Al Mohler was the speaker on Thursday evening at the 2010 Shepherds’ Conference. If you would like to watch these sessions via live streaming, go here or download the videos of previous sessions here.
Al Mohler began by commenting on John MacArthur’s reading of Colossians 1:24 saying that he, Al Mohler, hears this Scripture with special attentiveness when it is read by a man who has live it. He said he feels elevated by being here. He preaches in a special sense, in a special spirit, and with a special energy because of all the pastors in attendance. He is looking forward to heaven and that “Shepherds’ Conference” as there are a lot of men he wants to meet.
Francis Schaeffer wrote a book No Little People regarding the importance of the ministry. There are no little people and no little places and there better not be little sermons, that will not do.
Turn to John 9:1-41
When Jesus passed by He saw a man blind from birth. The disciple saw a question but Jesus saw a man (there are no little people). The disciple’s questions was about who the man’s parents were that he was born blind. In other words, there must be a reason (sin) for this blindness. Since he was born blind, it must be his parents that are being judged. So they ask Jesus was it this man’s sin or his parents?
Theologically the answer is not sin. Every single thing that goes wrong, all evil (including natural evil or moral evil) traces back to the fall; earthquakes, tsunamis, an adders venom, etc. Sin is the right answer, but not sufficient.
Jesus gives a rebuke before healing the blind man; neither the man nor his parents are responsible for his blindness. The question was not about “who” is to blame, the man was born blind so that the works of God might be displayed in him. Jesus then spits on the ground, makes clay and applies it to the man’s eyes and tells him to go wash. The blind man does what he is told. John 9:7 “so he went away and washed and came back seeing”. This is an incredible picture – the incarnate son of God spit in to the earth that he had made, applied it to his eyes.
First, the disciples had a question, now that the blind man is healed the neighbors have a question – Is this not the one that used to sit and beg? Before he was healed they noticed him, they had him pegged, they ignored him, they thought themselves superior to him, they may even have felt pity for him. But no one celebrated that this man now sees! – His neighbors do not, and his parents do not. In fact some are wondering whether he is even the same man. Some are saying “he is like him”…”they all look alike”. He kept saying I am the one. Of all people, who knows who he is…the blind man “I was blind, but now I see”.
They then took him to the “experts”, the Pharisees. It was the Sabbath on the day Jesus healed him (Jesus seems to have a habit of healing on the Sabbath and the Pharisees can’t stand this. The Pharisees asked him who healed him. The blind man doesn’t identify Jesus but the Pharisees already know. “How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs”. So they ask the blind man again. What do you say about him since he healed you? The Pharisees are the ones that can’t see. Even in their questions they display their blindness. The blind man answers, He is a prophet. Here is a man ignored by everyone, and now they are asking him how he was blind and sees; he becomes the theologian. The blind man has an answer “Prophet” — He is right, Jesus is prophet, priest and king!
Vs. 18 The Pharisees then called his parents. When you don’t get the answer you want, assume he isn’t who he says he is. So they call in his parents who must have had the same questions in the past – why is our son like this, what have we done? In response they say Yes, he is our son and he was born blind. So they are then asked “How does he now see?” The parents didn’t know. They know its their son and that he was blind…but now that he sees and who opened his eyes they don’t know. They say, “ask him, he is of age, he will speak for himself”. They didn’t want the judgement of the Pharisees.
Now a second time they called the blind man. [Be careful when you hear “Give glory to God”. There are a lot of people that will use glorified language to subvert the gospel. ] Verse 25 “though I was blind, now I see”. He was not going to be entrapped by the Pharisees. This story isn’t what we thought it was about. This is not about a man born blind and now seeing but a story of the glory of God in the man receiving sight.
The people (Pharisees) that think they see are blind. When asked how he was healed the blind man answers again, bravely, why do you want to hear it again – you don’t want to become his disciples too do you? The blind man knew who Jesus was and that he had disciples. The Pharisees then reviled him. “You are his disciple, but we are the disciples of Moses” Here is an amazing thing, now that the blind man sees he finds that the world was not what he thought it was…everyone is blind. He was blind and thought all were seeing, but now that he sees he realizes he was surrounded by blind people.
