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Together we can join God in wrapping His arms around the nations.
For some, that is their go-to life verse.
So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. -1 Corinthians 10:31
We pray to behold God’s glory (2 Corinthians 3:18), for His glory to be over all the earth (Psalm 57:5, 11), for His glory to be embraced and seen in our lives for the sake of His steadfast love and faithfulness (Psalm 115:1), and for us who hope in Christ to be to the praise of His glory (Ephesians 1:12).
We want to live our days beneath the umbrella of this principle: all things to God’s glory.
But what does all mean there? I don’t mean to dispute the Apostle Paul, but can we really do all things to the glory of God?
What about worry—can we worry to the glory of God? Can we be fearful or anxious to the glory of God?
Of course not. These questions are intentionally absurd. We cannot disobey Scripture to the glory of God.
But how do we live for the glory of God in all things? How can these instincts to justify our sin, sometimes by clinging to our Bible verse-inscribed mugs, become less and living for Jesus’ glory become more?
I’m a simple person. I like plain clothes, plain jewelry, plain pens, and plain coffee. So, let’s try to make this as plain as possible, for the sake of my sanity.
There is within us, even those who have been walking with Jesus for decades, this desire to do. A desire to perform, to accomplish, to carry out a plan. But this isn’t about doing more or less to better showcase the glory of God; this is about resting in and actively believing the Gospel in such a way that it defines our lives.
We have to constantly fight against our spiritual amnesia that forgets the Gospel and says we have to do more, be more, or say more. That’s what I like to call a boldfaced lie.
We can’t do more, be more, or say more than what Jesus has already done, been, and said. He is the beginning and the end of it all and we never graduate beyond the reality that God has sealed within every one of His children the glory we so desperately desire to display to the world. The glory that pursues. The glory that redeems. The glory that could never be attained apart from the grace of God that opens blinded eyes and puts fleshy hearts where there used to be only stones (Ezekiel 36:26).
When we blow it, we realize anew our complete inadequacy to do anything at all to add to His glory and that our greatest hope is in the cross and the empty tomb. When we fail, we aren’t condemned but reminded of our need for a Savior (Romans 8:1). It is then, beckoned by God’s kindness, we are given the unbelievable gift of repentance, which serves as another giant reminder for ourselves and others that our hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness (Romans 2:4; 2 Corinthians 5:21).
Listen, friends, we “dare not trust the sweetest frame”—or the sweetest action of ourselves or anyone else—“but wholly lean on Jesus’ name.” There is no other way to bring Him glory. There is no other way to exalt His name and fame.
For the rest of the article and for more interactive content and resources like this, download the free May/June RTM Magazine.
1. True preaching involves the whole personality of the preacher. It’s what makes the sermon real or not. The people need to see your personality. They don’t need to see the personality of someone else you’re imitating. Avoid at all costs trying to be like someone else. If God wanted that person to pastor your church, He would have called them. But He didn’t. He called you. God wants to be seen in the personalities of His people.
2. True preaching has authority. You must not preach apologetically, apologizing for who you are, for how you speak, of for your abilities. When you do that, you’re telling your people, “Please don’t listen to me, I don’t have anything for you.” You are supposed to have a message from God. Sure, you may misspeak and put words backwards, but that’s who you are and it’s the power of God in you that makes the difference. It was Jesus’ authority that made Him different from all the other preachers of the day. When you stand in the pulpit, do so with a confidence that you have a message for your people.
3. True preaching has an element of freedom to it. A man ought to be led by the Holy Spirit more than his notes. You will often experience that the Spirit of God will take you in a way you hadn’t prepared for. Don’t be bound by your notes. Be free and let God lead you. The man who is bound to his notes and study preparation has closed his heart to the leadership of the Holy Spirit. For this reason, I discourage men from preaching word for word from manuscripts.
4. True preaching is serious. The audience ought to feel the gravity of what you’re preaching. If you don’t take serious what you’re preaching, why should your hearers? The purpose of preaching has eternal consequences; it’s not for the purpose of entertaining. Humor is appropriate only if it helps make the point. Even Jesus used humor. But if you always start your sermon with a joke, tell me why you do that. If it’s to bring your church along with you for the rest of the message and break the ice, then you’ve begun trusting in a technique and not the Holy Spirit.
