If you try to stand on a two-legged stool, you will fall. The same could be said of those who sit under the Word. They may be unstable in their lives, if our preaching and teaching of the Word of God only has two supports. Let me elaborate. I want to mention three supports that are essential to all preaching and most, if not all, teaching. 1). Information. Solid and sound information from the Bible. This must not be dispensed in a "dry as dust" way. That would be an injustice to God's Word, to treat it that way. Let the passion of God's Truth be felt! 2). Illustration. Stories, experiences, observations, events, examples, and parables from real life are to our sermons, like windows are to a house. They let in light (understanding). However, don't build your homitetical house only of glass. 3). Application. This is the third leg which gives us solid footing, spiritually. This is one leg that is too often missing from the messages with which God has entrusted us. When I hear the Word, I am not content to only be "informed" (as important as that is). What am I to do and/or be? How am I to change and/or improve? What sin(s) need(s) to be confessed and forsaken? What is God expecting from me? Information without application may result in petrification! Selah! If I leave my people without this third leg, I may contribute to their downfall. If some leave the sevice with the comment: "That was interesting." that may be a clue that we have failed to add the last leg to our preaching stool. Ron
When Saul (Paul) was struck down with, and blinded by, a dazzling light on the road to Damascus and then confronted by the Living Jesus, he was convicted, broken, and repentant. His response was: "Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?" (From Acts 9:6)
I want to mention some places where there might be holes in our preaching. There are many notable exceptions to that happening. However, it never does any harm to check and make sure we haven't left holes without realizing that we have done so. When was the last time you heard a message on or preached a message on hell? How about the Deity of Jesus? Have you missed hearing about or preaching on prophecy? Have you done or heard any sermons on the Trinity lately? We could mention the Virgin birth and/or the Atonement, etc. Now I can almost hear someone thinking that his people wouldn't be responsive to that kind of message. There are at least two possible reasons why people might be bored. 1). Some may not be truly saved. 2). We ourselves haven't caught the excitement of these realities. (If we are excited, we are apt to see our charges becoming excited). A word of caution: If you have noticed holes and you determine to fill them, be careful to not just lecture like a college professor often does in cold abstract presentation of facts. If our hearers are going to "catch the fire" we must be the match that the Holy spirit uses to ignite the fires. Take the resurrection, for example. It is a fact! However, what does it mean to you and to them? It means that God makes us His home on earth! It means that Jesus is present, in the Person of the Holy Spirit, in us! God uses us to manifest his Son through us! It doesn't get any better (or anywhere near as good) as that!! Selah! God's Truths, coming through flaming hearts, have a power to be contagious to our listeners. Help make sure that they catch it! Ron
"For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God." (So Paul was able to say to his charges in Acts 20:27). Will we be able to say that at the end of our ministry?
In this article I am mostly thinking about preachers of the Word. However, a disciple should be aware of the need and encourage his or her pastor to minister to that need in the power of the Holy Spirit. What am I referring to as a need? I believe we have missed a vital responsibility and privilege, if we don't labor to ground our people in solid basic Biblical Doctrine. I remember, vividly, my first year in Bible College. If it hadn't been for the basic doctrinal teaching and expository preaching in my home church, I could easily have floundered in my faith (and I didn't go to a liberal school). Perhaps too many preachers assume that their people know and believe the basics. If any pastors reading this really believe that, let them ask some questions of their hearers, such as: What is The Virgin Birth? Why do we believe it? Why is it necessary to hold that doctrine? Be prepared! You may be surprised. This can happen with almost any of the fundamental doctrines. This failure to master these essentials may have a great deal to do with how easily some "Christians(?)" are swept into some cult or other false teaching. Expository preaching can not only reinforce sound teaching but will also likely create a desire to know more of the Bible. To borrow an old example, don't use a passage as a springboard to your message and then miss the pool. Selah! God has guaranteed to bless and honor His Word (Isaiah 55:11). He may or may not do the same for our words. Why not go with a sure thing?! Ron
"Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of Truth." (II Timothy 2:15)
There are many "Secrets of Spiritual Power" theories. Some may have some value. However, after everything is said and done, isn't the "secret" really quite simple? What has generated intensifying longing for depth and intimacy? What has so captured the hearts of those whom God has used? What has inspired a response of profound love for God? What has motivated true believers to crave moral and Spiritual purity? What has prompted disciples to live a Godly life? May I suggest that, for the most part, four basic things account for all of this? First, a conscious awareness of the exceeding sinfulness of one's sin and sins and then a profound gratitude for God's forgiveness and cleansing given to us because of Calvary's Sacrifice. Secondly, an intense exposure to prayer and the Word of God and application of its principles to our lives. Third, a growing and deepening love for and a holy fascination with our Lord Jesus Christ. (Illustration: The Apostle Paul). Fourth, a direct involvement with people whom God is using and indirect involvement (as in books or on tapes) with those kind of people. Selah! What would happen to anyone who made these four things their own personal and consistent priorities? Ron
"Submit yourselves, therefore, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God and He will draw nigh to you!" (James 4:7-8a).
