Marrying things to the Gospel

A Christian most certainly can be a good patriot and love their country. However, patriotism is not necessary to be a good Christian.

This past Sunday I gave the introduction to the sermon I plan to preach this week. You can go listen to it here.  It was called 1 Corinthians 2:6-9 Introduction.

I preached this sermon because often times I think we misunderstand what’s happening in Corinthian and what Paul is after. In the first 4 chapters of 1 Corinthians Paul uses the term wisdom 15 times. But the problem is not a problem inherent in wisdom itself. It is a problem with what we as men do with wisdom.

So I made the connection to our lives today, we have our own value systems that we attempt to marry to the gospel, rather than repent of our value systems and turn to Christ.  One of the values systems that I railed against was patriotism. I know some people would think, Brady what is wrong with you? Well there is a lot wrong with me, but in this case here is what I mean.

A Christian most certainly can be a good patriot and love their country. However, patriotism is not necessary to be a good Christian. So I thought I would show you what I think is a case of marrying patriotism to the gospel. The following video is the worship service of FBC Dallas from June 25. In this “worship” service you have the worship of a country and idea, but the worship of Christ Jesus did not happen that day. Even though the sermon was about and faith and fear, Christ was not worshiped. This is marrying the gospel to patriotism, and this ought not be.

Check it out. And then weep that this was a Sunday morning for God’s people to gather and worship the Risen Savior.


Hi my Name is Brady, ….

I recently wrote about some of my first initial steps towards Calvinism here.

So what happened next?

While I was studying this passage John 6:44, I also encountered a kid with whom I was attempting to share the gospel.

I showed up at his house one day to play a game of pool. We played and talked for about an hour, and I started into a dialog about faith and Christ.

It was such a stark thing that happened

He stopped me; looked me dead in the eye and said,

“I know all about Jesus and God. And I am quite happy with my life the way it is. If I trust Jesus he would totally change my life and I don’t want that.”

This was confusing to me. I had never heard anyone say this so candidly. I think most people who think this, just smile and pacify the person talking to them, but I was taken aback by his forwardness.

As I went back to my office, I was trying to make sense of this, because it really did not compute in my head. Then I remembered what I had been studying: No one can come to Christ unless the Father draws him.

There was my answer. At this particular moment, God is not drawing this guy and so he can’t trust in Jesus right now.

But would he ever do so? I didn’t know. But here is what this encounter taught me:

  1. We are not in control of when we are saved and when we are not.
  2. Salvation is not just a decision that one day we can just decide today I want to be a Christian. If the Holy Spirit is not drawing you, you cannot be saved. Period. And it shouldn’t matter if you are a Calvinist or not, this is what everyone should believe. I think to believe differently about this issue, is to be totally confused about the whole thing. Because what I just stated is not exclusively Calvinistic.
  3. I have to continue to share the gospel because I don’t know at what point God will draw someone when I share. They could hear the gospel a 1000 times. And it could be the 1001 time that God decides to use to save them. So we must continue to share.

But I had one thought nagging me about all of this: So if a person must be drawn by the Father through the Holy Spirit in order to be saved, then if someone dies lost, what does that mean?  It was a question that I wrestled with for quite some time. Perhaps I will tell you about it one day.


Hi, My Name is Brady, and I am Calvinist

So I haven’t always been a Calvinist. I once was a really nice guy.

So I haven’t always been a Calvinist. I once was a really nice guy. But all of that has changed, and the change has consumed my life.

Warning signs multiplied as I journeyed down the road of theological reflection, and if I had just ignored the signs, I would’ve been better off. But I didn’t so now I have to live with where I am.

Ok so enough with the sarcasm.

There really have been several things over the years that have contributed to where I am today, So I thought I would take a few blog posts and write about them and how they have contributed to my current understanding. Often it was a person, sometimes a book, but always the Lord guiding the whole process. Perhaps you will find reason to examine these beautiful truths once again.

Contribution Number 1

Dr. Bob Utley. Dr. Utley taught Old Testament and Biblical Interpretation at East Texas Baptist University, where I graduated in 1989. I took his two classes on interpretation and life was never the same.

