Finding the Fearless Preacher
I have gone to Mass and to worship services my whole life. I have listened to thousands of sermons. I must admit that preaching had no effect on me in my youth. The preachers pitched their understanding of the Gospel to me with no interest in my eternal soul.
I suppose if those preachers would have known their Bibles better, they would have found the truly “offensive things” of God that may have awakened me (ie. total depravity, unconditional election, particular redemption, irresistible grace, and preservation of the saints). Instead, their lukewarm attitude, in their feeble attempt to reconcile me to God, left me lukewarm, too. Their liberalism had no power to save me, despite the guise of “love”.
I am certainly not an advocate of scare tactics, nor the gimmicks used by other preachers to manipulate their hearers into the kingdom. I believe there are some doctrines that possess their own shock value to the natural man. Unfortunately, these are the ones commonly avoided by ministers of the Word.
The fearless preacher is the one who preaches the sovereignty of God and the doctrines of grace. Invariably, you will find this man of God in a small church somewhere. There is a reason he is occupying a small venue (there are very rare exceptions). It is because he has been cast out of larger ones, where those who despise the sovereignty of God and unbelieving church members hold the power. Their flesh, with all of its pride, could not endure hearing the total depravity of man and the sovereignty of God.
The preacher of the doctrines of grace has a small following of those people who have either grown up with this high view of God, or who have endured years of learning and deficient preaching, until God graciously sent a particular book or person to help them understand the God-centered Gospel.
The typical motive for most people attending church is not their love of God-centered preaching and theology from the Bible. It is the music, programs, friendships, the entertainment prowess of the “communicator,” or something else. Examine yourself, reader, what is your primary reason for attending your local church?
A Word from the Lord is the very best reason for being there. God has spoken to us through His Son (Heb 1:2), and His Son, by His Spirit, is still speaking to us through the inspired Gospel preaching event. The man of God is key to this experience. His view of God will be the view seen by others. If something or someone hinders that view, there will be a vagueness in his tone. There will surely be a man-centered focus to his sermon message. Listen carefully to the preacher. Is he talking about God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit, or is he talking about you and your self-improvement or obedience?
The difference is stark, to ears that can discern the subject of the sermon. In exegesis, the preacher focuses on what God’s Word says in a particular passage. The preacher then focuses on God, drawing out His person and work. In the application, you will hear something of how all of this relates to you. If you and your deficient performance have not been brought lower during the sermon, you are not subject to the Gospel. The Gospel ruins sinners and their performance before God, and it exclusively appreciates God in Christ.
Even in the application segment of the sermon, man-centeredness can prevail against the idea of God willing and working His good pleasure (Phil 2:13). The application should be about how God is at work and the effect it has on you. It should not be some burdensome “do this” or “don’t do that.” When you hear all the requirements and no message of God graciously accomplishing what concerns you (Ps 57:2; 138:8), then you know you are sitting under a legalistic preacher,
Sanctification belongs to God (Ps 3:8; Jon 2:9; 1 Pet 1:2; Rev 19:1). He will do it (Ps 37:5) because it is His will (1 Thess 4:3), and God does all His holy will (Eph 1:11), according to His eternal purpose (Eph 3:11). Christianity is not a performance; it is a grace. Grace is a work of God, not man (Is 26:12). This is what entering God’s everlasting rest is all about for the saint (Heb 4:1–10). It is also what distinguishes Christianity from the regimens of religions and cults. The Christian trusts in the Lord to fulfill His promises concerning her (Ps 138:8).
For these reasons, preaching is dangerous and demands discernment. Salvation, especially spiritual growth, depends on the Gospel content and whether the Spirit will work in the preaching event. There must be light and heat from the preacher, that is, Word and Spirit.
Christian, do you have ears to hear? Do you have the Spirit of truth, hence, the Spirit of discernment to know whether you are hearing about and from the Jesus of the Bible? If you are unsure, pray and ask for the Holy Spirit to guide you to the church/preacher who will fearlessly preach Christ (1 Tim 6:15), the sovereign King and the God-exalting doctrines of grace.
Spokane Valley, Washington
April 2, 2022