Archive for the 'My Sermons' Category

Preaching Without Preaching Christ?

Thursday, August 12th, 2010

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

Jumpin’ Jehoshaphat: Worship As Warfare

Saturday, July 10th, 2010

Praise to Our Lord and Creator

After consulting the people, the king [Jehoshaphat] appointed singers to walk ahead of the army, singing to the Lord and praising him for his holy splendor. This is what they sang: “Give thanks to the Lord; his faithful love endures forever!”

2 Chron 20:21 NLT

King Jehoshaphat faced a great dilemma: three people groups from the other side of the Dead Sea have decided to target Jerusalem for capture. Jehoshaphat could call upon his troops, but he knows that they would be greatly outnumbered. Beyond all human logic Jehoshaphat rejects foreign alliances and the mobilization of the army. Instead, he calls on the tribe of Judah to pray, fast, and believe God.

Before all the people, Jehoshaphat prays and recalls God’s sovereign purposes, his covenant promises, and their current situation. As if on cue, a prophet declares God’s Word: “The battles is not yours, but God’s.” The command: “Do not fight, but worship. I will win your battle for you.” In short, worship me and I will win your warfare. The Lord calls Judah to trust by a faith that stands firm, stable, and firmly established in God. Judah believes God that he will bring the promised victory.

Indeed, God causes the three foreign armies to ambush themselves. Israel’s spoils are so numerous, it takes three days to gather all the stuff. God did not call Judah to win the battle, he called Judah to be available. God does not call us to be adequate, he has called us to be available instruments of his glory. God never calls us to something we can do, God only calls us to ministry that he can do in and through us.

Like Israel of old when we worship, we enter afresh into the victory of the Cross. Worship makes us available to God’s purposes. Worship acknowledges God’s greatness and exposes our neediness. Worship wins the warfare.

Worship takes place when we acknowledge that we are not the Creator, we bow our wills, and adore the eternal Lord. In worship, we recognize the infinite beauty of God, his unsurpassing love, and his omnipotent power as the God of the universe. In true worship, we submit our lives to his will, embrace his all-encompassing love, and trust his great goodness.

Worship is the submission of all our nature to God. It is the quickening of conscience by His holiness, the nourishment of the mind with His truth, the purifying of the imagination of His beauty, the opening of the heart to His love, the surrender of the will to His purpose.

William Temple

Worship is the love offering of our keen sense of the worth-ship of God. True worship springs from the same source as the missionary himself. To worship God truly is to become a missionary, because our worship is a testimony to Him. It is presenting back to God the best He has given to us, publicly not privately. Every act of worship is a public testimony, and is at once the most personally sacred and the most public act that God demands of His faithful ones.

Oswald Chambers, So Send I You: The Secret of the Burning Heart, electronic ed. (Hants UK: Marshall, Morgan & Scott, 1930), 149.

Worship is giving the best we have unreservedly to God. 

Oswald Chambers, If Thou Wilt Be Perfect: Talks on Spiritual Philosophy (London: Marshall, Morgan & Scott, 1941), 79.

A basic outline of my sermon,“Jumpin’ Jehoshaphat,” is available in Google documents.

Heavenly Worship (Part Two)

Saturday, April 24th, 2010

Every Creature in Heaven and Earth is Worshipping Now

And every creature which is in the heaven and upon the earth and under the earth, and those that are upon the sea, and all things in them, heard I saying, To him that sits upon the throne, and to the Lamb, blessing, and honour, and glory, and might, to the ages of ages.

Rev. 5:13

Often when we think of the Book of Revelation, we think future: second coming, final judgment, and the new heavens and new earth. However, the events in the Book of Revelation have happened, are happening, and will happen (Rev. 1: 8). These unusual and spectacular events happened in the first century to the original recipients of this book, prophecy, letter of John. Revelation speaks today to churches oppressed and persecuted by mighty governments who claim absolute, almost religious, authority over every citizen in their realm. Of course, the Book of Revelation contains insights into eternity which speak of Christ’s visible return in glory and the experience of eternal life in God’s presence.