I remember distinctly Dr. Bob, as we used to call him, always stating is it that God has chosen man from the foundation of the world or does man have free will? He would always answer, “Yes!” But when he would say this, I had no idea what he was talking about it. If I had ever heard about God’s election or Calvinist in my high school days, it left me as quickly as a popular Ebay auction. But I just nodded my head in agreement after all, why would it really matter so long as we love Jesus.

Dr Bob taught me the importance of being able to verify my interpretation of Scripture and that it had to be brought together from the historical, literary, grammatical, and canonical contexts. In other words, the history behind the text, the flow of the language and vocabulary of the text, and the interaction of the text with the rest of Scripture were key to a verifiable interpretation.

This led me to do verse by verse studies in my first few youth ministries teaching through books of the Bible a section of verses at a time.

Impact of this Contribution

It wasn’t until around 1996 or 1997 that Dr. Bob’s methods of interpretation would start to pay off in relationship to my theology understandings.

I was teaching through John chapter 6 with the kids and I had come across a verse that startled me. John 6:44.

The historical context was  a bunch of Jews who had had their bellies filled by Jesus the day before and now they were following him for seconds. But when they found Jesus he began to use some metaphors to teach them about salvation. The crowd reacts very badly to Jesus’ teaching, they grumble (41) and question who is Jesus (42-43). And so in response to their lack of faith and grumbling, Jesus says these words:

No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him and I will raise him up on the last day.

What began to be clear to me was this:

  1. The Father’s drawing is a necessary precursor to a Faith response from sinners
  2. If a person comes to faith in Christ it is because the Father draw them, and if the Father drew them, then Christ would raise them up on the last day.
  3. The Father and The Son have a harmony in their work of redemption. The Father draws, the Son raises, and those on whom and for whom they do these actions are the same group of people.

This was overwhelming to. Because this was not what I believed. I went back to through the steps of exegesis that Dr. Bob had given to us. And Again and Again I kept coming to the same conclusion. You can’t just get saved whenever you want to. It is not up to you, it is up to God.

But I had so many nagging questions like: So what does that mean about those who do not believe? And can a person be drawn and refuse? And so on. But I didn’t have any answers to these things, not did I really realize that I needed to.

Next time, I will share with you, how this verse began to impact how I was doing ministry and what was the next phase for me.



Preaching, Final I think.

Introductions and Conclusions.

So I want to just add this little bit about introductions and conclusions, but I have to say I am not nearly as strict on this as I would be other items in this series. And maybe I will explain that further down. For now…


  • Aim – The Introduction should explain why listening to this sermon would be good for those listening.
  • Length – I would say if you are not into your first point within 2 minutes you are losing ground. (there would be exceptions to this. Sometimes the introduction needs to be longer because it needs to review, cover some ground, that you are assuming in your sermon. So how do you decide? Ask someone. Tell them what the sermon is going to be about, then tell them the massive information you want to share in the introduction then ask them if they think it will be necessary for understanding? I find using others to help me in task is really nice. They have investment, and I get good solid feedback. Usually people could do with far less information in the sermons than we as pastors tend to think. So ask someone)
  • Style – I believe that sometimes just stating flat out why people ought to listen is perfectly fine. But that is because I am not a big believer in forcing stories and such as illustrations into my sermons. If it works great, if not, keep going. So sometimes I have a story to tell and sometimes not. One time I said simply:
    • Today I really want you to pay attention to the sermon, not that I don’t want you to always, but today I know there are several in here who have had struggles with trials and suffering in the last few weeks and I want you to pay close attention to what John is doing in this passage because he gives us three ways that Christ is related to our suffering.
    • That was it. Nothing else was in that introduction. To me this is perfectly fine, and many times preferable to a contrived story illustration.



