Scripture: “Luke 10:25-37”
I personally believe that there is a profound and awesome responsibility that falls upon the shoulders of anyone who is privileged enough to be a preacher of the gospel. It is true, that all children of God are preachers in that we are called one and all to be proclaimers of the gospel and to take whatever opportunity presents itself toshare the good news – “1 Peter 3:15”. However, there are those who are called in addition to the standard calling to be public proclaimers – preachers in a corporate function.
The premise above being true it also means that along with an acceptance of the profound and awesome responsibility there is also an imperative that must coincide with it and that is that the preacher must, I say again must be persuaded in his/her heart of the truth they are proclaiming.
We are as preachers called to win the lost however – Before any preacher can hope to persuade any to turn to Christ, they must inherently be persuaded themselves of that which they are proclaiming.
The proclamation of God’s Word is undoubtedly at least a combination of two propositions – stewarding and heralding – these being conveyed in such a manner that people – saved and un-saved – encounter God through His Word. A contemplation of those two propositions demands from the faithful preacher very serious thought and levies a very heavy and solemn responsible with it.
Yet, I want to mention an issue commonly overlooked when considering the power of preaching the impact of preaching and the fruitfulness of preaching that of being fully persuaded.
If we are not fully persuadedthen we will not provide a moving exposition of God’s Word with the anointing of the Holy Spirit upon its proclamation and in addition, we will cause the hearers to underestimate the eternal impact and consequences the Word of God has upon them at that moment and in respect of their eternal destiny.
I think this one overlooked aspect of powerful preaching is best summarized by a 19th-century English Pastor Archibald Brown who said the following: –
“Oh, brethren and sisters, I would to God I could speak to you this morning as I would. I only wish I could make this text blaze away before your eyes as it has before my own. I would that its tremendous force might be realised by you, as it has been felt in my own heart before coming here. Oh, how it would shake some of you out of your selfishness, out of your worldliness, out of your pandering to the maxims of this world.”
Hard hitting words for sure to hear and to contemplate. However, the words capture more than adequately an essential element and moreover an intrinsic element involved in the preparation of both a powerful and pertinent sermon. Archibald in referring to brethren and sisters was referring to both saved and un-saved alike.
My conviction is that a preacher must always be providing all the following – otherwise why is he or she is bothering:
- Providing a Powerful Declaration
- The Preacher must be deeply affected by the Word being proclaimed as they step into the pulpit to preach – It is this deep affection that provides to the hearer asense of sincerity and that accompanied by the inherent power of God’s Wordmakes for a powerful declaration.
- Providing an Eternally Impacting Declaration
- The Preacher cannot persuade any sinner to turn to Christ, without he or she first being fully persuaded themselves of the authority of their message. If one cannot believe it then it should not be preached. If it is truth then it behoves us to stop preaching, fall to our knees and wait upon God until we come to a knowledge of the truth.
- Providing a Fruit Producing Declaration
- The Preacher before they can convince saint or sinner that they can with confidence entrust the full weight of their lives in the promises of God, must first be persuaded and be believing those promises themselves. If there is a persuasion,affection and an internal impacting then as preachers we will be fruit producing and will discover the joy of our fruit remaining.
The Reformers gave to us five Sola Titles and if we can discover these truths then we are changed forever, enabled to recognise and enjoy His grace in abundance and progress in our journey of faith in a full confidence.
Question – When we preach what are our goals?
- Benjamin Franklin said: – “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!”
All about us in the evangelical world there is a spirit of by all means attract the un-saved. Sure, this is all laced with good intentions. However, Samuel Johnson was attributed to saying in The Life of Samuel Johnson LL.D. Vol 2 – “Hell is paved with good intentions.” and what does by all means lead too?
Even as I write this my heart is pierced, and its heavy as I contemplate the times when I should have declared the truth in love and yet held back. I had forgotten that I’m not responsible for the person’s eternal destiny God will have decided that before the foundation of the World “Ephesians 1:4” but I was and am responsibly for wholeheartedly declaring the truth.
You see it’s quite easy for us in our good intentions to be a Christian or a ChurchGroup and to be thoroughly evangelical but without being at all evangelistic. Likewise, we face the danger of becoming inward looking and not outward reaching. Sure, we can be holding “firmly to the trustworthy message” as Paul says in “Titus 1:9” but fail in our responsible of “holding out the word of life” – “Philippians 2: 16”.
