July 16, 2014 Broadcast

Out of This World

A Message by Albert Mohler

We live in a post- Christian culture. The driving forces behind the powers that be in our government, our media, and our schools are no longer Christian. So can Christians still make an impact? Wednesday, Dr. Albert Mohler answers this question with a resounding “Yes”. Listen, Wednesday, to Renewing Your Mind.

From the series: Overcoming the World: 2014 National Conference

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Further Study On This Topic

  1. article

    How the Kingdom Comes

  2. article

    The Gospel in a Hostile Culture

  3. article

    Flattery and Foolish Talk

How the Kingdom Comes

Joel Beeke

Matthew 13 presents a priceless display of some parables of Christ and also gives His reasons for using this device in His teaching ministry. Best of all, it offers two examples of Christ’s own interpretation of His parables. They give us a snapshot of the history of the kingdom of God from its earliest beginnings to its consummation.

A parable is an extended simile or a metaphor that explains aspects of spiritual truth in everyday terms. The word parable describes the act of placing two objects or ideas side by side for comparison.

Christ’s use of parables is often commended to preachers and teachers today as an alternate way to reveal a truth; however, the Lord used parables primarily to conceal or hide His message from casual, indifferent, or unbelieving hearers. “It is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given,” Christ declared (Matt. 13:11 kjv). 

Jesus’ parables baffled many people, especially the learned scribes and Pharisees. They went away shaking their heads over such “foolishness” (1 Cor. 2:14). Even when they understood a parable correctly, it only enraged them (Matt. 21:45–46). Unbelief is fatal to all knowledge of the kingdom of God and all personal experience of its power, as Christ’s old neighbors in Nazareth discovered (13:53–58): “He did not do many mighty works there because of their unbelief” (v. 58).

In the parable of the sower, Christ teaches us that God’s kingdom begins with the planting of precious seed in the hearts and minds of men. He wills that men go forth to preach the Word of God, laying the foundations of His kingdom in the hearts and lives of those who believe on His name. Christ was the first preacher of “this gospel of the kingdom” (Matt. 24:14). He ordained that His church and kingdom be established, built up, and maintained by the faithful preaching of the Word.

Christ had no unrealistic expectations, however. In His parable, He identifies four kinds of responders to the Word. He describes the careless or indifferent “wayside” hearer, to whom the Word means nothing at all; then the “stony ground” hearer, who is easily discouraged by “tribulation or persecution.” Next is the “thorny ground” hearer, who is distracted by the “care of this world and the deceitfulness of riches.” None of these listeners reaps a lasting benefit from the Word.  

Thankfully, there is also the “good ground” hearer, in whom the Word produces abundant fruit of many kinds. The “goodness” of the ground implies the work of a diligent “husbandman” (John 15:1), or farmer, who has prepared the soil; the abundant fruitfulness of the Word implies the life-nurturing work of the Holy Spirit (Ps. 104:30). Christ speaks of “hearing” and “understanding” the Word, which are acts of true faith, leading to conversion of life (Matt. 13:13–14). Such faith is the gift of God (v. 11).

In subsequent parables, Christ reminds us that other spiritual forces are at work in our world, and we must expect mixed results, even in the church. The enemy sows his own kind of seed, so there are “tares,” or noxious weeds, among the “wheat” in Christ’s “field,” that must “grow together until the harvest” (vv. 29–30). 

For those who find the preaching of “repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 20:21) too simple a remedy to be effective against the ills of the world, Christ insists that, like the mustard seed, such preaching will produce a result far out of proportion to the means employed. It will work in the world, in the church, and in the believer as a potent spiritual force, just as hidden leaven works in meal or flour.

This Gospel of the kingdom produces many fruits in those who receive it and cherish it as “treasure hid in a field” and a “pearl of great price” (Matt. 13:44–46). To obtain such treasure and to keep it, we must be willing to part with everything else. In return, those who are “instructed” in the faith and order of this kingdom will find that they possess a vast store of treasures old and new. In Christ “are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col. 2:3). Despite what we may lose to follow Christ, we have lost nothing of real value.