Revelation chapters four and five reveal to us the the great throne of God. The throne is a symbol of the sovereign majesty of the King. The world may be in turmoil, but God reigns: he is defeating his foes, expanding his kingdom, and overcoming Satan’s wiles. Around the throne, all manner of heavenly creatures, elders, angels, and humans worship and declare their praises of the Holy One and the Lamb.

The door to heavenly worship (Rev. 4:1) is open as we “join our voices with Angels and Archangels and with all the company of heaven” (1979 Book of Common Prayer, 362) to praise and worship the Holy One and the Lamb for their holiness (5:8), for creation (4:11), for New Covenant blessing (5:9-10), for Calvary’s victory (5:12), and for their Unity (5:13). Around the Table of the Lord, the church is given a grand invitation to be lifted up into the heavenly places (Eph. 1:3) and experience now the joy of eternal worship.

In the earthly liturgy we take part in a foretaste of that heavenly liturgy which is celebrated in the holy city of Jerusalem toward which we journey as pilgrims, where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God, a minister of the holies and of the true tabernacle; we sing a hymn to the Lord’s glory with all the warriors of the heavenly army; venerating the memory of the saints, we hope for some part and fellowship with them; we eagerly await the Saviour, Our Lord Jesus Christ, until He, our life, shall appear and we too will appear with Him in glory.

Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy 8, The Council of Vatican II.

Heavenly Worship (Part One)

Monday, April 19th, 2010

Lifted Up With the Ascended Christ

At once I was in the Spirit, and behold, a throne stood in heaven, with one seated on the throne.

Rev. 4:2

Heavenly worship occurs during the celebration of the ancient liturgy as the people of God are lifted up to heaven with the ascended Christ as they partake of Holy Eucharist. The Holy Eucharist unites heaven and earth by elevating the church into an experience of worship with the people of God, past and present, around the throne of God in the presence of God.

Heavenly worship recognizes that the line between the physical reality of earth and its three dimensions and the spiritual reality of heaven and its angelic worship will become blurred as we enter the presence of the Lamb of God , slain yet standing, on the altar of God.

The worship that we experience on earth should be an experience of the worship that is presently occurring in heaven. Not only should heavenly worship be our experience, but our models of worship should reflect those elements of worship used in heaven.

Biblical instruction directs the people of God to worship following the model and practices of heaven. Earthly worship is to mirror heavenly worship in “spirit and in truth” (Ex. 24:9-11; Isa. 6:1-5; Ezek. 1:4-28; Dan. 7:9-14; Heb. 12:22-24; Rev. 4:1-5:14).

In order that pious souls may duly apprehend Christ in the supper, they may be raised up to heaven . . . and for the same reason it was established of old that before the consecration the people should be told in a loud voice to lift up their hearts.

John Calvin, The Institutes of the Christian Religion, 4.17.36.

We knew not whether we were in heaven or on earth.” Worship, for the Orthodox Church, is nothing less than “heaven on earth.” The Holy Liturgy is something that embraces two worlds at once, for both in heaven and on earth the liturgy is one and the same—one altar, one sacrifice, one presence. In every place of worship, however humble its outward appearance, as the faithful gather to perform the Eucharist, they are taken up into the “heavenly places”; in every place of worship when the holy sacrifice is offered, not merely the local congregation is present, but the church universal—the saints, the angels, the Mother of God, and Christ himself.

Timothy (Kallistos) Ware, “The Earthly Heaven,” Eastern Orthodox Theology: A Contemporary Reader, ed., Daniel Clendenin (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1995), 12.

Koinonia and the Lord’s Supper

Thursday, April 15th, 2010

Koinonia: Sharers in the Life of God

When we bless the cup at the Lord’s Table, aren’t we sharing in the blood of Christ? And when we break the bread, aren’t we sharing in the body of Christ?

