Tuesday Morning Book Review || Sensing Jesus

bookEvery Tuesday morning, I review a book that I read recently. If you missed any, you can read past reviews here. This week’s book is Sensing Jesus: Life & Ministry as a Human Being (kindle version) by Zach Eswine. This is the second book I’ve read by Eswine. You can read my review of his book Preaching to a Post-Everything world here.

Here is my one criticism about Eswine and his writing. His stuff is great. It is challenging, soul stirring, makes you think. He just takes a long time to say it. What he says in 5 pages I feel could be said in one. Outside of that, his books are great and this one is no different.

That being said, if you are a pastor or thinking about becoming a pastor, you would do well to work your way through this book and chew on what Eswine lays out. Many pastors, in response to the call God has placed on their lives have forgotten how to be human or that their ministry is to human beings, not robots or masses.

Here are a few things that jumped out in my reading:

  • If there is anything exceptional about me and about this ministerial crowd of mine, it is that we are exceptionally broken.
  • God is the remembered one. But this does not mean we are forgotten – not by him. Not by a long shot. In fact, being remembered by him means we no longer fear being forgotten by the world.
  • We cannot fully magnify God without confessing that we are not him.
  • Greatness, even in ministry, cannot escape humanity.
  • Our goal of greatness is not the problem. How we define the word great is.
  • The problem we have rises when we suggest that obscurity and greatness are opposites, that fame in our culture and greatness as God sees it are synonyms.
  • You cannot glorify God by trying to become him.
  • The Bible simply does not teach us that if we say the right words, right things will follow.
  • How come so much of our Christian knowledge robs us of joy, wonder, awe, play, dependence, and the need to learn and humility?
  • Sanctification is the work of God’s free grace, whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God and are enabled more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness.
  • Going all out for God means more than going all out for our sermons.
  • One can receive accolades for preaching Jesus, yet at the same time know every little about how to follow Jesus in the living rooms of their ordinary lives.

Here is an interview that Zach Eswine did with Justin Taylor about this book:

Tuesday Morning Book Review || Preaching to a Post-Everything World

bookEvery Tuesday morning, I review a book that I read recently. If you missed any, you can read past reviews here. This week’s book is Preaching to a Post-Everything World (kindle version) by Zach Eswine.

Overall this was a great book on preaching. The book is broken up into 3 parts. Part 1 is worth the price of the book, part 2 was so-so and part 3 is a great resource for preachers as they think through specific topics they preach on.

According to Eswine, the goal of this book is that the “prayer of many of us is that God would raise up a generation of expository evangelists; preachers who understand biblical exposition in missional terms; preachers whose hearts burst with love for sinners; preachers who no longer dismiss biblical exposition when they think of engaging culture; preachers who no longer expound the Bible with disregard for the unchurched people around them.”

One of the things that challenged me that is a good reminder for the Reformed camp (which I’m a part of):

Am I as equally intense about grace and redemption as I am about sin and its consequences? Can I describe God’s redemptive movement as thoroughly as I describe his judgments?

Here are a few things that jumped out:

