Hershael York: The Book of Acts and Us

HYorkDr Hershael York is the Senior Pastor at Buck Run Baptist Church in Frankfort, Kentucky.  He is also the Victor and Louise Lester Professor of Christian Preaching at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville.  I really appreciated his books Speaking with Bold Assurance (2001), that Hershael co-wrote with Bert Decker, and Preaching with Bold Assurance (2003).  I am really thankful for this post on the enduring relevance of Acts for us as preachers in today’s world – a reality I hope is demonstrated in Foundations (forthcoming from Christian Focus).  Over to Hershael:

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The New Testament epistles would leave us puzzled and perplexed if we only had the gospels without the book of Acts. We would not know how the gospel advanced to the Gentiles, who Paul is, when Christianity spread from Jerusalem to the world, or even why the church took shape and functioned as it did. Perhaps most significantly, we would not know the components and contours of apostolic preaching.

About half of the Book of Acts consists of speeches, discourses, and letters. In fact, like the Greek historian Thucydides, Luke actually moves the narrative forward through careful reconstruction of speeches by followers of Christ and their opponents. He records eight addresses delivered by Peter, Stephen’s lengthy sermon that enraged the Sanhedrin, Cornelius’s brief explanation, a short authoritative address by James at the Jerusalem Council, the advice of James and the elders in Jerusalem to Paul, and nine sermons and speeches by Paul. Clearly Luke believes that what the church said impacted what they did.

But Luke is more than a historian. He is also a theologian. He is not merely recording the words spoken, but the heart of the Christian message, the kerygma, that Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of God’s promise of salvation, Lord of Heaven and Earth, and that his crucifixion and resurrection provides redemption from sin for all who will repent and believe.

While manners and modes of communication change through time and across cultures, that core message of the gospel is the unshakeable and irreducible axis of Christian proclamation on which faith rests. The message of what God has done through the person and work of Christ is not merely a historical chapter that we have advanced beyond. Now as much as in Acts, the preaching of Christ is what God uses to move the narrative forward until Christ returns.

Marcus Honeysett: What Does It Mean To Be Human?

mhoneysettMarcus is the director of Living Leadership and an elder at Crofton Baptist Church in South East London.  He has authored four books, including Fruitful Leaders and Gospel-Centred Preaching (with Tim Chester).  Many people have benefited greatly from Marcus’ teaching and writing.  I am thankful to Marcus for offering this guest post on such an important question.  Remember, this guest post series is offered to mark release of Foundations – please do check out FourBigQuestions.com and encourage others to follow @4BigQs on Twitter and Facebook.

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So God created Mankind in his own image; in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. (Gen 1:27)

The two most foundational things about being human beings are:

  1. That we are creatures
  2. That we are special creatures – made in the image of God

Therefore when God blesses the man and woman, telling them to be fruitful, increase and fill and subdue the Earth it is as dependent beings, not independent ones.

In this dependency is the very foundation of life. Everything broken about the world can be traced back to rebellious, sinful desire to live independently from God rather than dependently upon his fatherly goodness as his dearly loved children.

This means that we are never more fully human than when we are consciously living in repentance and faith. A constant walk with God, is the thing that maintains our life and our joy because we were made for it – and forsook it back at Eden. A daily appreciation and thankfulness for the spilt blood of Jesus Christ is the thing that keeps us conscious of God’s everlasting mercy.

Confessing our sins, turning with hatred from evil, glorying in the cross brings healing and gospel transformation by the Holy Spirit. Why? Because when we do we are acknowledging and celebrating true creatureliness. We embrace our dependency. We delight not in God’s absence from our lives but in the closeness of his presence.

MHEndorse

 

Glen Scrivener: What is the Essence of Sin?

Glen-321AGlen is an evangelist and director of Speak Life. He is the author of 321 – The Story of God, the World and You and blogs at Christ the Truth. He lives in Eastbourne with his wife, Emma, and daughter, Ruby.  At our church we give away copies of 321 to  visitors, it really is a fantastic resource.  I am thankful to Glen as he launches this guest post series for Foundations.

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What is the essence of sin?

Is it “climbing onto the throne of your life”?
Is it “stealing the crown for yourself”?
Is it “shaking your puny fist in the face of God”?
Is it saying “Shove off God, I‘m in charge, No to your rule”

Well, yes. But is it deeper than that? You bet!

