Month 11:29, Week 4:7 (Shibi'i/Sukkot), Year:Day 5940:324 AM|
2Exodus 3/40, Yovel - Year 50/50
Gregorian Calendar: Saturday 25 February 2017
A Call for Solid Biblical Preaching
Shabbat shalom kol beit Yisra'el and Mishpachah Lev-Tsiyon - may the grace of our Master Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ) be with you all.
The Responsibility of Preachers
Preachers like myself have a huge responsibility. What we do is not only important but essential. Paul testified:
The Apostolic Hallmark
"For since, in the wisdom of Elohim (God), the world through wisdom did not know Elohim (God), it pleased Elohim (God) through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe" (1 Cor.1:21, NKJV).
Though not everybody comes to salvation through preaching, a very large number of people do. Preaching was one of the hallmarks of the apostolic age. It matters today as much as it mattered then. And the reason it matters is because when it is done right, Elohim (God) supernaturally empowers it in a way distinct from mere oratory, teaching or lecturing. Whether we like it or not, preaching is the primary means by which Yahweh has chosen to save those who accept the Besorah (Gospel) message, even if groups like the Quakers deny this.
The Huge Promise of Authentic Preaching
I don't think a lot of modern ministers understand this at all. If they had, they would have known that authentic preaching - and by 'authentic' I mean the Ruach/Spirit-filled emet (truth) of the Davar Elohim (Word of God) and not man-made doctrines - is blessed with a huge promise:
The Substance of a True Witness
"When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about Elohim (God). For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ) and Him crucified. I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Ruach's (Spirit's) power, so that your emunah (faith) might not rest on men's wisdom, but on Elohim's (God's) power.
"We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. No, we speak of Elohim's (God's) secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that Elohim (God) destined for our glory before time began. None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Master of glory. However, as it is written:
but Elohim (God) has revealed it to us by His Ruach (Spirit).
'No eye has seen,
no ear has heard,
no mind has conceived
what Elohim (God) has prepared for those who love Him' -
"The Ruach (Spirit) searches all things, even the deep things of Elohim (God). For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man's spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of Elohim (God) except the Ruach Elohim (Spirit of God). We have not received the spirit of the world but the Ruach (Spirit) who is from Elohim (God), that we may understand what Elohim (God) has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Ruach (Spirit), expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words. The man without the Ruach (Spirit) does not accept the things that come from the Ruach Elohim (Spirit of God), for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual man makes judgments about all things, but he himself is not subject to any man's judgment:
But we have the mind of Messiah" (1 Cor.2:-16, NIV).
Here the substance of our witness is laid out. It consists of the simple witness of "Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ) and Him crucified" - for the unbelievers and for those young in the emunah (faith) - and "a message of wisdom among the mature", and all done by the power of the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit) which is incomprehensible to the carnal mind. Therefore the preacher - but anyone who is witnessing too - must use the Ruach (Spirit) as the main instrument through which to feed and instruct the Messianic Community coporately.
The Bible Source
Finally, the Bible - the Tanakh (Old Testament) and the Messianic Scriptures (New Testament) - is what must principally furnish the preacher with the devarim (words) and concepts for they must always be the substance of his message:
The Word Must Be Central
"Preach the Davar (Word); be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage - with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the emet (truth) and turn aside to myths" (2 Tim.4:1-4, NIV).
The preacher faces a perennial problem - when the Davar (Word) is no longer the centre of preaching, the people will want to fill the vaccuum left by his negligence with something else. Without sound doctrine or Torah - they will lust after other teachings, turn away from emet (truth) and believe fantasy. The Bible, preached in the Ruach (Spirit), is the butress against this happening.
The Responsibiliies of Preachers and Congregations
If preachers had stuck to the Davar (Word) there wouldn't be all these crazy teachings in Christendom today. Part of the problem is with the preachers but a share of the blame is also with those who choose to carry on listening to such nonsense. So my message isn't just for preachers but for everyone who chooses to listen to such preachers. If these false preachers won't be corrected, leave them - go elsewhere.
What the First Believers Spread Abroad
We know exactly what the first cenhtury preachers were talking about because the Bible tells us:
The Blessed Strategy
"The Davar Elohim (Word of God) kept on spreading; and the number of the talomidim (disciples) continued to increase greatly..." (Acts 6:7, NASU).
