For Preachers and Their Listeners

JCRyle

In Mark 1:38, Jesus states succinctly the reason why He came from the Father:

“Let us go on to the neighboring towns,
so I may preach there also;
that is why I came
.”

J.C. Ryle comments in the late 1800s on this verse from Mark’s Gospel:

Let us never be moved by those who cry down the preacher’s office,
and tell us that sacraments and other ordinances
are of more importance than sermons.
Let us give to every part of God’s public worship
its proper place and honor,
but let us beware of placing any part of it above preaching.
By preaching, the Church of Christ
was first gathered together and founded,
and by preaching, it has ever been maintained in health and prosperity.
By preaching, sinners are awakened.
By preaching, inquirers are led on.
By preaching, saints are built up.
By preaching, Christianity is being carried to a lost world.

There are many now who sneer at missionaries,
and mock at those who go out into the highways of our own land,
to preach to crowds in the open air.
But such persons would do well to pause,
and consider calmly what they are doing.
The very work which they ridicule
is the work which turned the world upside down.

Above all, it is the very work which Christ Himself undertook.
The King of kings and Lord of lords Himself was once a preacher.
For three long years He went to and fro proclaiming the Gospel.
Sometimes we see Him in a house, sometimes on the mountain side,
sometimes in a Jewish synagogue, sometimes in a boat on the sea.
But the great work He took up was always one and the same.
He came always preaching and teaching.
He says, “That is why I have come.”

Let us leave the passage with a solemn resolution
never to “despise prophesying.” (1 Thess. 5:20.)
The minister we hear may not be highly gifted.
The sermons that we listen to may be weak and poor.
But after all, preaching is God’s grand ordinance
for converting and saving souls.
The faithful preacher of the Gospel is handling the very weapon
which the Son of God was not ashamed to employ.
This is the work of which Christ has said, “That is why I have come.”

Word-Saturated Worship

Scripture suffuses every part of our worship services.

  • We call one another to our awesome task of worshipping God with Scripture.
  • We sing God’s praise with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs in order to make God’s Word memorable and vivid.
  • The Spirit uses God’s Word to convict us of sin and to show us our fresh need of His forgiveness and grace.
  • We use the precious promises of God’s Word to assure us of His pardon.
  • We give attention to reading His sacred Scriptures because faith comes by hearing the Word of God.
  • We preach His Word because, through it, God chooses to save and cause some to be spiritually reborn (1 Corinthians 1:21, 1 Peter 1:25).
  • Also, His Word equips us to live for Christ and to make an impact His kingdom during the perilous times in which we live (2 Timothy 3).
  • Lastly, God sends us out with His blessing to serve a needy world. This benediction comes from His Word!

Why do we make such a big deal about the Word saturating all of our worship? Because… “All flesh is like grass, and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the Word of the Lord remains forever” (1 Peter 1:24).

Through the eternal, profitable, inerrant, and living Word of God, we hear and receive “the good news” by which we experience eternal salvation. Therefore, it is imperative that we carefully prepare our hearts to give our undivided attention to His Word when we gather with God’s people to worship Him!

How to Profit from Preaching

billy graham preachingThe church of Jesus Christ throughout history has given concerted energy and time to the preaching of God’s Word (2 Timothy 4:2). What can you do personally to make sure that you profit from hearing God’s Word preached?

  • Before worship, we can prepare in advance by praying for a receptive heart and teachable spirit.
  • During worship, we can examine what we hear by the Scriptures and receive its truth with faith, love, meekness, and readiness of mind.
  • After worship, we can meditate upon the Word in our hearts and bring forth the fruit of it in our lives.

All of the above is impossible apart from the illumination of God’s Holy Spirit. No preacher is dynamic, eloquent, and gifted enough to bring about life transformation in his hearers. For this reason, we humbly pray for God’s Spirit to illumine the reading and preaching of His Word so that lives are transformed.

Why not make the following your prayer of illumination as you prepare to hear God’s Word preached this coming Sunday?

Prayer: Father, amid all the changing words of our generation,
speak to us now Your eternal Word that doesn’t change
and help us to respond as we ought…
with faith, understanding and obedience. For Jesus’ sake, AMEN.

The Value of Hearing God’s Word Preached

preached wordIn our increasing visual culture, some are calling for the church to minimize the role of preaching and the spoken Word. Amid debates like this, we anchor our hearts and ministries to simple passages like 1 Corinthians 1:21 that speak of the power of preaching God’s Word.The Apostle Paul writes: “it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe.

