David Platt – “Shepherd the Flock of God”

1. Do you love your ministry more than you love Jesus?

2. Are you content to care for the congregation that God has entrusted to you?

3. Is pastoring a job for you to perform or a passion for you to fulfill?

4. Are you pridefully concerned about what others think about you or humbly consumed by what God has called you to?

5. Are you driven by what you get in ministry or by what you give in ministry?

6. Is your leadership based on intimidation of others?

7. Is your life worthy of imitation of others?

8. Does the way you pastor make no sense on this earth and total sense in eternity?

Q&A with Dave Jenkins (The Word Explored)

Dave’s new book The Word Explored is published by H&E Publishing. Purchase a copy here. Follow Dave on Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook. He also started Servants of Grace Ministries.

Evan: Tell us about yourself to our audience?

Dave: Hi everybody at Deep South Reformation! My name is Dave Jenkins, and I’m honored to be with you today. Thank you, Evan, for the kind invitation. I’m happily married to my beautiful wife Sarah, who is also my best friend. We’ve been married fourteen and a half years and live in beautiful Southern Oregon near the county seat of Douglas Country—Roseburg! 

I was saved by the grace of God at the age of five and first felt a call to ministry at the age of six. At the age of nineteen, I started Servants of Grace Ministries on August 2, 2000. We began as a small blog that I had started in high school as an email list to encourage my fellow high schoolers. Now twenty-one years later, we are a multi-media ministry with a digital magazine, over three hundred writers all over the world, and have many podcasts and resources. These resources are all aimed at helping the local church and Christians be grounded in the Word of God and serve in the local church.

I have a Bachelor of Science in Religion with an emphasis in biblical studies, a Masters of Arts in Religion with an emphasis in biblical studies, and a Masters of Divinity in Ministry from Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary.

Evan: What led to you writing this book?

Dave: Over the last twenty years, I’ve had many opportunities to write and speak about the Bible. It’s no small thing to say, but even back then, coming out of high school in 2000 and getting first involved in leading ministries as a college student, I saw biblical illiteracy, which was one reason I started Servants of Grace. It’s safe to say that The Word Explored is the culmination of twenty years of thinking and teaching the Bible in various contexts. 

Over those years, I’ve realized that one big thing for Christians is that they may understand how to read the Bible, but they don’t know why they read the Bible or why we do life in the local church. In The Word Explored, I aim to help people discover how to read the Bible and why they read the Bible and do life with fellow Christians in the local church.

The heart of the book aims to help people love the Lord who has given His people a book in the Scriptures. So, I’m aiming at three things to help people: To love the Word, to love His Church, and to love His people. These three things are vital because what they do is help the Christian see that reading the Bible is more than something to check off their daily spiritual to-do list, but something they get to enjoy and delight in because God loves His Word, His people, and His Church. So, I wrote the book to help people discover why we read, study, memorize, meditate, apply the Bible, and why and how we do life with God’s people in the local church. 

My hope with the book is that the average Christian up to the mature Christian will find help for their walk with God and discover that God delights in His Word and that His Word is the means that the Spirit uses to help the people of God grow in the grace of God.

Evan: What were some things that shaped you through your study?

Dave: Reading and studying God’s Word myself and ministering to people. I know that sounds simple, but it’s just the truth. The best books are written over many years of studying the topic and then ministering those truths that you’ve learned to other people in the local church. Then you have enough knowledge, and life experience to perhaps Lord-willing write a helpful book that will be helpful to others.

Evan: How do you think that we got here with Biblical Illiteracy?

Dave: In the 1970s through the ’90s (and continuing), you had the seeker-sensitive movement, which was a good movement that focused on evangelism. The problem became that so many people were getting saved in churches that focused on this approach to ministry, but they weren’t discipled. So, people left the church because they didn’t know what they believed and why it was important. Then the Emerging Church happened in the ’90s as a response to the Seeker Sensitive movement. The Emerging Church started as a conversation about making disciples. The problem with the Emerging Church was that that conversation quickly became divorced from God’s Word as they denied essential doctrines that define and give shape to biblical orthodoxy.

I bring those two examples up because of what they show. A desire to reach the lost in evangelism and to disciple Christians are two good things. The problem is that the Seeker Sensitive movement focused on evangelism apart from discipleship and the Emerging Church divorced itself from biblical Christianity. 

What both show us in regards to biblical illiteracy is that we are far too often in the Church swinging from one theological trend to another rather than grounding our lives and ministries in God’s Word. God’s Word is the fountain for the Christian life. God uses the Word in the life of the Christian to teach them the truth because God the Holy Spirit indwells the Christian and empowers them to make disciples who make disciples from the Word.

