Thursday, November 1, 2012

Preaching with Unction is the Only Kind of Real Preaching!

There is a divine element in true, biblical preaching of which most of us know very little. True preaching is not primarily an academic exercise, it is a spiritual one. If any preacher doesn't recognize this supernatural element in preaching, he’s not a real preacher. If he doesn't know what it is to preach with the unction of the Holy Spirit of God, he doesn't know what it is to preach. Academia doesn't make a preacher, seminaries don’t make a preacher, and book learning doesn't make a preacher. Only the supernatural gifting of a sovereign and gracious God can make a preacher.

This can’t be more evident than in the case of the Apostles themselves. They had been with Jesus for nearly three years, heard his teachings, learned from the best of Rabbi’s, and had even seen His miracles and been eyewitnesses of His resurrection. They understood the Scriptures and were filled with glorious truth to share with the world. If anyone was prepared to preach, it was them. Yet they still weren't ready. The Gospel of Luke records what happened when the Lord gave them the Great Commission: “Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, "Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high."” (Luke 24:45-49) The Lord instructed them to not to preach until they had received this supernatural power to carry out their mission (cf. Acts 1:8). It is this power that was the secret to how they shook the nations with the Gospel and turned the world upside down for Christ.

This is also evident in the ministry of the apostle Paul. He said to the Thessalonians, “…our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction.” (1 Th. 1:5) His preaching wasn't just a matter of speaking words and stringing together fine-sounding arguments of exegetical precision; it was a supernatural event of the powerful proclamation of divine truth in the power of the Holy Spirit. He said to the Corinthians, “…my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.” (1 Cor. 2:4-5) If the faith of those who hear us is to be placed in God, then it is vital that we preach in the power of the Holy Spirit. Human wisdom begets faith in human capacity, but supernatural power begets faith in Him who is the source of all such supernatural blessing. Oh, if only this lesson would be learned by the evangelical seminaries of our day! A seminary can make a theologian, but only God can make a preacher.

In Corinth, some of the congregants were questioning Paul’s calling as an Apostle and a preacher, and slandering his character in many ways. Apparently, there were false apostles in the church claiming to be true preachers and undermining Paul’s authority in the church. In response, Paul says, “But I will come to you soon, if the Lord wills, and I will find out not the talk of these arrogant people but their power. For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power.” (1 Cor. 4:19-20) According to Paul, a man is not a true man of God merely because he is able to talk, or even preach, well. The true test is whether the power of the Spirit of God rests on his ministry. Martyn Lloyd-Jones comments on this verse: “There is no text, perhaps, of which we need to be reminded so much at the present time as just that. There is certainly no lack of words; but is there much evidence of power in our preaching? ‘The Kingdom of God is not in word, but in power’. ‘That’, says the Apostle, ‘is the test’; and it is still the test of true preaching”.[1]

How do we know if the power of God is on our preaching? Lloyd-Jones continues: “It is…the power of the Holy Ghost that ultimately makes preaching effective. This is what produces converts and creates Churches, and builds up Churches.”[2] Spirit-empowered preaching produces genuine Spirit-born converts, it is known to establish churches, and it edifies the Body of Christ so as to greatly strengthen and bless churches. In other words, we can know that a man is anointed by the Holy Spirit of God to preach because his preaching is effective in the true biblical sense of the term. When he preaches, men are moved, hearts are pricked, consciences are stirred, hopes are raised, faith is ignited, Christ is exalted, souls are converted, saints are edified, and the church is established in the faith.

This holy unction is something entirely supernatural. It can’t be imitated, mimicked, or counterfeited. Yet when it is present there will always be blessing. Spurgeon said, “Unction is a thing which you cannot manufacture, and its counterfeits are worse than worthless; yet it is in itself priceless, and beyond measure needful if you would edify believers and bring sinners to Jesus.”[3] If we are to see true conversions and the saints built up and established in the faith under our preaching, we desperately need this unction. There is no substitute on earth, and no amount of learning, persuasion, or book-learning can take its place.