However, that will not always be so! A day has been appointed on which Christ will judge the world (Acts 17:31). Unbelievers will be cast out and punished as they deserve, while those who turned from their sins in true faith to embrace the grace of God in Christ shall be gathered into Christ’s barn or storehouse to “shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father” (Matt. 13:43). 

Will you heed the warning and obtain the promised blessing?  

The Gospel in a Hostile Culture

Dave Furman

"I intentionally don't preach difficult truths or repeat the hard things Jesus said." This is a despondent and prevalent attitude among preachers who minister to cultures that are openly hostile to the gospel. Such preaching is less than faithful to God's Word, corresponding in ministry results that tend to be indiscernibly Christian. The desire to not offend hearers in a hostile culture is misdirected toward God's inspired word and His glorious gospel.

As a pastor who ministers in a hostile culture, I am convinced that preaching must boldly proclaim the one-and-only gospel and theologically rich doctrine.

PREACH THE ONE-AND-ONLY GOSPEL

As His ambassadors, God forbid that we would presume authority to change His message. Ambassadors of Christ share the unadulterated gospel and take pains to accurately communicate the good news. We confidently preach "the gospel of God, which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning His Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead" (Rom. 1:2-4).

When ministering in a hostile context, it is tempting to hold back parts of God's gospel that we feel are difficult for people to believe. Perhaps in attempts to be sensitive to our hearers and their culture, we may distort or adjust the gospel and unwittingly deceive people. However, holding back truth or being vague regarding what God has made clear is not being sensitive—it is arrogant and unloving. Even under threat of suffering and death, we preach Christ crucified, for the Lamb of God is worthy to receive the reward of His suffering (Rev. 5:12). God has ordained the message that lost people need to hear, and people in a culture that is hostile to the gospel are no exception. The gospel is God's power for salvation (Rom. 1:16); we must preach this gospel in its entirety and with skillful clarity. Our confidence in preaching the gospel of God is God Himself.

We want people to hear the one-and- only gospel of God concerning His Son, resulting in repentance and faith. There is not a better gospel that we can preach. In a culture that is hostile to the gospel, why would we want to proclaim news that has no power unto salvation?

PREACH THEOLOGICALLY RICH DOCTRINE

There is a growing trend in world missions that says church planters must restrict their preaching to the "lowest common denominator" in theology. This idea stems from a desire to minimize division among the body of Christ, and to reduce the likelihood of preaching controversial doctrine. Such preachers and church planters avoid expositing passages that teach joysatisfying, worship-fueling truths like election, total depravity, substitutionary atonement, the sufficiency of Jesus Christ, and the confidence we have in Christ's bodily return to judge the living and the dead. In so doing, as a pastor resists feeding his flock with this rich doctrine, the gospel is assumed and ultimately lost.

We must preach theologically rich doctrine, allowing the meaning of the text to be the meaning of our sermons. The cultural context we minister in must not shape the doctrine we preach; rather, our doctrine must inform and shape the culture. Expositional preaching that makes the point of the passage the point of the sermon serves the church best. It lets the Bible, not the preacher, drive the agenda for the church. Even in the most hostile cultures, we want to be sure to preach through the different genres of Scripture, demonstrating that God's authority over their lives comes from God's Word, and not the teacher of God's Word. Expositional preaching allows people to hear the whole counsel of God, and it is an avenue for teaching them to study the Bible for themselves.

The morning I introduced a new sermon series on 1 Peter, I was approached by a group of newcomers who were ecstatic over the truths in 1 Peter 1:1–2. They told me, "We were jumping up and down in our seats, Pastor. That God would elect undeserving sinners for salvation in His Son—this is very good news!" These people experienced firsthand how theologically rich doctrine is food for their souls and fuel for worship.

Shaving off the edges of the brilliant diamonds of God's truths regarding Himself, His Son, and His plan to save hopelessly lost sinners does not make a more brilliant and beautiful jewel. The glorious summits of God's holiness are flattened into a wide plain of nebulous spiritual notions that are no longer recognizable as distinctly Christian truths, and they lack the power to rescue souls from hell. When we preach theologically rich doctrine in the power of the Holy Spirit, we guard the gospel and God receives all the glory for saving sinners.

