The Holy Spirit on a Person

And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.

John 20:22

As a pastor, I rarely feel the anointing of the Holy Spirit when preaching to my own congregation. I trust that the Spirit is working irrespective of my mood, the listening audience’s engagement, or the excitement level of the listeners. The prophet Isaiah said that God’s Word never returns void (Isa. 55:11), thus I trust that the Holy Spirit is affecting hearts as I preach. The Holy Spirit is upon the audience encouraging them to trust God entirely, love Christ throughly, and hunger for holiness completely.

I always believe that the Holy Spirit is upon a person when I preach to that person. I do not mean that the Spirit is within the hearts of unbelievers, but that He is outside. What is He doing? He is waiting, waiting to bring Christ into their hearts. He is like the light. Open the window-shutters even a little, and it will flood in and illuminate the interior. Let there be a cry from the heart to God, and at that moment the Spirit will enter and begin His transforming work of conviction and repentance and faith.

Watchman Nee, What Shall This Man Do? 

Pastors Boldly Dare

For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles.

1 Cor. 1:22-23

Preaching has fallen on hard times. Multi-media presentations, internet viral videos, smart phone apps, and movies streaming to our computers; all these media platforms engage and distract our attention. We have constant electronic stimuli ready and available for our time and entertainment. By comparison, many find preaching boring and tedious. Yet, preaching is the instrument that God has ordained to win souls, to impart grace to the faithful, and to release the Holy Spirit as encouragement to hurting hearts.

Let the pastors boldly dare all things by the word of God . . . Let them constrain all the power, glory, and excellence of the world to give place to and to obey the divine majesty of this word. Let them enjoin everyone by it, from the highest to the lowest. Let them edify the body of Christ. Let them devastate Satan’s reign. Let them pasture the sheep, kill the wolves, instruct and exhort the rebellious. Let them bind and loose thunder and lightning, if necessary, but let them do all according to the word of God.

John Calvin, Sermons on the Epistle to the Ephesians, p. xii.

HT: Credo Magazine

Donkey Ears

Addicted to Praise

Pride goes before destruction, and haughtiness before a fall.

Prov. 16:18

In 1998, John Piper visited Beeson Divinity School for a three day lecture series on preaching. During one of the sermons, he admitted that he was addicted to praise. The type of praise Piper was describing are the compliments and attention one receives after preaching a good, or maybe great, sermon.

Piper told the story of recently speaking at Wheaton College, his alma mater, and no one, absolutely no one, came up to him afterwards and thanked him for his message. Piper said that he walked around campus for some time talking to himself wondering what went wrong and asking himself why he had to have constant affirmation to feel good about his ministry.

Piper’s admission is a powerful one, all preachers struggle with desiring the encouragement of others. Yet, we know that the gospel word we share may very well bother, offend, and convict the very people we look to for praise.

The temptation lurks that when we receive the admiration and praise for which we long, we think we have arrived, and therefore accomplished great things for God. Martin Luther calls this kind of pride: donkey ears. Why? Donkey ears dominate the animal’s appearance just like a preacher’s pride in their own accomplishments.

If, however, you feel and are inclined to think you have made it, flattering yourself with your own little books, teaching, or writing, because you have done it beautifully and preached excellently; if you are highly pleased when someone praises you in the presence of others; if you perhaps look for praise, and would sulk or quit what you are doing if you did not get it—if you are of that stripe, dear friend, then take yourself by the ears, and if you do this in the right way you will find a beautiful pair of big, long, shaggy donkey ears.

Then do not spare any expense! Decorate them with golden bells, so that people will be able to hear you wherever you go, point their fingers at you, and say, “See, see! There goes that clever beast, who can write such exquisite books and preach so remarkably well.” That very moment you will be blessed and blessed beyond measure in the kingdom of heaven. Yes, in that heaven where hellfire is ready for the devil and his angels.

Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, 34:287-288, cited in Timothy George, Reading Scripture with the Reformers (Downers Grove, IL, InterVarsity Press, 2011), 164.

HT: Between Two Worlds 

Preach Christ

A Loaf of Bread Without Flour 

To you is the word of this salvation sent.

Acts 13:26 KJV

I have been a Bible-believing Christian since 1976 and I have heard many, many sermons. Some of those sermons were memorable, some were challenging, some were convicting, and some were forgettable. The common denominator between the life-changing sermons and the God exalting ones were Jesus Christ. The preachers proclaimed Jesus Christ: his person, his work, his grace, his cross, and his love. A sermon without Christ is moralism: a sermon proclaiming Christ is the gospel.

The motto of all true servants of God must be, ‘We preach Christ; and Him crucified.’ A sermon without Christ in it is like a loaf of bread without any flour in it. No Christ in your sermon, sir? Then go home, and never preach again until you have something worth preaching.

Charles H. Spurgeon,“To You,” No. 2899, A Sermon Published on Thursday, September 1st, 1904, Preached at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington, on Lord’s-Day Evening, July 9th, 1876.

Charles H.Spurgeon, Spurgeon’s Sermons: Volume 50electronic ed. (Albany, OR : Ages Software, 1998).

HT: Mike Neglia 

Sadly, He Never Changed

Hearing, But Never Doing

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.

James 1:22-23 ESV

What a frightening thing to read. He listened and listened to three years of the most anointed and insightful sermons that have ever been preached and his heart was never moved. Not one truth did he take to heart, not one insight did he apply, and not one sentence did he act upon. Years of hearing truth without ever allowing the message to change his motives, his character, or his behavior. Who am I talking about? Of course, I talking about Judas, he heard all of Jesus sermons and the truth never impacted his life. Sadly, Judas never changed.