This divine unction is the breath of God on the words of a man; it is the kiss of heaven on the lips of the messenger of God. Without it, we are dead scribes who merely recite biblical information. We have far too many pulpiteers whose sermons could more precisely be categorized as audio encyclopedias than as biblical proclamations of divine truth. Such preaching is book-learning that is directed to the intellect; it puffs up the head and fills the brain with information. Yet biblical preaching is both light and fire; it illuminates the understanding with the careful exposition of biblical truth but it also inflames the heart with Spirit-birthed passion and burden and fills the soul with a weighty sense of the divine. It is the communication of deep conviction from the heart of the preacher that produces deep conviction in the hearts of the hearers.

Leonard Ravenhill said, “The tragedy of this late hour is that we have too many dead men in the pulpits giving out too many dead sermons to too many dead people. Oh! The horror of it. There is a strange thing that I have seen under the sun, even in the fundamentalist circles; it is preaching without unction. What is unction? I hardly know. But I know what it is not (or at least I know when it is not upon my own soul.)… Brethren, we could well manage to be half as intellectual (of the modern pseudo kind) if we were twice as spiritual. Preaching is a spiritual business. A sermon born in the head reaches the head; a sermon born in the heart reaches the heart. Under God, a spiritual preacher will produce spiritually minded people…Unction is God’s knighthood for the soldier-preacher who has wrestled in prayer and gained the victory. Victory is not won in the pulpit by firing intellectual battles or wisecracks, but in the prayer closet; it is won or lost before the preacher’s foot enters the pulpit. Unction is like dynamite.”[4]

The crying need of the hour is Spirit-anointed proclaimers of truth who powerfully preach Christ personally and experimentally in holy unction! We need men who stand up with divine authority and speak with shocking boldness and prophetic burden. It is this prophetic element in preaching that distinguishes true biblical proclamation from mere scribal learning and teaching. It is this that makes the difference from a pupil explaining what he learned in a classroom as opposed to a witness testifying to what he himself has seen, heard, felt and experienced.

What is it like when this holy unction is upon the preacher? Again, Martyn Lloyd-Jones explains, “How does one know it? It gives clarity of thought, clarity of speech, ease of utterance, a great sense of authority and confidence as you are preaching, an awareness of a power not your own thrilling through the whole of your being, and an indescribable sense of joy. You are a man ‘possessed’, you are taken hold of, and taken up…What about the people? They sense it at once; they can tell the difference immediately. They are gripped, they become serious, they are convicted, they are moved, they are humbled. Some are convicted of sin, others are lifted up to the heavens, anything may happen to any one of them. They know at once that something quite unusual and exceptional is happening. As a result they begin to delight in the things of God and they want more and more teaching.”

E.M. Bounds, that mighty man of prayer, said, “This divine unction is the one distinguishing feature that separates true gospel preaching from all other methods of presenting truth. It backs and interpenetrates the revealed truth with all the force of God. It illumines the Word and broadens and enrichens [sic] the intellect and empowers it to grasp and apprehend the Word. It qualifies the preacher’s heart, and brings it to that condition of tenderness, of purity, of force and light that are necessary to secure the highest results. This unction gives to the preacher liberty and enlargement of thought and soul—a freedom, fullness, and directness of utterance that can be secured by no other process.”[5]

In times of revival, this reality of Spirit-empowered preaching becomes apparent as the power of the Spirit of God accompanies the preaching of the Word with extraordinary blessing and grace. It powerfully enlightens minds with biblical truth, it moves hearts with deep conviction, and it liberates the wills of sinners from the bondage of sin and transforms them to delight in God’s presence which is so manifestly present at such times. It results in mass amounts of conversions and explosions of growth in the sanctification process of believers.

