Nature of True Preaching 2

For you the issue has been settled. To bring men face to face with Christ has seemed to you a matter of such immense and overruling urgency that you propose to devote your whole life to doing nothing else. You are determined, God helping you, to go down to the world of men, and show them what you have learnt—what indeed you shall go on learning more clearly every day you live—about the eternity of redeeming love and the beauty of the Lord. (James Stewart, Heralds of God)

There are several points in the paragraph just above that point to true preaching. There is nothing in the paragraph that points to the ability to tell jokes and entertaining stories, nor does it speak of a charismatic personality. What it says is that the goal is to bring men face to face with Christ and that this is an immense and overruling agency that should bring a person to devote his whole life to. The desire to bring men face to face with Christ is a far different thing than simply teaching biblical passages and even truths from a pulpit. It is not just proclaiming things that are true, but it is the desire for those with eternal souls to come face to face with the living God in the Person of Christ.

We can think of some of the Old Testament prophets and how they would weep over the people. We think of Paul who while in Athens was provoked by the idolatry of the people. We can think of Paul again who said that he was willing to perish if only he could save some of his people. Above all, however, we should think of the Lord Jesus who was willing to divest Himself of heavenly garb for the lowly flesh of a servant and come to earth and suffer in the place of His enemies. In other words, preaching is not for those who simply want to give cold, intellectual lectures. Preaching requires a heart in the preacher and in order to truly preach the Gospel of a suffering Savior we must preach from hearts that have learned these things in the heart and we must have been taught of Christ Himself. A man who knows only the intellectual parts of Christianity is not fit to be a preacher. Preaching requires the heart of the living Christ to be worked in and shared with the preacher that the preacher may speak forth the words of Christ with the heart of Christ.

The preacher, at least in a sense, goes down to the people. This pictures at least two things. First, the true preacher is sent by God and as such comes from the presence of God to herald forth the things of God and the might works of God. The second thing is that the preacher has a specific purpose in going from God to men. He is not there to entertain them and amuse them, but he is there to show these men by his preaching what God Himself has shown the preacher. The preacher may use books, but it is the living God who teaches men spiritual things and gives men a sense of reverence and awe in His presence. The preacher must be taught of God in his heart or he will be taught of man. The preacher who does nothing but give a commentary (so to speak) of a text has not been taught of God the deep things of God.

The preacher that has been taught of God has no time to waste on silly things, but instead the Lord has put the things in his heart and he is a man on a mission and has a message from heaven for the people. This type of man has an earnestness that the one who has only book learning will never have. The man who has learned from God will want to learn more from God and so is always learning and always bringing forth new aspects of old truths. The Word of God will never run dry as long as ministers look for the mighty works and the wonderful attributes of God as displayed and manifested in Christ.

Note the things that Stewart mentions that the preacher learns more of all the time. These men learn more of the love and beauty of God. These things can be studied in an academic sense, but they can only be truly and spiritually learned when the living God teaches them. Here the humbled and broken heart of the preacher prays and seeks the Lord for more of a sight of them and a taste of them. Here the true preacher has a compulsion to know these things in the depths of his soul and by spiritual taste rather than by definitions and descriptions only. It is perhaps at this point that is the greatest difference between those who lean on book learning and the intellectual approach and those who seek the Lord to teach them. The one leaning on book learning can only preach/lecture what he has studied and learned, which means that he is limited to the wisdom of men. The one who is taught of the Lord has the Lord in heart and the Lord is sharing Himself with that man. This is the kind of preaching that men need to hear. This is the kind of preaching that God uses to awaken sinners and to feed His people.

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