You see, if we define sin as “self-rule” what do we say to the Iranian refugee working his fingers to the bone, sending back every penny to the family?

What do we say to the woman serially abused by the terrible men she invites into her life?

What do we say to the drug addict whose only remaining desire is the hell-bent drive to throw his life away?

What do we say to the down-trodden mother who’s completely lost herself in her family?

What do we say to the self-harmer consumed by self-loathing?

All these people are sinners. But is their sin best captured by a definition of “self-rule”? Surely not. And the Bible knows this, which is why its teaching on sin goes far deeper than “self-rule.”

In the Bible we are dominated subjects in Satan’s kingdom (Ephesians 2:1-3). We are captives in the strong man’s house (Mark 3:27). We are helpless slaves to sin (John 8:34). We are whores besotted with terrible lovers (Ezekiel 16). We are sheep following after bad shepherds (Ezekiel 34). We are lost and must be found (Luke 15). We are snake-bitten and need healing (John 3:14f). We are dead and need raising (John 5:24f). We are famished and need Bread (John 6). And so Jesus diagnoses the world’s deepest problem: “they do not believe in Me.” (John 16:9) This is the heart of sin.

And once we have properly defined our problem, we can preach the solution: We have refused Christ, we must receive Him. We have resisted Him, we must trust Him. And when we do, His message to us is not “Get off the throne.” Incredibly He tells us “Hop on!”

“Even when we were dead in our trespasses, God made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” (Ephesians 2:5-6; cf Revelation 3:21)

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This is an excerpt from a longer post at Glen’s blog – ChristTheTruth.net

GlenEndorse

Foundations Guest Series Introduction

Foundations Cover[This post is originally posted on BiblicalPreaching.net]

What do you do when you have one opportunity to communicate the life transforming message of the Bible? Where do you go biblically to address the key issues people really need to hear today?

I had one series of just four sermons and desperately wanted my hearers to hear the critical building blocks of belief. I could have gone to Ephesians or another epistle. I could have gone to the Gospels. I decided to go to Acts.

Preaching from Acts is an exciting challenge because you are entering into other peoples’ sermons as well as their situations. The first apostles were communicating the timeless gospel to the first hearers as the message spread. Perhaps what they preached then would be ideal for expressing the life transforming message today?  It is.

Foundations: Four Big Questions We Should Be Asking But Typically Don’t is forthcoming from Christian Focus Publications. It is a little book that I hope will pack a big punch. In Foundations we see how the Apostles addressed the very questions that we should be asking, but typically we don’t.

Acts contains messages preached under the glare of imminent threat, thus making every word count. Acts contains messages preached to staunch Jews ready to defend the honour of their heritage, a couple of purely pagan crowds who did not know Othniel from Oprah, some brand new believers in Christ, and every other possible combination of listeners. In Foundations we hear Paul addressing the sophisticated philosophers in Athens, over-zealous pagans in Turkey, and some of the judges brought in to put him on trial. We see how the apostles united when the gospel faced its first major attack, and how they made it so clear how the foundational questions must be answered by all.

Underneath our beliefs there is a foundation, and often it sits there unchallenged. The most important issues for life and eternity are regularly engaged in the Bible, but we often ignore this foundation. We too easily think it is all so obvious that we would be wasting our energy to linger longer than it takes to give a momentary tip of the hat to these issues.

Foundations is a fast read, but I hope it will help preachers and listeners, young believers and those established in the faith. It might even be used to clarify the wonder of the gospel to those who are still looking in from the outside. This guest post series is going to run over the next weeks to help mark the launch of Foundations.

Thanks to everyone who will contribute to this guest series. And thank you to everyone who helps spread the word about Foundations – by encouraging others to follow on Twitter (@4BigQs) or Facebook (Facebook.com/4BigQs), pointing people to FourBigQuestions.com, or buying several copies to pass on to friends and pastors so that in a small way, the great wonder of the Gospel can grip the hearts of as many as possible.

Sincerely, thank you.

Coming Soon – Guest Post Series!

Foundations CoverLast year I ran a guest post series on BiblicalPreaching.net to mark the launch of Pleased to Dwell.  There were some great posts from folks including Darrell Bock, Glen Scrivener, Dane Ortlund, Peter Comont, David Murray, Rick McKinley, John Hindley (click a name to see the post!)