We then find that we are easily in a place where we a comfortable with: –
- A Gospel that Preaches Salvation without the Blood
- A Gospel that Preaches Christ Without the Cross.
- A Gospel that Preaches Salvation Without Sanctification.
- A Gospel that Preaches Decisions Without Discipleship.
- A Gospel that Preaches the Love of God Without Lordship.
- A Gospel that Preaches Prosperity Without Purpose.
- A Gospel that Preaches Blessing Without Birth-Right Responsibilities.
- A Gospel that Preaches Revival Without Reformation.
If we are not careful also, we can start to support a philosophy with significant dangers contained within it. The philosophy portraying itself in the two very dangerous words of Relevance and Understanding. Through it we are beguiled into pandering too much to the culture in which we find ourselves.
It’s amazing really that we forget what “John 17:16” tells us in the words of Jesus Himself “They are not of the world, even as I amnot of the world.” Again in “John 15:19” – “If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.”
As preachers have, we forgotten what Jesus told us? Sure, we must be a “Wise as serpents and gentle as doves” – “Matthew 10:16” but do we in the face of a culture that we do not belong, and that hates us recant when challenged by these things?
The Apostle Paul says, in the end times people are going to be clamouring for false teachers who will say what they want to hear, who will spread myths and will shape doctrine for their own purposes – “For the time will come when people will not put up with sounddoctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear”– “2 Timothy 4:3”Do we fall in any measure into those categories?
Jesus spoke of this to some degree when He referenced the – Wide and Narrow Ways in “Matthew 7:13-14”
However, are we right.? In trying to be relevant or even understood? Sure, the hearers need to understand what we are sharing. However, there is an element of foolishness (not foolishness intellectually – but foolishness in respect of the inner capability to understand.
“For God in his wisdom made it impossible for people to know him by means of their own wisdom.Instead, by means of the so-called “foolish” message we preach, God decided to save those who believe” – “1 Corinthians 1:12” – Good News Translation – and thank God for giving saving faith in order that we could be saved.
Who have we to blame for this.? It’s time to look in the mirror and to have an honest reflection of ourselves.
In trying to reach a post-modern generation and a generation that is all about likes and selfies who are totally enveloped in Self-satisfaction, Self-appeasement and are Self Absorbed to the point of narcissism – Have we fallen into the adversary’s trap of diluting the message and simplifying it in order to please all at the expense of – sound biblical and systematic teaching? My opinion is yes!
I was in a book shop recently in London and looking to purchase a birthday card. Two ladies in their late 50s were also looking and one said to another “there’s a card with the 10 Commandments on it” the other replied “what’s the 10 commandments?”
As an observation I believe there is a considerable dearth regarding Biblical understanding because over the last decade or so systematic theology and theological teaching and a weekly Bible Study has diminished. The result has been like a third world famine in many Churches and fragile impoverished children of God we the preachers and leaders bear the guilt of this.
As Leaders, Pastors or anyone in a position where they are responsible for holding the Word of God to serve to others and to feed the souls of people the exhortation is to – make sure that Word we study has first changed us. – study to manifest we are approved of God.
It needs to be a part of us. In doing so we are enabled to preach with earnestness and convey earnestness. It will be an earnestness that has its only source in an ongoing encounter with God and can only be birthed when we have met with and experienced His heart and mind afresh.
When Nicodemus met with Jesus he was plainly told “you must be born again” this astonished him. He was used to fulfilling rituals and the law it was his method of earning his favour with God. It was of course futile. The very essence of being born is that we have nothing whatsoever to do with it. It is by Grace Alone (Sola Gratia).
In like manner our earnestness, our persuasion and our anointing are derived only from Heaven it is all imparted to us in the secret place in the holy place that place that Pastor Archibald Brown spoke off.
I fully understand that it’s easy for me to state these things. Leadership/Pastoral/Mission and Work lives are very busy. It’s so easy to make do. It’s time saving to do just enough or make do. However, if either of those cases aretrue then in reality, we are just too busy.
