Edwards on the Ministry (6)
… in all things showing yourself to be a pattern of good works… Titus 2.7
The goal of preaching and teaching
The goal of all Christian instruction, Paul reminds us, is love (1 Tim. 1.5). Love for God and love for neighbor constitute the essence of true piety. They are the mark of a true Christian. Edwards wrote: “True piety is not a thing remaining only in the head, or consisting in any speculative knowledge or opinions, or outward morality, or forms of religion: it reaches the heart, is chiefly seated there, and burns there. There is a holy ardour in every thing that belongs to true grace: true faith is an ardent thing, and so is true repentance; there is a holy power ardour in true spiritual comfort and joy; yea, even in true Christian humility, submission, and meekness” (The True Excellency of a Gospel Minister).
Piety flows from a “pure heart”, Paul wrote. We will neither know true piety nor help others grow in it unless we bring the Word of God to bear against the hearts of God’s people, beginning with ourselves, and not just against their minds.
How do we preach to the hearts of people? To preach to the heart we must preach from the heart – our heart, filled and warmed and impassioned with love for Christ and His Kingdom. We tend to focus on the minds of our hearers, wanting them to know the truth and to consider how it applies to their lives. But if we cannot stimulate and excite them to love the truth they are coming to know, what’s the good in knowing it? True piety – which preaching seeks to nurture – grows from the heart, and we only preach to the heart when we address the kinds of affections which are appropriate for the life of faith.
Let us preach for true piety in life by bringing sound instruction to illuminate the heart’s condition, engage the heart’s affections, and permeate the chambers of the heart with the vision of Jesus, exalted in glory. The work of pastoral ministry is to equip the saints for daily ministry (Eph. 4.11, 12). And the more we aim for the heart – both ours and theirs – the more ministries of grace and good works will issue from us all.
Resources for Shepherds
We invite you to join Dr. Stan Gale, long-time pastor, prolific author, and a member of The Ailbe Board of Overseers, for his live online course, “Faith in the Faith”, a Scriptural study of the Apostles’ Creed, to be held bi-weekly via Zoom on Wednesdays, April 20 to June 29, from 3 pm to 4 pm Eastern time. Registration is open to all but limited to twelve. For a copy of the course syllabus, or to register for the course, click here.
If you missed our “Winds of Doctrine” ReVision series, you can download all five installments in this study by clicking here. We can’t resist the many winds of doctrine blowing against the sails of our soul if we don’t recognize them first. This series is designed for personal or group use.
According to Paul, shepherds fulfill their ministry by “doing the work of an evangelist” (2 Tim. 4.5). If we as shepherds are faithful as evangelists, those we disciple will be, too. If you’re looking for an efficient way of ramping up your own evangelism and bringing others along with you, I encourage you to consider our Mission Partners program (click here for more information). Here is an “as you are going” approach to doing the work of making disciples that can help to multiply the work of evangelism throughout your congregation.
From the Celtic Revival
Our present series in Crosfigell, our Tuesday and Thursday teaching letter, is exploring the unfolding of the Celtic Revival (ca. 430-800 AD) through the words of those who led it. In this excerpt, an 8th century poet imagines the faith of Patrick, and how he must have invoked the protection of the Lord throughout his ministry:
This day I call to me God’s strength to show
my way, God’s power to help me as I go;
God’s wisdom for my guide, His holy eye
to light my way, His ear to hear my cry;
God’s Word to fill my speaking, and His hand
to hold me as I go, and help me stand;
His path before me and His shield to guard
me; all His strong angelic legions hard
around me to protect me: from the snares
of demons, from temptation’s might, from cares
and worries, and from threats of nature, from
one man or many that may seek to come
for my destruction, whether from afar
or near, no matter who or where they are.
- Anonymous, “Patrick’s Breastplate,” Irish, 8th century
Read more from the leaders of the Celtic Revival in recent issues of Crosfigell by clicking here.
T. M. Moore
Joy in the Word?
We cannot know true piety apart from consistent and thorough immersion in the Word of God. A shepherd can do no better work than to equip leaders for lives of feeding on Scripture. Our book, The Joy and Rejoicing of My Heart, can excite and equip your leaders for deeper and more fruitful feeding on the Word of God. It’s free in our bookstore in paperback or as an ebook (click here).
It is our privilege to provide resources and opportunities to equip and encourage church leaders in building the Lord’s Church and advancing His Kingdom. Please pray that God will move many of those we serve through this ministry to share with us financially in its support. If the Lord moves you to give, you can use the Contribute button at the website to give with a credit card or through PayPal, or you can send your gift to The Fellowship of Ailbe, 360 Zephyr Road, Williston, VT 05495.
Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.