CONCLUSION

Preachers who minister in a culture that is hostile to the gospel must take pains to proclaim the gospel of God concerning His Son as we teach the whole counsel of Scripture. We do so with boldness, clarity, and joy, for there is no other message that contains God's power unto salvation.

Flattery and Foolish Talk

John Sartelle

We are witnessing the deconstruction of a civilization. Across our land, the major institutions that are foundational to any nation are in a downward spiral, whether we speak of education, government, business, or the family. Isaiah and Jeremiah were observers of a similar destruction in their nation and wrote about it. One of the characteristics of that fall was the decline in the civility of everyday language. Isaiah said that the child was "insolent toward the elder, and the base toward the honorable" (Isa. 3:5). Their conversations did not demonstrate a godly respect for the position and authority of parents, grandparents, and civic elders.

Just as the character of a culture is reflected in its architecture and art, the character of a culture is reflected in its language. Isaiah and Jeremiah said that the false prophets and the politicians told the people what they wanted to hear, not the truth. Why did they do this? They spoke these deceitful words for their own gain. Their language was termed "empty." As a culture declines morally and spiritually, truth is an early and constant victim. The writer of Proverbs wrote, "A man who flatters his neighbor spreads a net for his feet" (29:5). Flattery is deceitful in that it praises another for the self-interest of the flatterer. The one who flatters is setting a trap for the person whom he pretends to compliment. Flattery is the language of a society that puts self-interest above all else.

What, then, is the language of Christ's people? Jesus said, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." Paul said, "Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves." (Phil. 2:4) Surely, flattery has no place among such a people. Yet we have become a nation of flatterers. Why? Because we all (not just politicians and false prophets) habitually use others for our own gain, and that must involve flattery. We live in a fallen world, so this form of deceit will always be in our midst. However, when it becomes the distinguishing mark of a culture, it is the language of deconstruction.

Paul understood the connection between social mores and language. He wrote that the language of God's people would be different than the language of the world: "Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place" (Eph. 5:4). We live in a society preoccupied with sex. Whether you are watching a football game or a tire commercial, you are being bombarded with sexually charged words and images. Our everyday language has become filled with terminology that reflects that reality. Expressions that would have been considered grossly inappropriate just a few years ago are common phrases in our current conversations. Now, I would not argue for a return to the past. I would passionately argue for a vocabulary that is not vulgar (morally crude or unregenerate).

Paul's words in Ephesians 5:4 are quite clear. A morally bankrupt culture will use morally bankrupt language. The people of Paul's day were familiar with the Greek and Roman Bacchanal parties with their infamous orgies. Those orgies had their own vocabulary. Paul was saying, "That is not our language." John Stott said this about some men and women from this Corinthian-type culture who were converted to Christ: "When believers rose up out of the environment of the ancient world, they rose up like flowers out of the mud."

Easy, perverse, and multiple sexual relationships have "dumbed" sex down and taken our language with it. The obscenity, vulgarity, and pornography of these lifestyles drag God-created sexuality through the sewer. They are alien to healthy, fulfilling, and godly sexual relationships between husbands and wives. These two ways of living are poles apart and must use a completely different vocabulary. The language of Sodom and Gomorrah is not the language of Jerusalem.

The intimate sexual relationship is at the center of a marriage relationship. God said at the first wedding that the two would become "one flesh." Marriage and this sexual union form the basis of the family and the family is the foundation of civilization. If one corrupts that which is at the center of marriage, marriage, family, and civilization will ultimately self-destruct. That decline will be illustrated by our language.

Remember the story of the Hunchback of Notre Dame. At one point he carries the beautiful maiden high into the towers. They are talking to each other and he begins to weep. She asks him, "What's wrong?" He replies, "I never knew how ugly I was until I saw how beautiful you are."

That is also the response of one who comes from the me-centered, perverse, vulgar, and coarse temples of Aphrodite and Apollo and sees the love, wonder, and depth of the sexual relationship God has given His creation. "I never knew how ugly those temples were until I saw how beautiful this intimate relationship is in the design created by God."

Since the beginning,

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