Nature of True Preaching 4

Christianity sounded in men’s ears as good advice, rather than good news; an exhortation to be up and doing, to fight the good fight and follow the gleam, not the announcement of something which God had already done, decisively and for ever. There was accordingly an inclination to regard the preacher as the purveyor of religious homilies and ethical uplift, not the herald of the mighty acts of God, So far did the prevailing mood push the tendency to “change the glory of the uncorruptible God into the image of corruptible man” that there appeared a plagiarizing hymn, “Nearer, Mankind, to thee, Nearer to thee.” (James Stewart, Heralds of God)

While Stewart thought of those things as perhaps history, they were not and are not. These attitudes are still around and have never really left, though they seem to take on new dresses or appearances in each generation. The Gospel (good news) is not advice; it is the one thing that sinners must hear. The good news is about Christ and apart from Christ there is no salvation at all. The Gospel is not just exhorting people to do things, it is the good news of the glory of God in Christ. True preaching focuses on the essentials regardless of what else it is doing. The Gospel is good news to all kinds of sinners and saved sinners need to hear it and grow in the knowledge of it.

In the Bible the Gospel of the glory of God in the face of Christ is the central message and the essential message. When preachers (so-called) treat it as optional and as simply good advice, they are not true preachers. Men are only preachers when they are heralding the wonders and glories of God in a way where men are confronted with the truth of God and brought face to face with Christ. When a person is in some way in the presence of God, it is silly to tell the person little stories and humorous anecdotes. True preaching is about God and His glory and the zenith point of that is in Christ and the cross of Christ.

It is true that the simple reading of religious homilies and uplifting talks or moral encouragements are what people used to talk about and it is the same thing today as well. It is also true that some people like preachers who yell and scream and basically throw what appears to be fits as they yell about certain things in the Bible. But what is needed for true preaching are men who have been in the presence of God who come forth speaking the wonders and glories of God with reverence and awe. These are men who come from the presence of God and desire men and women to come into the presence of God with them. These are men with fire in their souls and deep convictions about the eternal truths of God and His eternal Gospel. They don’t have time to deal with the silliness of the day or mess around with little homilies and moral platitudes. They are going to deal with God and seek to have others deal with God as well.

The methods of church growth and church starting and all things of that type are focused on man-centered things. In those things the self-love of man is what is thought of the most and planned for rather than showing man how that self-love is sin. How full we can get buildings when we play the right music and speak little of sin and make man the center of it all. How happy people are to hear how God wants them healthy and rich. Oh how conservative ministers tend to do the same thing in order to keep their jobs, but of course they will not admit to that. The Gospel cannot be watered down or it becomes another gospel, yet we do this in order to keep from being called names. We dare not confront men with the glory of the sovereign God over all things. We dare not declare that God must bring men to Himself or men will not come. We dare not stand against free-will and declare that God is sovereign over those things as well. We dare not preach that the Bible tells us that all the nations are as less than nothing before Him and meaningless.

True preaching is in one sense to take the side of God against man and all the things of man. Part of the Gospel of free-grace is that God grants some people repentance and gives them faith. As long as men think that it is up to them and their choice, they will put things off. We must go after this man-centeredness and strive to speak to men with the hope that God will use our words to strip them of their pride and their self-righteousness. We must know that man must lose all hope in themselves if they are going to look to Christ alone. We must know that if men are going to rest in the Gospel of free-grace alone they must not rest in their own righteousness at all. Preaching is not just a nice guy saying nice things, but it is a man who is gripped with eternal realities and he is there to tell people the real nature of their hearts and the real nature of the sovereign God. We can be winsome and nice and people may become orthodox and moral and on their way to hell past our moral and orthodox pulpits. We need preaching that will thunder the greatness and the glory of God and beauty of the Gospel of free-grace. Nice preaching is no preaching at all as it tickles ears rather than the man being a herald sent from God.

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