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Tuesday, March 03, 2009

On Preaching

“Cursed be every preacher who aims at lofty topics in the church, looking for his own glory and selfishly desiring to please one individual or another. When I preach I adapt myself to the circumstances of the common people. I don’t look at the doctors and masters . . . but at the young people and children. It is to them that I devote myself. Take pains to be simple and direct.”

“If I profess with the loudest voice and the clearest exposition every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little portion which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christ. Where the battle of truth rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is proven.” (Martin Luther, 1483 - 1546)

“Even sermon making, incessant and taxing as an art, as a duty, as a work, or as a pleasure, will harden and estrange the heart by neglect of prayer from God. The scientist loses God in nature. The preacher may lose God in his sermon.” (E. M. Bounds)

“Sound Bible exposition is an imperative must in the Church of the Living God. Without it no church can be a New Testament church in any strict meaning of that term. But exposition may be carried on in such a way as to leave the hearers devoid of any true spiritual nourishment whatever. For it is not mere words that nourish the soul, but God Himself, and unless and until the hearers find God in personal experience they are not the better for having heard the truth. The Bible is not an end in itself, but a means to bring men to an intimate and satisfying knowledge of God, that they may enter into Him, that they may delight in His presence, may taste and know the inner sweetness of the very God Himself in the core and center of their hearts.” (A. W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God [1948])

“Where Christians live together the time must ultimately come when in some crisis one person will have to declare Gods Word and will to another. It is inconceivable that the things that are of utmost importance to each individual should not be spoken by one to another. It is unchristian consciously to deprive another of the one decisive service we can render to him . . . The more we learn to allow others to speak the Word to us, to accept humbly and gratefully even severe reproaches and admonitions, the more free and objective will we be in speaking ourselves. The humble person will stick to truth and love. He will stick to the Word of God and let it lead him to his brother . . . Reproof is unavoidable. Gods Word demands it when a brother falls into open sin. Where defection from God’s Word in doctrine or life imperils the fellowship. . . , the word of admonition and rebuke must be ventured. Nothing can be more cruel than the tenderness that consigns another to his sin. Nothing can be more compassionate than the severe rebuke that calls a brother back from the path of sin. It is a ministry of mercy, an ultimate offer of genuine fellowship, when we allow nothing but God’s Word to stand between us, judging and succoring.” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945), Life Together)

“We languish for men who feel themselves expendable in the warfare of the soul, who cannot be frightened by threats of death because they have already died to the allurements of this world. Such men will be free from the compulsions that control weaker men. They will not be forced to do things by the squeeze of circumstances; their only compulsion will come from within--or from above. This kind of freedom is necessary if we are to have prophets in our pulpits again instead of mascots. These free men will serve God and mankind from motives too high to be understood by the rank and file of religious retainers who today shuttle in and out of the sanctuary. They will make no decisions out of fear. take no course out of a desire to please, accept no service for financial considerations, perform no religious act out of mere custom; nor will they allow themselves to be influenced by the love of publicity or the desire for reputation.” (A.W. Tozer, 1897 – 1963, Of God and Men)

“I preached as never to preach again; as a dying man to dying men.” (Robert Murray McCheyne)

“When I study a passage, I do not ever study a passage to make a sermon. Never! You know what I do when I study that passage? I study it so that I will get what it’s teaching. I’m very selfish, I just want to know. I’ll go on and on and my wife will say to me, “Why do you keep studying that same passage? You’ve got more material than you could ever give in a sermon.” But that isn’t the point. The point is that I want to know everything that’s there and when I’m fed, and when I’m fat, and when I’m loaded with the good things that are there, it will spill out on you on Sunday. It’s out of the overflow of my own life. I’m the guy out there harvesting the first fruits. You see? Leadership has to be that way. Any ministry of leadership you have, has to be feeding your life or you’re not going to do it for others. You’re not going to be any good at it unless there’s something there you’re feeding on.” (John MacArthur)

While discussing the need for clarity in writing and speaking, C.S. Lewis spoke about hearing a young parson preach. Very much in earnest, the young man ended his sermon like this, “And now, my friends, if you do not believe these truths, there may be for you grave eschatological consequences.” Dr. Lewis reports: “I went to him afterwards and asked, ‘Did you mean that they would be in danger of hell?’’Why, yes’, the parson said. ‘Then why in the world didn’t you say so?’” Lewis replied.

“The true function of a preacher is to disturb the comfortable and to comfort the disturbed.” (Chad Walsh, “Campus Gods on Trial,” 1963)

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