In our natural condition, all of us are spiritually blind and unresponsive to the Lord and His gospel. Until we are spiritually reborn, we are blind to true beauty. This is one reason why God has chosen to send preachers to His people.

For it is through the preaching of the Word of God that our Lord
“opens [our] eyes, so that [we] may turn from darkness to light
and from the power of Satan to God, that [we] may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in [Jesus]” (Acts 26:18).

Therefore we should regularly pray for spiritual fruit to remain in our lives from the preached Word because by attending to His Word, our Lord…

  • Enlightens, convinces, and humbles sinners.
  • Drives us out of ourselves, and draws us to Himself.
  • Conforms us to His image,
  • Builds us up in His grace,
  • Strengthens us against temptations and corruptions,
  • And establishes our hearts in holiness and encouragement.

Pray that fruit would remain in your life and in the lives of those you love because of hearing God’s Word faithfully preached.

Daring to Tell the Gospel Amidst Much Conflict – Acts 17

Why did they dare to tell His Gospel? What is the strongest stimulus and motivation?
A.    The comparative study of religions has led many to deny the uniqueness of Jesus Christ and to reject the very concept of His exclusive claim of being the only way to God and the imperative of evangelizing and seeing people come to faith in Jesus  (John Stott, Acts, p. 279).
B.    How can we justify the continuance of world evangelization and missions?
C.    What might be some of your answers? I think the Apostle Paul would say from his time in Athens that it would have to be a godly jealousy for the glory of Jesus Christ.
D.    Henry Martyn: “I could not endure existence if Jesus was not glorified; it would be hell to me if He were to be always dishonored.”
E.    Praying for ourselves about this: Lord, may it wound us and cause us heartache when You are denied Your rightful place in people’s lives.

How did the apostolic band dare to tell His Gospel?
A.    Listen to what the Apostle Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 2:2 – But though we had already suffered and been shamefully treated at Philippi, as you know, we had boldness in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in the midst of much conflict.
What verbs are used to describe the ministry of Paul, Silas and Timothy?
Reasoned, explained, proved, proclaimed and persuaded.
B.    Verse 11 and The Danger of Indoctrination (tyrannical instruction demanding uncritical acceptance).
Bengel: A characteristic of the true religion is that it suffers itself to be examined into, and its claims to be so decided upon.
Timothy Keller: A faith without some doubts is like a human body with no antibodies in it. People who blithely go through life too busy or indifferent to ask the hard questions about why they believe as they do will find themselves defenseless against either the experience of tragedy or the probing questions of a smart skeptic. A person’s faith can collapse almost overnight if she failed over the years to listen patiently to her own doubts, which should only be discarded after long reflection.” – A Reason for God

To whom did they dare to tell His gospel?
A.    The Religious…(17:1-15) Using the Scriptures to point to Christ. Synagogue corresponds in many ways to the church today.
What attitudes should we adopt towards the Scriptures? Open my eyes, that I may behold Wonderful things from Your law. Psalm 119:18
B.    The Secular… (17:16-34) Using Culture to point to Christ. Areopagus (literally Mars Hill) corresponds to the university setting today with the exchange of ideas and debate.
What struck Paul in the ancient city of Athens? A city covered in idols. Petronius’s satirical assertion is that “it was easier to find a god than a man in Athens.”

What results from daring to tell His gospel?
A.    Daring to tell His gospel started a movement that literally turned the world upside down. These hostile opponents spoke better than they knew, for the spread of the gospel throughout the Roman Empire was the beginning of a movement that would change the course of history forever.
B.    Daring to tell His gospel resulted in some repenting and coming to faith in Jesus and uniting with His church. They “received the word in much affliction with the joy of the Holy Spirit” (1 Thessalonians 1:6). Some “turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God” (1 Thessalonians 1:9). Many of them therefore believed, with not a few Greek women of high standing as well as men (Acts 17:12).
C.    Daring to tell His gospel resulted in others mocking, rejecting, and aggressively opposing and oppressing its messengers. If you take seriously your responsibility to live and proclaim God’s gospel, at some point you too will be labeled a troublemaker. Daring to tell of another King often resulted in the charge of treason against Caesar and proved fatal for the accused. However, supreme homage and total obedience are due to Him alone no matter what the cost.