Ron Frost – A Stirring Love

Frost webRon Frost is my friend and colleague as a mentor in Cor Deo.  He also serves as a Pastoral Care Consultant to missionaries with Barnabas International.  I first met Ron when he was teaching Historical Theology at Multnomah Biblical Seminary.  Be sure to check out his blog SpreadingGoodness.org (as well as his posts on Cor Deo’s blog too).  Ron loves how some Puritans, especially Richard Sibbes, point his heart toward Christ.  So in this entry in the Incarnation Guest Series, Ron takes us to Sibbes with the hope that our hearts will be stirred too:

_________________________________

Richard Sibbes, a 17th century Puritan preacher, invited his listeners to consider both the motivation of Christ’s incarnation and its implications for believers.

“He was born for us; his birth was for us; he became man for us; he was given to death for us.  And so likewise, he is ours in his other estate of exaltation.  His rising is for our good.  He will cause us to rise also, and ascend with him, and sit in heavenly places, judging the world and the angels.” [Works, 2.178]

Sibbes made the point in a sermon series on the Bible’s Song of Songs—with the figures in the book seen to be Christ and the Church.  The allegorical reading was strong on mutual marital love, something the unabashed Sibbes wanted to his audience to feel: “Affections have eloquence of their own beyond words.”

Sibbes, it should be said, also drew his marital imagery from other Bible content beyond the Song. He held the Bible to be divided by its testaments, with the Old Testament as a limited starting point that looks ahead to the marital fulfillment of the New Testament.  The latter spoke of Christ as the bridegroom coming for his bridal Church.

“In the new covenant God works both parts: his own and our parts too.  Our love to him, our fear of him, our faith in him—he works all, even as he shows his own love to us.  If God loves us thus, what must we do?  Meditate upon his love.  Let our hearts be warmed with the consideration of it.  Let us bring them to that fire of his love . . .” [2.174]

Many readers today will find Sibbes’ marital familiarity to be over the top.   But does he have a point?  Do more juridical and disaffected readings of the incarnation actually blind us to God’s motivation?  This motivation, Sibbes held, is birthed out of God’s mutual Triune love.  In marital love—leaving aside physical intimacy—God gives humanity a glimpse of the mutual devotion and delight of his own eternal bond.

With that caveat in mind let’s return to the lesson Sibbes takes from the incarnation.  God sent the Son to stir our response.  And this response explains every other feature of genuine spirituality: “our parts” of faith.

Sibbes makes the point.  We love God because he first loved us in Christ and we now get to anticipate growing in that love forevermore.

Simple Idea – So Helpful

This week at Cor Deo my colleague Ron mentioned something he does in preparing for sermons.  Simple suggestion to say the least, but so helpful.  Instead of cutting and pasting the text of the passage into a document to work with, he photocopies his own Bible page.

Then he can work on the photocopy at a significant level of inductive observational detail.  Then when he comes to preach from his own Bible, he’s very familiar with the layout of the text and only needs to make minimal markings on the text since he’s just been working all week on a replica of the same.

Simple.

I could leave it there, but let me add a couple of comments:

1. Too many spend too little time really soaking in the text.  It shows in the preaching.  The message is often a decent message, but the tie to the text is tenuous.  If you have a great Christian gospel message that really is the message of another text, preach the other text!  But if you’re preaching this text, then live in it and let it live in you for a while so that you are really preaching the text you say you are preaching!

2. The more our message is tied to the text we’re preaching, the less we are reliant on extraneous notes and imposed sermonic structures.  This means the listeners perceive a more natural presentation (that’s helpful), and they are more likely to follow in their Bibles (that’s helpful), so that the focus is less on your sermonic artistry and more on the inspired revelation that came from God (that’s helpful too!)

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

At Least A Minor Study in History?

As those who preach, we have a whole raft of subject areas worthy of our study.  Central, in my estimation, is the ongoing engaged and dynamic personal study of Scripture.  We also must be studying the people to whom they preach, what they struggle with, their life experiences, how they think, etc.  Then there are numerous other areas of study, some of which might motivate you to buy books and read, others of which might only serve to cure insomnia.  But what about the subject of the history of preaching?

I know some reading this are avid readers of biography, church history and even preaching history.  I am also sure that some are definitely not.  Here’s a brief quote on the subject from David Larsen, writing in the Journal of the Evangelical Homiletics Society:

The history of preaching can encourage our hearts (as in the providential appearance of significant Biblical preaching in the most unlikely places and at the most unexpected times) as well as warn us about the perils and pitfalls which surround the practitioner of the craft at all times. Our times call for the wise and judicious balance which attention to history provides.

So for those less inclined to the history of preaching, where to start?  There are several (often multi-volume) series of books that address the subject directly.  Yet in many cases they, like most historical writing, tend to focus in one area, but remain blind to another.  Perhaps the best place to start is with biography of a preacher you find intriguing or encouraging – a Spurgeon, Sibbes, Luther or Edwards.  Perhaps it would be worth getting David Larsen’s A Company of Preachers and starting there.

One thing seems clear though, to ignore the past would be naive and might condemn us to repeating errors unnecessarily, or perhaps to leave our hearts weakened by missing the blessing offered by some of these great preachers.

(Here is an accessible starting point – take a look at this introductory article to Richard Sibbes that was just posted over on theologynetwork.org – click here)

Preaching and Affective Hermeneutics

I don’t spend much time going from blog to blog.  However, one blog that I do read and appreciate is A Spreading Goodness by a good friend and major influence on my life – Dr Ron Frost. He kindly asked me to write a guest post for his site which I was delighted to do. It’s a little longer than my typical post on this site, but I hope it’s worth taking the time to read. I won’t re-post it here as I’d like to redirect you to A Spreading Goodness – you might enjoy the earlier content on there and become a regular (I particularly recommend “I’m a Sinner…” posted on December 15th).

So for today’s post, please click here: spreadinggoodness.org