We desperately need such revival preaching in our day. We urgently need God-sent preachers who are endowed with unction to preach the Gospel with the Holy Spirit sent down from Heaven. The greatest need of the world today is to hear the Gospel preached in the power of the Holy Spirit. The greatest need of the church today is to hear the Gospel preached in the power of the Holy Spirit. I plead with my dear brethren in Christ who are called into the ministry to seek this unction with all their might, all their heart, all their soul and all their strength. How are we to seek it? –Prayer! Urgent pray, desperate prayer, believing prayer, and persevering prayer is the only God-ordained means of being clothed with this power from on high! There are no shortcuts! We are strangers to true unction because we are lazy and full of unbelief! Oh Lord, have mercy on our souls!

Let us conclude with another quote. May this pierce our hearts and humble our faces to the dust that we may seek God until He comes and pours out a blessing from on high upon our destitute preaching! E.M. Bounds said, “This unction comes to the preacher not in the study but in the closet. It is heaven’s distillation in answer to prayer… This unction is not the gift of genius. It is not found in the halls of learning. No eloquence can woo it. No industry can win it. No prelatical hands can confer it. It is the gift of God—the signet set to his own messengers. It is heaven’s knighthood given to the chosen true and brave ones who have sought this anointed honor through many an hour of tearful, wrestling prayer.”[6]

[1] “Preaching and Preachers”; Martyn Lloyd-Jones; pg. 312
[2] Ibid; pg. 314
[3] “Lectures to My Students”; Charles Spurgeon
[4] “Why Revival Tarries”; Chapter One; Leonard Ravenhill
[5] “Power Through Prayer”; Chapter 15: Unction: The True Mark of Gospel Preaching; E.M. Bounds
[6] Ibid.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Excerpt from "Puritan Evangelism" by J.I. Packer

The sovereignty of God in salvation and the preaching of the Law to bring a knowledge of sin are forgotten concepts of modern evangelism. This excerpt is taken from J.I. Packer's article, "Puritan Evangelism". 

...In the manner of conversion too, God is sovereign. The Puritans taught that, as a general rule, conviction of sin, induced by, the preaching of the Law, must precede faith, since no man will or can come to Christ to be saved from sin till he knows what sins he needs saving from. It is a distinctive feature of the Puritan doctrine of conversion that this point, the need for “preparation” for faith, is so stressed. Man’s first step toward conversion must be some knowledge, of God, of himself, of his duty and of his sin. The second step is conviction, both of sinfulness and of particular sins; and the wise minister, dealing with enquirers at this stage, will try to deepen conviction and make it specific, since true and sound conviction of sin is always to a greater or less degree particularised. This leads to contrition (sorrow for and hatred of sin), which begins to burn the love of sinning out of the heart and leads to real, though as yet ineffective, attempts to break off the practice of sin in the life. Meanwhile, the wise minister, seeing that the fallow ground is now ploughed up, urges the sinner to turn to Christ. This is the right advice to give to a man who has shown that with all his heart he desires to be saved from sin; for when a man wants to be saved from sin, then it is possible for him genuinely and sincerely to receive the One who presents Himself to man as the Saviour from sin. But it is not possible otherwise; and therefore the Puritans over and over again beg ministers not to short-circuit the essential preparatory process. They must not give false encouragement to those in whom the Law has not yet done its work. It is the worst advice possible to tell a man to stop worrying about his sins and trust Christ at once if he does not yet know his sins and does not yet desire to leave them. That is the way to encourage false peace and false hopes, and to produce “gospel- hypocrites.” Throughout the whole process of preparation, from the first awakening of concern to the ultimate dawning of faith, however, the sovereignty of God must be recognised. God converts no adult without preparing him; but “God breaketh not all men’s hearts alike” (Baxter). Some conversions, as Goodwin said, are sudden; the preparation is done in a moment. Some are long-drawn-out affairs; years may pass before the seeker finds Christ and peace, as in Bunyan’s case. Sometimes great sinners experience “great meltings” (Giles Firmin) at the outset of the work of grace, while upright persons spend long periods in agonies of guilt and terror. No rule can be given as to how long, or how intensely, God will flay each sinner with the lash of conviction. Thus the work of effectual calling proceeds as fast, or as slow, as God wills; and the minister’s part is that of the midwife, whose task it is to see what is happening and give appropriate help at each stage, but who cannot foretell, let alone fix, how rapid the process of birth will be.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

MUST SEE Heartcry Video from Peru Back in the Day!

