Posts tagged ‘preaching’

Preaching, Teaching & Discipling

One of the things we discover in the art of education is the difference between types of learning and methods of instruction. In many subject areas, there is a set progression of instruction, and often one that involves changes in delivery and interaction as the student progresses. The same is true of the truth found in the New Testament. There is, I believe, a discernible pattern of instruction that will be helpful to grasp so that we are doing the things that are most beneficial to ourselves and those who hear us.

The first type of instruction is preaching. This is different than teaching, which is why the Holy Spirit inspired the writers to use a different Greek word for each. The word translated “preach” is kerusso, which means “to herald (as a public crier), especially divine truth (the gospel):–preacher(-er), proclaim, publish.”
This involves the initial public proclamation of the Gospel message. Like a herald, we preach Christ (1 Corinthians 1:23) to a lost world. This preaching is evangelistic, and calls people’s attention to Jesus Christ and what has been done to bring them to God.

but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. (I Corinthians 1:23, 24 NKJV)

This is the work of an evangelist, like the young Timothy, and is a never ending obligation of believers as we go about in the world.

As the message goes forth, there will be the need to teach those who respond to our preaching. Paul links the two nicely when giving instruction to Timothy.

I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. (II Timothy 4:1, 2 NKJV)

There is no hint here of getting people saved and leaving them to fend for themselves. Rather, there is the sense that after preaching, people need to be taught “all things whatsoever I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19). The word for teaching is different than for preaching (didacho). This teaching incorporates instruction and example as a means of learning spiritual truth. But in order to be effective, teaching must be done to those who have responded to the preaching and been saved. An unsaved person cannot understand spiritual things, so we are wasting our time teaching without first preaching.

But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. (I Corinthians 2:14 NKJV)

The most in depth level of instruction is discipling. The Greek word is matethouo. This is the ultimate goal for everyone we encounter. In the Great Commission, Jesus didn’t stop at preaching or at teaching, but at “making disciples”. This includes hearing the truth, seeing it lived out, and then internalizing it by personal practice. Discipleship can only be fully learned by doing. That is one reason that those who teach must be careful, not only of what they say, but what they do.
Meditate on these things; give yourself entirely to them, that your progress may be evident to all.

Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you. (I Timothy 4:15, 16 NKJV)

This is the way to make mature Christians, who will be able to go and make disciples themselves.

And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. (II Timothy 2:2 NKJV)

Only by following this pattern of instruction will we practice biblical spiritual growth. We must not be like those who preach, but do not teach or disciple. That is a recipe for weak Christians who are dependent on someone keeping them alive by feeding them nothing but milk. They are unable to teach others and will never have the fruit of being or making disciples.

For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. (Hebrews 5:12 NKJV)

May this never be said of us! But instead, may we follow the pattern of preaching, teaching and discipling that results in many saved and bearing much spiritual fruit, as we exercise the gifts which Christ has given for our benefit.

And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love. (Ephesians 4:11-16 NKJV)

20130810-102353.jpg

Advertisements

We Smell Like Something

Scientists, through diligent research, have concluded that our olfactory senses (smell) are the ones most closely linked to our memories. There are many things, such as a the smell of certain foods cooking, that bring back many fond memories from long ago during the Christmas season. Unfortunately, there are also specific odors that are linked to horrible memories and can send people into panic attacks or make them physically ill. Such is the power of olfactory memory.

In the same way, our spiritual lives have memories. Certain songs bring back memories of worship services with my father leading singing, or of times of worship at Sierra Bible Camp. Various Bible verses bring to mind situations in life where they became especially poignant. And spiritual memories can encourage or discourage us in our walk with God. Likewise, the Gospel message has a lasting effect on those who have heard it. You see, no matter what happened at the time, there was either a positive or a negative response to that message. Paul is speaking of such things in his second letter to the church at Corinth.

14 Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of his knowledge by us in every place.15 For we are unto God a sweet savour of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish:16 To the one we are the savour of death unto death; and to the other the savour of life unto life. And who is sufficient for these things?17 For we are not as many, which corrupt the word of God: but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ. (2 Corinthians 2:14-17 KJV))

In later years, we can look back with gratitude on a lesson we heard that “sealed the deal” for us and elicited a response to the Gospel. Many, with deep regret, will look back at the judgment, and perhaps for all eternity, on squandered chances to respond with obedience and faith. Whenever the Gospel message is preached, due to the power of the “living and active” Word of God (Hebrew 2:14), we are enabled to respond, and do so. To ignore the message or brush it off, is to reject the message. We are confronted with decisions of eternal consequence, so our response needs to be carefully weighed, in light of its eternal consequences.