  • Aim – The conclusion is the final call to action that the sermon was built on in the first place. Such as the sermon I had the introduction above, I would conclude this sermon with, charging the people to dwell on Christ’s role in their suffering with a few challenges to how or to any specific way I can nail it down for them.
  • Length – It is usually super short and often for me, I start weaving the conclusion into the application of my last point. And often I write the conclusion right into the application of the last point.
  • Style – I would simply repeat here what I have stated above about the style of introductions. Simple, quick, and one target to leave them with the main thought of the sermon.


Here is a cabinet that I have been working on for a few weeks, as a matter of fact, I think 5 weeks is the count here.

So this mammoth of a cabinet is 90 inches tall and 63 inches wide by 18 inches deep.

It comes apart in the middle and the top unit is around 44 inches tall and the bottom 46. It is all plywood construction. I have a few more details to work out on the cabinet: touch up paint, crown molding on the top, and such. But it is done and delivered.

So enjoy the photos.


Preaching, part 9


It seems to me that this is the one of the most contentious portions of preaching.

  • Some seem to think that application is left for the Holy Spirit to do in the hearts of the hearers.
  • Some seem to think the application of the Scriptures never alter, or vary, even in nuance.
  • Some seem to think that the whole sermon is application.

And I am sure there are some who think about 40,000 other things about application. Well I think a sermon needs to be applied because:

  • Of Paul’s example in all his letters, where there seems to be a section heavy in theology and a section heavy in application (though he does mix it a little bit throughout)
  • Peter’s Sermon on the Day of Pentecost: Repent and believe. That is application.

So how do we make application? So I try to think about application I guess like Mark Dever, like a grid. Here is what I mean:

Who would this apply to?

First I would ask who does this apply to. Now this is not as scary as this might sound. Before I have gotten here in my explanation and proof I have laid out truths from the word of God, and somewhere in there, either in the explanation or in my application: I need to state the key truth that I am aiming at in point I am preaching, And I need to ask how does this impact believers today? How does this impact someone who is lost? How does this impact or interact with the lost world around us? How does this help or shape the church body? I might even ask who in terms of age groups within the church?

How would it apply to them?

Then I would take the who and think then how to apply it to them. For this I use another grid, that I think I got from David Murray, but I can’t swear to it.

Head – What truths need to be believed, loved, adored, absorbed and made part of this person’s life. Or what truths contradict the truths that they believe.

Heart – what attitudes do these truths demand and call for? There is at least an attitude of repentance, but there might be more, humility, worship, submission, and on and on.

Hand – What actions need to be taken? Is there any sin that needs to be stopped? Any action that needs to be started?


If I were preaching again through John 3:9-15 and I had my two points: Jesus is the revealer and Jesus is the cure. Let’s take one: Jesus is the cure. There are a whole host of application possibilities depending on what I am trying to accomplish with the sermon.

  • To Christians
    • Head –
      • I might be stressing the continuity of the Testaments and the use of typology in order to show believers how to read the Word.
      • I might be discussing the disease of sin, its nature and affects (from the type of the serpents)
      • I might be discussing how faith in Christ is but a look towards Christ and what that looks like theologically.
    • Heart
      • I might suggest that humility, repentance, faith, believing, loving and praising Christ for his cure.
    • Hand
      • I might suggest they read a book on the topic of typology.
      • I would suggest believers test themselves to see if they are in the faith.
      • I would challenge believers to make sure if they are cured, to stop living like they are sick.
  • To those who are lost
    • Head
      • I would suggest that they believe that Jesus is the only way to salvation
      • I would suggest that they believe rightly about their sin.
    • Heart
      • I would beg them to humble themselves and call on God for salvation.
      • I would paint the picture of the cure in Christ, and plead with them to take up something so gloriously beautiful.
    • Hand
      • I would call them to trust in Christ and be saved.
  • To the lost world
    • Head
      •  I would challenge the notion that all religions lead to the same place.
  • The Church
    • Heart
      • I would suggest that the church which is built by Christ, is built of healed people and that this body is to be an army of healed people
    • Hand
      • So there should not be a mixed group of believers and nonbelievers as members. And they ought to protect the membership better.

