameful Society
In 1 Corinthians 1:26ff, Paul points out that God has not chosen many glamorous or noble people, but the nothings of this world to form the community of the cross. The gospel does not advance by cultural influence. We have the treasure of the Word in clay pots. God uses weak, vulnerable, broken, suffering people to proclaim the message of salvation. This the undercuts evangelical obsession with celebrity-based evangelism and witness.
6. The Shameful Sovereignty
1 Corinthians 1:27 & 27 tells us that God has chosen his people, not because of anything in themselves, but for his glory (1:30). MacArthur gave us some quotes from writers who hated this Calvinistic emphasis. But we must preach God's sovereignty so that he is given all the praise for saving us.
In the light of this, we must not adulterate the message of the cross, but preach it in the power of the Holy Spirit. The preacher's addresses were shot through with discerning comments about the contemporary scene, wise application, telling illustrations, anecdotes and humour. Having never heard McArthur before, I was very much helped, challenged and encouraged by his ministry.

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