“What our people need is the God-entranced vision of reality that Jonathan Edwards saw.” John Piper
I can still remember the first time that I heard John Piper teaching on [the biography of Jonathan Edwards (1988) ]. It was absolutely exhilarating. I could not believe what a large vision of God Jonathan Edwards had. And I was so delighted that somebody in my generation was trying to resurrect that same vision for us today. But the question is did that vision given to us by John Piper primarily in the 90’s stick? Do we find enough pastors, churches, and ministries dominated with the same sense of the glory and sovereignty of
God as Edwards did? Or are we finding that too many pastors are still stuck with a low view of God and His sacred Word? As a result of John Piper’s ministry along with others liked RC Sproul, the Young Restless and Reformed (YRR) generation was born and with it a revived interest in Calvinism and Puritan theology. But as far as I can tell there are still far too many in the (YRR) movement that have not moved beyond what can only be called conversational preaching. Preaching that is done with the aim to make you feel at home, comfortable, and much the way you feel when you are at Starbucks or the hallways of the church. In other words, too much preaching is still portrayed as if it’s just like any other type of conversation. That type of preaching does not reveal that it has grasped the transcendent majesty of Edward’s vision of God’s glory. Piper’s meditations on the theology of Jonathan Edwards is what led to his explosive little volume entitled, “The Supremacy of God in Preaching” (A must read for preachers). One of the most memorable times I had with the book was when I came to chapter four and read these sobering words:
“His (Edwards) preaching was totally serious from beginning to end. You will look in vain for one joke in the twelve hundred sermons that remain.” (John Piper, The Supremacy of God in Preaching, 2004 p.51)
It seems like today everywhere a sermon is incomplete without a good “joke.” It is not enough to talk about Jonathan Edwards, or to make Jonathan Edwards trendy. We need to preach in the spirit of Edwards. We need to preach to the God of Edwards. We need to preach the total supremacy of God. And we need to preach in such a way that our people know that this is the pastor’s aim. People can very quickly tell the difference between preaching that is aimed to honor people, and fashion a sermon so that people will relate to it versus preaching the glory of God by exulting in the text of Scripture through exegesis and exposition. These starting points are worlds apart. In other words, when we are resolved like Jonathan Edwards to preach the Word of God in such a way that we make the goodness, greatness and glory of God preeminent in our sermons it will show. People can tell when they are the focus and God is not. Piper was also right in point out to us that God being glorified and man being satisfied are not antithetical realities— they coalesce. Man-centered preaching will never satisfy the true soul-hunger of man. Only a truly God-entranced vision of all things will. To be sure even as Piper himself has pointed out, none of us will ever be another Edwards. But I believe that the spirit of Edwards is there for our taking. If we apply the same diligence and sobriety that Edwards was so renowned for; by God’s grace we will see glimpses of the Edwardsian vision reemerge in American pulpits in this generation of Reformed preachers.
Soli Deo Gloria
Emilio Ramos is the preaching pastor of Heritage Grace Community Church. Pastor Emilio is committed to the expository and exegetical teaching of the Word of God. Emilio is also the author of Convert, From Adam to Christ and the founder of redgracemedia.com- a media ministry devoted to the glory of God’s redemptive grace through Jesus Christ. He and his wife Trisha live in Dallas, TX.