5. True preaching has to be passionate. Here I borrow from Martyn Lloyd-Jones who said a preacher should be a) Lively. Your sermon shouldn’t be boring or dull, but it should have energy. b) Zealous. c) Warm. Emotions ought to be involved in the preaching of the Word of God. Being sterile or clinical is not to be the environment coming from the pulpit. d) Passionate. Don’t be afraid to let your emotions be seen. Being detached and rigid is not acceptable.
6. True preaching is urgent. God is holy. That’s what makes this message urgent. Like Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, we have cheapened grace and used it as a laxative for sin. But the true preacher, whose heart is grabbed by the heart of God, is grabbed by the sense of both eternity and the temporal. We are all dying. Let this create urgency in your heart.
7. True preaching is persuasive. This is one of the most important components of preaching that I know of. You need to view every message as if you were a prosecuting attorney. You have a case to make and you want to persuade your hearers. If your hearers walk away and they have no idea what God wants them to do you haven’t truly preached. The whole sermon is to be one line upon another line, one argument after another, rendering the hearer without any rebuttal. Preaching that leaves the listener ambivalent is not Gospel preaching. Gospel preaching pricks the conscience. Not everybody who hears that message will believe and surrender to Christ, but they should leave knowing that if they don’t they are not contradicting the preacher but God. That’s important.
8. True preaching has pathos. It’s a strong feeling of pity and compassion. It comes from a genuine love for the hearer. To love to preach is one thing but to love those to whom you preach is quite different. I’m not advocating for over-emotionalism, but I am preaching against emotionless preaching. I think one of the reasons people are so little moved when we preach is because we are so little moved. Do you really love and like the people whom you preach to? If you don’t lay down your life for your sheep, you’ll never get on a cross for them. Our lives are too wrapped up in our reputation. When you can die to your reputation, you can lay down your life for your sheep.
9. True preaching is powerful. I don’t mean that you need to be loud. In America it seems that the louder the preacher, the more the audience believes he has the anointing of the Spirit. That’s not true. In reality, I can’t tell you exactly what I mean that preaching should be powerful. If I could explain it to you it wouldn’t be from God, it would be from man. If I can manufacture something, it’s not from God. Never forget what I’m about to say to you: You are saved by grace through faith, amen? That is the same way you must preach. By the grace of God, we preach. We don’t deserve the awesome privilege to open the Word of God and deliver it, and we know that by our own power and intellect nothing is going to happen apart from God. You receive that grace by faith, not by feelings. Sometimes you may not feel it but you must, by faith, continue to preach the Gospel. Obey God and leave the consequences to Him. That is the mystique of preaching and that’s its power.
10. True preaching is plain. I said plain not simple. When I was in Bible college a professor said, “Your preaching should be so simple a child could understand it.” I labored under that for years. It was a yoke and a burden for me. He told me that John Wesley, before he would preach a sermon, would run his message by an uneducated, illiterate maid and if she could understand it, he would preach that message. Another great preacher of the past, said he didn’t keep his eyes on the intellectual, the thinkers, the professors, he would keep his eye on the child and if the child could perceive, he knew he was making the Word simple. Here’s my problem with that: there are some things in the Bible that are just not simple. Have you noticed there are things in there you don’t understand? There is a great difference in making something plain and making something simple. One of the things distinguishing about Jesus is that the common man could understand Him. He used words they could understand. But He did not make it simple. Spiritual comprehension is necessary and it comes only by the help of the Holy Spirit. If you’re preaching the truth, the lost man will not know what you mean. He will understand your words but he will not understand the concepts. Once again, here we are, none of us are sufficient for such things.
For those of you who are not pastors, God has given your pastor an impossible task. He has set each preacher up for failure. Not one of us can give you spiritual comprehension. Pray for your pastor to be filled with and led by the Holy Spirit.