Starting in the next few days I am going to run a guest post series to mark the launch of Foundations: Four Big Questions We Should Be Asking But Typically Don’t.  This book is based on the sermons and speeches in Acts, so it should be a helpful little read for preachers, but it is targeted much wider.  Maybe it will be a useful book in your church? Perhaps for a small group study, or as an encouraging giveaway, maybe for youth, maybe for your leadership team, maybe to folks on the fringe, perhaps even to some not-yet-believers who might be open to its message.

I am thankful to the friends who will be offering posts in this series and I hope it will be helpful for you.  I will continue to intersperse my own posts related to preaching during these weeks.

If you are able to help spread the word about Foundations, please do.  Momentum is building toward the launch and every social media comment encouraging others to follow, like, buy, etc. is appreciated.  Here is the Facebook page, here is the twitter link (@4BigQs) and the book’s own website is FourBigQuestions.com.  Thanks so much!

Can You Help Spread The Word?

Foundations CoverThe countdown has begun and Foundations will soon be released.  It is now available to pre-order in the UK and USA/Canada.  The website, twitter feed, and facebook page is live . . . and we need your help!

Please can you help spread the word?  Any follow, like, mention, excitement, encouragement to follow, etc., will be a huge help!  And once the book is released, kind reviews will be a big bonus too . . .

Website: FourBigQuestions.com

Twitter: @4BigQs

Facebook: facebook.com/4BigQs

Foreword Snippets from Tim Chester

TimChesterTim Chester kindly agreed to write the foreword to Foundations.  Here are a couple of snippets:

“Instead of speculating about who God is, Peter Mead invites us to begin with the claim that God has revealed himself in Jesus.”

“Christians believe our situation is helpless and hopeless. We’re enslaved by our selfish desires and estranged from God. But we also believe God himself has come to rescue us. So our confidence is not in our efforts or achievement. Our confidence is in God’s love. Our negative assessment of our problem leads to the most positive sense of joy and hope. Foundations is an invitation to explore that hope.”

“You may not be a Christian. And you may not like the answers proposed in this book. You may not be convinced. But it’s worth exploring. It’s worth giving it a go. You’ve got nothing to lose – except an hour or so of your time – and possibly everything to gain.”

“Or you may be a Christian. Perhaps you take the answers for granted. But Mead invites us to push beyond our assumptions and discover a deeper, richer reality. He suggests we start with the triune God. And if the answer to the god-question is Father, Son and Holy Spirit, then everything else changes.”

Coming Soon: Foundations

We had a great response to the survey asking for help with selecting the cover for the forthcoming book – thank you to everyone who commented or voted!  The weeks are starting to count down until the release of Foundations: Four Big Questions We Should Be Asking But Typically Don’t.  In the next weeks watch this space for confirmation of release date, cover, price, availability for pre-order, etc.

Meanwhile, here are some of the endorsements that have been kindly offered:

“Having the right answers is one thing but Peter Mead goes deeper – he explores the right questions – questions of God, humanity, sin and salvation. By turning to Scripture this book gives us a surprising, satisfying and compelling foundation for life.”

Glen Scrivener, author of 321 and evangelist, Speak Life.

“The book of Acts tells of God’s plan for us to have relationship in the context of his grace.  Foundations fills out this picture beautifully. Read and enjoy!”

Darrell Bock, Senior Research Professor of New Testament, Dallas Theological Seminary and author of Acts, Baker Exegetical Commentary

“Many people build their lives on a weak foundation of sand.  In Foundations, Peter Mead introduces you to the one concrete foundation poured deep enough to hold your life steady!”

Tony Reinke, Writer for Desiring God Ministries and author of Lit!

“Peter’s love of scripture, and his desire to see lives transformed bleed through the pages of this book. Explore the foundations of Christianity and engage anew the true story of a relationship between a human race whose sin is greater than we think, and a God whose grace is more amazing than we could imagine!”

Rick McKinley, Leader Pastor of Imago Dei Community, Portland, Oregon.

“A great little primer about the world, ourselves and – most importantly – God. This short, easy to read, helpful book will help you get to know Him better.”

Marcus Honeysett, Director of Living Leadership