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  • Samuel at Gilgal

    This year I will be sharing brief excerpts from the articles, sermons, and books I am currently reading. My posts will not follow a regular schedule but will be published as I find well-written thoughts that should be of interest to maturing Christian readers. Whenever possible, I encourage you to go to the source and read the complete work of the author.

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LISTENING TO A SERMON

So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. (Romans 10:17 ESV)

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, (2 Timothy 3:16 ESV)

Do you enjoy a good sermon or do you just want it to be short enough to make it to your favorite restaurant before the Sunday crowd? Do you want sermons to always move you emotionally or do you consider the accuracy of the Word preached to be the most important thing? Do you believe that music and singing should take up most of the service? Do you listen to preaching to be entertained or to learn more about Jesus?

People have many reasons for attending a particular church and often the sermon is not the highest priority. This is why you hear complaints: “The sermons are too long”; “The pastor doesn’t include enough funny illustrations”; “He talks about holy living and sanctification too much”. Such criticisms reflect the attitude that growing in Christ is not the highest priority. So many people in our churches today seem to want just a little bit of Jesus and no more.

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John Piper on Earnestness in Preaching

John PiperJohn Piper:

Here is a key to great earnestness in preaching. If you really believe that “those who endure to the end will be saved” (Mark 13:13), and that not only the first act of faith but all subsequent acts of persevering faith are sustained by the Spirit through the Word of God, then virtually every sermon is a “salvation sermon” and the souls of the saints are being saved every Sunday. There is not an earnest sermon for evangelism when the souls of the lost are at stake, and then a less serious and less critical message for the saints to simply add a few stars in their crown. Rather every sermon is crucial and critical in sustaining the faith of the saints and so bringing them safely to glory. (“Thoughts on Earnestness in Preaching,” unpublished teaching notes, 3/15/99)

 

Charles H. Spurgeon on Preaching

Charles SpurgeonCharles H. Spurgeon:

“Our ministry must be emphatic, or it will never affect these thoughtless times; and to this end our hearts must be habitually fervent, and our whole nature must be fired with an all-consuming passion for the glory of God and the good of men.”

“Preach not calmly and quietly as though you were asleep, but preach with fire and pathos and passion.”

“The great reason why we have so little good preaching is that we have so little piety. To be eloquent one must be in earnest; he must not only act as if he were in earnest, or try to be in earnest, but be in earnest.”

“Unless we have the spirit of the prophets resting upon us, the mantle which we wear is nothing but a rough garment to deceive. We ought to be driven forth with abhorrence from the society of honest men for daring to speak in the name of the Lord if the Spirit of God rests not upon us.”

Flogging the Devil

Charles H. Spurgeon by Ron AdairCharles Spurgeon:

“The preaching of Christ is the whip that flogs the devil. The preaching of Christ is the thunderbolt, the sound of which makes all hell shake.”

Spurgeon on Preaching

Charles H. SpurgeonCharles H. Spurgeon:

You cannot preach conviction of sin unless you have suffered it. You cannot preach repentance unless you have practiced it. You cannot preach faith unless you have exercised it. True preaching is artesian; it wells up from the great depths of the soul. If Christ has not made a well within us, there will be no outflow from us.

Vain Preaching

John Calvin understood that men will often run after great orators who only seek to tickle the ears of their audience. He also understood that articulate preachers might arise that seek a large audience rather than the salvation of men. Calvin writes:

But shun profane and vain babblings; for they will increase unto more ungodliness. And their word will eat as doth a canker: of whom is Hymeneus and Philetus; Who concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already; and overthrow the faith of some. (2 Timothy 2:16-18)

The doctrine which is set forth to us in God’s name, to be the food of our souls, will be corrupted by the devil, if in his power; when he cannot destroy it, he blends things with it, in order to bring it into contempt, and destroy our knowledge of the will of God. There are many in this day who put themselves forward to teach; and what is the cause of it? Ambition carries them away; they disguise the Word of God, and thus Satan goes about to deprive us of the spiritual life.

But this he is not able to accomplish, unless by some means the doctrine of God be corrupted. St. Paul repeats the exhortation: that we must shun all unprofitable babbling, and stay ourselves upon plain teaching – which is forcible. He not only condemns manifest errors, superstition, and lies, but he condemns the disguising of the Word of God: as when men invent subtleties, to cloy men’s ears; bringing no true nourishment to the soul, nor edification in faith, and the fear of God, to the hearers.

When St. Paul speaks of vain babbling, he means that which contents curious men; as we see many that take great pleasure in vain questions, wherewith they seem to be ravished. They do not openly speak against the truth, but they despise it as a thing too common and base; as a thing for children and fools; as for them, they will know some higher and more profound matter. Thus they are at variance with that which would be profitable for them. Therefore, let us weigh well the words of St. Paul: vain babbling; as though he said, if there be nothing but fine rhetoric and exquisite words to gain him credit that speaks, and to show that he is well learned, [but not Bible truth and sound doctrine] none of this should be received into the church; all must be banished. (“Pure Preaching of the Word”)

The Price of Passion

In 1860 Thomas Phillips wrote the first comprehensive account of the 1859 revival in Wales. It is simply titled The Welsh Revival. There were other revivals in Wales after 1859. There are published accounts of these as well. G. Campbell Morgan uses this account from the great Welsh Revival to illustrate the price of passion in preaching:

The preacher comes with good news; but he does not come with something to be trifled with. His message has an insistent demand, because he comes on behalf of a King.

During the great Welsh Revival, it is said, a certain minister was marvelously successful in his preaching. He had but one sermon, but under it hundreds of men were saved. Far away from where he lived in a lonely valley, news of this wonderful success reached a brother preacher. Forthwith he became anxious to find out the secret of his success. At length, reaching the humble cottage where the good man lived, he said, “Brother, where did you get that sermon?”

He was taken into a poorly furnished room and pointed to a spot where the carpet was worn shabby and bare, near a window that looked out toward the mountains. The minister said,

“Brother, that’s where I got that sermon. My heart was heavy for men. One evening I knelt there and cried for power to preach as I had never preached before.

“The hours passed until the midnight struck, and the stars looked down on the sleeping valley and silent hills; but the answer came not. So I prayed until at length I saw a faint gray shoot up in the east. Presently it became silver, and I watched and prayed until the silver became purple and gold, and on all the mountain crests blazed the altar fires of the new day; and then the sermon came, and the power came.

“I lay down and slept, and arose and preached, and scores fell down before the fire of God. That is where I got that sermon.” (“Preaching With Passion”)

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