"So the Davar (Word) of Yahweh was growing mightily and prevailing..." (Acts 19:20, NASU).
The fruit of this early preaching was what? A knowledge of the Davar Elohim (Word of God), the Scriptures, both written and living. Biblical preaching was, and yet remains, Yahweh's chief strategy for the growth, leading and feeding of the Messianic flock and is the one strategy He has always blessed.
Churches as The High Tech Corporation Entertainment Business
All this has changed in a huge segment of Christendom. New strategies have been invented that have downplayed or even totally ignored Bible preaching because they don't want to offend or drive unbelievers away. These churches are beginning to resemble corporations not only in appearance but also their appeal for 'customers' - they have become market-driven. What do people want? Give it to them! seems to be the new way. They have also imitated the entertainment industry and the communication methodologies of the secular mass media. Incorporating modern technology has become the means by which to impress and amaze their audiences. They have forgotten about teaching the emet (truth) and edification by the Ruach (Spirit). Indeed the Ruach (Spirit) has been replaced by psychic titilation - the flesh. Outwardly the churches so closely resemble the world so as to be virtually indistinguishable from it. Ministers have become showmen and motivational speakers instead of real preachers.
A Radically Different World to Evangelise
The preachers are one problem but our post-modernist Western world is another one. Obviously the message of salvation is exactly the same as it was 2,000 years ago. What's different is context. Our world has radically changed since I was a youth. Sermons once preached by the old-time 'greats' more than a couple of generations ago address a very different social and religious context to our own day.
How the Gospel if Viewed by the Modern Culture
Albert Mohler, 9th president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, nails the problem succinctly:
Turning Today's Hearts
"To many, the gospel is just too strange, too countercultural, too propositional, and too exclusive. To contend for the gospel and biblical morality in this culture is to run the risk of being cited for 'hate speech'. We must assume a context of spiritual confusion, and this is now often hostile confusion. The gospel sounds not only strange but threatening to the local deities" .
The solution is not to water the Besorah (Gospel) down even more to make it politically correct but to preach from the Bible even more vigorously. And to do that, the preachers have to be anointed with power. Of course Satan will counterfeit that power, and has been doing so for a long time, but powerful it must be, most especially in the area of turning spiritually hostile, confused minds and hearts into the very opposite.
An End to Modernism
Faking it, as so many preachers do, is doomed to fail and will simply widen the gulf between true fellowships and false. The day of experimentation, of seeker-friendlyism, of diluting the Davar (Word), of giving messages designed to appeal to secularised believers without confronting, embarrassing or challenging them to make teshuvah (repent) from sin, is over. Congregations need to hear bucket-loads of biblical emet (truth) - always more, never less. Sinners need to be made to feel uncomfortable and at the same time encouraged, in ahavah (love), to renounce the way of the world totally. Congregations need to hear everything the Davar (Word) tells, the hot potatoes (from the point of view of the prevailing culture) as well as the message of reconcilliation and healing.
Six Factors That Have Led to the Present State of Affairs
Albert Mohler identifies six factors that have led to the current state of affais that I would like to briefly summarise because preachers have got to both resist and actively oppose them if they are to be effective:
- 1. We have to restore confidence in the power of the Davar (Word). Words have lost something of their mystique thanks to the digital and commercial revolution. As a society we are becoming increasingly image-orientated, the "predominant means of mental transport" as Mitchell Stephens of New York University calls it. A diminution in people's interest in words at the expense of imagery has led to a loss in confidence in preaching because preaching too is a "mental transport". Liberalism has exercised a baneful influence in terms of a loss of confidence by preachers in the authority of the Bible and in the power of the spoken word to communicate. All the big mega-star speakers use digitalised moving imagery with music in the background in their preaching which capture our attention - maybe you have seen evangelists like Hagee using them on YouTube. We don't need that sort thing, and whilst useful sometimes in a teaching environment, they detract from preaching. "The faithful declaration of the Davar Elohim (Word of God), spoken through the preacher's voice, is even more powerful than anything music or image can deliver" .