Preachers, it is not your responsibility to give them spiritual understanding. It is your responsibility to give them the text as it is meant to be understood. You are to do that by engaging your whole personality and praying that the Incarnate Word, Jesus Christ, will be spiritually revealed to each one of your hearers. Having done that you have fulfilled your calling as a preacher of the Gospel. After that, it is time to pray for your hearers that the Spirit of God would grant them spiritual understanding. That is Gospel preaching.
I cannot do what I’m supposed to in this article: explain to you the glory of God. But then, no one else can either; therefore, my failure is more sufferable. At best we can only get glimpses and describe what we see. But that’s the way it has always been—only glimpses here and there.
Moses asked to see God in His glory, and all he saw was God’s hand in his face, and when God removed His hand, he saw a glancing gaze of God’s back walking away from him. Isaiah saw a vision of God sitting on His throne but never did he see the face of God. His vantage point saw more of God’s flowing robe in the temple than anything else, and that was enough to make Isaiah think he was bodily coming apart at the seams. And when in the fullness of time God sent His Son, who is His express image, mankind saw the greatest revelation of God’s glory but did not understand much of what they saw. The glory was veiled in human flesh.
It is a small thing to say that God and His glory is ineffable—that is, indefinable, and maybe even unutterable. It’s not that God can’t explain Himself, it’s that we can’t grasp what He would say about the inscrutable subject, and whatever He said or showed us would incapacitate us. It is doubtful we would survive the lesson. Thus, all I can do is speak in generalities, not coming close to the actual, but with similes and metaphors, get a general approximation of His glory.
How do you define it? It’s one of those nebulous kinds of words you use; you know what you mean but are hard-pressed to explain. It’s like the word beauty; how do you define beauty or pretty? The dictionary’s attempt to define it is downright amusing. For example, one dictionary (whose name I have graciously withheld) said beauty is “the quality or aggregate of qualities in a person or thing that gives pleasure to the senses or pleasurably exalts the mind or spirit: a beautiful person or thing; especially a beautiful woman.”
When I was in school, I was taught you shouldn’t use the word you are trying to define in your definition. But this respected dictionary found itself in the unenviable place of trying to tell what something is when it can only be known by experience. The glory of something is much like the word beauty. You can discuss it, but it is better experienced than defined.
Nevertheless, I can only transmit the sense of God’s glory through words and not by experience. So let’s commence with the word glory itself. The word for glory found in our Bibles comes from an old Hebrew word that means weighty or heavy. It seems the word was for the purpose of monetary transactions.
When Abraham bought the field and cave of Ephron to bury Sarah the Bible says he “weighed out the silver for Ephron which he had named in the hearing of the sons of Heth, four hundred shekels of silver, currency of the merchants” (Genesis 23:16). Abraham weighed out the silver because standardized coins were not yet in existence.
Precious metals, such as gold and silver, were weighed out and used in transactions. Thus, the more of the precious metal weighed out, the more valuable it was. This is where the idea of something weighty was considered valuable and this translated into the word glory meaning the worth of something.
In Judges 9:4, it is said that “Abimelech hired vain and light persons, which followed him.” This is the opposite of the word glory. These men had no weight to their character. We say today that such a worthless person is a lightweight. They have no integrity and are morally shallow.
The glory of God is the Bible’s way of stating the value or worth of God. Simply put, God’s glory is the surpassing greatness of His person. The Bible uses other ways to describe God’s renown and greatness, such as light (illumination). In Ezekiel 1:28, the prophet tries to explain God’s presence as light, specifically as a bright light that contained the colors of the rainbow:
Like the appearance of a rainbow in a cloud on a rainy day so was the appearance of the brightness all around it. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. So when I saw it, I fell on my face, and I heard a voice of One speaking.
For the rest of the article and for more interactive content and resources like this, download the free May/June RTM Magazine.
Making his home in Nashville with his wife Lauren and their four children, Matt is serious about loving and serving God with heart, soul, mind, and strength, and with the full force of creative energy.