The Gospel message is seen as offensive by those who reject it. That is true because it causes such discomfort when our pride is wounded by our sin being exposed. The Gospel says that we are dead in sins (Ephesians 2:1) and we don’t like that. It offends us to find out we have been duped by the “father of lies” (John 8:44) and that as a consequence we are doomed to eternal destruction. In that way, it is an aroma of “death unto death” (v. 16).

But we have another option. We can repent and believe the Gospel. If we can set aside our pride and admit to our spiritual bankruptcy before God, we can be saved. For the Gospel does not end with a message of death and destruction. It continues with a message of hope and new life in Christ Jesus!  We learn about His offer of life, and if we respond in obedience we are graced with eternal life. Thus, in the case of those who are saved, it is a message of “life unto life” (v. 16). What we have to decide is which type of message it will be for each of us!

But there is another warning here for those who proclaim the message. It is not to be corrupted, watered down, or peddled. I really like the way the Amplified Bible translates verse 17:

17 For we are not, like so many, [like hucksters making a trade of] peddling God’s Word [shortchanging and adulterating the divine message]; but like [men] of sincerity and the purest motive, as [commissioned and sent] by God, we speak [His message] in Christ (the Messiah), in the [very] sight and presence of God.

The Apostles did not use the message for personal gain. I often wonder whether Jesus or the Apostles, had they been with us today, would have made money by selling their teaching series on CD or DVD to their partners. No, they had a threefold commission to preach the Gospel.

They were:

1.        Sincere and had pure motives. There was no thought of personal gain or of being popular and accepted by the culture.

2.        Commissioned and sent by God. Their only thought was to be faithful to the God who commissioned them. They were not consumed with thoughts of making the message more palatable for their listeners or of marketing their ministries.

3.        They spoke the message in Christ, in the sight of God. Their sole mission was to be pleasing to God. They also kept themselves cognizant of the fact that God was watching over all that they did and would hold them accountable for completing the work he had sent them to do.

So yes, we all smell like something. Our message will have, not only different, but completely opposite effects on those who hear us. So rather that water down the message, realize that it only matters what God thinks of us, and that our reward is not determined by our popularity with men, but our faithfulness to God.

 2corinthians2_14

Bloody Hands

What happens if they don’t know? You know who I mean. The people all over the world, possibly billions, who now exist and will never once hear about Jesus Christ, much less get an accurate presentation of the Gospel. Are they going to be lost forever and spend an eternity in torment? Will the just die and cease to exist? These are sobering questions, but I think there are some things we, as those who are saved, need to address as well.

Take a look at what Jehovah God said to the prophet Ezekiel because I believe there is a principle here that applies to us now.

When I say to the wicked, ‘O wicked man, you will surely die,’ and you do not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require from your hand. But if you on your part warn a wicked man to turn from his way and he does not turn from his way, he will die in his iniquity, but you have delivered your life. (Ezekiel 33:8, 9 NASB)

A more pertinent question to ask ourselves is this: what will happen to the church as a whole, and to us individually, if those who have never heard are not reached with the Gospel? It’s not like we haven’t been given a command to each them. As we used to say in the military, we have been given a direct order!

Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19, 20 NASB)

But are we sitting back and hoping, maybe even praying, that someone else will reach them? Or do we let ourselves off the hook by saying we are not missionaries, so it’s not our job? Just put a little money in the offering plate and send support if we have a personal acquaintance or family member overseas and we are covered, right? No!

It is an indictment of the Church that Jesus gave the Great Commission nearly 2,000 years ago and we have yet to obey it.

Oh, we have partially obeyed it to be sure. There have been great mission successes in the past and many are presently happening. And those individuals will receive their heavenly reward. But by and large the work remains to be completed. The Bible has a term for partial obedience — “disobedience”!

So what is the solution?

Actively pray
There is no surer way to be praying within the will of God than to be praying for what He has already said He desires. When the prayer of our heart lines up with God’s heart then we can pray in confidence. Many foreign and indigenous Christians are spreading the Gospel in hostile areas and need our prayers. They are also in areas of danger medically. We can water the seeds of the Word with our prayers.