Now I would not make all of those applications in one sermon, but I think I could legitimately make those applications. I wouldn’t make them all because some of them might not be helpful for the congregation that would be before me. And frankly I just wouldn’t have the time to develop them all. I usually feel as though I only have time to do maybe four things in a sermon point. So either I have aim at one group the whole time, or mix it up.

I will almost never fail to speak directly to lost people in my sermons, even if looking out I believe it is possible everyone is a Christian. And I will almost always try to speak to the lost world. I think this helps our people know how to communicate to those around them when they encounter them.

A final word

Some I think if you leave out illustrations its fine. The sermon will be okay, I don’t think an illustration left out will make or break a sermon. (however I really bad illustration and totally ruin a sermon)

But Application? I am not so quick to say that application can be left out. I just don’t think any of us with our desperately wicked and deceitful hearts can be left to our own devices that we will actually spend time applying the sermon to our lives. Sure there are those super students who rehash the sermon two or three times, and that is the goal, but the truth is not many of the people in our churches do that. So while we have a captive audience, we ought to connect the dots for them and plead with them to turn to Christ.

Preaching, part 8

Alright I will make this quick because talking about illustrations is just not quite as vital as some of the other posts we have tackled. And read to the end so you can see my word of caution about illustrations.

There are 2 ways I think illustrations can be used.

Illustrate your explanation

First I think sometimes it is needful and helpful to illustrate something in you explanation that might be

NEW to those who are listening

  1. New words
  2. New concepts
  3. New theological beliefs, or deeper aspects of those truths.

DIFFICULT to those who are listening

Sometimes there is a concept that is not new, but it is just difficult. And so it is good to illustrate that concept in your explanation to be sure the people listening get it.

IMPORTANT to a right view of the Bible

Often we come across important theological concepts that every Christian ought to know, For example: Justification is far more important for a Christian to understand than say the exact nature of the tongues that Paul speaks about in Corinthians.

So sometimes when it has been a while since we have discussed the concept, I will through in an illustration of that concept. Usually I have two or three ways to illustrate it and I will simply use that over and over. I think repetition helps make it stick.

Illustrate your application 

Sometimes it is important to illustration your application, because it is very handy for people to see the application you are calling them to placed in life for them to see. I think this is exactly what Nathan the prophet does for David when he tells him the story of the rich man and the poor man. He places the calling out of that sin in a life situation that David can identify with, and then uses it to say you are that man.

People need concrete examples of what the repentance looks like that you are calling them to from the passage. Because we want to deal with the specifics of the passage aimed at their life and heart. And if we believe that the heart is wicked and deceptive then we should help open people up by showing what this looks like in life.

This is also a good way to bring the various age groups in the congregation into the sermon. Because you can state the application, and then show what looks like in the life of a teenager, kid, married man, or a single lady.

Word of Caution

I long to make sure I have adequate illustrations in my sermons. However that being said, I do not try to kill myself with it. Sometimes you can’t think of anything, you can’t make anything work without it turning into some really bad analogy that actually illustrates an error you are trying to avoid.

(You know that crazy analogies about the Trinity that never work!)

Anyway, I will finish writing my sermon and the last half of the week I will just think about my sermon over and over, and I pray for God to help me illustrate it, Many a Sunday I have stepped into the pulpit without a single illustration. And so be it.

If the illustrations do not just easily come and are clear and right on target, then just don’t use them. It is far better to just explain the text without any illustrations than it is to muddy the waters with your illustration.

As a pastor your time is valuable, and if you can you should try to illustrate the sermon, but you should not sacrifice pastoral, family, and other duties to spend hours and hours trying to come up with illustrations. Let them suggest themselves and move on.


Preaching, part 7

So we have talking about so many things about preaching. I am about done though, I think. We will see.

Sermon is written. It has 2 points. Both points from the text, you have stated, and placed in the text. Now it is time to Explain and Prove.

Just so we are clear. to state and place the point when you actually preach should not take any longer than about 30 seconds to a minute. If you go longer than that, then you have already wandered over into explaining.

Explaining the POINT.

I have to say, that you should be explaining the point of your sermon, which if it arose from the text means you are explaining the text. So let me give an example.