It is our prayer that through the following Q&A you see Jesus shine in radiant, worship-inducing splendor and that you will be further inspired to glorify Him emphatically with all of your life including your creative (and not-so-creative) endeavors.
AUTHOR’S NOTE: I have been so helped and have seen a greater expression of Jesus because of Matt’s music, his book Look and Live, and his contribution to Matt Boswell’s book Doxology and Theology. His words and music lead their audience to the throne room of heaven, and his constant quotation of others reveal grace-cultivated humility and above all a desire to know God intimately and worship Him fully. I’m grateful for his life and ministry and the lovingkindness of our great God driving it all. May He be praised forever.
Sophie McDonald: What does it mean to be creative for the glory of god?
Matt Papa: I think there could be two questions in that; what does it mean to be creative? and what does it mean to be creative for the glory of God? It’s a big question and there are lots of ways you could think of it. Through the lens of an everyday human being, you could say that because we have the image of God we’re all creative because God is a creator. But also that goes for artists as well.
Generally, I could start with Bach; he said, “The chief end of all music is the glory of God and the refreshment of the soul,” which I love. That quote says to have God in view and your neighbor in view as you’re creating art.
Another way I guess to say what it means to be creative for the glory of God is to have God as your muse. A friend of mine asked me once, “What is your muse, as you’re sitting down to write songs?” That’s a good question. What is your writing about, the sort of direction of it?
For me, I think being creative for the glory of God means to be yourself. I forget what author or who said it, but they said a clam glorifies God better than a human being because a clam is always a clam and it always does what it’s supposed to do. It never loses its clam-ness. It’s always a clam and it’s always that for the glory of God. People are the only creatures who confuse our identity and what we’re created to do and stop doing it.
I think it [being creative for the glory of God] means being yourself and walking in who God has created you to be; what you’re good at, what you’re gifted at, what you’re passionate about, and doing that with all your heart.
SM: I can’t remember the first time I heard/read someone speak about having a sanctified imagination (I think it may have been in a Martyn Lloyd-Jones sermon?), but what are your thoughts on that idea? What does it mean and how does one, especially someone full of creative juices and ideas and vibrant imaginings, go about having a sanctified imagination?
MP: I think this is a wonderful question. I think part of it is knowing that the Bible is a story—creation, fall, redemption, restoration—and the hugeness of that. I guess keeping the storyline in view, I think, will help art and what we’re doing because we’ll be able to find ourselves in that.
One of the purposes of art is transcendence. It’s to lift us up out of the everyday life and dust off the everyday-ness of life and remind people that they matter, that they have a soul, and remind people that they’re in a story much bigger than themselves. Art is supposed to do that. As Francis Schaeffer said, “The Christian is the one whose imagination should fly beyond the stars.” Our God is beyond the stars and He has written the story; He has revealed Himself and the wildness of who He is and what He has done.
When the atheist looks and sees a sunset, they just see a bunch of molecules; it’s sort of a fart in the universe, it’s all randomness, but the Bible says that God is a creator and “The heavens declare the glory of God.” It says “from You and to You and through You are all things, to You be the glory forever. Amen.” So that’s one piece of the puzzle.
The other thing I’ll say on this is [that] I think it was Arthur Danto who said, “Art is the transfiguration of the commonplace.” One of the reasons it’s important to have a sanctified imagination is that we’re supposed to transfigure whatever we’re talking about for people to see the inner meaning and importance that it actually has.
I guess, how we go about having a sanctified imagination is we read books, we stay in the Bible, we stay sort of in that grand narrative storyline. I think what you read and what you put in front of yourself is kind of that thing of “what you behold, you become.” So if you’re reading things and reflecting on things that are small and don’t fill you with wonder and aren’t full of metaphors and don’t reach to the truth and all of this sort of wildness that it has, then your imagination is probably going to shrink. If you’re constantly in front of the TV or doing social media or whatever—I think we have to avoid those things and get into the transcendent and be acquainted with that.
For more Q&A with Matt and for more articles and resources like this, download the free May/June RTM Magazine.
