The Narcotic of Preaching
Ti.1:3 - But God has in due times manifested His Word through preaching...
Ti.1:7 - For a bishop must be blameless as the steward of God, not self-willed...
To all of you who have never preached to a group of people who have come to hear and for the most part affirm what you say, I am going to slide the curtain back ever so gently. To speak to people in a convincing way can be somewhat of a self energizing experience, but when you portend to speak for God it goes to a much higher level. When the Word of God is preached through a humble, prayer filled, and anointed servant of the Most High God, it is a glorious and mysterious ministry of the Spirit that redounds to the glory of the Almighty. To fully reveal the sacred and accountable honor given to a called human being to handle the unchangeable Word is impossible. It may sometimes be to only a hand full of listeners, and it may sometimes deal with somewhat practical issues, and it may sometimes seem mundane and redundant, but it is still the most important event that will happen on planet earth.
When the Congress of the United States of America meets to decide whether to go to war or not, that is important. But that can never compare with a faithful man with a tattered suit, fresh from the presence of God and filled with the precious Holy Spirit, who stands to proclaim God's Holy Word to five little AIDS infected African children. The importance in the heavenlies of any man called and in obedience preaching the eternal Word is paramount, regardless of the number of listeners. I am convinced that if a preacher was shipwrecked on an island, and every Sunday morning for two years he rose and preached to himself and the ocean, that the audience of heaven would be listening and God Himself would receive glory from this faithful prophet of God, isolated in the earth but surrounded by a cloud of invisible witnesses.
God is His Word and the Word is God. Go ahead and try and capture that with human words and thoughts and we do nothing but detract and confuse the eternal mystery. A loving, redeeming, caring, sovereign, and glorious mystery, but a mystery none the less. And the oxy-moron is that the more of the mysterious essence of God's Word we perceive, the more of the Word we understand. The breath of God Himself inhabits His Word and while it is the fine china of Christ's body on earth so many today are making it the paper plates and plastic forks of man. To exhale and speak God's Word to eternal souls is the most sacred and trembling responsibility any man can claim. It is the finite proclaiming the infinite; the sinful proclaiming the Holy; the partial truth proclaiming the whole Truth. You see what I mean? Where can I find the words that can fully unfold the gracious and powerful calling of preaching God's Word? My words are poor carriers to your minds, only the Spirit of God who wrote His Words can make them alive in your spirit.
But within this calling lurks a loathsome and hideous temptation that all preachers have sometimes succumbed to unknowingly and knowingly. The chameleon like characteristic of our flesh adapts over time to appear religious and can subtly inject into us a feeling of invincible authority and unassailable justness of what we say and, yes, even who we are. There is a spiritual endorphin rush that can accompany a man preaching to a group of listeners with an acceptance that he speaks for God, and the format can easily lift up a man while even repeating Biblical verses. And when the number of listeners grow, the man can systematically add his words and ideas to the very Words of God and then they become impure and he becomes lifted up in his own eyes and in the eyes of his followers. And if it goes unchecked by Spiritual repentance and humility, the preacher starts to become addicted to the sound of his own voice and the acclamation of his people. What began as a God exalting ministry of heralding the Word of Almighty God, becomes a self aggrandizing exercise in human manipulation and the returning feeling of prideful power he receives from his agreeing listeners. None of that is of God.
What are the warning signs of this transformation? When a preacher speaks carelessly and publicly about any and all subjects, that man has himself as an idol. When men speak openly about their sex lives and give advice for men and women, he is carnal and probably has some type of imagery addiction as well as desecrating God's Word and his calling. When you hear or read a message on humility from a preacher and it seems so incongruous to the atmosphere of his overall teaching, that is a warning sign. If a preacher never weeps, his heart may be cold. When there is always an upbeat quality to a man's messages, that man is entertaining not preaching. If a preacher allows himself to become rich, he is compromised. When a preacher speaks the truth of God's Word but he is puffed up and prideful, he has been seduced by his own voice and personality. There are many more signs that only the Holy Spirit can make application to each individual man. And many times I have taken pride in an article I have offered here, disgustingly assuming that I came up with the thoughts and words, when it is all the Spirit and none of me if it is truth. And if any are not truth, let them burn on the trash heap of all the other works that were of me.
Humility to us preachers is very elusive, and many times we claim it because we know we should but not in the uncomfortable and stinging reality that obviously crucifies our flesh and makes us the off scouring of the earth. Attend a Bible conference and listen as each preacher is introduced as if he was Gabriel himself. If you hear of a conference which will have no fancy advertisement, no registration fee, no four star accommodations, no tapes or albums sold, no list of coming preachers, no frilly introductions, no workshops, and suggests three days of fasting for all who come, let me know. Boldness and humility are two siblings birthed by the same Father of Spirits, but I confess I have yet to concoct the right mixture, and if I thought I had, that would probably be a good sign I hadn't. I believe we need a revival of contrition and brokenness, led by preachers. This bellicose and caustic rhetoric that flows from blogs, pulpits, books, and on television needs a strong dose of "physician heal thyself". That doesn't mean that God will not speak a strong Word through someone, he often does and especially in these days. But where are the strong words about us? Forget about the usual and deserving whipping boys, what about us? Are we so humble and bowed before our Maker, and are we so sensitive to our own flesh, and are we so addicted to the presence of God in our prayer closets that we don't need a Word of repentance from God? We think way too much of ourselves, and when a man thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. So what does that tell you? We have tens of thousands of deceived preachers speaking their own words which they substantiate by wresting God's Word. And we have lost the definition of humility long ago, not to mention the lifestyle and example of it. Oh we can teach humility and brokenness, but who actually lives it, and the preaching ministry has long ago adapted those terms to mean what they say they mean, not what God says they mean and certainly not what the earthly life of the Lord Jesus revealed. The mirror of God's Word has become a looking glass to others, and oftentimes the branch filled eyes seem articulate about the speck filled eyes of others.
This call is to all of us.
Let us not live on the narcotic of our own preaching and creeds, however Biblical. Let us humble ourselves and pray, and turn from our wicked ways, and let us seek the very face of God Himself. And let us reject the satisfaction of anything in this world and follow hard for the Living Water of the presence of God. And if you truly enter the very presence of Jesus Christ, you will be humbled and broken. If you are not, it wasn't Him.