Actively give
Have you ever noticed that missionaries always seem to need funding? While the Gospel is free, sending workers to preach and teach it is not. In addition, there are those who would be able to preach full time who are local if only they had additional support. Back when more people used them, it was said that your checkbook reflects your priorities. Perhaps it is time to put our wallets where our hearts are.

Actually go
The Great Commission is very plain. If we stay home, it should be because of a specific reason. The default position for the Great Commission is to go! And even if we cannot go around the world, we can go to those around us. While it is true that we are to set a good example, it is not a means of evangelism! Our behavior adorns the Gospel and makes it credible. Unless we are talking about a believing wife reaching her husband, we are to be actively evangelizing. Jesus is our example, and He came to SEEK and save the lost. The is no room there for a “let them come to us” strategy with God.

This is serious business, and we need to stop focusing on peripheral issues and get about the mission. While hands in the past may have been bloody, ours need not be so. Lets make it our goal to have it not even occur to our children to ask about those who have never heard, because there aren’t any. Love demands that we give everyone a chance to hear the Message at least once. Many, if not most, may reject it, but God will not require their blood from our hands.

20121208-092808.jpg

Condemned By Nineveh?

There is nothing like a good fish story, especially when you hear it the second time and remember how big the fish was the first time you heard it. There is a fish story in the Bible that happens to be true! And I believe it has some application to those of us today as well. You will see what I mean in a minute.

I am sure that most of us have had the misfortune of working with someone who had a bad attitude. They hate what they are doing and make sure everyone else regrets being there as well. It is a mystery of the universe how such folks ever accomplish anything at all in life. But, as with all things, what is impossible with man is possible with God.

The prophet Jonah was just such a man. He was a prophet of God, and he received a commission to go and preach. Seems like that would be a simple task. But Jonah was blinded by his racism, hatred and overall meanness to the point of direct disobedience to the command of God. Here was his simple job description:

Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the son of A-mittaī, saying, “Arise, go to Nine-veh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before Me.” (Jonah 1:1, 2 NKJV)

Sounds pretty simple, right? But from the beginning, you can almost hear the wheels turning in Jonah’s mind. He hated the people of Nineveh with a passion. The last thing he wanted was for them to repent. “If I flee in the other direction, then the will not get the message, will not repent, and will be destroyed!”
So Jonah heads to the sea port of Joppa and gets passage clear to the other side of the Mediterranean at Tarshish, which was around Gibraltar.

Well, to make a long story short, the people of Nineveh end up being preached at by the worst possible candidate for a preacher. He is racist and hates them, he doesn’t want to be there, he doesn’t want them to accept his message, and he makes the message as short and blunt as he can. Sounds like a recipe for a failure. But God uses the message to turn the hearts if the people and they repent. The city is spared, and Jonah does not get to watch them being judged with fire from heaven.

Jesus, when talking to the Pharisees, alludes to the people of Nineveh.

The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now something greater than Jonah is here. (Matthew 12:41 NIV)

The hardness of their hearts caused them to reject the message from the perfect messenger, the One who is the very Word of God. They will stand condemned by those who repented at the preaching of the most flawed of prophets. But what does that have to do with us today?

There has never been more access to the Bible in our language as there is today. Free resources abound with access to multiple translations of the text. In addition, study helps are easier than ever to obtain that can aid us in understanding what we are reading. We have access to audio, video and printed teaching (paper and electronic) that our forefathers could not even dream about. But can we truly say we know our Bibles as well as those of a generation ago? Many of them grew up in homes with one family Bible and didn’t get their own copy until they were grown. But they studied it and committed it to memory. We, on the other hand, are so distracted by what the world flashes in front of us that we have little time for plumbing the depths of the Word of God.

Those who struggled to obtain the Scriptures in the past, along with those in countries where the Bible is forbidden and must be read in secret, will rise to condemn those of us in countries where most Christians have multiple Bibles and study helps galore, yet do not take full advantage of such. We would be foolish to assume that our access to the Word will always be unfettered.

When I was headed over for Desert Storm, we stopped in the Philippines. I spoke to some missionaries there who spoke of soldiers who would memorize sections of the Bible, just in case they were ever captured. What would happen to us if the Bible was suddenly classified as “hate speech” and banned? What if we were imprisoned for our faith? Would we know enough Bible to live on spiritually?

May the ease with which we can become familiar with the Bible never become a cause for contempt, or a reason to take His Word for granted.

20121127-194915.jpg

Success In Ministry

How do you define success? Specifically, how would you define “success” in ministry? Is it having a large congregation? Is it being a sought after speaker? The number of baptisms you have performed? And does your definition match God’s definition of success?

