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The Pleasure and Power of Preaching with Sincerity

imagePaul addressed the issue of sincerity in preaching on several occasions throughout the New Testament. One such instance is 2 Corinthians 2:17, “For we are not as many, which corrupt the word of God: but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ.” As I have reflected on this verse, it’s given me some comfort to know that the issues that plague modern Christianity also faced the apostles. I’ve also found an important value in preaching – sincerity.

Sure, there are false teachers, hucksters, and impostors in pulpits across the land today. There were in Paul’s day too. It’s nothing new. But the contrast to this trend is a revival of sincerity in the pulpit. Preaching has been defined by D. Martin-Lloyd Jones as “the communication of God’s truth through human personality.” So we preachers get to represent God’s truth through our very personality. The prayer, “hide me behind thy cross, O Lord,” doesn’t reflect an accurate understanding of what preaching is all about. God has called me to represent Him as only I can, and for you to do the same.

So sincerity is a key to effective communication. You can’t fake sincerity for obvious reasons, but you can certainly do a self-test to ask the tough questions…

  • Do I really believe what I’m saying?
  • Do I live what I’m asking others to live?
  • Am I preaching as me, or as Billy Graham?
  • Am I wearing a mask or being transparent?
  • Am I preaching at people, or having a teaching conversation?

I greatly appreciate fine oratory. Two generations ago and further back, oratorical skills were at the top of the list of qualifications for great preaching. There’s nothing wrong with this. In fact, if preaching can be viewed as a creative art, then we certainly ought to make it pretty for God’s glory. And words are certainly the tools of our trade, so we should study them and utilize the power of them. Nevertheless, preaching is still a conversation that takes place between a preacher and each member of his congregation. It ought to come from the heart.

One of my own heroes was W. A. Criswell, who often referred to himself (making light of what others were already pointing out) as “a holy roller with a Ph.D.” I’ve listened to hundreds of his messages over at WACriswell.org and I can tell you, this genius of a man involved his emotions in the communication process, as should we today. It’s part of sincerity – bearing all.

Sincerity is one of my own core preaching values as well as somthing I continually have to fight myself for. And it can’t be faked. So how do you bear your honest heart for a greater impact in communicating the gospel?

Believe the truth

It’s my strong opinion that those who do not trust the entire Word of God as the whole, pure, and perfect book that it is, should not be in a preaching ministry. Period. We may not understand it all, but we can certainly take God’s Word at face value if we’re going to claim to represent it.

Prepare Well

Preparation prevents faking it in the pulpit. One HUGE rule of preaching is “don’t just make stuff up!” So study, prepare, work hard. Every Sunday is a test of your dedication and commitment to the Word.

Preach With Few, If Any Notes

This adds time and energy to preparation. You not only have to compile material and arrange it in a way that makes sense, but you must commit it to memory. If I’ve studied well, the sermon flows from the heart rather than having to leap off of the page. Having said that, some of the greatest preachers in history have been those who utilize manuscripts, so this is admittedly my own angle and not prescriptive for everybody.

Make Eye Contact

See the eyes of your people when you preach to them and you’ll see a piece of their heart as well. Of course, preaching without notes helps this process a great deal, but even if you use notes, glance at them and then return your attention to those from whom you’ve asked attention.

Tell Your Story

Every sermon represents biblical and doctrinal truth, but it also says something about your life, so tell your story. Your testimony and experiences mean a great deal to your congregation. They know you more by hearing about your personal life, so let them in and they’ll trust you more and respond well when you have to apply the truth in highly convicting ways. And, humorous and painful stories create highly teachable moments with our fellow human beings.

Live It Out

Jesus embodied all of God’s truth. He “tabernacled” Himself among us. He is God wrapped in human flesh. We ought to follow in His steps and be God’s truth, wrapped in flesh. Sermons are not just taught on Sunday, but demonstrated daily as we are observed by those who listen to us. We live life in a fish bowl, to some degree, so put on a show – not the kind where you act like a believer, but where you become a trophy of God’s marvelous and powerful grace.

Love Your Listeners

One of the things I pray before every sermon is “Lord, help me love people as I preach.” It’s easier to get messy in ministry when we love people the way God does. And what we say matters to people only when we’ve loved them in saying it.

Do It All Over Again

Sincerity goes along with consistency. We must be sincere week in and week out. There must be a pattern. Sadly, one mistake can blow our testimony for a long time into the future, so we must live consistently, prepare consistently, and preach consistently.

Sincerity matters in preaching. It’s a key value, a core component of effectively representing the gospel and communicating God’s truth in this present age. In fact, we need it more than ever!

The Gospel Changes Everything

The word “gospel” has lost a bit of its meaning in our modern culture. We say that things are “the gospel truth” that really aren’t the gospel truth. We use the word to describe styles of music. And Christians sometimes talk about taking a stand for the gospel in reference to various political and social justice issues. But the word has a rather rich and very specific meaning.

The “gospel” is literally good news. Good news about what? Or rather, about whom? The gospel is the good news about Jesus. The good news is that while creation is lost, bearing the marks and scars of sin, separated from the perfect and glorious God, God has acted to redeem all people and all things to Himself. The good news is that the long-awaited Savior and Messiah, Jesus, finally arrived and paid our ransom, dying on the cross to cover the penalty of our sins. And the good news goes on to tell us that He rose again from the dead in absolute victory over sin, death, and the grave and that He reigns eternally over all that He has redeemed.

Paul wrote about the gospel to the believers in Colosse and defined the good news this way: “For he has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of his dear Son, who purchased our freedom and forgave our sins.” (Colossians 1:13-14 NLT)

In a world filled with negative press, shocking headlines, and bad news, here is some really good news from God. Jesus came to rescue you from sin’s penalty, sin’s power, and even sin’s presence someday. He adopts believers into His family, transfers our citizenship into His own Kingdom, and invites us to live and reign alongside Him for all of eternity.

