January 9, 2016 at 9:19 pm #4799
Jack Exum JrParticipant
Jessee P. Sewel back in 1957 during his last series of public lessons capped off his lessons with the following statement.
“Who is a Gospel preacher? He is a man, but he is a man redeemed by grace through faith, standing in Christ’s stead, under His authority, and by His command, proclaiming His Gospel, making it plain, strong, and urgent in such a way that responsible man can believe it, and accept it unto life, or reject it unto death.”
Preaching is all about HIM! Jesus is the focus. Preaching has always meant a lot to me, but never as much as it does at this point in my life. It has taken time, experience, growth and introspection for me to understand the great privilege which came with the ‘call’ to preach. Not everyone has the desire, which is okay… not everyone accepts the ‘call,’ and that too is okay.
Paul, was like many preachers who accepted the ‘call’ but he also had the ‘baggage’ of a past life, like so many of us. A past life which perhaps he possibly would rather forget. You recall that Paul was the one encouraging, and essentially ‘handing rocks’ to the ones stoning Stephen. He was a self-proclaimed persecutor of all who called on Jesus as Savior.
Not all persecuted the church as Paul did. He speaks of his past in Galatians, “For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it. 14 And I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people, so extremely zealous was I for the traditions of my fathers” (Galatians 1.13-14). Yet all preachers have done things which have caused them to cry out, “be merciful to me O God, a sinner,” for we are all sinners saved by grace.
The story is told of John Newton, that while he was preaching a man stood up and accosted him publicly. Reminding him of his past deeds whilst a sea Captain of a slave ship. The murders, the abuse of the slaves, the wickedness of his past life… to which John replied “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me.” How accurate I tell this story is I am not sure, but it makes the point, of how burdened, and yes grateful preachers must feel, and cannot afford to forget, as they stand before others speaking of the Gospel of Christ. The preacher’s message is usually “above their pay grade,” for they struggle as do everyone else to live and grow in grace.
“Standing in Christ’s stead,” doesn’t mean a preacher is perfect (past, present or future), it is a phrase (to me) that speaks of the grand privilege and responsibility of preaching the Word. A preacher who is not ‘smitten’ with this should possibly take a break and figure out why. This phrase speaks to me of a man who does not eclipse the cross with smooth speech and platitudes, but hides behind it. Lastly it speaks to me of remembering whose man the preacher is.
“Under His authority,” speaks directly to the One who ‘called him to preach.’ Moses, the Prophets, John, the Apostles ministered and spoke under authority from God. Even Jesus said, “Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me” (John 14:24).
This emboldened their speaking, they added nothing to, nor took anything away from what they were told to speak. They did not cave under to the pressure, prejudice or threats of religious politics, they confronted sin, they brought the message of God to the people.
Being aware of this “little” fact is a reminder of who the real Authority is. Much like the priest in the movie “Rudy,” who when Rudy came looking for answers to his problems, the elderly priest said, “Rudy, I know two things… THERE IS A GOD, and I’M NOT HIM.” The preacher knows WHO he is and WHOSE he is, and struggles to live that way. Is he perfect? No! Does he sin? Yes! Look at all of God’s servants (Jesus excepted), did they have “baggage?” Everyone of them. Did they falter and sin? Everyone of them. Did they mourn their sins and failures? Sure! Yet they, like Muhammed Ali answered the reporter when he was asked what he was thinking when he was knocked down during a heavy weight fight… He said, “I was thinking about getting up!” Being “under authority,” doesn’t mean you ARE THE AUTHORITY! It doesn’t mean you won’t get knocked down or fall down. God is the Authority, and His Word is our message. Preaching is a privilege, and we remember always… we are but “earthen vessels.”
“By His command,” preachers PREACH. The privilege is unbelievable, to answer to the ‘call,’ and ‘march’ under His orders. Leading the charge against Satan and his hordes. We do not “lead from behind” as some politicians do. We lead by: 1.) Example, 2.) Word, 3.) Love for the church, 4.) Love for God, 5.) By the power of the Spirit. We lead, and that’s no small thing, yet it must keep us humble and grateful, for it is by His grace… all by his grace.
“Proclaiming His Gospel.” What did they PREACH? Maybe the better question is: “What should we preach?” The only thing supported by His authority, and by His command is “preach the (HIS) WORD.” Let’s get more specific… When we focus on Acts of the Apostles, we see the church born in the outpouring of the Spirit (Acts 1-2), and a blaze of glorious preaching. The church grew and didn’t stop growing. They preached JESUS.
Charles Hodge, back in 1986 took one full year, and preached on the life of Jesus. Every Sunday service they heard about the life of the Master. About half way through the year, after his lesson, Charles was standing at the back and shaking hands, when an old brother came up to him, took his hand, looked him in the eyes and said “Brother Hodge, don’t you think we need to hear more Gospel?” He was speaking of lessons on “Hear,” “Believe,” “Repent,” “Confess,” and “Baptism.” Brethren, these are the terms of the Gospel! The Gospel is ALL ABOUT WHAT GOD HAS DONE THROUGH HIS SON!
People are not needing to hear what the latest issue is. Churches built on, that continually feed on ISSUES, do not thrive. This message does not save. They need to hear about Jesus, His life, His teachings, His Parables, His Miracles, and all the principles of life that are found in these that apply today, and will apply tomorrow.
Jesus commanded his disciples, “Go into all the world and make disciples… baptizing…teaching to observe all I have commanded you…” We don’t need to go into all the world and spread DIVISION, or teach on ISSUES. The world needs to hear JESUS. This is His command…
“Who is a Gospel preacher? He is a man, but he is a man redeemed by grace through faith, standing in Christ’s stead, under His authority, and by His command, proclaiming His Gospel…” It has always been ABOUT JESUS, and always will be. Praise His name!
Grow in grace!
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