Letters to My Students was very obviously written by someone who is a gifted teacher and passionate about preaching, and preaching faithfully God and His Word, the Bible. Jason Allen draws on Scripture as his main resource, as it should be, but also draws heavily on his influences, including Charles Spurgeon and Dr Steven Lawson, (Two of the very best in my opinion!). He also shares his experiences in preaching and preparing to preach. He shares the good and the bad, the wins and the lessons learned. And he is called and passionate about helping to raise up, teach and encourage the latest batch of pastors and preachers coming up.
And that’s who this is ultimately aimed at, pastors and ministers in training. In hat, I have not read a better book on preaching and preparing sermons. It goes into the call of preaching, sermon prep, the benefits and necessity of Expository Preaching, when there are right and wrong times for Topical Sermons, lessons learned, and so much more.
Throughout the book, in all the lessons, Allen keeps the focus squarely on preaching Christ, in all, and above all. He draws heavily on Spurgeons illustration regarding being able to draw a straight line from any scripture directly to Christ. Jesus should not just be an add on at the end of the sermon, nor should the Gospel.
With that, in my opinion, the best paragraph in the book starts and ends like this:
“Christian Preachers ought to preach Christ-centered and Christ-exalting sermons. If a Rabbi could preach my sermon, I still have more work to do….If you have preached a sermon without featuring Jesus, then you haven’t preached a Christian sermon.” (pg. 106)
Ultimately, I am further along in my pastoral career than the target audience of this book. However, I still learned quite a bit, was reminded of things Ive forgotten and encouraged by a lot of what was written here. I also don’t tend to highlight, underline, make notes, etc in the books that I am reading, but this book is highly marked up!
I would highly recommend this book to anyone who is thinking about preaching, who is training to be a pastor (in seminary, for example) or who is early in their pastoral career. And I would also recommend it to any one who preaches, whether regularly or occasionally, whether for a few years now, or a veteran preacher.
Note: I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Good Morning! Please grab your Bibles with me and turn to the Minor Prophet of Malachi. As always, if you do not have a Bible, or do not own one, we would love for you help yourself to one from the back table as our gift to you.
Malachi is the last book in the Old Testament, and starting today, and through the rest of the book, we will see how close to the New Testament this book really is. During this time in Jerusalem, Gods People had lost a lot of Hope and they were tired of playing by the rules and they were tired of seeing those who didnt play by the rules not being punished.
God is continually reaffirming his Covenant with them and letting them know that nothing is out of his control and that he keeps his promises. We saw in the passage we read last week that marriage was given to us as a gift and as a type, a shadow and a mirror of what Gods covenant with us actually looks like. It is made to be an unending, complete, total and permanent covenant.
Anything that breaks our end of the convenat is sin. And all sin and any sin breaks our end of the covenant. And we are going to see some reactions to that this morning. First we will see how we tend to react to covenant breaking sin and then we will see how God is going to and has responded to covenant breaking sin.
So, lets go ahead and read our passage for this morning. Malachi 2:17-3:5. Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version and I encourage you to follow along in your preferred translation. Again, Malachi chapter 2, verse 17 through chapter 3, verse 5. God, speaking through his prophet and through his Word, says:
You have wearied the Lordwith your words. But you say, “How have we wearied him?” By saying, “Everyone who does evil is good in the sight of the Lord, and he delights in them.” Or by asking, “Where is the God of justice?”
“Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. 2 But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap. 3 He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the Lord.[a] 4 Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord as in the days of old and as in former years.
5 “Then I will draw near to you for judgment. I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hired worker in his wages, the widow and the fatherless, against those who thrust aside the sojourner, and do not fear me, says the Lord of hosts.
So, we start by seeing that we weary God. And we do this by having one of two different reaction to the sin in this world. First, is our actions and even sometimes our words say that everything you want to do is good and fine and that there is no such thing as sin. “This is just the way that I am. That may have been wrong then, that may have been a sin then, but we know better now. You dont understand my situation, Its just easier this way. You dont know what Ive been through or what others have done to me. No one will ever know. Or, but its my child, grandchild, cousin, spouse, parent, whatever.”
We come up with every reason under the sun to justify our sins and the sins of others around us. Isaiah writes, Isaiah 5:20:
Woe to those who call evil good
and good evil,
who put darkness for light
and light for darkness,
who put bitter for sweet
and sweet for bitter!
Right is right and wrong is wrong. And sin is always wrong. And Gods Word is clear about what sin is. We see many lists throughout the scriptures about what sin is. And we see here in Malachi, what RC Sproul referes to as “a cyninical rejection of Gods oral government and the attendant insolent spirit that constantly puts God on trial.”