There are many names of people in Scripture who God declared to be successful, that the world (and I dare say much of the church) would say had failed. Take Noah for instance. The man preached for over 100 years, and the only converts he had to show for it were his wife and kids. Or the prophet Elijah, who as a reward for preaching the truth had a price on his head! Or Jeremiah, whose message was greeted with such hostility, they threw him in a cistern to die.
And then there was Isaiah, whose commission from God was as follows:
“Render the hearts of this people insensitive,
Their ears dull,
And their eyes dim,
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
Hear with their ears,
Understand with their hearts,
And return and be healed.” Then I said, “Lord, how long?” And He answered,
“Until cities are devastated and without inhabitant,
Houses are without people
And the land is utterly desolate, (Isaiah 6:10, 11 NASB)

Why did these men do these things if they were doomed to fail? Because God doesn’t measure success the way man does. God measures success as faithful obedience in a relationship with Him. It has never been about how well we do a thing. It is based on having a right standing with God. When that happens, spiritual fruit will follow.

Having that kind of focus will keep us from burning out when the world doesn’t beat a path to our door, fall to their knees, and ask what they must do to be saved. Jesus told the disciples this same thing.

And He said to them, “I was watching Satan fall from heaven like lightning. Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing will injure you. Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are recorded in heaven.” (Luke 10:18-20 NASB)

If we get too focused on what we are doing instead of who we are doing it for, we are setting ourselves up for failure, even though the world may call us a success. Jesus knew this and redirected the disciples’ rejoicing to something of eternal significance — that their names were written in heaven.

Paul admonished Timothy to make full proof of his ministry. He didn’t tell him to market the church, or raise outside support. He was to preach the Word in season and out of season (2 Timothy 4:2). Put in simpler terms, that means to preach the Word when people want to hear it and when people don’t want to hear it. Preach when it is easy and when it is hard. And if you spend your live faithfully giving spiritual food to His sheep, the Good Shepherd will reward you on the last day.

Just be diligent to deepen your walk with God, and the rest will follow. Paul’s charge to Timothy sums it up well.
Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you. (1 Timothy 4:16 NASB)

20120830-004954.jpg

Smooth Talkers Not Needed

Smooth Talkers Need Not Apply
There are some smooth talkers that it seems could sell people anything. There are also some who can give a speech so moving that people run to join their cause. But when preaching, is that what God is looking for? Is He looking for the most gifted speakers or the most persuasive salesmen? Let’s see what the Apostle Paul said about his own preaching strategy.

And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling, and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God. (1 Corinthians 2:1-5 NASB)

Paul first says he did not come as a gifted speaker or philosopher. Paul was not an uneducated man, either. He was a scholar in his own right, and could have overwhelmed his audiences with the depth of his knowledge. But rather than give into the temptation to do so, he purposely avoided it. His message was simply about Jesus Christ and his crucifixion for our sins. He would rather be seen as weak and foolish than as a gifted orator.
Why? The focus had to be kept on Christ. How many sermon series being preached around the American church today are on things other than Jesus? Oh, He may get a cursory mention but Jesus is not the central focus of the teaching. The message is on how we can be happy, or prosperous, or successful. The message is a WIIFM statement (what’s in it for me) rather than centering our thoughts and actions on Jesus and what HE wants.

But what about the demonstration of the Spirit and power of God?

God also testifying with them, both by signs and wonders and by various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will. (Hebrews 2:4 NASB)

But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God. (2 Peter 1:20, 21 NASB)

While the signs and wonders of the Apostles were necessary for Showing that the message was from God, that message is now here for us. The power of the Spirit is demonstrated by the ability of the Bible to convict sinners and draw them to Jesus.

When we preach with the mission of drawing people to the person of Jesus Christ, and we use the Word of God to do so, the message has inherent power. That power will so draw people to Jesus that they will not be dissuaded by a worldly philosophy. A man with an experience is never at the mercy of a man with an argument. And their faith will be based on the Word of God, and not the preacher.

What is needed is a generation of preachers who are so in love with Jesus Christ that they can’t stop talking about him. Preachers who will draw their messages from the pure spring of living water found in the Bible, unadulterated by human philosophy and the wisdom of men. They will be men of power that can be mightily used of God to win their generation for Christ. The world can keep its smooth talkers and silver tongued orators. We want men to know nothing and long for nothing more, than the person of Jesus.

20120818-000040.jpg

%d bloggers like this: