That’s it! From now on I’m deciding where we eat for dinner. We ended up going to a great little deli that was supposed to be nearby. It was not exactly nearby and after eating what was admittedly a nice meal, we raced back across town, or attempted to race, through L.A. traffic. We made it with about a minute to spare. I’m sure Dr. Mohler would not have begun his speech tonight without me present, so it’s a good thing we made it when we did! After all, what’s a conference without liveblogging?
Today has been a long and somewhat frazzled day. I’ve been on the go, it seems, since first thing this morning. I think that tomorrow I will try to spend a little bit more time by myself during the breaks in the action here, reflecting on what is happening and how I can attempt to let others understand the atmosphere of this conference. To this point, though, the feedback on my efforts here have been encouraging to myself and, I trust, to the conference organizers. Still, if I were to slow down a little bit during those breaks I think there is far more I could do.
Quite a few people asked me whether I had access to John MacArthur’s speech last night since I seemed to have typed quite a large quantity of that particular sermon. C.J. Mahaney told me today that he, Al Mohler and Mark Dever were hanging out last night, reading the summary, and wondering the same thing. I did not have prior access to it. And, as you may know, MacArthur does not create a prior transcript of his sermons, or not one that would be legible to anyone but himself! I just typed a lot and typed quickly. I found the sermon incredibly engaging and desired to capture as much of it as I could. I honestly believe that at some point in the future, when people gather a compilation of John MacArthur’s greatest sermons, that one may well be included.
Turning to an unrelated item, I will have a few photographs to share tonight or tomorrow. They should be good for a laugh.
And now, without any further ado, we move on to Albert Mohler’s speech for this evening. This will mark the first time I have sat under Dr. Mohler’s teaching and I am looking forward to it. The session begins with John MacArthur and Mark Dever taking a moment to honor (and roast) Dr. Mohler in gratitude of his contribution to the church.
And with a hug for Mark, he took the stage, exclaiming “One ought not to have that done before one preaches.”
He invited us to look around and to enjoy seeing the site of thousands of men whose are tasking with caring for the church of God. He invited the pastors to enjoy being cared for. “Have you ever been cared for better anywhere in your life than here?,” he asked. People come here expecting to be fed by the Word of God and as they do so, Grace Community Church takes great care of them.
Right here, taking place, in these days and these hours, is one of the most important events that can take place. It is a deeply subversive activity. If the world really understood what we are plotting, they would hit us with everything they have. Our ambition is total world domination. Not militarily, but evangelistically for the cause of the glory of Christ. And yet we need to admit that there are some within the institutional church that are equally uncomfortable with this. We are talking about things that they have not thought about for a long time. The plan for the recovery of the church of God has only one plan: the preaching of the Word of God. We are living in an age when the ministry is so often seen as a profession, but then we show up with mere words. A message. A sermon. Some would prefer that we showed up with something more impressive or showed up more directly. That is why our culture is drawn to the therapeutic – it is indirect and subjective. Here is Dr. Mohler’s counselling method: What is your problem? What would God have you to do about it? Why are we having this conversation?
Have you ever considered that pastors answer to a job description that has not changed in two thousand years? If you want a preacher, you want one who is doing it just as it was done two millennia ago. Paul had a rather restrictive understanding of the ministry. His task was simply the preaching of the Word.
Dr. Mohler’s text for tonight will be Colossians 1:24 and following where Paul gives the eternal, unchanging job description for the preacher. This book was written in a situation similar to what we find in the church today. Paul was a minister of the of the Word and a servant of the gospel. Yet preachers and pastors today so often do not see themselves as servants of the Word.
There are six facets to how Paul describes the ministry in these verses.
A ministry of suffering: We live in an age that largely sets itself to avoid all suffering. If it cannot be avoided with anesthetize it. We see pain and suffering as things that are artificial and must be overcome. That Paul rejoiced in his sufferings is incomprehensible to us, but it is real. He takes personal ownership of his sufferings because he takes joy in them as it allows him to share in Christ’s sufferings. Ministers are called to suffer, but this is set against the backdrop of being joint heirs with Christ, and these sufferings are nothing compared to the glories that will be revealed. A pastor should, then, bear the marks of suffering with joy.
A stewardship of mysteries: We are stewards of the mysteries of God. That is the ministry to which we have been called: as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. What are these mysteries? They are strange because they are not secret, but open. They are mysterious only to those who will not see. We have the honor of preaching the message that was hidden but now is revealed. It is a public secret. Christianity is not a mystery cult and our job is not to set a boundary over who may know this mysterious truth. Rather, our task is to make this mystery widely known – to fulfill the preaching of the Word of God. The task of the preacher is not to strategize, thinking that we can target only those who we feel will believe. We are to preach publically and openly.
A destiny of glory: There is an end. Our preaching has a purpose. Our horizon is eternity. We should never meet together as Gentile believers without realizing how counter-intuitive it is that God would include us as He has in the display of His glory. Yet we should see that this is the fulfillment of the Abrahamic covenant. In the background is the contrast between the glory of men and the glory of God. And somehow He increases His glory by including the Gentiles in the number of the elect.
A proclamation of wisdom: The only wisdom that matters is the wisdom of God, the wisdom of the gospel. It is two-step: warning and teaching. A task of the preacher is to warn and admonish – hardly popular tasks in our day. Yet these are tasks that are necessary. We cannot avoid dealing with propositional truth. “Truth is more than propositional, but never less than propositional.” We are to warn and teach everyone. We have only one tool in our executive toolbox: preaching – expositional, expository, biblical preaching.
A presentation to maturity: Paul’s goal is to present every believer mature in Christ. Pastors need to have some plan to make this happen and there is only one plan: the preaching of the Word of God. This is about as revolutionary an assignment as we can imagine. The cause of immaturity in the church is a lack of this type of preaching.
A struggle with energy: No one said this would be easy, but Paul says, “I toil, struggling with all His energy.” While we may tire or run out of steam, Christ never will. All the hours of struggle, study, preparation and preaching are toil. Yet the pastor toils with Christ’s own energy as He powerfully works within the preacher of the Word. Some have come to this conference concerned that they are not up to this task. Dr. Mohler affirms that no one is up to this task. It is Christ’s strength in and through us, for the sake of the church, that propels the pastor.
Failure at the task of preaching is too terrible to contemplate. But do we know how serious this is? Surely God could have found a better way to bring forth the Word of God! But no, for God has made the pastor a steward of mysteries and these mysteries must be proclaimed to the church and to the world for the glory of God.
As we close tonight, I would like to ask if you would pray for my family. My wife tells me that my children are struggling a little bit with my absence, and they are being fussy and weepy. They are unaccustomed to having me away for days at a time. If you would hold them up in prayer, asking that God would comfort them, I would appreciate it. And even more so, Aileen would appreciate it.