  • Preachers must bring to culture the content the Bible presents with the relational character the Bible promotes.
  • Preaching that is from God must therefore exist with a transparency toward what is there without forgery or deception and with a true alignment toward what is.
  • Identify those areas of reality that a preacher does not talk about and you will discover those spheres of reality that people are daily trying to navigate without the light of God’s Word.
  • Preachers must acknowledge that what they read in the Bible is not for us to pretend away.
  • Don’t spare people the glory. While understatement is often sufficient for making true contact with evil, full description is often required to help us make true contact with good because people are often more acquainted with evil than with good. So most people can imagine what understatement about evil implies but find it harder to grasp understated description of good.
  • To speak of God’s redemptive movement is to announce the return of beauty to the land of the living.
  • we want to learn how to “begin our message where the Bible begins-with the dignity and high calling of all human beings because they are created in the image of God.”
  • if we as preachers always and only start with the message of sin, without placing our sin into the context of our having been created, we discard vital aspects of the beauty of redemption.
  • Secular persons often have no background in biblical teaching-which means that the concept of sin makes no sense to them. So beginning with sin instead of creation is like trying to read a book by opening it in the middle: they don’t know the characters and can’t make sense of the plot.
  • The preacher helps point out the inconsistency in order to highlight the tension within us that only God can relieve.
  • preachers must point out the provision God makes in order to call people to the obedience God requires. To fulfill God’s commands, people require God’s provisions.
  • God’s people aren’t God’s people because they obeyed enough
  • If we want our listeners to be like David, Daniel, or Paul, we must learn to point them to the provision of God that David, Daniel, and Paul had.
  • Moralism explains why preachers are sometimes frustrated. We preach a message; we tell people to be good; we explain how to be good. Then the next week they are caught doing something bad. We don’t understand how someone can be told what to do and still do the wrong thing-unless we take a look at our own life and acknowledge that we too are like this. We too need the vine in order to do the good we hear.
  • Sermon application concerns not only what we do but what we believe.
  • The big idea answers at the end of the sermon what the big question asks at the beginning of the sermon.
  • According to Jesus, Spirit-empowered preaching had the poor, the captives, the blind, and the oppressed in mind.
  • Christian speech toward the non-Christian ought to make the mystery of Christ clear.
  • Preaching is mentoring. When we preach we publicly model for a community how a human being is meant by God to relate to reality. By watching the preacher, people learn how to think, act, and speak toward God, our neighbors, and the issues of our times. The preacher mentors others in what it looks like for a Christian to publicly talk from God’s Word about life. For this reason we are cautious with our cynicism, our mocking voices, and our posture toward the world when we preach.
  • “To preach biblically means much more than to preach the truth of the Bible accurately. It also means to present that truth the way the biblical writers and speakers presented it.”
  • When we preachers do not offer gospel direction for the wounded conscience, we imitate someone other than God with our preaching.
  • Missional preaching learns from the scribe to cultivate a passion for the Word of God (to set his heart) that will prioritize one’s time (to study), describe one’s way of life (to do it), focus one’s vocational goals (to teach), and energize one’s relational and missional zeal (in Israel).
  • Biblical preaching takes a missional turn when it proposes not only to say what the text says but to say what the text says by accounting for how people culturally hear what the text says.
  • Preachers learn to ask what kind of experiences those listening have had.
  • Before people embrace the gospel, they must have clarity regarding what the gospel is and how it differs from the cultural backtalk within their own cultural grammar.

Overall, a good book on preaching and one worth working through if you preach on a regular basis.

Don’t Start with “You’re a Sinner”

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When pastors preach or someone shares the gospel, they start with, “your’re a sinner and need Jesus.” On the one hand, this makes sense. Apart from Jesus we are sinners. We need a Savior and we can’t save ourselves.

The problem in our culture is that the idea of being a sinner is not something everyone agrees with, nor can they relate to.

This past Sunday, I started preaching through the gospel of John at Revolution Church and was struck with how John takes Jesus back to creation. John talks about Jesus being at creation, with God the Father, creating all things.

He does this for an important reason and one that impacts preaching and sharing the gospel. Zach Eswine in his book Preaching to a Post-Everything World points out that within all of us is a longing for the garden. If you think about relationships and community, we long for community where we are known and know others. We want to be accepted. We strive for that. We long for the relationship with God that Adam and Eve experienced in the garden. We long for our work to be meaningful and purposeful. We long for rest that is truly restful.

We long for the way God created life to be lived.

When you preach, you need to start with the garden, where Scripture starts. Scripture does not start with “you are a sinner in need of grace.” It starts with God, in a world created as it should be. Show the desire that are universal to all people. Show them why they have the longings they have. Then, how sin has tainted and ruined those things. Then, how Jesus is the answer to those things, how Jesus changes everything. 

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