By Mack Tomlinson
As our church, Providence Chapel, in Denton, Texas, has endeavored to engage more in missions intentionally, the Lord has blessed our efforts by giving clear direction to partner with a sister church, Grace Community Church, in San Antonio to plant a new church in the city of Portland, Maine, beginning in January of this year.
Thoughts of a new church there began four years ago, when a pastor and church planter in Syracuse, New York, and a family in Maine, who ministers weekly outside an abortion clinic in Portland, came together outside the clinic during a time of great opposition to their abortion outreach ministry.
This incident birthed many conversations later about the need for a biblical church in the Portland area, and the need of an annual conference in Portland to strengthen churches and pastors. After a period of prayer, the two families felt God’s leadership to establish such a conference for upper New England. The first conference was in the summer of 2013 and, three years later, the fourth annual conference is planned for the first week of August.
The conference consists of three days of biblical preaching, the availability of wonderful discounted Christian literature, and true fellowship with other believers.
Each year, the conference has almost doubled in size. This is due to the significant spiritual hunger in various parts of New England that brings pastors and other believers to Portland for the summer conference. The word has spread, and people as far away as New York City and Toronto have attended the three-day conference.
The desire then began to grow among the Christians who were organizing the conference to plant a biblical church in Portland, which is a morally and spiritually dark area. By the end of 2015, several families were ready to step out and unite as a church. They did this at a planning meeting the first week of December 2015. That meeting resulted in Redeeming Grace Fellowship holding its first Sunday service on January 10th. During 2016, Providence Chapel of Denton and Grace Community Church of San Antonio will send preachers two weekends each month to preach and lead the church prayer meeting. On the other two Sundays each month, the church will live-stream a sermon or have men in the Portland church share the Word of God. Redeeming Grace Fellowship is baptistic in its ordinances, reformed in its basic doctrine, devotional in its relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ, and evangelistic in its outreach to the community and the world.
Portland is only a two-hour drive from Northampton, Massachusetts, where Jonathan Edwards pastored, and a one-hour drive from Newburyport, where George Whitfield preached his last sermon and where he is buried in the basement of the Old South Church in Newburyport. New England was once a place where the Gospel burned with bright intensity.
Even Portland itself had a bright and shining light in its midst for 20 years, as Edward Payson, known as Praying Payson of Portland, ministered and saw genuine revival. Since then, this part of our nation has seen the Gospel light grow dim and greatly decrease. True churches and Christians are rare and truly in the minority.
I see now a very real possibility of churches being planted in other parts of Maine and in other New England states. This will involve vision, faith, and a calling of some to move there, especially those who are already able to work from home and could more easily re-locate to invest their lives in taking the Gospel in a new way to dark New England.
The harvest truly is always there to be taken, but the laborers are always few. Where are those who would say, “I will move to New England to help advance the cause of Christ”? May God help us to have intentional vision and obedience, to follow the Master in being deliberate and intentional in church planting, whether that is in our own state, across the country, or across the ocean. “Lead on, O King, Eternal!”
For more about the church plant and for more articles and resources like this, download the free March/April RTM Magazine.
“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations . . .”
But how many of us are going and how many disciples are we making? Countless Christians think the Great Commission is relevant only for the cross-cultural missionary—that it has nothing to do with the individual, except they’re to give to the missions offerings collected at the local church.
One thing that has contributed to this messed-up missional methodology is that we are confused about what a disciple is. Too many think a disciple of Jesus is someone spiritually mature and really into doing the “Jesus thing.” We talk about these as being “into” discipleship, as if it was something the believer could take or leave. Others see the word disciple as nothing more or less than a synonym for Christian, and that being a Christian is someone who has asked Jesus to forgive them of their sin and come into their heart. Period, end of discussion.
But a disciple is a learner, one who learns not just what to believe but how to live. We hear the word learner, and we think books, education, classes, etc. That’s not what Jesus said. He told us to teach the nations “to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you…” The key word is observe. In other words, our Lord said to teach them to do the commandments, or to put it another way, teach them how to live. That includes the head but also the heart. Discipleship requires the modeling of the life of Christ, showing others how to live out what our Lord taught. When you make a disciple, you demonstrate, exhibit, and display both the teachings of Christ and the theological understanding of His commands.