The gospel is not political in nature, it’s personal. It’s not religious, it’s relational. And it changes everything. But it must be willingly received by anyone who hears and believes its message. Have you put your roots down into the good news about Jesus yet?

You’re Never Alone When You’re Sharing Jesus

Most believers understand the “ought to” side of sharing our faith. We know we ought to do so. Some of us understand the “how to.” In fact, churches have been quite good at equipping and educating believers in the finer points of the gospel and the act of sharing it. But on a daily basis, I think very few understand the “can do” side of witnessing. This is something you can do, and you can do it in what Adrian Rogers often called a “supernaturally natural” way.

I say you can do this and that the “can do” is grounded in the fact that we’re not alone – that we don’t ever go alone when we enter a conversation about our faith in Jesus. There is always a team at work. In addition to your work as a believer…

1. The Word of God is at work as we share it. The Bible is a powerful, living book and God uses it to dissect the heart in deeply spiritual ways. Consider these teachings…

  • Isaiah 55:11 – The word of God accomplishes a purpose.
  • 1 Peter 1:23-25 – The word of God stands forever.
  • Jeremiah 23:29 – The word of God breaks through the hardness of hearts.
  • Hebrews 4:12-13 – The word of God is living, active, and piercing.
  • Romans 10:17 – The word of God is the means of a person believing the gospel.
  • Romans 1:16 – The word of God is powerful to save.

2. The Holy Spirit is at work invisibly in the heart. He’s ever-present and always willing to bless the greatest work a believer can enter into – the work of sharing the good news of Jesus. In fact, while we like to treat the Holy Spirit’s work as something He does for us and for our pleasure, the Bible’s emphasis is on His work through us as we serve and share with others. Check these verses…

  • Acts 4:31 – The Holy Spirit is our source of boldness.
  • Acts 1:8 – The Holy Spirit empowers the church for missions.
  • Acts 8:30 – The Holy Spirit leads us to opportunities.
  • John 6:44 – The Holy Spirit draws the lost to Christ.
  • John 16:8-11 – The Holy Spirit brings conviction of sin.
  • John 3:3, 5-6 – The Holy Spirit regenerates the lost (causes them to be born again).

3. A redeemed witness is at work when you share the good news. That is, you as a believer are a called, sent, redeemed, empowered messenger of the gospel. And God will always be at work through your life, your service, and your words.

  • John 15:16 – Believers have been chosen to bear fruit.
  • Matthew 4:18 – Jesus calls us to be fishers of men.
  • Luke 24:46-48 – We are called to be witnesses of the gospel to all nations.
  • 2 Corinthians 4:5, 7 – We have the treasure of the gospel in earthen vessels, to share for Jesus’ sake.

You can witness because Jesus Christ has called every believer to a life of faithfulness to the great commission and fruitfulness in the world. Realize that God has called you to live in continual partnership with Himself, going where He leads us and walking in the power of His Holy Spirit with His word hidden in your heart. And as you go, He’ll be with you always.

 

He will open doors. Are we ready to break out of the sin of silence to share the message?

The Gospel is the Great Equalizer

The gospel – the good news about Jesus – is the great equalizer. The message of the good news has universal applications. All of us are sinners in need of the good news of grace. And the good news of grace is freely available to all of us. No one is cleared of the guilt of sin without Jesus, and Jesus freely clears anyone who trusts Him from the guilt of sin.

This equalizing nature of the gospel prompted Paul to include it in what he referred to as the “armor of God.” He said, “For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared.” (Ephesians 6:15 NLT)

In the last couple of weeks, we’ve been overwhelmed by stories of war in Ukraine, the advances of IS (ISIS) in Iraq as they massacre and persecute Christians, the horrors of conflict in Gaza, Lybia, and Syria, and riots in Ferguson, Missouri. The list could be virtually endless were we to list and detail all of the conflicts and tragedies overwhelming us in our world. But behind all of these points of conflict is the possibility that the gospel can equalize and bring peace to the nations.

And Paul challenged us to wear this gospel of peace as our shoes. Some interpret this as a means of protecting our walk with God, but I tend to think Paul had in mind the footprints soldiers leave behind in their journeys. That is to say, we who believe and hope in the gospel may leave its mark behind wherever we go. As we walk through a world that is certainly not at peace, we should leave behind evidence of the work and potential of the gospel that brings peace.

What do you do when the world is falling apart? Cling to the good news of Jesus. Rest in it. Celebrate it. And spread the word of the good news to any who have ears to hear.

Who Gets to Be Saved? Everyone Who Believes

20140617-005704-3424610.jpgThe gospel (the good news that Jesus died for sin and rose again to redeem and reconcile people to God) is good news, but it’s only good news to those who hear it, who hear it in time, and who believe it when they hear it.

Paul wrote a well-known verse about the good news once when he declared, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” (Romans 1:16 ESV )

Who gets to be saved from the wrath of God? All who hear and heed and believe. Jews and Greeks. Those who are in the holy lineage of the Messiah and outsiders too. Anyone! Everyone! All who believe!

The only thing as important as embracing the gospel of salvation in Jesus is the task of passing the good news along to others. There is absolutely no greater cause for which to live than the spreading of the good news to others. As Paul put it earlier in the chapter, our high and holy calling is to “bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations.” (Romans 1:5 ESV)

So if you’re living the rest of your life 1.) to pass the gospel along, 2.) to every person on the planet, 3.) for the fame of His name… then who’s next? For whom are you praying? With whom are you talking about Jesus?

Good news needs to get there on time.