In John 3:9-15 (since this is the example Cali and I keep using to discuss these things.) I had 2 points.

My first point was Jesus is the revealer. I then did three things under that point:

  1. I set the text in context of Nicodemus’ question from verse 9 and the connection of that to verses 1-8.
  2. Then I described that Jesus is the revealer and no one else is. Then in the explanation of this I went to Hebrews 1:1-3, 2 Corinthians 4:4, Colossians 1:15-16, and John 14:8-9.
  3. Then I described how Jesus the revealer has condescended to us in his revelation. Here I spent time in verse 13 and talked about the way in which God has revealed himself throughout time. And by example taking up Old Testament examples and such.

My Second point was Jesus is the Cure. Here I centered in on the phrase lifted up, and took a journey from Numbers, back into John to other places he mentioned lifted up. And from this journey, I would draw out a few points: Christ must become our curse, Christ’s curse means we have a problem that we mus see, and Christ’s curse is our cure, if we but look to him.

So this is explaining my two points and the journey I took. Next Prove the point.

PROVE the point

When I say prove, here is what I am after. I want the people to walk away with a particular understanding of the text, and the application of that text to their life in such away that they can come back to it later and remember it when they read it.

So when I give the explanation to prove the point, I use as much information as is necessary to get the point across and prove it, but I stop short of giving them everything I have.

  • Sometimes we get into ancillary arguments that the people don’t care about it and knowing the details of will not help them at all.
  • Sometimes after giving two or three proofs of our point, we have established a pattern for them to go and search on their own. I like to give them the space to chase those things out.
  • Sometimes I totally miss the mark on this. Sometimes I think I have given enough to prove my point and I find out, nope I sure did not. And Sometimes I think something is important because of who I am dealing with in my life and so everyone needs to know these things. But that is not the truth. This is where I think the art of preaching is founded on good pastoral ministry. The more you know your people, the better you can tailor your sermon to meet their needs.



A sermon that does not seek to explain the word of God, is not a sermon but an opinion. I have found some of the greatest helps in two areas: Understanding the small words that connect phrases together and show the logical flow of the text and the connections between the testaments and epochs of God’s dealings with his people. If God is truly the same, yesterday, today, and forever, then we should expect similarities in why he works salvation for his people. Too often the sermon stops short at defining Greek or Hebrews words and stays there, but we want to do more. We want to take what God has inspired John to write and understand, as best we can, the way he was inspired by the Spirit, and then season our understanding with God’s inspiration of other authors of different times so that through the fullness of times, we might come to see what it is God is saying to us today.

Preaching, part 7

I appreciate my brother and friend Pastor Cali for his interaction on these posts. I wanted to use what he and I have discussed to fine tune what I am saying about a couple of things.

