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Preach so that men will revel in God’s glory, Piper exhorts

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–Preachers should engage both the minds and hearts of hearers with “expository exaltation,” said John Piper, pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, during a three-day lecture series at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.
“Preaching is the one form of communication in all the world that combines exposition and exaltation,” Piper said. “Because it has that character, it belongs above all other kinds of speaking in this moment of worship, where we are to know [God] and feel him and respond with our heads and our hearts in worship.”
Piper, a popular author whose books include “Desiring God,” “The Pleasures of God” and “God’s Passion for His Glory,” spoke about preaching as part of the Mullins Lectures on the Southern Seminary campus Sept. 14-16. In three public addresses, Piper explored why preaching is such a central part of most worship services, how pastors can preach courageously and how they can impart a zeal to their congregations.
Using the Apostle Paul’s advice to Timothy in 1 Timothy 3:16-4:5, Piper said one of the reasons preaching is central to worship is because of the importance of God’s Word to his people.
“God has ordained to speak to us and reveal himself and interpret his deeds for us in history through written words,” Piper said. “If worship is a communion with God in reverence and awe, and this God manifests himself to be reverently known and worshiped and enjoyed through words, then it’s just a given that this Word through which we commune with the living God will be central in worship.”
Piper also pointed to John 1:1, which describes Jesus Christ as the Word.
“God the Son is Word,” he said. “God the Son is not music. God the Son is not drama.”
Preaching God’s Word will produce holy people — “mighty oaks of righteousness,” Piper called them.
“One of the reasons we are not shining in America the way we ought to shine is that we aren’t announcing the Word the way it ought to be announced in our churches,” Piper said. “Your people will delight in the law of God when you delight over the law of God every Sunday morning.
“They learn how to do it by your exaltation over the Word.”
Pastors shouldn’t preach only evangelistic messages every week, Piper said, but should preach the entirety of God’s counsel. “Every saint needs to have their faith awakened every Sunday,” he said. The way to do that is through “expository exaltation” — explaining the text in such a way that motivates listeners to revel in the glory of God.
“We must see him in order to savor him, or we are just emotionalists,” Piper said. “And we must savor him when we see him or we insult him.”
In his second message, Piper focused on 2 Timothy 4:3 and encouraged students to be courageous in their preaching, even though it won’t always be popular.
“Preaching to felt needs is incredibly easy,” Piper said. “You can grow a very big church in a hurry by doing that. However, preaching to create felt needs that correspond to real needs is really hard. … Your job is going to be very difficult.”
The reason for the difficulty, Piper said, is because of the modern beliefs of subjectivism and relativism that “permeate our entire culture.” People don’t want to be told what to believe, he said. Instead, they hold to the concept of the “sovereign, autonomous self” and reject any notion of absolute truth.
Thus, preachers need courage to fulfill their task, Piper said. He read Matthew 10:24-31 and gave five reasons why ministers should be bold in proclaiming God’s truth in the face of adversity:
— “You’re in good company. The same thing is happening to you that happened to Jesus.”
— “The truth is going to be seen. … If you’ll faithfully render the Bible in that writing or that sermon, it will be vindicated.”
— “They can only kill the body.”
— “God is giving close and intimate attention to you.”
— “God’s will will be done. No harm can befall you but what God ordains to befall you.”
In his final address, Piper urged the seminary community to be zealous for God. Zeal, however, must always be based upon knowledge.
“You can have a zeal for God and not be saved,” Piper said, citing Romans 10:1-2. On the other hand, “You cannot be saved without a zeal for God. …
“There is a zeal that is essential, and there is a zeal that is suicidal,” he continued. “You must pursue the one and flee the other. The difference is that the one accords with knowledge.”
That knowledge, Piper argued, is realizing personal attempts at righteousness are an affront and an “abomination” to God. “Faith is the only thing that can appropriate the only righteousness with which we can have a standing before God,” he said.
Piper said the solution to spiritual blindness and lack of knowledge is “right teaching accompanied by supernatural illumination.”
Zeal for God manifests itself, Piper said, in knowing the truth, being godly and doing ministry.
“I plead with God for men and I plead with men for God,” Piper said. “That’s your ministry.”

    About the Author

  • Tim Ellsworth
    Tim Ellsworth is associate vice president for university communications at Union University in Jackson, Tenn. BP reports on missions, ministry and witness advanced through the Cooperative Program and on news related to Southern Baptists’ concerns nationally and globally.Read All by Tim Ellsworth ›