1 Cor. 10:19 NLT

I was raised in a tradition that taught that the Lord’s Supper (i.e., Holy Eucharist or Holy Communion) was merely symbolic.  By the partaking of the grape juice and the consumption of a cracker, a simple memorial meal was offered to give thanks for the death of Christ. I always appreciated these quarterly services, but I thought there must be something more to this solemn ritual. The spiritual experience of the celebration of our Lord’s Body and Blood had to be more significant than just a service of memory by mental recall.

As a young Christian, I studied Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians faithfully and diligently. In my studies, I found key biblical words which provided deeper meaning to the celebration of the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor. 10: 14-22) than previously I had been taught. Consequently, I realized that large segments of the Body of Christ also made that same discovery and practiced those truths for centuries.

One of those words of significance was the Greek word, koinonia (1 Cor. 10: 16).  Koinonia is translated as share (NLT, NASU, NRSV), participate (NIV, ESV), partake (The Message), fellowship, commune (NKJV), and union (Douay-Rheims). As the reader can see, Koinonia is a word of great depth and meaning. The Apostle Paul is saying that when we receive the elements of wine and bread; we are sharing, participating, partaking, fellowshipping, communing, and uniting with the risen Christ. In Holy Communion, we experience afresh all the benefits of the finished work of Christ and encounter through Christ’s presence sanctifying grace to live the Christian life.

When we drink the Blood of Christ and and eat of the Body of Christ . . .

1. We share in the power of the resurrected Christ. He is risen and therefore alive, and by his power, we are made victorious.

2. We participate in the very life of God. We become receivers of the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4).

3. We partake of his grace. Sanctifying grace to live the Christian life: strength and power to respond to every life situation according to the will of God.

4. We fellowship with God and all his saints as the congregation enters into heavenly worship (Rev. 4 & 5).

5. We commune with Christ enjoying afresh his love, grace, and covenant promises.

6. We are brought into union with the heart and will of God. Our hearts are “righted” as we receive Christ the Body and Blood of Christ. By partaking, we submit to his Lordship afresh conforming our hearts and wills to his designs and purposes.

In summary, the Apostle Paul describes our Eucharistic meal as a koinonia. Koinonia means sharing, partaking, fellowship, communing, and unifying participation in the life of God. When we drink the Blood and eat the Body of our Lord Jesus Christ: we commune with Christ, we share in his resurrection, we partake of his grace, we fellowship with God and his saints, and we are brought into union with his heart and will. In short, we become partakers—people who share in the very life of God.

Daily communion and participation in his holy Body and Blood of Christ is a good and helpful practice. Christ clearly says, “He who eats My Flesh and drinks My Blood has eternal life.” Who doubts that to partake of life continually is really to have life in abundance? For myself, I communicate four times a week . . .  on the Lord’s Day, on Wednesday, on Friday, and on Saturday, and on the other days if there is a commemoration of a martyr.

St. Basil the Great of Caesarea (375 A.D.) cited in What the Church Fathers Say About  . . . ed., George W. Grube (Minneapolis, MN: Light and Life, 1996), 8.

Receiving Christ in Temptation

Monday, February 22nd, 2010

First Sunday of Lent Year C

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.

Heb. 4:15

Great Receivers: Without hesitation, reservation, equivocation, or qualification, great receivers open their hearts to God’s grace in season or out. They look to God during good times or bad. In the midst of spiritual highs or emotional lows with hearts wide open, great receivers look to Christ to be their deliverance. They keep their eyes on Jesus, enjoy his moment-by-moment presence, and draw strength from his grace. Great receivers recognize that they cannot be victorious over temptation without trusting Christ for help in their time of need (Heb. 4:16).

Illustration: “Some people fall into temptation, but a great many make plans for disaster ahead of time. “Son,” ordered a father, “Don’t swim in that canal.”

“OK, Dad,” he answered. But he came home carrying a wet bathing suit that evening.

“Where have you been?” demanded the father.

“Swimming in the canal,” answered the boy. “Didn’t I tell you not to swim there?” asked the father.

“Yes, Sir,” answered the boy.

“Why did you?” he asked.

“Well, Dad,” he explained, “I had my bathing suit with me and I couldn’t resist the temptation.”