  1. The Objective of a sermon – This is a short single sentence explaining what the aim, objective, purpose, goal, outcome you hope to achieve from your sermon.
    1. You hope for it, because you pray and lean and rest on the Holy Spirit and only his work will cause the hard heart of the sinner, the rebellious heart of a saint, the discouraged heart of one of God’s children to repent. So we hope to accomplish this by God’s grace. We can’t produce in others what only God can. So an objective is just our hope and aim.
    2. You might never speak your objective sentence in your sermon. You might, and I would think by and large you should, but you might not. This objective is direction to your sermon and helps your sermon to be about ONE thing.
    3. I also use the objective to bridge the gap between Back then historical and now here today.
    4. This objective arises from the Text of Scripture itself. And here is how I would conceive of it:
      1. The Passage you are current in, has the large literary context of the chapters and verses around it.
      2. It also hast he context of the whole book that it is in.
      3. Then it has the context of the other writings by the same author, and then to the writings of contemporaries.
      4. It then has the context of the Testament and even Covenant that this passage falls within.
      5. And final the whole of Scripture forms up a context for this objective.
    5. You have studied the passage in front of you, and you have made it to all of these various contexts allowing each level to help shape the meaning of the passage in front of you.
    6. To write the objective: you start with the entire book that the passage is in first.
      1. John’s gospel’s stated purpose is so that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God and that by believing you might have eternal life. So this must inform the objective of EVERY SINGLE SERMON from John’s Gospel.
      2. Then I go to the passage itself and think through how does this passage answer, help, illustrate, or advance the main purpose of the book. I let this also inform me of how to write my objective.
      3. Before I am done, I let the rest of Scripture, in all the various levels of context inform the objective statement that I am writing.
    7. So I write the objective, and it looks something like this for John 3:9-15:
      1. Every person can come to understand the new birth’s necessity by understanding 2 things about Jesus. 
        1. Every person stems from John 20:30-31, and the Flow of the Old Testament into the New Testament concerning all families of the earth will be blessed in Abraham, and the church’s commission to make disciples of all nations.
        2. Can come to understand the new birth’s necessity – This does not mean that they will understand it. I am not using can in the since of just learn these two truths and you got it. I am allowing what the Scriptures say as a whole concerning the work of the Holy Spirit and how we come to know anything is by the work of the Spirit in us  It is also related to Nicodemus’ question in verse 9 “How can these things be?” I could have added in the objective: believe, repent, worship and on and on, but I am trying to keep the structure lean so that it is easy to keep in my head.
        3. 2 things about Jesus. Jesus answers Nicodemus’ question by revealing two big broad categories of things about himself. Sure you could go deeper and talk with more detail about these things, but I keep it way up high. My sermon will take up explaining these two things about Jesus that Jesus himself explains. And I will follow Jesus in how he explains.
    8. But I will write the objective and let my two points rise up out of John’s gospel and then explain from wherever necessary.
  2. I think personally, that when your objective is written this way, and your points follow from that objective: which has arisen from the text, the whole of the Scriptures, your people can turn back to that passage, and say this passage is about two things about Jesus, and then they can follow the same trail I did.

Okay, I am out of words for now.

I will pick this up next week.


Preaching, part 6

So I have written about the pastoral burden in preaching,  outlining a sermon, and I can’t really remember what now.

But today I want to talk about 2 things in all of this. My last post I pointed out there are about 4 to 6 things you do in each point. Today I want to talk about the first two and this should be quick.


Now I am a firm believer in no surprises or Gotha kind of moments in a sermon. God’s truth does not need our trickery. So I see nothing wrong with telling people the points you plan to cover in the introduction.

When you get to each point you need to state it. It does no good to have points that you never use or state. You wrote those points to help people follow you, and then not stating them is just a waste.

If you find stating the points seems ridiculous, and you feel like your points distract from your sermon and your focus, then you have not refined your points well enough. a refined structure, well written points, will actually feel very natural to you as you state them. If you feel awkward stating your points, try spending more time rewriting your points.

Finally, for those who find this a laborious mess, never fear. The number one best sermon I ever heard was from Dr. Sam Waldron on Romans 4:4-5. He had 3 points and each point was  something like: What does this text say about justification? What does this text say about God? What do we need to learn from this passage? (now this was not his structure, but I am showing this, because some people would think this is not a structure, but it is. So long as there is ONE underlying thing that all three of those questions is attempting to answer, support, or demonstrate.


If you are preaching from Joshua chapter 3, and you have 5 points. All 5 points MUST come from Joshua 3. If you want to be clear, and if you want people to be able to follow you with ease, then never have a point from another place in the Scriptures.

Now this does not mean you won’t go to other passages eventually, it is just you are preaching THIS passage.

If you are preaching from John 3 and one of your points comes from the book of Numbers, then you did something wrong with your structure or your homiletics. If in your points you don’t eventually get to Numbers, then you have done something wrong with your exegesis.

SO once you state your point, you need to show them where in the text in front of you this point is from. This helps them to verify your exegesis. And that is what we want. If they can verify your exegesis, then they can reproduce it.

I want doctrine to be hard. I want the call to repentance to be hard. I don’t want the structure of my sermon to ever be hard. If the structure fits the way the human mind works, then the doctrine can be crystal clear. Once it is clear, then the Spirit can do as he wishes in make this message an aroma of life or death.