In 1999, I began to see that my understanding of making disciples was seriously faulty. I didn’t have a clue how to make one. I thought it meant doing a Bible study with a few people in a classroom for 13 weeks and filling in the blanks of a workbook. I started asking other pastors how they made disciples and discovered they didn’t know either. We knew how to lead people to make a decision to follow Christ, but, other than preaching to them, we had no idea what to do afterwards to make them look and live like Jesus.
So, I began to pray and ask Jesus to show me how He did it since He had made at least 12 disciples. And since those 12 turned the world upside down, I thought it safe to assume He knew the right procedure. Why do we not follow Jesus’ method of discipleship? Why don’t we imitate His simple way of disciple making? Why do we feel the need to reinvent and come up with divergent and complex methods? It must be because we don’t trust the Lord’s process, we don’t think we can do it His way, or we’re simply ignorant of His method. In my case it was ignorance.
I read the gospels over and over looking for Him to show me His methods. And He did! What He revealed was that I had wrongly divided evangelism and discipleship into two different things. Jesus did not think this way nor did His methodology do this. Jesus started discipling people before their conversion. Even before they truly believed in Him, He was already making them His followers.
For example, In John 1:35-39 we read,
Again, the next day, John stood with two of his disciples. and looking at Jesus as he walked, he said, “Behold the Lamb of God!” the two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus. then Jesus turned, and seeing them following, said to them, “What do you seek?” they said to him, “Rabbi” (which is to say, when translated, teacher), “where are You staying?” he said to them, “come and see.” they came and saw where he was staying, and remained with him that day (now it was about the tenth hour).
Andrew and John were disciples of John the Baptist before they were disciples of Jesus. They already had some realization of their need for repentance and that the coming Messiah was at hand. Therefore, they were hungry to learn about God and His kingdom.
We must be alert at all times to look for people who are eager to hear the truth. That doesn’t mean they will readily accept what we say, but they will be willing to hear us out, and once they hear some will come to believe what we are telling them. The way you bring this about is by living in the power of the Spirit and modeling the life of Christ. Many people profess Christianity but to make disciples, your lifestyle had better be different than most professing Christendom who simply wear the title but don’t have the new heart to prove it. Let people see that Christianity is much different than they erroneously believe. If you do not live like a biblical Christian then please do not tell anyone you are a Christian. Repent and become a disciple yourself.
Again, Jesus’ method was to find men interested in learning about God and teach them. Some of His early disciples were not converted when they began to follow Him. Peter had been following Jesus for weeks before he was converted. This is evident in a harmony of the gospels. John 1 happened quite some time before Luke 5 when Peter was converted.
So it was, as the multitude pressed about Him to hear the word of God, that He stood by the Lake of Gennesaret and saw two boats standing by the lake; but the fishermen had gone from them and were washing their nets. Then He got into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, and asked him to put out a little from the land. and he sat down and taught the multitudes from the boat. When He had stopped speaking, He said to Simon, “Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” But Simon answered and said to Him, “Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing; nevertheless at Your word I will let down the net.”And when they had done this, they caught a great number of fish, and their net was breaking. So they signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. and they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!” For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish which they had taken; and so also were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid. From now on you will catch men.” So when they had brought their boats to land, they forsook all and followed him. (Luke 5:1-11)
It changed everything for me. Discipleship is not only for the saved but for anyone willing to learn about Christ. This takes discipleship out of the clinical, cold classroom and puts it back into life and everyday living.
Making disciples is about making relationships with not-yet Christians by seeking to find those in whom God has developed an inquiring heart or in whom He will develop by their observation of your life and teaching of Jesus.
I have only scratched the surface. So much more needs to be stated, but it is enough for us to know that discipleship is not the mere passing of information from one intellect to another. It is the demonstration of a way of life and investing that life in another. Jesus invested Himself. This is the simple way of making disciples like Jesus.
For more articles and resources like this, download the free March/April RTM Magazine.