“Why did you take your bathing suit with you?” he questioned.

“So I’d be prepared to swim, in case I was tempted,” he replied.

Charles Swindoll, One Step Forward, p. 85.

My sermon notes for “Great Receivers Stare Down Temptation” (Matt. 4:1-11) are available as a Google document.

Repentance: The Joy-Filled Life

Saturday, February 20th, 2010

Ash Wednesday Sermon

For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.

2 Cor 7:10-11

Definition: Repentance is simple, but not easy: repentance is a change of mind that by God’s grace leads to change of heart which creates a change in our behavior.

Conclusion: Even when we fail, God keeps his face turned toward us. We are still his child, but our behavior he cannot honor. Therefore when we sin, the Lord withdraws his presence from us (not our salvation). Repentance allows us to enter back into his presence and enjoy all the blessings of New Covenant (Jer. 31:31-34).

Repentance is a lifestyle not a one-act play. Repentance is a life-long interaction with the Holy Spirit: convicting, forgiving, releasing, restoring, and renewing. We are joyful because Christ forgives freely, Christ’s righteousness applies always, and Christ’s presence is available constantly. We are therefore free from self-consciousness, sin-consciousness, Satan-consciousness, and performance consciousness. We are free to enjoy Jesus.

My sermon outline and notes for “Repentance: The Joy-Filled Life” are available in their entirely as a Google document.

Advent, Mary, and Prophetic Hope

Wednesday, December 16th, 2009

The Blessed Virgin Mary Receives Personal Prophetic Words

And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, ‘Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.’

Luke 2:34-35

On this blog, we have discussed the word of prophecy (1 Cor. 12: 10), its importance during the season of Advent, and how to respond when given a confirmed prophetic word. Today’s post focuses on the Blessed Virgin Mary as a model for receiving and acting on prophetic words. Luke 2:25-40 describes two prophetic ministers, Anna and Simeon, reaching out to Mary when the baby Jesus is being presented at the Temple for circumcision.

Simeon was united in Christ in righteousness, “righteous and devout” (v. 25a), yielded to Christ trusting his delay, “waiting for the consolation of Israel” (v. 25b), and remained in Christ enjoying his manifested presence, “Holy Spirit was upon him” (v. 25c). Simeon was intimate with God for Simeon knew his voice, “you would not die” until he sees Messiah (v. 26), and Simeon was led by the Spirit for he was directed by the Spirit “into the Temple courts” (v. 27).

Simeon’s prophetic word consisted of two parts: public in Temple (v. 29-32) and private to Mary (v. 34-35).The public pronouncement focuses on Jesus–God’s salvation found in the baby. This salvation is for the Gentiles and the Jews bringing about the healing of the nations.

Simeon’s personal word to Mary is strangely negative: the proud, self-absorbed, self-assured, and hard-hearted will be revealed (v34-35). Israel will resist Jesus’ ministry, and as result, their worldly, unbelieving hearts will be exposed.  In turn, Israel’s rejection of Mary’s son, the Son of God, will break her heart as well. [Stephen D. Swihart, ed., Logos International Bible Commentary (Plainfield, NJ: Logos International, 1981), 439.

Some may ask why Simeon’s word of prophecy is negative in tone, “Are not all prophecies to be ‘strengthening, encouraging, and comforting'” (1 Cor. 14:3)? “Are not all prophecies to be positive and uplifting”? A prophecy can contain a rebuke, correction, or warning and still be comforting and healing. When Jesus corrects or rebukes, he also gives the grace, the Holy Spirit’s enabling power, to obey his word of command. Jesus gives prophetic words to the seven churches of Asia: five of the seven are rebuked or corrected for their lack of holiness, obedience, or perseverance. Yet, all five are encouraged, graced, and offered a reward for choosing obedience (Rev. 2 & 3).

Simeon’s warning to Mary is the Holy Spirit’s way of helping Mary avoid the pain and shock of unexpected suffering and rejection. It is good that Mary knows now that her precious child’s future death will break her heart in the painful of ways–the Cross.