Some would take issue with the implications of our title. It is indeed true that there are still ministries, schools, and churches, within Evangelicalism which are still vibrant and Spiritually healthy. Thank God for these! However, Spiritually discerning observers can see the disturbing trends and some have expressed their concerns publicly. Only God knows the future of the movement. However, some of us believe there is the possibility of a return to basics. How could this be done? Fervent prayer, first and foremost. Next to that, true disciples could, by personal example, lead the way back. They could practice the basics and encourage those in their sphere of influence to do the same. These would include standing for and defending the absolute inerrancy of God's Word, developing a rich devotional life, a restoration of mid-week prayer meetings. ( We need prayer meetings that are alive. A good source of help is Bible Prayer Fellowship www.praywithchrist.org ). These basics would also include a call for solid Bible teaching and preaching, holiness of life, evangelism, reading books by and about men and women that God has used, faithfulness in serving in and attending the local church, resisting graciously but firmly any attempts to rely on fleshly programs rather than on the Spirit of God, using music that honors and exalts the Lord, instead of exciting the body. (Don't allow the music to eclipse the message). Holy emotions are fine but what stirs the body more than it does the heart leaves us more carnal and less consecrated. These are some things that could stem the tide. Selah! Living out what I have shared might, or might not, turn the movement around but it would be life changing for many Christians today! Ron
"…your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the Power of God." (From I Corinthians 2:5).
Do I derive some kind of satisfaction from pointing out some of the tragic trends in Evangelicalism today? Let the answer be a resounding "NO!" What then is my motivation? I hope and pray that it might encourage some or many to move back to basics, if God be pleased to use these articles to that end. Someone might enquire: Who am I to point the finger? Fair question. The answer is simple. I am someone who cares. I and many others have prayed and believed for revival and Spiritual awakening for a number of years. Join me in praying for holiness, without rigidity, to envelop Jesus' Church. Pray for a revival of strong Bible preaching to replace cheap entertainment. Pray for worship to happen from the heart. No offense intended for Godly worship leaders but shouldn't a disciple just spontaneously worship? Whatever happened to separation? Can't we call for a consecrated lifestyle, not based on externally imposed rules but based on a desire for purity of life generated from within a disciple's grateful heart? Shouldn't jealousy for our blessed Savior's reputation motivate us to pursue growth in righteousness? I, for one, am persuaded that we need to do everything possible to function as salt and light in a very corrupt society but not as a replacement for evangelism. Should the pulpit focus on making us feel good about ourselves or should it be used by God to convict us of our deep need for Him to provide His Grace to deliver us from our moral and spiritual sins and failures? Because some have watered down God's Word, isn't that a clarion call to preach the whole counsel of God? Selah! It is a delicate balance, indeed, that we need to achieve. We are to be conformed to His image, by the Holy Spirit. This is accomplished by appropriation and application of God's Word by a true believer yielding to God's discipline. That's where it's at! Ron
"But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar (unique) people, that ye should show forth the praises of Him Who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light." (I Peter 2:9)
Note: This is from a friend of a friend of mine. It fits so well with the current emphasis that I am sharing it with you, today. (Editing mine).
A Timely Reminder:
It is true that there are many faiths and religions today that are available for people to choose from. And many people shop around as if they're in a spiritual Wal-Mart to find one that best suits their needs and desires. Unfortunately, there is one crucial element missing from all these alternative faiths: the truth. The apostle Paul warned Timothy that a time would come when people would prefer "lite" spiritual meals and would not tolerate substantive teaching (2 Tim. 4:3-4). He predicted that false teaching would increase and be embraced by many because it caters to the needs of their flesh. They have a craving to be entertained and desire teaching that leaves them with good feelings about themselves. Paul instructed Timothy to combat this by teaching doctrines according to God's Word. The purpose of his instruction was to correct, rebuke, and encourage others (v.2). As believers and followers of Christ, we are called to teach and obey the Word of God, not to scratch the itches of our culture. To avoid the snares of Satan and the false promises of the world, we need to stand on the Word of God so we don't fall into error.
"Preach the Word, be instant (diligent) in season, out of season; (when it's pleasant and not so pleasant) reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long-suffering (patience) and doctrine, for the time will come when they will not endure (tolerate) sound doctrine but, after their own lusts, (personal desires and preferences) shall they heap to themselves (appropriate to themselves their favorite) teacher(s), (they themselves ) having itching (wanting to hear only what they want to hear) ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. (assorted false teachings) But watch thou in all things, (be on guard) endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof (model integrity; authenticity) of your ministry."
2 Timothy 4:2-5