This might hurt some of our prides, but essentially this comes down to pride. Pride is far and wide considered the sin from which all other sins flow. Ezekiel 28:17 reads: Your heart was proud because of your beauty; you corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor.
Pride is one of the so called 7 deadly sins. We are bombarded with the message that we are to take pride in ourselves. We are to take pride in everything we do. We are to take pride in our sins especially. We are told to take pride in a abe loud and proud about our immorality. About our greed. About Idolotry. We are to be loud and proud about our self idolotry. We take pride in our openmindedness. We take pride in how enlightened we are, that we dont have to believe in these antiquated, racist, sexist, narrow views of who God is.
Not only are we told and shown to take pride in our sins and our rebellion against God, but we are to encourage all the rest of the people around us to do the same. In fact, tday, your kind of an outcast if you dont. If you dont take pride in your sins and you dont tell others to take pride in their sins, you are a closed minded bigot. Period.
Paul writes in Romans chapter 1, he lists a whole long list of sins that we do that are rebellion against God. The list is a list of sins that are worthy of death. And at the very end of that list, the very last verse of Romans chapter 1, he writes: Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.
These sorts of things are not just limited to those “out there,” this is not just those that are outside the church. Not just those that are on the “other side” of us. But a lot of this is coming from within the church as well. There are church signs all over this county, this state and this country that say things allong the lines of, “All are Welcome,” and “Come as you are.” Those are true words in and of them selves.
No one with a bilical understanding of salvation and evangelism and discipleship would, or should say that only certain people, or only people with their lives put together, or even nly people who struggle with this sin instead of that sin, are welcome to come to church. We should want and encourage and invite all people in all walks of life, in all lifestyles and all seasons of life to walk through those doors on any given Sunday Morning and here the life changing Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
But thats not what those church signs actually mean. Those are code statements that really mean something else. Those statements really should read “Come as you are and stay as you are.” or “All are Welcome, no need to change.”
Thats not what the Bible calles us to. The Bible does not affirm our sins, instead it calls us to repent. Martin Luther says that a Christians life is one of repentence. Meaning that our repentence is a life long process. We are to spend our life in Christ continually growing and changing and continuing to repent. Our sins are not to be our identity.
And yet thats exactly what they are when our life begins. Before we come to a saving knoweldge and faith in Jesus Christ, our identity is sinners. Thats who we are and its not something that we can can change by our own power. When we leave this life and we stand before God in judgement, if we have not submitted to him and repented of our sins, we will be seen in his eyes as sinners.
God nows all that. He nows it all and has planned for this and has created a redemption plan before the beginning of time. This was a plan to save us. It was a plan to redeem us. It was a plan to reconcile us sinners with his holiness. And we see this plan prophecied all the way back in Genesis 3. God could send a saviour, he would send someone who would accomplich our salvation, our redemption and our forgiveness.
And it is through his son, through Jesus Christ, his perfect, sinless life, his death on the cross, his resurrection, we can have our sins forgiven. We can have our hearts changed from stone to flesh. Our identities can be changed. Through the Holy Spirit inside of us when we come to faith, our identity is changed from sinner, to saint.
But that requires dying to self. That requires stopping doing what we like doing, what our flesh craves. Gods love and mercy and grace trump our desires though. And as he he changes our heart, he also changes our desires. We still stumble, we still give in to temptation, though the longer we walk with Christ, the less we should be struggling with that. But what does Romans 8:1 say? There now is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
Gods forgiveness, his mercy, the death of Jesus, those are not partial things. Christs death is sufficient for all the sins his children will commit, past, present and future. You cannot sin away your salvation. Jesus says in John 10:28: I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.
The Key pillars of the Reformation that you have heard me repeat often, that Salvation is by Grace Alone, through Faith Alone, in Jesus Christ Alone, as revealed by the Scriptures Alone and to the Glory of God alone. These doctrines make it clear that God is the one and the only one who saves us, And that our salvation, eother receiving it or keeping it is not dependant on anything that we can offer.
I love the way Paul Washer says it, You are not saved because your faith and your repentence are perfect. You are saved because the work of Christ is perfect and you are clinging to that in your fraility and your helplessness.
Ultimately right is right and wrong is wrong. Period. Gods Word says so. God says so. And we weary him by saying otherwise. God does not celebrate in our sin. It grieves him. It is cosmic treason against an all holy God. Adam and Eve’s sin is what fractured our relationship with God. God doesnt need us. He doesnt need anything. If he did, he wouldnt be God. But in the outpouring, in the overflow of his love, he created us to be with him and to glorify him. Our sin changed that. Our sin brings dishonor to him. JC Ryle reminds us [Don’t mistake] God’s patience with sinners for the idea that God is tolerant of sin.
