FORGET NONE OF HIS BENEFITS
volume 19, number 17, April 16, 2020
“Prophesy over these bones.” -Ezekiel 37:4
In my devotional from April 9, I addressed the issue of preaching that is worthy of COVID-19. What kind of preaching is necessary to revive the church and to convert the lost at such a momentous time in our nation and world? We looked at this negatively, last week. I said that preaching worthy of COVID-19 must not be man centered, deistic, psychotherapeutic, semi-pelagian, redemptive-historical, casual, antinomian, moralistic, without exhortation, or information only preaching.
I also briefly mentioned the positive, that such preaching must be God centered, Christ exalting, Spirit anointed, man debasing, exemplary, urgent, passionate, law filled, grace filled, exhortation filled, heart directed, three fold evangelistic, prophetic, and revival preaching. Now I wish to take this up in a positive manner. What kind of preaching is worthy of COVID-19? First, it must be God-centered. Such preaching always begins with God, His attributes, His character, His demands upon mankind. It stresses the holiness, sovereignty, justice, mercy, and love of God. It constantly reveals who God is and what He expects of His creatures. It proclaims the fact that our God is a consuming fire.
It must be Christ exalting preaching. It weaves into the sermon the person and work of Christ, His humiliation (His birth, temptation, death, descent into hell) and His exaltation (His resurrection, ascension, intercession at the Father’s right hand, and His second coming). It declares Jesus Christ as the only Savior of the world, He who was delivered over for our transgressions and raised for our justification. It preaches Christ crucified.
It must be Spirit-anointed preaching. This preaching must reach the heart and drive the hearers to whatever action the text is demanding. Such preaching comes with authority and power. The hearers know God is dealing with them. They are awakened, quickened, their hearts pierced with gospel truth.
It must be man debasing preaching. Man, in his pomp, prejudice, and pride always thinks more highly of himself than he ought to think. Man is the master manipulator, adept at passing the buck to someone else, amazingly skilled at deceiving himself about his perilous condition, chronically guilty of playing the victim card. Consequently he must be leveled, brought low by the Spirit and Law to see how corrupt, wicked, and perverse his heart, flesh, and mind are. Coddling him with self-actualization sermons will never transform him or deliver him from eternal death.
It must be exemplary preaching. It looks at the Old Testament narratives and sees the good and the bad in characters like Adam, Noah, Abraham, David, and Solomon. It obeys the admonition of Paul who told the Philippians to follow his example and to be imitators of him as he followed Christ. It rejects the notion that such preaching is moralistic in nature. We learn from the good or bad we find in David, and then we run to Jesus who is our sanctification and redemption (I Cor.1:30). We are inspired by the good we find in these characters and we are warned by their failures.
It must be urgent and passionate preaching. A man passing by a burning house does not wait until next week to warn those inside of their impending danger. He does not casually or apologetically seek to gain their interest. He runs to the house. He raises his voice. He speaks with great emotion. He is very much aware that this is a life and death issue. They must flee danger and run to safety. COVID-19 is worthy of such preaching.
It is law filled, grace filled, and exhortation filled preaching. It always applies the law of God in every sermon to believer and unbeliever alike. It seeks to use the law to paint a vivid picture of the one dead in his sins. It seeks to help the casual or careless professing Christian to see how the devil is deceiving him and leading him away from the faith. After leveling the sinner and saint alike this kind of preaching lavishes the grace of God on the guilty sinner. He cannot appreciate the grace of God until he sees his own sin before the Holy One. And this preaching is chock full of exhortation. The convicted sinner is called strongly, immediately, authoritatively to run to the only refuge for sinners, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Such preaching is directed toward the heart. Knowledge never in itself moves people to action. People can know exactly what they should do, but until the heart is reached then nothing of long lasting change will occur. If only the mind is addressed then the sermon is academic. If only the will is addressed then the sermon is manipulation. If the heart is addressed through the mind, affecting the will, then there is true gospel transformation.
It is to be three-fold evangelistic preaching. It stresses the necessity of regeneration whereby the cobra heart which loves sin and hates God is exterminated on the cross, and the heart of Jesus which loves God and hates sin replaces it. It stresses the glory of justification, the wonderful truth that God imputes the very righteousness of Christ to us, while simultaneously taking our sins and removing them as far as the east is from the west. And it promises the indwelling Holy Spirit who gives us the ability to walk in gospel holiness. That is, every born again believer should expect to make progress in his daily walk with Christ.
Such preaching is prophetic in nature. It comes with the very authority of the word of God, a “Thus says the Lord.” Such a preacher does not come with “hat in hand”, hoping to garner enough respect for a few people to listen to a few of the things he says. No, he comes in the name of the Lord God of Hosts and he will be heard for as he preaches under the anointing of the Spirit he is preaching the very word of God.
And this must be revival preaching. It revives the believer to see the danger stemming from his worldly, fleshly, and devilish designs. He is arrested, like Saul on the road to Damascus, and his life is changed forever. He can never go back to his former way of living. And revival preaching awakens the unbeliever to the reality of his present, perilous, and treacherous slide toward perdition. Such revival preaching is used of God as a catalyst for societal impact which will transform our world.
Preacher, ask God to work in you this preaching worthy of COVID-19. And church member, pray for your pastor and your street preacher friend to preach in the fullness and power of the Spirit. May God be pleased to use such preaching to effect a change in our nation, postponing the day of our demise. Every dynasty in history ends at some point. Our country is no different. Nonetheless, we have the privilege to ask God to postpone that day a century or two until the Jews are called and the fullness of the Gentiles comes in.
1 Dr. John Carrick in his book The Imperative of Preaching: A Theology of Sacred Rhetoric, does a really good job of contrasting redemptive-historical and exemplary preaching.