Anna, a female prophetess, lived her entire life in the Temple courts: she was dedicated to worship, fasting, and praying. Anna represents wholehearted devotion to God and his presence (Luke 2:37). Like Simeon, spending time in God’s presence means knowing God’s heart, and to know God’s heart is to hear his voice, and to hear God’s voice is know his ways. Immediately after Simeon’s word, Anna confirms that this child will bring about the redemption of Israel (Luke 2:38). To be the redeemer of Israel is to be the Messiah, the chosen one, who would free Israel from her bondage. Anna’s word further confirms to Mary and Joseph that the God of Israel has major plans for their son, bigger plans than they can imagine.

Luke does not record the Blessed Virgin Mary’s response to these two words, but we know that in another situation, she chose the “ponder these things in her heart” (Luke 2:19 KJV). Pondering is not passivity. Pondering says to God, “I trust your prophetic word, I may not understand it, therefore I will not talk about God’s instruction until he reveals its meaning to me.” Pondering is faith, pondering is waiting on God, pondering is giving God opportunity and time.

Mary’s humble acceptance of the divine will is the starting point of the story of the redemption of the human race from sin.

Alan Richardson, The New Book of Christian Quotations, comp. Tony Castle (New York, Crossroad, 1982), 158.

In summary; Advent is a unique time for hearing and obeying God’s prophetic word. Like Simeon and Anna, we are called to Spirit-waiting, Spirit-listening, Spirit-anticipation, and Spirit-obedience. Like Elijah and the Blessed Virgin Mary, we are called to Father-directed submission, Spirit-led action, and Christ-follower trust. The Holy Spirit still speaks through the gift of prophecy. As we anticipate Christ’s second return, we can expect more guidance from our heavenly commander.

Come, Lord Jesus, Come!

What Do You Do With a Personal Prophetic Word?

Monday, December 14th, 2009

Active or Passive Response?

Here and here, we defined the word of prophecy as a spiritual gift and how during this season of Advent, we especially need to seek the prophetic word. Today, we reflect on how to respond when a prophetic word is given by the Holy Spirit.

What should our response be to a confirmed prophetic word (1 Cor. 14:29)? Do we just sit around and wait? Do we just discuss it, debate it, or analyze it? Is it possible that the Holy Spirit desires for us to pray this move of God—an inbreaking of the kingdom—into existence?  The Holy Spirit calls us to obey Isaiah’s injunction, “Seek the Lord while you can find him. Call on him now while he is near” (Isa. 55:6, NLT). We seek the gift of prophecy for we hunger for God’s direction in the midst of the chaos and confusion of this world (1 Cor. 14:1).

The prophetic word is an invitation to enter God’s promises, to receive God’s provision, and to release God’s kingdom (1 Cor. 14:1-5). When a prophetic word is given to us, we are called to pray the promise’s fulfillment, believe the promise’s pledge, and obey the promise’s command.  In other words, we are not to sit passively waiting for a prophetic word to come true, but we are called by God to be actively cooperating with the Holy Spirit to see that word fulfilled.

Elijah is a biblical example of responding to God’s prophetic word: he acted and prayed into existence God’s promise of rain (1 Kings 18:1, 41-46).

Elijah sought the Lord even when the word of the Lord was clear and unequivocal; he did not wait passively, but pursued Yahweh while he could be found. God promised Elijah, “Go, present yourself to Ahab, and I will send rain on the earth” (1 Kings 18:1, NKJV). First, Elijah obeyed the word of the Lord and was immediately obedient to the heavenly command. For in verse two, Elijah went and presented himself to his greatest enemy King Ahab. He obeyed despite the threat of rejection, persecution, and even possible death.