He is not going to do nothing about that. He is not going to sit idly by. If He celebrates our sin, that makes him a liar and unholy. So sin is still sin and always will be. He is not going to do nothing about it and allow sin to come into fellowship with Him. First He cant, because His holiness cant be in communion with sin. But also, even if He could, He wouldnt because that would take away from His Holy Justice.
God will deal with sin. He will deal with our sins. We dont always, or sometimes, often see it. We cry out as is said in Malachi 2:17 “Where is the God of Justice?” Of Course this is not the only place we see Israel cry out in this way. We see the prophet Habakkuk starts out his book, chapter 1, verse 2-4 crying out,
O Lord, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not hear? Or cry to you “Violence!” and you will not save? 3 Why do you make me see iniquity, and why do you idly look at wrong? Destruction and violence are before me; strife and contention arise. So the law is paralyzed, and justice never goes forth. For the wicked surround the righteous; so justice goes forth perverted.
We even look around us today and wonder why all of this is allowed to go on. Death, disease, murder, stealing, corruption, all the things listed in the various lists of sins in the New Testament, lists in Romans 1, Galatians 5, 1 Corinthians 6 and Revelation 21 just as a few examples. I marked them down in the notes and I encourage you to look them up on your own later.
But we see those things going on and it can be easy to wonder where God is in all this, why he is waiting to act or why are we feeling or receiving Gods discipline. Well, the author of Hebrews deals with that second part, writing in Hebrews 12:7 & 8: It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.
God pours out his discipline on us to help sanctify us. He disciplines us because he loves us. Those who are not his children, they will feel his wrath and his judgment, sometimes in this world, but always in the next. We, his children will sometimes have to deal with the negative consequences of sin in this world, but never in the next.
We dont know when that will be, our transition from this world to the next. And many of us will often pray, “LORD come quickly.” The motivation behind this prayer is we see whats going on around us in this world, the corruption taking place, the hurt and the death, and we read about the promises that are coming, we read about Jesus Second Coming. We read about what eternity future will look like, at least the glimpse we get to see. John records in His revelation, Revelation 21:1-7:
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place[a] of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people,[b] and God himself will be with them as their God.[c] 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
5 And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” 6 And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment
And we are rightly excited to finally experience that for ourselves. Everything in this world is a a shadow, a broken mirror of what is to come. But why hasnt God brought this about to fruition? Why is He allowing this world to continue as it is? Peter addresses this in his second letter, 2 Peter 3:3-9 he writes:
scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. 4 They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.” 5 For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, 6 and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. 7 But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.
8 But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. 9 The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you,[a] not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.
We remember that God is God. He is omniscient, all knowing, he is omnipresent, all places and times, and omnipotent, all powerful. He is sovereign and in control of all things. He has all of eternity past and eternity future already planned out. He is patient, knowing that not all who will come to him have yet come to him. There is still hope that we can share the Gospel with those who have not yet been saved. And we dont know when that moment will be.
Since the time of Jesus resurrection, we have been in the alst days. And we dont know the time nor the the hour that Christ will return. So there should be some urgency when we are sharing the Gospel.
We dont know who will and who wont respond. We are to have faith that those we share it with will respond while knowing that not all will. God is the one who knows who will respond. There is a great quote from Charles Spurgeon about evangelism, saying: If God would have painted a yellow stripe on the backs of the elect I would go around lifting shirts. But since He didn’t I must preach “whosoever will” and when “whatsoever” believes I know that he is one of the elect.
When I started writing my sermon, did not expect this sermon to go on as long as it would have, God obviously wants us to hear some things this morning and so we are going to look at how God says he is going to respond to sin next week.
Israel is crying out, “Where is the God of Justice!” And God has an answer for them. Sin is sin and the wages of sin is death. Thats part of how He will respond. But the other way he responds is with a free gift that is eternal life in Jesus Christ our LORD. And much of the rest of Malachi will be looking ahead at the coming of the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of God, and the messenger that God will send ahead of his son. So, lets go ahead and pray, and get some water and let you all get out of the heat and we will continue on in Malachi and specifically finishing this section of Malachi next week.
This is a great quote that God had me “accidentally stumble across this evening…
“The job description of the preacher, in other words, is not to say many different things but to say the same thing over and over again in many different ways. We have one main message to declare: “Christ and him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2).”