The Bible tells us that we are responsible for: – “2 Timothy 2:15” – “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” – The original language makes it clearer in say – teach the truth directly and correctly it’s the Greek word orthotomeō appearing only once in the New Testament. In the case of John, the Baptist a similar word was used euthunó it being a quotation spoken by John of Isaiah in “John1:23” – “Make straight the way of the Lord”
We have therefore two very different people speaking under the inspiration of the Spirit of God who are both challenging and commanding us to make sure that no obstacle be allowed to get in the way of what is truth.
The Word of God is the bedrock foundation upon which all our ministries to the Saviour are founded. We can get big Churches, wonderful Choirs and Worship Groups. We may have numerous Cell Groups but if the bedrock is faulty the building will remain in place for a time but then collapse. These edifices that reveal a glory once seen but now departed – “Ichabod – The glory has departed” – “1 Samuel 4:21”don’t always close they invariable remain with a handful of people.
- Question- (Is that why so many Churches are empty or struggling perhaps with only a handful of folks)
- Question- (Should these folks move into another fellowship, enhancing numbers and especially bringing the gold of spiritual experience with them.)
- Question- (Why exist as a shadow of a former self?)
In being fully persuaded the question that also strikes at the core of our ministries is the proclamation of the “whole council of God” – “Acts 20:27”
It is becoming an increasingly common place practice today to find that parts of the gospel are not being proclaimed. In many places the whole truth, nothing but the truth so help me God is not what the people we are privileged under God to minister to hear. Increasing we are moving towards a bloodless Gospel a rapture-less Gospel a hell-less Gospel. This may not be true of all but much of what we read, watch and listen to proclaimed is “Brethren these things ought not to be” – “James 3:10”. The phenomenon is not new it has ebbed and flowed throughout the ages rising and falling to accommodate the cultural requirements of a lost and fallen world.
The same was happening in the early church. In Acts 20, Paul says to the Ephesian Church Elders, “I declare to you today that I am innocent of the blood of any of you. For Ihave not hesitated to proclaim to you the WHOLE WILL OF GOD” –“Acts 20:26, 27”
Many of us recognise the truth that is before us but in case we need reminding the World to which we are called to preach is in a desperate need.
The Lost: – On the one hand it lies under the wrath of God “because the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against allungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness” – “Romans 1:18” and we share an obligation as the slaves of Christ to fulfil His command to us to preach the Gospel without – fear or favour, without further ado and without the cares of this World hindering us. He is kurious (κυριακός, ή,όν ) Master and we are doulos (δοῦλος, ου, ὁ) Slave.
The Church: – On the other hand the we are called to nourish, encourage, strengthen and enthuse the part of the Bride of Christ that we minister to. What are we told in “1 Peter5:2” – “Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind….” – What are we feeding them with?
John Piper has said: –
- Superficial diagnoses lead to false remedies.
- Understanding sin and wrath will make you wiser.
- Knowing the nature of sin will help you cherish the gospel.
Our Congregations, albeit as a Pastor with a fixed congregation or an Evangelist with a transient congregation, or a Teacher with a temporary congregation – all are in a significant need of hearing the voice of God and that voice in loving but un-whispered tones.
I’m so personally saddened when those who are children of God convey to me that they hunger after both strong and in-depth teaching. They enjoy the buffet table which teaches them how to live day by day but long for the feast that will enable them to have the inner resource to run the race more effectively. It’s a hard thing to say but those under our care should never find themselves in that sort of situation.
Can we point the finger and state to people – you are responsible for ensuring that you study God’s Word? Yes! On the one hand. But Shepherds feed the sheep on the other and if we have been given a flock then woe to us if it is malnourished, fail, fall and falter in its journey.
Jesus said, “If anyone causes one of these little ones those who believe in me to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea” – “Matthew 18:6”
If the church is to be a force in the world and if Christians are to be a transformative voice to the next generation, we need to be tuned in to what God wants to tell us. Let’s remove the blame for the worldly condition of our churches from others and take the guilt upon ourselves. Then let us seek the remedy, the only sure remedy being a full and complete conversion of our own hearts.
