Friday, March 13, 2009

Tom Pennington: Exulting Grace?

Tom Pennington has served as the senior pastor of Countryside Bible Church in Southlake, Texas, since October 2003. His role involves teaching during Sunday services, overseeing the church staff, and serving as an elder. Before coming to Countryside, Tom served for 16 years at Grace Community Church in various roles. Most recently, he served as the Senior Associate Pastor and Personal Assistant to John MacArthur and as co-pastor of Sojourners, a Sunday-morning adult fellowship group. Before that, he was the managing director at Grace to You. Tom earned his B.A. and M.A. at Bob Jones University and served as a member of the faculty while taking additional Ph.D. classes in New Testament Interpretation. He and his wife, Sheila, have three children: Lauren, Katie, and Jessica.

Speaking at the Shepherds' Conference, Pastor Pennington made the following observations from the first three chapters of 1 Corinthians:

    1. In 1 Corinthians 1:10-17, we learn that the right motive is a desire to encourage our people to be loyal to Christ, rather than loyal to us.
Is it more important to you that people attach to you--to your group--to your movement--or to have the loyal to Jesus Christ?
    2. In the second paragraph, it runs from 1 Corinthians 1:18 through the end of the chapter, we learn that we must have a desire to elevate the glory of God in the gospel, rather than our own glory.
You want people to think of you as intelligent, as cultured, as elite, as educated, or are you content to be thought of as foolish, and weak and base? As despised as a nothing and a nobody so that God gets all the glory.
    3. In chapter 2:1-16, we learn that we must have a desire to promote the wisdom of God in the Word of God, rather than our own cleverness.
Paul says that's exactly how he came in the early part of chapter 2. Let me ask you, are you concerned that people think you are cool, that you are edgy and clever, or are you more concerned that their faith rest in the power of God? Jon Piper was right the first time when he said, "You can exalt your own cleverness and the glory of God at the same time." Do you want the people who hear you to be more impressed with your mind, or with the mind of Christ. Are you more concerned that people leave your church saying, "What a great preacher!" or "What a great God!"?
    4. In chapter 3:1-9, we find that we must have a desire to magnify the work of God, rather than our own accomplishments.
Do you constantly remind yourself and others that you are just a worker? God's the One Who is doing the growing. That your abilities are a gift from God? That your specific ministry, the place where you're serving, is a gift of God's grace to you? And that the results of your efforts are also a gracious gift of God's providence in your life? Or do you try instead to elevate your own accomplishments?

Pennington shared these thoughts in the midst of describing the materials which may be wood, hay and straw, as opposed to gold, silver and precious stones. A man may claim he is a christian preacher. He may even open his Bible and speak out of text written in it. Yes, he may even systematically walk his way through a book(s) of the Bible. But if Christ is not glorified by celebrating the gospel on every page Scripture, then it will burn up at the final judgement.


Anonymous said...

you're right - i never leave our church thinking, "what a great preacher!" :p

seriously, danny - i so appreciate your desire to point us to God, to glorify Him and His work, to be true to His Word and to boast only in what God has accomplished. i pray that God will continue to work in you and your life a spirit of humility, a heart to serve, and a passionate love for anything that brings Him glory.

Darby Livingston said...

I second Dee's comment. As someone with family in your church, I am thankful for your faithfulness, Brother.