Thursday, January 22, 2015

How not to preach revival

We all would love a greater presence of Jesus in our lives. To hear the Holy Spirit's voice clearer.  To, in the words of Robin Lamont in Godspell,

See you more clearly,
     love you more dearly
 follow you more clearly.

(If this isn't true of you then may I suggest you have some other business to take care of and you had better get to it).

In short, what we want is revival.  I came across a recent sermon about revival by someone who I am guessing runs more along the lines of the charismatic spectrum.  I haven't listened to this kind of preaching in a long time.  Some characteristics are worth noting:

  • Lots of stories.  I'm not against stories used for the purpose of clarifying scripture, provided that is really what you are doing.  (Not surprising) Stories were focused on the preacher.
  • Scripture merely peppered throughout but no one text was focused upon.  This will happen in topical sermons which is why I steer clear of them (although they are appropriate on occasion).  Why?  See next point.
  • When scripture was used it was typically taken out of context and used to support the point.  In fact, it was as if the quoted or referenced passages were simply there to support the topic and really had little purpose or benefit beyond that.
  • Humorous.  Ok, so being funny isn't a crime.  It can be quite helpful at times.  However, revival, God's Word, sin, all very serious topics.  People shouldn't walk away from our sermon saying, "What a funny guy".  I'm not for being a prude, but let's be real: we are speaking God's word to God's people.  That should at least make us a bit more sober in our presentation.

Yes, I want revival.  I preach revival.  But I don't want another "revival" that fills buildings full of flakey theology and half-way christians.  America is full of buildings like that and it hasn't done any good.  In fact, a revival that simply gives us twelve really serious, on fire, God fearing, Jesus loving, Bible thumping, all-the-time-praying, men and women would be fantastic!  With those twelve the world could be changed.  With twelve the world was changed.

We, especially those called to preach and teach God's Word, need to pray and study and pray and then preach the whole council of God.  We aren't called to be great orators or funny key-note speakers. We are called to be preachers of the Word of God.  When we preach revival...especially when we preach revival, we need to make sure we are preaching God's word and do our best to leave ourselves out of it.  Let's face it, contrary to popular opinion among many of God's people, we really aren't all that important to the process.  God could, after all, use a donkey.  In fact...I think maybe he prefers using an ass. The N.T. calls them "fools" (1 Corinthians 1:26-31), but a rose by any other name...

Sunday, January 04, 2015

And the winner is...

There are many sad things that come across my desk and in and out of my life, but none sadder than to hear of a person who has allowed sin in their lives to gain final mastery over them and, as a result, their once wonderful, successful lives have spiraled out of control, ending in pain, bitterness and despair.  I've seen families destroyed, careers lost, congregations thrown into morning, and individuals reduced to desperation as they attempt to regain control over what their lives have become. They ask, "How did this happen?  How did they get here?"

The answer to these questions can be found, not surprisingly, right at mankind's genesis.  Genesis 4:7 to be exact.  When Cain's offering to God was rejected he became angry.  God confronted him and said something very interesting.  He said:

"...sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it." (ESV)

You must rule over it.  I get the picture of at lion or tiger, hungry for a fresh kill waiting just on the other side of the door, in the dark, waiting for me to step outside and into its claws and jaws.  Scriptures tell us that Satan is like a roaring lion seeking whom he might devour (1 Peter 5:8), so I suppose the picture is apropos.  But I don't think we (myself include) take this admonishment by God to Cain seriously enough.  We play with sin.  

I'm reminded of the stories of lion and tiger trainers who, during a live performance, are mauled to death by the animals they have trained.  Everything is going as planned. This show is going like every other show before it when suddenly the lion acts just like lions do: a wild animal.  One minute the trainer is in control and the audience laughing and clapping.  The next the trainer is on the ground dead, lying in a pool of his own blood and the crowd is no longer laughing, no longer clapping.  

James once wrote along similar lines when it came to sin.  He wrote:

But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. (James 1:14-15 ESV)

The fact is sin never starts where sin ends.  That is, the only way you got where you are is you started somewhere.  You played with the lion and thought you were clever and in control but woke up one day to find yourself lying in a pool of your own blood, dying.  Don't play with sin.  Stop it now.  Run away, far away.  Now!