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My Call to Biblical Preaching

I am one of those pastors who came into the Christian ministry a clear sense of call. I could point to a particular moment in my life when I sensed God’s calling on my life. It was both surprising and overwhelming at the time. But, over time, it became the settled conviction of my heart that God was calling me to preach the Gospel in some way. And, I need to make that clear: in the earlier stages of my life the call I felt was toward preaching. When I started out I had very little conception of what pastoral ministry was and what it might entail. I had come to Christ at the invitation of an evangelist at a holiness camp meeting. The message of Christ had made a profound change in my life for the better. And, I wanted to share that message with others. I felt that a great favor had been done for me — a message of hope had been given to me — and I wanted to extend that favor to others. My attitude was the same as that expressed in the often quoted line from D. T. Niles: ““Evangelism is just one beggar telling another beggar where to find bread.”

Biblical preaching had been crucial in re-directing my life. So, it was something I assumed would be the focus of my future ministry — and it was something I wanted to learn to do well.

I sure have met a lot of people over the years for whom evangelical Christianity — and, I might add, holiness Christianity particularly — was an oppressive reality in their lives. It was something imposed upon them. It was a almost-constant threat of Hell. It was legalism. It was a rigid authoritarian mindset from which they later emerged with relief.

I get that. I have heard the story so often — in so many different forms. I understand.

But, that is not my experience. (more…)

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James Denney: Atonement and New Life

James Denney (1856-1917)

James Denney (1856-1917)

An interesting admission from a man who was a strong defender of the penal substitution theory of the atonement:

The demand that the Atonement shall be exhibited in vital relation to a new life in which sin is overcome… is entirely legitimate, and it touches a weak point in the traditional Protestant doctrine.  Dr. [Thomas] Chalmers tells us that he was brought up — such was the effect of the current orthodoxy upon him — in a certain distrust of good works.  Some were certainly wanted, but not as being themselves salvation, only, as he puts it, as tokens of justification.  It was a distinct stage in his religious progress when he realized that true justification sanctifies, and that the soul can and ought to abandon itself spontaneously and joyfully to do the good that it delights in…  An atonement that does not regenerate… is not an atonement in which men can be asked to believe.

James Denney (1856-1917), The Atonement and the Modern Mind [1903].

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