Evan: What troubled you most with the statistics of Biblical Illiteracy?

Dave: They reveal that Christians have very little understanding of the major themes and events of the Bible. When we talk about biblical illiteracy, what we are talking about isn’t knowing all the details of the Bible. That is important also and can take time. What I’m talking about concerning biblical literacy is knowing the major events and themes of the Bible. The statistics show us that people don’t understand creation, salvation, and more or think that the purpose of life is marriage. This shows us that we need to stop being swayed to and fro by everything, but instead, ground our lives in the Word of God and be learners of God’s Word. Every Christian is to be a disciple of God’s Word, so every Christian is to continue to read, study, memorize, meditate, and apply God’s Word so they can be useful to God.

I don’t know a single Christian who doesn’t want to be useful to the Lord. The evangelical world has focused for so long on our witness (what we do with our faith) rather than on character development. Again, this is an example of biblical illiteracy because the New Testament holds in tension our character and witness. Our character and our witness are held in tension in the New Testament, which is why it’s not first our witness, nor is it our character, but our character informs our fuels our witness. We have to get in the Word so the Holy Spirit will use the Word as a sword to help us grow and change to be effective servants of Christ who display the fruits of the Spirit in our lives and ministries.

Evan: You did a helpful job at pointing out the life of the local church. What has encouraged you most in some of the responses to your book from readers?

Dave: Thank you, that means a lot. I’ve been very blessed by the response and deeply encouraged. It’s a scary thing to put a book out into the world and for everyone to be able to read it. That said, I’ve been encouraged by the response and humbled by it. I’m thankful that people are reading it and finding it to be helpful.

In particular, I’ve been encouraged by pastors’ responses who have said that they will get copies for the people in their congregations. That means a lot to me because I wrote this book for the average person in the pew who needs to understand how to read the Bible and do life in the local church and why we read Scripture and do life in the local church.

Evan: Any other thoughts?

Dave: One of the last things I’d say is that I’m aiming to help readers of my book read the Bible 5-10 minutes a day. I’m not looking for you to start at one hour or several hours. I’m advocating 5-10 minutes, whether that’s reading or listening to the Bible. Please get in the Word, discover who God is and what He is like, and His redemptive plan from Genesis to Revelation.

If you get a chance, buy his book! It is a great work. He is a kind brother and a good friend. Dave also appeared on the BAR podcast recently. Take a listen here.

We only get one life and it will soon pass. Only what is done for Christ will last!

JC Ryle on Practical Christian Holiness

JC Ryle (1816-1900) was the first bishop of Liverpool. He wrote many helpful works such as Holiness, Knots Untied, Light from Old Times, and Practical Religion.

Below is a quote from Practical Religion on Practical Christian Holiness (Banner of Truth), pages 11-12

“It is as certain as anything in the Bible that ‘without holiness no man shall see the Lord’ (Heb. 12:14). It is equally certain that it is the invariable fruit of saving faith, the real test of regeneration, the only sound evidence of indwelling grace, the certain consequence of vital union with Christ. – Holiness is not absolute perfection and freedom from all faults. Nothing of the kind! The wild words of some who talk of enjoying ‘unbroken communion with God’ for many mouths, are greatly to be deprecated, because they raise unscriptural exceptions in the minds of young believers, and so do harm. Absolute perfection is for heaven, and not for earth, where we have a weak body, a wicked world, and a busy devil continually near our souls. Nor is real Christian holiness ever attained, or maintained, without a constant fight and struggle. The great apostle, who said ‘I fight, -I labour, – I keep under my body and bring it into subjection’ (1 Cor. 9:27), would have been amazed to hear of sanctification without personal exertion, and to be told that believers only need to sit still, and everything will be done for them!

Yet, weak and imperfect as the holiness of the best saints may be, it is a real true thing, and has a character about it as unmistakable as light and salt. It is not a thing which begins and ends with noisy profession: it will be seen much more than heard. Genuine scriptural holiness will make a man do his duty at home and by the fireside, and adorn his doctrine in the little trials of daily life. It will exhibit itself in passive graces as well as in active. It will make a man humble, kind, gentle, unselfish, good-tempered, considerate for others, loving, meek, and forgiving. It will not constrain him to go out of the world, and shut himself up in a cave, like a hermit. But it will make him do his duty in that state to which God has called him, on Christian principles, and after the pattern of Christ. Such holiness, I know well, is not common. It is a style of practical Christianity which is painfully rare in these days. but I can find no other standard of holiness in the Word of God, – no other which comes up to the pictures drawn by our Lord and his apostles. In an age like this no reader can wonder if I press this subject also on men’s attention. Once more let us ask, – In the matter of holiness, how is it with our souls? ‘How do we do’?”

