At a personal retreat in December 2012, I had a very strong leading to read Paul’s Letter to the Colossians. What was later impressed upon my heart was that this would be the book I am to hold on to throughout 2013. I’m still not certain if it meant for me to teach a Bible Study on this book, or to preach expositorily through this book. All I know is that three words stood out from Col 1:28 which would determine the focus of my preaching: “Him we preach”. Yes, the Lord made it very clear that I must preach Jesus. Not that I have not been doing that, but I believe the instruction [and reminder] was for me to keep doing that, without compromise, and never veer from preaching Jesus at all, nor to preach ‘another Jesus’ (2 Cor 11:4).
That was last year. Now, maybe I’m being a little over-sensitive but I can’t help but wonder if the Lord is trying to get my attention to remind me once again through a few articles these few days.
Take for example, “Sex Symbols Who Speak In Tongues” by Michael Brown (Charisma Magazine). Brown makes a valid observation that there are many today who profess faith in Jesus Christ but do not live holy lives. This, he attributes to the gospel of “self”. Brown’s word to preachers?: “It’s time to say to say goodbye to this watered-down, sin-excusing, so-called gospel that offers everything and calls for nothing. It’s time to get back to the cross and back to the truth. Otherwise, as America collapses in a heap of amoral ruin, the soft preachers of America will be largely to blame.” (emphasis mine) Have Christians in Singapore bought into the gospel of “self” too? Perhaps not to such an extent as in America but we are certainly headed in that direction.
I was reminded of another article I read some time back, entitled “The Curse of Motivational Speaking” by Conrad Mbewe. The author observes, and accurately too, “Sadly, motivational speaking has become the staple diet of many evangelical pulpits. The message being heard is, “God has put the potential in you and all you need to do is believe in yourself to unlock that potential. Have a grand vision and live out that vision. You must be a man or woman of destiny and the sky will be the limit for you. Don’t let your past failures get in your way of success. Look beyond them, as Jesus looked beyond the cross and thus overcame it. You are the head and not the tail.”” All these sound really good and biblical even; but is this what a relationship with God is all about? Mbewe’s “chief quarrel with motivational speaking is that it reduces God to a means rather than an end.” As much as I want to motivate and inspire others, I have to agree with Mbewe and pray I never resort to such a tactic to draw an audience. Mbewe’s challenge to preachers?: “We need to return to the good old gospel that truly gives life to the dead and sets men and women free. Like Paul of old, every truly evangelical pulpit must sound out the clear message of ‘repentance towards God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ’ (Acts 20:21). Let us get rid of this curse of motivational speaking!” (emphasis mine)
This evening, thanks to a dear sister, Lee Grady’s article “The Secret of Becoming a Prophetic Preacher” was shared on Facebook. I identified immediately with Grady when he wrote, “On many occasions after speaking in a church or conference, I would sulk. I battled constant discouragement and wondered if my words had hit the mark. Did I preach OK? Did the message sink in?” Yes, I struggle with this too, rationalising that it is just my desire to do my best for God, when in truth, it was my prideful heart seeking attention and affirmation. Drawing from the Jericho account in Joshua 6, Grady shares three parallels between preaching and the blowing of the ram’s horns (shofar). I won’t spoil the fun for you by revealing the three points so you can go read it for yourself. But for the preacher in me, the following statements resounded strongly:
- “What we need in today’s pulpits is less scripted sparkle and more messy, raw, honest, tear-stained pleas from broken men and women who are aflame with the Holy Spirit.”
- “What God is looking for is not one big sensational sermon but a lifetime of faithful preaching. He wants consistency, not fireworks.”
- “Today we need preachers who are willing to faithfully speak God’s Word with no hope of fame or fortune. If you truly want all the credit to go to Jesus, you won’t worry about your performance or your applause. Just do your job.”
I am so privileged to be able to teach the Bible and to speak, as it were, the oracles of God. I never want to take this for granted nor to abuse this great honour the Lord has bestowed upon me by His grace. Sure, it’s nice to be complimented and encouraged when a good message is delivered. Sure, it’s nice to be invited to various congregations, and then to be invited back again. Sure, it’s nice to be looked up to, to be consulted, to be described as one who preaches with anointing and revelation. Question is, Would I compromise Jesus for all these?
Against this backdrop, I was so thankful two nights ago when the Prayer Leader called for the church to pray for preachers, that we would stay true to the Word and be bold to declare the Truth without compromise. As prayers were being lifted up for us and on our behalf, the only words I heard ringing within me were, “Preach Jesus! Preach Jesus! Preach Jesus!”
“Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus.” Col 1:28
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