Notice what this man now knows, he sees not just with his eyes. “We know that God does not hear sinners….” If this man was not from God He could do nothing. You don’t know who He is, but He opened my eyes. The Pharisees then rebuke him, “You were born entirely in sin and you are teaching us? They still think God’s judgement was on the man and he fit into their theology as long as he was blind…but now he sees. What do you do with this theological problem – the only result is a sovereign saving God.
Jesus hears that the Pharisees put him out and so He finds him and asks if he believes in the Son of Man? This man answers as a man that has been touched by the Savior. “Who is he Lord” (he will believe anything that this man tells him). Jesus answers – “You have both seen Him and He is the one talking with you”. The resulting profession from the blind man is simple, “Lord, I believe”. Salvation has come not only to his eyes but to his soul.
Jesus comes into the world in its blindness. The Pharisees ask “We are not blind too are we?” If you have to ask if you are blind, you just might be blind! It is a pathetic question. Jesus tells them their problem is not blindness like this man, its a different kind with a different end. If you have to ask if you are blind you are. Jesus was referring, not to a genetic blindness, but rather spiritual blindness. Jesus came to illuminate the world. Isaiah 29:18; 35:5-6; 42:6-7 The light of the world brings light, and is light.
What do you do with this story, preach a little message? The hinge of it all is found in verse 3 – “it was neither that this man sinned nor his parents, but so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” This is an earth-shaking reality here. This man was born blind, so that the works of God might be displayed in him. This blows theological fuses everywhere!
If that is true, than it is not just true about this man, it is true about each one of us and true of every person that ever lived. Why does anything exist? That the works of God might be displayed. This means that before there was time, God determine that in this day God planned that this man was blind and would be touched by Jesus and begin seeing. There are not just a couple principles here – there is an entire universe of meaning here!
We are blind from birth. This means just what the man came to see. He thought he was the blind among the seeing, but he was the blind among the blind. This means God had a particular purpose, a particular plan to display in a particular way. How can you say that and not come to the conclusion of other particulars?
Do we trust God to be God or not? How many people do we pass every day that need the gospel. May we see that there are no little people. There must be no little sermons. There are no little texts, every word is fully inspired.
The entire cosmos is the theatre of God’s hand at work for His glory. We know the secret to the universe, so we should not be in the position of the Pharisees. If you don’t know, don’t preach. Never see little people, a little God, a little gospel, a little message, with little conviction, with little passion or a with little sermon. If don’t believe this, if it isn’t life to us to the glory of God than “any little old sermon will do”.
Guest: Collin Hansen, author, Young, Restless, Reformed
The common perception is that the post-modern, doctrine-is-there-to-be-redefined EmergentChurch with false teachers (heretics?) such as Brian McClaren, Rob Bell, Doug Pagitt, and Tony Jones is the most significant (and distressing) movement for the younger generation of Christians.
That perception would be false. A new movement, or more specifically, a “resurgence” movement based on the Protestant Reformation and its signature doctrine – Calvinism – has become increasingly populated over the last ten years with a younger generation of Christians. Each in their own unique way, pastors such as John Piper, Al Mohler, CJ Mahaney, and Mark Driscoll are preaching a “New Calvinism” that Time Magazine rates as the 3rd most important idea changing the world.
Collin Hansen, editor-at-large of Christianity Today and author of Young, Restless, Reformed (and a Christianity Today article by the same title) will join me to discuss who is influencing this resurgence to the Reformation, what are its characteristics, and whether this is a positive or negative development.
The Shepherds’ Conference, held at John MacArthur’s Grace Community Church in Los Angeles, is an annual gathering of 3500 pastors and church leaders from around world where they hear expository preaching from the likes of MacArthur, Al Mohler, and Steve Lawson and fellowship with one another in order to go back to their own churches refreshed and renewed to minister. Believe me, it is an amazing experience to be among thousands of men worshipping God through the proclamation of Scripture and singing.
This Saturday on The Christian Worldview, we will be LIVE from the Shepherds’ Conference — you will hear what was said in the key sessions and be able to offer your feedback on these monumental messages.
