d. Engaging in periodic seasons of intense self-examination and protracted seasons of prayer
1) The Scriptures record such seasons.
Moses and his forty days with God
Daniel setting himself to seek God by prayer and fasting
The exhortation of the prophet Joel
The example of our Lord Jesus
The example of the Apostle Paul
The assumption of our Lord’s words in Mt. 6:16ff
2) Christian biography underscores the benefit of such seasons.
3) The necessity for such seasons
The frightening power of indwelling sin
The dulling influence of constant contact with holy things
The draining influence of the manifold tasks and burdens of the ministry
e. Regular exposure to the masters of the inner life
The implications of Eph. 4:11ff
1 Cor. 3:21-22
Flavel, Keeping the Heart;
Heywood, Heart Treasure;
Sibbes, Works of Sibbes;
Baxter, The Reformed Pastor;
Scudder, The Christian’s Daily Walk;
Winslow, The Glory of the Redeemer;
Winslow, The Precious Things of God
B. Intellectually: You must seek a maturing spiritual perception of the truth of God both in its objective essence and in its practical application to the world of men and things.
A word of caution and qualification
The caution is that we must not think that there is an ironclad separation of the spiritual and the intellectual.
The qualification is that it is possible for a man to experience no little measure of a humble walk with God with its necessary intellectual exercises and yet to fall short of his maximum potential for usefulness because of general intellectual sterility.
1. Explanation of this principle
a. The concern of this principle focuses upon the truth of God
James W. Alexander, Thoughts on Preaching (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1975), pp. 173-175.
b. By a maturing perception of the truth of God I am referring to that which is attaining its full development or ideal.
c. By a spiritual perception of the truth of God I am referring to that perception which is imparted by the illuminating ministry of the Holy Spirit.
d. Both in its objective essence and in its application to the world of men and things
We must not only grasp the truth in its objective reality but always seek to perceive how it relates to the real world in which we and our people live.
2. The importance of this principle
a. Without this maturing perception of the truth of God our ministries will degenerate into dullness, needless repetition and sterility.
b. This is particularly true in a lengthy pastorate.
J. C. Ryle, Christian Leaders of the Eighteenth Century (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1978), p. 102;
Charles Bridges, The Christian Ministry (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1967), pp. 48-49.
3. The directives for implementing this principle
a. You must make time for general reading beyond specific sermon preparation.
James W. Alexander, Thoughts on Preaching, Letters IV, V, VI, and X.