This realization should lower us to our knees, and cause us to cry out for God’s mercy. How much truth have I heard and never applied? How many Biblical insights have I gained, but never lived? How much of Jesus have I experienced, but never walked out? (James 1: 22-25). Oh, God! Change our hearts, change our lives, make us like you.

All external means cannot work faith. Christ preached, and preached as powerfully as ever man did, he ‘spake as never no man spake,’ — John 6:63, ‘The words I speak to you are spirit and life,’ — yet the Jews remained unbelievers; and Judas, that heard all his sermons, and missed not one, yet remained an unbeliever.

Thomas Goodwin, Works of Thomas Goodwin: The Object and Acts of Justifying Faith (2006 Biblesoft and Ages Software).

Preaching Without Preaching Christ?

Christ and Him Crucified

For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.

1 Cor 2:2  ESV

God has united you with Christ Jesus. For our benefit God made him to be wisdom itself. Christ made us right with God; he made us pure and holy, and he freed us from sin.

1 Cor 1:30 NLT

Several years ago, I was on a sabbatical and visited several different churches over a six week period in order to get a sense of the local preaching. I was dismayed and baffled by what I heard. Conservative, Evangelical churches that taught eight steps to happiness, six ways to be free from anxiety, America is a Christian nation, etc. Not a single sermon I heard mentioned the Cross, grace, or the Holy Spirit. How can you have a New Testament sermon without Christ, the Cross, and the Holy Spirit? The sermons I heard were try harder, do better sermons, not gospel infused messages that are Christ exalting, Christ glorifying, and Holy Spirit transforming.

First Corinthians 1:30 states that Christ is our wisdom, righteousness, holiness, and redemption. Wisdom is the practical application of Jesus in the midst of life’s difficult choices,  complicated situations, and perplexing people. Wisdom is making the right choices leading to right actions that lead people to do the right thing. Good preaching must communicate Jesus because only in him can we apply biblical truths to everyday life experiences. Jesus is wisdom-the gospel applied to life (Col. 2:2-3).

Jesus is our righteousness for a guilty past, Jesus is our sanctification for a triumphant present, and Jesus is our redemption for a certain future in God’s kingdom (1 Cor. 1:30).

Baptist pastor, Charles H. Spurgeon, bemoans preaching that does not center on Christ and his finished work on the Cross. Spurgeon states that preaching without Christ is “like bread with no flour, brook without water; a cloud without rain; a well which mocks the traveler; a tree twice dead, plucked up by the root; a sky without a sun; a night without a star.”

Leave Christ out of the preaching and you shall do nothing. Only advertize it all over London, Mr. Baker, that you are making bread without flour; put it in every paper, “Bread without flour” and you may soon shut up your shop, for your customers will hurry off to other tradesmen. . . . A sermon without Christ as its beginning, middle, and end is a mistake in conception and a crime in execution. However grand the language it will be merely much-ado-about-nothing if Christ be not there. And I mean by Christ not merely his example and the ethical precepts of his teaching, but his atoning blood, his wondrous satisfaction made for human sin, and the grand doctrine of “believe and live.” [sermon: “Christ the Glory of His People” (3/22/1868)]

I know one who said I was always on the old string, and he would come and hear me no more; but if I preached a sermon without Christ in it, he would come. Ah, he will never come while this tongue moves, for a sermon without Christ in it—a Christless sermon! A brook without water; a cloud without rain; a well which mocks the traveler; a tree twice dead, plucked up by the root; a sky without a sun; a night without a star. It were a realm of death—a place of mourning for angels and laughter for devils. O Christian, we must have Christ! Do see to it that every day when you wake you give a fresh savor of Christ upon you by contemplating his person. Live all the day, trying as much as lieth in you, to season your hearts with him, and then at night, lie down with him upon your tongue. [sermon: “A Bundle of Myrrh” (3/6/1864)]

What was the subject? What was Peter preaching upon? He was preaching Christ and him crucified. No other subject ever does produce such effects as this. The Spirit of God bears no witness to Christless sermons. Leave Jesus out of your preaching, and the Holy Spirit will never come upon you. Why should he? Has he not come on purpose that he may testify of Christ? Did not Jesus say, “He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you”? Yes, the subject was Christ, and nothing but Christ, and such is the teaching which the Spirit of God will own. Be it ours never to wander from this central point: may we determine to know nothing among men but Christ and his cross. [sermon: “The Mediator, Judge, and Savior” (5/30/1880)]

HT: Miscellanies: A Cross-Centered Blog

This is God Speaking!

paul-preaching

God Lives in the Preacher’s Mouth

Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages (Rom. 16:25).

Preaching is not a conversation about some interesting ideas. It is not the moment in which postmoderns hear their own private message in the biblical words, one unique to each one who hears, and then go their own way. No! This is God speaking! He speaks through the stammering lips of the preacher where that preacher’s mind is on the text of Scripture and his heart is in the presence of God. God, as Luther puts it, lives in the preacher’s mouth.

This is the kind of preaching that issues a summons, which nourishes the soul, which draws the congregation into the very presence of God so that no matter what aspect of his character, his truth, his working in this world is in focus, we leave with awe, gratitude, encouragement, and sometimes a rebuke. We have been in the very presence of God! This is what great preaching always does.

David Wells, The Courage to be Protestant (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2008), 230.

HT: Unashamed Workman

Preaching Is Not Performance

embounds

Preaching is the Outflow of Life


For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe (1 Cor 1:21-22 ESV).

Preaching is not the performance of an hour. It is the outflow of a life. It takes twenty years to make a sermon, because it takes twenty years to make the man. The true sermon is a thing of life. The sermon grows because the man grows. The sermon is forceful because the man is forceful. The sermon is holy because the man is holy. The sermon is full of the divine unction because the man is full of the divine unction.

E. M. Bounds, Preaching and Prayer

HT: Adrian Warnock