Second, Elijah grabbed hold of the word of God and believed it for he heard “the abundance of rain” before it was ever visible (v.41). Third, Elijah sought the Lord in prayer basing his request for rain on the promise of God (v.1).  Fourth, Elijah humbled himself before the Lord, not demanding, but requesting that God honor his promise of rain. “And Elijah went up to the top of Carmel; then he bowed down on the ground, and put his face between his knees . . . ” (v. 42). Fifth, Elijah was earnest; he wanted to see the word of the Lord fulfilled (James 5:17). He persevered until the answer came, for “seven times” he looked longingly to the sea for rain (v.43).

Sixth, Elijah was undeterred for he continued to believe God even after six times of seeing no results from his prayers. Seven, Elijah acted on God’s prophetic word for he gave Ahab instructions to drive through the Jezreel Valley before rain flooded the area. Elijah based his orders on seeing a cloud as small as a man’s hand, thus Elijah was a man of faith (v.44). Elijah saw his prayer answered (v.45) and became an example for us all (James 5: 16a-18). [F. B. Meyer, Elijah: And the Secret of His Power (Fort Washington, PA: Christian Literature Crusade, 1978), 90-100.]

Conclusion, Elijah is biblical example for receiving a prophetic word: we should pray until the promise is fulfilled. The great prayer warrior, E. M. Bounds, instructs us in the same manner:

All revivals are dependent on God, but in revivals, as in other things, he invites and requires the assistance of man, and the full result is obtained when there is cooperation between the divine and the human. In other words, to employ a familiar phrase, God alone can save the world, but God chooses not to save the world alone.

E. M. Bounds, Purpose in Prayer found in The Complete Works of E. M. Bounds on Prayer (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1990), 360.

Advent and the Gift of Prophecy

Sunday, December 13th, 2009

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Prophetic Hope

“Eagerly desire . . . the gift of prophecy”

1 Cor 14:1

In a previous post, I defined the spiritual gift of prophecy as spontaneous, Spirit-inspired, intelligible speech, orally-delivered to the church gathered intended for the building up of the people of God. Prophecy can be both foretelling; insights into the future plans of God, and forthtelling; God’s word for our present circumstances.

During the church season of Advent, the word of prophecy is important for Advent is the period of the Christian year dedicated to prophetic hope. Prophetic hope is believing and expecting God’s inspired promise of Jesus’ soon return. Advent means confident waiting: waiting on God to fulfill his word that Jesus will return in a physical body to bring his church home and judge the world (2 Peter 3:8-10). Advent is a prophetic season for we wait for the prophetic fulfillment of Jesus’ second coming while marveling at the Old Testament prophetic fulfillment of Jesus’ first coming. The Old Testament prophets spoke of Jesus’ birth, ministry, and death (Gen. 3:15; Micah 5:2; Isa. 7:14. 53:4-7) and years later these promises were fulfilled. Today, we read the prophetic words of Jesus, Paul, John, and Peter concerning the Second Coming (Mark 13:26-27; 1 Thess. 4:13-18; Titus 2:11-14; 2 Peter 3:8-10; Rev. 19:11-16) and with confidence we expect the prophetic words of scripture to be fulfilled again.

The word of prophecy is hope: knowledge that God is aware of our need and actively working to meet that heart-cry. The gift of prophecy points the Church to Christ, calls for obedience to his commands, and brings healing and restoration. The gift of prophecy reminds believers of their call to holiness, their dependence on God’s grace, and the faithfulness of God’s promise. Corporately, the prophetic gift calls forth repentance, restoration, and renewal in the Body of Christ. The prophetic gift builds up the Church in her call to be God’s witness to the world (1 Cor. 12:31, 14:1, 39; Heb. 2:3-4).

During the season of Advent, the church can expect the Holy Spirit to encourage, comfort, and strengthen all believers for the coming year.

True Prophets are the healers, preachers, and teachers who are “binders of wounds,” because they call people to genuine transformation and repentance. True prophetic words point to sin, to what is amiss in a life or in a culture; they warn of the consequences if one fails to repent (here a predictive element can come in); they console; they encourage. They do all this in conjunction with the fundamental truth that the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy (Rev. 12:10).

Leanne Payne, Heaven’s Calling: A Memoir of One Soul’s Steep Ascent (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2008), 116.