JC Ryle on the Souls of Men

We live in an age of progress, – an age of steam-engines and machinery, of locomotion and invention. We live in an age when the multitude are increasingly absorbed in earthly things, — in railways, and docks, and mines, and commerce, and trade, and banks, and shops, and cotton, and corn, and iron, and gold. We live in an age when there is a false glare on the things of time, and a great mist over the things of eternity. In an age like this it is the bounden duty of the ministers of Christ to fall back upon first principles. Necessity is laid upon us. Woe is unto us, if we do not press home on men our Lord’s question about the soul! Woe is unto us, if we do not cry aloud, ‘The world is not all. The life that we now live in the flesh is not the only life. There is a life to come. We have souls.’ 

– J.C. Ryle, Old Paths, pg. 40

Published by Banner of Truth 

 

Convictional and Compassionate: Being an All-Around Calvinist

What comes to your mind when you hear the term “Calvinist” or “Calvinism” mentioned? For some people, the term represents a theology and a people who are cold, selfish, eggheads, academics, not practical, and isolated. The caricature of Calvinism oozes forth from many people as if being a Calvinist and being a leper were synonymous with one another. As someone who gladly embraces the term (with qualifiers as a Baptist), along with unashamedly declaring the doctrines of grace from the pulpit, it raises a concern that perhaps our zeal apart from love contributes to the scarecrow straw-man constructed by those who oppose Calvinism. A Calvinist must be a man or woman who is a Calvinist all-around. This is a play on C.H. Spurgeon’s work An All-Around Ministry where the Prince of Preachers guides young pastors into seeing the many elements that must be a part of ministry. I would suggest a few elements that are needed for us to be all-around Calvinists.

Experiential Religion

Some might get the impression (fairly and unfairly) that to be a Calvinist requires an oath to reject any type of feelings and emotions in regards to the Christian faith. If one reads just a few Puritan works, the conclusion will be made that this is not true. As I read The Valley of Vision (which you should too) prayers, my heart stirs within me considering the greatness of our God and His grace manifest in the life and work of Jesus Christ. Calvinism fuels true experiential religion built upon the Word of God. In his work The Practical Implications of Calvinism, Pastor Albert N. Martin makes a striking observation: “I submit that a man has no right to speak of being a Calvinist because he can repeat like a parrot phrases brought to him in the great heritage of Reformed literature. He must ask himself, Has the Holy Spirit brought be me to this profound sense of God that has worked in me at least in some measure the grace of humility.” [1] It is not enough for us to systemize if we do not internalize. The doctrines of grace are the marrow for experiential religion for they are anchored to the text of the Bible, beholding the majesty of God, humbling our prideful spirits, and taking us upward to behold the Lamb of God. Is your Calvinism causing you to be a man or woman of biblical, experiential religion? May God help us if our Calvinism causes us to be cold and indifferent! Such an experience would indict us of not truly knowing the doctrines of grace.

An Informed Worldview

Calvinism extends far beyond TULIP and the latest conferences. Biblical and historic Calvinism provides a guide for how to view all of life. A person’s theology better be more than what takes them to corporate worship for an hour on Sunday. In fact, this is one of the great problems of the day. A ritualistic morality is a poor and cheap substitute for biblical Christianity. The great Princeton theologian B.B. Warfield defined a Calvinist in the following way:

He who believes in God without reserve and is determined that God shall be God to him in all his thinking, feeling and willing – in the entire compass of his life activities, intellectual, moral, and spiritual – throughout all his individual social and religious relations, is, by force of that strictest of all logic which presides over the outworking of principles into thought and life, by the very necessity of the case, a Calvinist. [2]

Warfield expands the playing field when it comes to Calvinism as being more than a theological acrostic. Theology can never be impractical due to the fact that doctrine fuels our lives. Each day decisions are made based upon a worldview, a grid for life. Calvinism will influence how you parent, how you relate to your spouse, the way you view your job, politics, and so forth. If Calvinism only comes into play when TULIP is spoken of, then it is not Calvinism but a sort of pragmatism that reigns in the heart and mind of an individual. J.I. Packer beautifully summarizes this in his introductory essay to John Owen’s The Death of Death in the Death of Christ:

        “Calvinism is a whole world-view, stemming from a clear vision of God as the whole world’s Maker and King. Calvinism is the consistent endeavor to acknowledge the Creator as the Lord, working all things after the counsel of his will. Calvinism is a theocentric way of thinking about all life under the direction and control of God’s own word. Calvinism, in other words, is the theology of the Bible viewed from the perspective of the Bible – the God-centered outlook which sees the Creator as the source, and means, and end, of everything that is, both in nature and in grace. Calvinism is thus theism (belief in God as the ground of all things), religion (dependence on God as the giver of all things), and evangelicalism (trust in God through Christ for all things), all in their purest and most highly developed form. And Calvinism is a unified philosophy of history which sees the whole diversity of processes and events that take place in God’s world as no more, and no less, than the outworking of his great preordained plan for his creatures and his church. The five points assert no more than God is sovereign in saving the individual, but Calvinism, as such, is concerned with the much broader assertion that he is sovereign everywhere.” [3]

A Gracious Outlook

Confessing a theology known as the doctrines of grace must impact us in being gracious to others. Sometimes I cringe reading Twitter and seeing how men who I am persuaded are true believers, who call themselves Calvinists, and yet speak to each other in ways that lack any type of grace and charity. Keyboard Calvinism is as dangerous as pragmatism. Calvinism is not a badge to wear for admittance into the cool kids’ club nor is it a club to beat people over the head with. When one gets a true sense of the grace that God has shown, how can that not humble us and guide us in our dealings with others?

One of the great concerns I have is that many Facebook and Twitter Calvinists are pragmatists when it comes to their ecclesiology. If you choose where you attend church and are a member at based on pragmatic values, then it does not matter how well you can articulate the doctrines of unconditional election and irresistible grace. One of the greatest changes in my life when I came to understand the doctrines of grace involved how I viewed the local church. If you want to destroy the caricature of cold Calvinism, band together with like-minded believers. The beauty of Calvinism should be seen in gracious cooperation: serve the community like ministering at a children’s home or a nursing home, show grace to one another knowing all of us are feeble human beings who need Christ and remember that the pilgrimage to Zion is not a road of isolation.

Steadfast Convictions

The false dichotomy that states being gracious and compassionate means the absence of convictions and beliefs must be rejected. Our Lord is all-gracious and compassionate yet He is dogmatic and narrow as He declares that He alone is the way, the truth, and the life. Calvinism must be compassionate and convictional. Our theology does matter. Our beliefs do matter. For someone to say that it is not a big deal what one believes concerning God’s sovereignty, man’s depravity and Christ’s sufficiency moves closer and closer to a false gospel. Further reformation is needed today when it comes to the regulative principle of worship, the perpetuity of the moral law of God, confessionalism, and covenant theology. However, a person can be fervently committed to the 2nd London Baptist Confession of Faith without being obnoxious about it. In my opinion, no one combined the doctrinal fidelity of Calvinism with experiential religion, powerful evangelism, compassionate ministry, and selfless service like C.H. Spurgeon. Yet, Spurgeon was no ecumenical in the sense of watering down doctrine and theological railing. [4]

Conclusion

In recent months, there seems to be a growing trend that to be aligned with the 2nd London Baptist Confession indicates that one carries it as a badge of cantankerous religion and a fundamentalist zeal. In fact, “1689 Twitter” became a hashtag on social media in regards to the unsavory attitudes displayed by those who claim subscription to the confession. A few bad apples claiming confessionalism should not distort the richness of the 2LBCF. The tradition of this confession is a Christ-centered, church-oriented Calvinism that calls us to be convictional and compassionate. May those who claim confessional Calvinism emulate the Christian piety and warmth of men like John Newton, George Liele, Lemuel Haynes, Andrew Fuller, J.C. Ryle, and C.H. Spurgeon.


[1] Albert N. Martin, The Practical Implications of Calvinism. (Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1979), 10.

[2] Ibid., 4.

[3] See https://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/articles/onsite/packer_intro.html for the full essay.

[4] See https://banneroftruth.org/us/resources/articles/2001/are-you-sure-you-like-spurgeon/


Jake Stone is a native of Gulfport, MS and has lived on the MS Gulf Coast his entire life. Pastor Jake began to serve full-time at New Testament beginning in August 2011 and this began the relaunch and revitalization process of the church. Jake is a graduate of William Carey University in Hattiesburg, MS. Follow Jake on Twitter @ntbcpastor.