- 2. We have to cease being so reliant on, and infatuated with, hi-tech which has made us mentally lazy. Furthermore, this tech reshapes both the task and the experience which is solely the domain of the Ruach (Spirit). The Ruach (Spirit) is infinitely more adept at creating spiritual imagery and does so far more effectively, often adapted to where we are inside and what we personally need which the words of the Ruach/Spirit-filled preacher simply stimulate. For all the good intentions, we must allow Yahweh to be sovereign of the "mental transport" system and not the preacher. Worse, "the visual quickly overcomes the verbal", supplementing and interprating the Davar (Word) which is the sole provine of the supernatural. Dynamic graphics, movie clips and sound tracks manipulate the emotions and distort the activity of the Ruach (Spirit). It should be observed, most soberly, that YAHWEH CHOSE TO BE HEARD, NOT SEEN when He gave the 10 Commandments. We must allow Yahweh's Ruach (Spirit) to utilise our imagination and not surrender it to the preacher.
- 3. We have to cease being embarrassed by those biblical texts which do not resonate with the modern culture. Modern society has made us over-sensitive and reactive to things the masters of the politically correct culture loathe like patriarchy and sexual purity. The Bible is 'fair game' to today's liberals who are actually re-writing it in modern translations in order to remove 'oppressive patriarchy'. The god of the liberals has updated and refashioned Yahweh in man's carnal, fallen image. Liberal Christians focus on the 'comfy' texts and ignore the 'uncomfy' ones...like repentance and surrender of self-will to Yahweh. They view the text as warped by ancient, cultural prejudices, and want to avoid anything remotely confrontational with society. Preachers have got to come out boldly and declare, unapologetically, that the Bible - all of it - is inspired by the Ruach (Spirit), without error in the original languages, authoritative and therefore reliable - every last jot and tittle of it. The preacher has to be able to declare, without hesitation:
"All Scripture is Elohim/God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness" (2 Tim.3:16, NIV).
- 4. It is one thing to ignore passages that aren't liked but it is quite something else to empty the content of the passages preachers do use by reading them out of context. You know the addage, "text without a context is a pretext", that is to say, to make it mean whatever you want it to. Preachers must accurately communicate the central emet (truth) of every passage and apply it to daily living without ever losing the 'big picture', "the overarching story of Yahweh's purpose to glorify Himself through the redemption of sinners. Taken out of context, and without clear attention to biblical theology, preaching becomes a series of disconnected talks on disconnected texts" .
- 5. It was liberal pastors like Harry Emerson Fosdick who turned Biblical preaching into psychotherapy by inventing 'needs-based preaching'. These preachers have essentially become therapists, trying to address perceived needs intead of their need for a Saviour. As Mohler correctly points out: "The problem, of course, is that the sinner does not know what his most urgent need is. He is blind to his need for redemption and reconciliation with Elohim (God), and focuses on potentially real but temporal needs such as personal fulfilment, financial security, family peace, and career advancement. Too many sermons settle for answering these expressed needs and concerns and fail to proclaim the Davar Emet (Word of Truth)" .
- 6. We have got to stop being 'charismatic' and get 'kerygmatic' wherein lies the heart of the Besorah (Gospel). That means preaching (kerygma) must include a presentation of the Besorah (Gospel) - the salvation message - no matter what text or texts are being examined. We have to preach the Davar (Word), place it in its canonical context, and, as Spurgeon put it, "make a bee-line to the cross". What that means, practically-speaking, is to make sure that preaching leads to a call for a decision for Yah'shua (Jesus) and accountability. To make the preaching relevent and sensible, it must also deal with the reality of human sin, which means getting past all the "sensitivites" inserted by Satan into our modern culture to make that as difficult as possible.
Brethen and sisters, preachers have been called to be kerygmatics, presents of the Davar Elohim (Word of God) - not some of it, or the parts we like - but all of it, in context and with salvational content and goals. Our calling is to lead souls to salvation and to disciple them until we have all attained to a unity of the emunah (faith). May we be found faithful. Amen.
 R.Albert Mohler, Jr., He is Not Silent: Preaching in a Postmodern World (Moody Publishers, Chicago: 2008), p.127
 Ibid., pp.16-21
 Ibid., p.17
 Ibid., p.19
 Ibid., p.20