The prophet Ezekiel joins Jeremiah in calling upon the Pastors (it also relates to all who may have opportunity to preach) to have a care for the flock. He records the following words which were given him from the Lord God: –
“Son of man,prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy, and say unto them, thus saith the Lord God unto the shepherds: Woe be to the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves! should not the shepherds feed the flocks? Ye eat the fat,and ye clothe you with the wool, ye kill them that are fed: but ye feed not the flock. The diseased have ye not strengthened, neither have ye healed that which was sick, neither have ye bound up that which was broken, neither have ye brought again that which was driven away, neither have ye sought that which was lost; but with force and with cruelty have ye ruled them. And they were scattered, because there is no shepherd: and they became meat to all the beasts of the field, when they were scattered. My sheep wandered through allthe mountains, and upon every high hill: yea, my flock was scattered upon all the face of the earth, and none did search or seek after them” – “Ezekiel 34:2-6”
Jehovah holds shepherds accountable for the spiritual condition of every single individual sheep in the flock under their care. When it comes to Jehovah’s dear sheep there is no acceptable level of neglector abuse.
Let’s think a moment about those concepts of Relevance and Understanding that I mentioned earlier. These are words that are bandied about everywhere like a mantra that works like a Harry Potter Wand – Lets ask the question Is Relevance and Understanding the Point? Is that all we are about when we preach – If so, in the greater of incidences we are on a hiding to nothing.
Too often in the evangelical world there is an assumption that we need to go to people and find what they want and then give that to them. By doing so we will increase our congregations.
The approach, sometimes called seeker-sensitive is a complete misnomer. It is derived from a confused mindset that wants to believe that by placating the culture we live in and promoting the status quo is the way to further the Kingdom of God. We forget that the Scripture tells us very plainly – “As it is written: ‘There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God’” – “Romans 3:10-12”
Anyone the wrong side of Gods act of Regeneration is unable even to make righteous moral choices – Why? Because any choice that is made is arrived at from the closed loop of unrighteousness and is only arrived at from a sinful foundation. Sure, the unregenerate are free but only within the confines of unrighteousness that’s why Jesus promises liberty – The unregenerate a like hamsters in a ring destined to go around and around within its confines until another steps in and provides a new freedom and liberty. “Romans 8:21”and “John 8:36” – “Who the Son sets free is free indeed” – are free to make righteous choices within a new sphere of freedom.
In this sphere in trying to be relevant and understood we end up with teachings that don’t change but simply makes people more comfortable in their current broad road to destruction lives. We provide the hell in a handcart provision that’s found in Elbridge Paige’s book of Short Patent Sermons, 1841.
The Gospel is designed to be Confrontational and it must Confront if it is to bring about change. The Gospel is not Safe it was never designed to be. Let’s not forget it is “the very power of God that is utilised in Gods Redemptive Work if salvation” In confronting it must do more than ask what do you want. It must go to the real needs even if folks don’t understand them. There will be many more that reject than accept and decide they don’t want to live in line with God’s coming Kingdom, and our declaration if given faithfully will be misunderstood.
There are 2 Types of Grace that are indicated in the Scriptures and one of these is termed Common Grace. The other is the Special Grace.
When we think of Common Grace, we are referring to the normal revelation of Gods Mercy and Provision such as
“The rain falls onthe just and the unjust” – “Matthew 5:45” and Gods providential care for His Creation. We often speak of it as a revelation that God is Love – He is of course.
Common grace is so called because it is common to all humankind. Its benefits are experienced by the whole human race without discrimination between one person and another
However, if we are not careful, we can drown those we preach to in common grace. Leaving those we preach to thinking only on common grace might be our assistance to them to drown their souls.
What should the Common Grace of God do? It should send people running to God who provides. However, due to the sinful hearts referred to earlier, people turn Gods Common Grace into idolatry and self-seeking instead. If our preaching is predominantly composed of Common Grace let’s remember it cannot save sinners. Common Grace will only provide the lost with the provision of information to condemn them “Romans 1:18-32”.
Only God’s Special Grace provided through the revelation of the Gospel, the Good News of Christ will save from God’s wrath, release from the captivity of our sinful hearts and wills and release us from the kingship of the evil one – “Matthew 28:18-20”
We see this displayed in the various forms in which it is displayed: –
Prevenient Grace – “God’s gracethat precedes human action” – “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us andsent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins…We love because he first loved us” – “1 John 4:10, 19” – “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly…But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” – “Romans 5:6, 8”- “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved…For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast”– “Ephesians2:4, 8-9”. Outside of God’s action in Prevenient Grace, none of us could ever experience salvation as salvation is in its entirety a complete work of God.