The Gallup organization has just released a major new research report that measures relative religiosity state by state, and the results are startling. There really is a Bible belt, and some regions of the country are remarkably secular.
The poll data is straightforward. Over 350,000 persons were interviewed and asked this question: “Is religion an important part of your daily life?”
The data reveal a wide disparity among the states. In Mississippi, 85% answered “yes,” while in Vermont, only 42% did so. That is an incredible margin of difference.
According to the data, the most religious states include Mississippi (85%), Alabama (82%), South Carolina (80%), Tennessee (79%), Louisiana (78%), Arkansas (78%), Georgia (76%), North Carolina (76%), Oklahoma (75%), Kentucky (74%), and Texas (74%).
The states with the lowest responses were Connecticut (55%), Nevada (54%), Rhode Island (53%), Oregon (53%), Washington (52%), Alaska (51%), Massachusetts (48%), Maine (48%), New Hampshire (46%), and Vermont (42%).
As Frank Newport of Gallup explained:
Clearly, Southern states are populated by residents with relatively high religiosity, as are several other states in the middle of the country, stretching from Texas through Oklahoma to Kansas and the two Dakotas.
At the same time, states whose residents are least likely to report that religion is important tend to be concentrated in New England and the far West (with the exception of Utah). Additionally, levels of religiosity are lower in several Mid-Atlantic states.
Regionalism matters, and though some of the patterns may defy easy explanation, others confirm longstanding observations. The Pacific Northwest and the New England states really are far more secular than most other regions, and the South really is a Bible Belt.
Numerous theories are advanced in order to explain these disparities. New England certainly did not start as a secular experiment, but it entered the twentieth century already showing signs of deep secularization. The influence of liberal theology in the region, the aftermath of the Second Great Awakening, and the leading edge of urbanization and industrialization certainly contributed to the pattern.
The Pacific Northwest, by contrast, has been a consistently secular region throughout its history. Other regions and states have their own history and story.
The existence of the “Bible Belt” is not a myth. The Gallup map shows a swath of avid religiosity ranging from Texas to the Atlantic coast. Every state in this region is included in the pattern of highest responses, with the exception of Florida, which scored 65% — matching the national average.
What are we to make of this? Well, a closer look at the question Gallup asked reveals the limits of the data. The people Gallup interviewed were asked: “Is religion an important part of your daily life?” There was no definition of “religion” offered, and certainly no test of doctrinal understanding or commitment. The responses from the Bible Belt surely include those generated by cultural Christianity. In the South, being “raised right” includes knowing how you are supposed to respond to a question like that posed by Gallup.
Still, the radical difference between the 85% marked by Mississippi and the 42% of Vermont point to real and challenging distinctions in how we should conceive our Great Commission challenge in those states. In Mississippi, the challenge is to reach persons who think they are Christians with the reality of the genuine Gospel. In Vermont, reaching a secular population is the main challenge. Both represent important and vital Great Commission challenges.
There is much to see in this new Gallup report, and everyone from missiologists to marketers will be using the data. Political scientists will have their own interests, as will students of American religion. As for those committed to church ministry and the Great Commission — we see our national mission field in sharper view, state by state.
Those who understand the Gospel know that far deeper questions remain to be asked.
Our Father, Lord of all creation, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ: We pray today with a sense of special urgency and responsibility. We come before you to pray for our new President, Barack Obama, and for all those in this new administration who now assume roles of such high responsibility.
We know that you and you alone are sovereign; that you rule over all, and that you alone are able to keep and defend us. We know that our times are in your hands, and that “the king’s heart is like channels of water in the hand of the Lord” [Proverbs 21:1]. Our confidence is in you and in you alone. We come before you as a people who acknowledge our constant need for your provision, wisdom, and protection.
Father, we pray today for Barack Obama as he takes office as President of the United States. We pray that you will show the glory of your name in our times and in these days, confounding the wisdom of the wise, thwarting the plans of the arrogant, and vindicating those who do justice and practice righteousness.
Father, we pray with thanksgiving for the gift of government and the grace of civic order. Thank you for giving us rulers and for knowing our need for laws and ordered life together. Thank you for this nation and the blessings we know as its citizens. Thank you for freedoms unprecedented in human history. We understand that these freedoms come with unprecedented opportunities.
