Monday, September 18, 2006

Getting Fit for Heaven

Once again, the Lord God has used the writing of John Piper to make pressingly clear to me some great spiritual truth. We resumed Wednesday night Bible study at FBC this past Wednesday. The meeting had become irregular since the church was without a main teaching/preaching pastor for the past three years.

We began the study by reading in the first 5-10 minutes a snippet from God is the Gospel. Most of the people, who are not familiar with Piper, were struck at his famous question: "If you could have heaven... could you be satisfied with heaven, if Christ were not there?"

I appreciate the question. But as I continued to read, I was gripped again by this truth: I am employed in the great task of getting people fit for heaven. After asking the reader the above question, Piper addressed these questions to Christian leaders:
"Can we really say that our people are being prepared for heaven where Christ himself, not his gifts, will be the supreme pleasure? And if our people are unfit for that, will they even go there? Is not the faith that takes us to heaven the foretaste of the feast of Christ?"

Preaching and teaching God's Word is not a mere intellectual exercise. Neither is it merely a cathartic emotional display or merely a large group counseling session scheduled for every Sunday morning. Preaching and teaching God's Word is not theological debate. Nor is it simply some abstract exercise is discipleship or accountabilty.

We preach and teach God's Word to make His people fit for heaven. Our aim is to ready the people of God to delight in their God! And as Tripp puts it in War of Words, "Our words are the principal tool God uses in the work he does through us." When we preach and teach, God is using the instrument of His Word conveyed by human words to create a longing and a preparedness in the hearts of His people for Him.

What a high calling is preaching! What an awesome privilege! How amazing it is to give people "a foretaste of the feast of Christ" through preaching and teaching! What a noble task--to be used of God to fit people for heaven where they shall delight in God himself! Oh, I feel like preaching!


Anonymous said...

Good words Thabiti.

Quick question for you: about how long do you spend preparing a sermon?

I'm a young preacher at a church in California and presently I spend at least 25 hours (often many more) in sermon prep. I imagine as the years go by I'll get a little quicker at it, but after a few years of preaching (though I haven't been preaching every week--I preach about 15x a year right now) it still takes me a good long time to put together a good sermon. Unlike me, you're preaching every week and handling a host of other duties at a very busy, front end time in ministry. So, in the midst of all this, how long does it take you to put it a solid sermon together?

FellowElder said...

Hey Justin,
Sounds like we're investing about the same amount of time in sermon prep. When I was at CHBC, my prep time (and this is the habit for both Mark and Michael as well) was essentially two long days, Friday and Saturday, 10-12 hours or so each day. I would also read and note things in the text nearly each morning during my quiet times. So, in all, I spend about 20-25 hours a week in sermon prep, doing text work, writing the sermon, consulting relavant materials (commentaries, etc), and reviewing the sermon a couple of times before preaching it.

There are times when I put in less work, but that's almost always going to involve extraordinary circumstances. My main function is to bring the Word of God to the people of God so that they will be prepared to meet their God on that Day. The elders here recognize that and protect me from things that would weaken my prep and teaching. The congregation also appreciates this and work to protect me as well. Both the elders and the body here are gracious gifts from the Lord.

Hope this helps,