Efficacious Grace – “God’s grace that effects the purpose for which it is given” – “John 10:27-29” – “Philippians 1:4b-6” – “1 John 4:13-14”
Irresistible Grace / Effectual Grace – “God’s grace that cannot be rejected” – “God’s grace is so powerful that it has the capacity to overcome our natural resistance to it.” – R.C. SPROUL – Jesus says, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him” – “John 6:44” – “But there are some of you that do not believe.’For Jesus knew from the first who those were that did not believe, and who it was that should betray him. And he said, ‘This is why I told you that no onec an come to me unless it is granted him by the Father” – “John 6:64-65”
Sufficient Grace/SustainingGrace – “God’s ability to keep the believer in the fold” “……He is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them” – “Hebrews 7:24b-25”
Today we preachers have a prophetic imperative. We must preach both Common and Special Grace for they provide both: –
- Changes of Structures
- Changes of Individuals
We must preach with the aim that the devastating and yet restorative immense power of the Gospel is to bring into being Change.
In doing so we must be willing to be misunderstood.
The Apostle Paul reminded Timothy of three specific things: –
- The Message of Scripture – “2 Timothy 3:15”
- The Inspiration if Scripture – “2 Timothy 3:16b”
- The Sufficiency of Scripture – “2 Timothy 3:16b-17” (Sola scriptura)
Do keep in mind that the Apostle did this with the curtain / backdrop of knowing the times in which he was living, and we see no relevance and understanding problems with the message he proclaimed. The same encouragement, requirement and urging is no different today.
There is an awesomeness of responsibility that attaches itself to this.
- Why? Because the Preacher re-presents the Word of God and thus, he/she is God Preaching.
- Why? Because the Preacher is an Ambassador who represents the God of the Word.
- Why? Because the Preacher is an interpreter of the Word. In this role they are stewards of the Creator’s words.
So, what do we offer? Do we supply lightweight teaching that has very little doctrinal content under the illusion that our congregations do not have the ability to comprehend.? Or, short encouragements with a spicing of Teaching under the illusion that our congregations are unable to concentrate or provide an attentiveness.?
In Jonathan Leemans book Reverberation the following illustration is brought to us and it relates to the differing reactions there can be to Preaching. When people heard Joseph Parker, it was declared “Joseph Parker is the greatest Preacher there ever was” in contrast to this when people heard Charles Spurgeon it was declared “Jesus Christ is the greatest Saviour there ever was”.
Jesus never pandered to the cultural aspirations of His day, Jesus never worried about understanding. Jesus knew that those His Father had given ears to hear would hear. Those that the Father had given to Him would come. Thus, our ambition should always be not to be the greatest preacher but to be the greatest exalter of Jesus.
I’m not despising excellence here as we should all strive for that after all Preaching is proclaiming truth through personality as declared by Phillips Brooks in the book – The joy of Preaching.
We rightly call upon people to read their Bible. This is of course right. However, many spend much more time reading INTO the Bible than reading OUT of it. There is a saying You are what you eat, that being true, What, are we feeding the Children of God under our care? The result of Reading Into is that most of what is read is merely a reflection of what they already think or what the majority around them are already saying.
Paul reminds us that – in the end times people are going to be clamouring for false teachers who will say what they want to hear, who will spread myths and will shape doctrine for their own purposes. God forbid that we should assist them intheir endeavours.
God gave us His Word to teach, rebuke, correct and train our thinking “2 Timothy 3:16”, it was not provided in order that we could simply interpret it away into something that’s just a mirror image of our convenient beliefs.
If only it were possible for us to say – Whosoever has heard me has heard the Father in the same way as Jesus said “Whosoever has seen me has seen the Father” – “John 14:10”
When we preach our purpose must be to serve Gods purpose in the giving of His Special Revelation and our aim is to gain perfectness in the communication of the Word of God. The main point of our sermons should be the Gospel that Special Revelation, not the accoutrements Common Grace.
As we progress in our journey as preachers, let’s together labour to magnify the truth of God when we preach. Why? “Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee for in doing so, God may save the souls of our hearers” – “1 Timothy 4:16”