Lord, we pray with thanksgiving for the joy and celebration reflected on millions of faces who never expected to look to the President of the United States and see a person who looks like themselves. Father, thank you for preserving this nation to the moment when an African-American citizen will take the oath of office and become our President. Thank you for the hope this has given to so many, the pride emerging in hearts that had known no such hope, and the pride that comes to a people who have experienced such pain at the hands of fellow citizens, simply because of the color of their skin. Father, we rejoice in every elderly face that reflects such long-sought satisfaction and in every young face that expresses such unrestrained joy. May this become an open door for a vision of race and human dignity that reflects your glory in our differences, and not our corruption of your gift.
Father, protect this president, we pray. We pray that you will surround this president and his family, along with all our leaders, with your protection and sustenance. May he be protected from evil acts and evil intentions, and may his family be protected from all evil and harm.
We pray that the Obama family will be drawn together as they move into the White House, and that they will know great joy in their family life. We are thankful for the example Barack and Michelle Obama have set as parents. Father, protect those precious girls in every way — including the protection of their hearts as they see their father often criticized and as he is away from them on business of state. May their years in the White House bring them all even closer together.
Father, we pray for the safety and security of this nation, even as our new president settles into his role as Commander in Chief. We know that you and you alone can be our defense. We do not place our trust in horses or chariots, and we pray that you will give this president wisdom as he fulfills this vital responsibility.
Father, grant him wisdom in every dimension of his vast responsibility. Grant him wisdom to deal with a global financial crisis and with the swirling complex of vexing problems and challenges at home and abroad. May he inspire this nation to a higher vision for our common life together, to a higher standard of justice, righteousness, unity, and the tasks of citizenship.
Father, we pray that you will change this president’s heart and mind on issues of urgent concern. We are so thankful for his gifts and talents, for his intellect and power of influence. Father, bend his heart to see the dignity and sanctity of every single human life, from the moment of conception until natural death. Father, lead him to see abortion, not as a matter of misconstrued rights, but as a murderous violation of the right to life. May he come to see every aborted life as a violation of human dignity and every abortion as an abhorrent blight upon this nation’s moral witness. May he pledge himself to protect every human life at every stage of development. He has declared himself as an energetic defender of abortion rights, and we fear that his election will lead directly to the deaths of countless unborn human beings. Protect us from this unspeakable evil, we pray. Most urgently, we pray that you will bring the reign of abortion to an end, even as you are the defender of the defenseless.
Father, may this new president see that human dignity is undermined when human embryos are destroyed in the name of medical progress, and may he see marriage as an institution that is vital to the very survival of civilization. May he protect all that is right and good. Father, change his heart where it must be changed, and give him resolve where his heart is right before you.
Father, when we face hard days ahead — when we find ourselves required by conscience to oppose this president within the bounds of our roles as citizens — may we be granted your guidance to do so with a proper spirit, with a proper demeanor, and with persuasive arguments. May we learn anew how to confront without demonizing, and to oppose without abandoning hope.
Father, we are aware that our future is in your hands, and we are fully aware that you and you alone will judge the nations. Much responsibility is now invested in President Barack Obama, and much will be required. May we, as Christian citizens, also fulfill what you would require of us. Even as we pray for you to protect this president and change his heart, we also pray that your church will be protected and that you will conform our hearts to your perfect will.
Father, we pray these things in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, the ever-reigning once and future King, the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. He and he alone can save, and his kingdom is forever. Above all, may your great name be praised. Amen.
Christians are, first of all, citizens of a heavenly kingdom. The followers of Christ know no allegiance of ultimate rank to any government or earthly authority. Yet, the Bible clearly teaches that God has given us the gifts of law, government, and ruling authorities for our good. We are instructed to pray for “rulers and all who have authority” and to be faithful in praying “so that we can have quiet and peaceful lives full of worship and respect for God” [1 Timothy 2:2].
As Barack Obama prepares to take the oath of office and become the 44th President of the United States, Christians should be thinking about how to pray for the new President. I offer this prayer as a place to start, as we observe the inauguration of the 44th President of the United States together.