This short documentary takes you on a journey with Paul Washer when he was a missionary in Peru. It shows you first hand the churches planted in those early years and takes you into various villages where brother Paul preached.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Martyn Lloyd Jones' Series on Ephesians Now Airing!

Every week, the Martyn Lloyd-Jones Recording Trust will be releasing a new sermon in the famous Ephesians series that Lloyd-Jones preached during the last century. You can access the sermons online at OnePlace.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

A Missionary Sermon

I love this sermon. You will too if you watch it. It throbs with the heartbeat of God.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Unless You Eat My Flesh by Mike Gendron

Are these words of Jesus from John 6:52 to be taken literally or figuratively? The Roman Catholic Church teaches the context of John chapter six and the above headlined verse 53 are literal. Thus Jesus is giving absolute and unconditional requirements for eternal life. In fact, this literal interpretation forms the foundation for Rome's doctrine of transubstantiation -- the miraculous changing of bread and wine into the living Christ, His body and blood, soul and divinity. Each Catholic priest is said to have the power to call Jesus down from the right hand of the Father when he elevates the wafer and whispers the words "Hoc corpus meus est." Catholics believe as they consume the lifeless wafer they are actually eating and drinking the living body and blood of Jesus Christ. This is a vital and important step in their salvation and a doctrine they must believe and accept to become a Catholic. If priests indeed have the exclusive power to change finite bread and wine into the body and blood of the infinite Christ, and if indeed consuming His body and blood is necessary for salvation, then the whole world must become Catholic to escape the wrath of God. On the other hand, if Jesus was speaking in figurative language then this teaching becomes the most blasphemous and deceptive hoax any religion could impose on its people. There is no middle ground. Therefore the question of utmost importance is -- Was the message Jesus conveyed to the Jewish multitude to be understood as literal or figurative? Rome has never presented a good argument for defending its literal interpretation. Yet there are at least seven convincing reasons why this passage must be taken figuratively. 

Counterfeit Miracle 

There is no Biblical precedent where something supernatural occurred where the outward evidence indicated no miracle had taken place. (The wafer and wine look, taste and feel the same before and after the supposed miracle of transubstantion). When Jesus changed water into wine, all the elements of water changed into the actual elements of wine. 

Drinking Blood Forbidden 

The Law of Moses strictly forbade Jews from drinking blood. (Leviticus 17:10-14) A literal interpretation would have Jesus teaching the Jews to disobey the Mosaic Law. This would have been enough cause to persecute Jesus. (See John 5:16) 

Biblical Disharmony 

When John 6:53 is interpreted literally it is in disharmony with the rest of the Bible. "Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you," gives no hope of eternal life to any Christian who has not consumed the literal body and blood of Christ. It opposes hundreds of Scriptures that declare justification and salvation are by faith alone in Christ. 

Produces Dilemma 

It appears that the "eating and drinking" in verse 6:54 and the "believing" in verse 6:40 produce the same result - eternal life. If both are literal we have a dilemma. What if a person "believes" but does not "eat or drink"? Or what if a person "eats and drinks" but does not "believe?" This could happen any time a non-believer walked into a Catholic Church and received the Eucharist. Does this person have eternal life because he met one of the requirements but not the other? The only possible way to harmonize these two verses is to accept one verse as figurative and one as literal. 

Figurative In Old Testament 

The Jews were familiar with "eating and drinking" being used figuratively in the Old Testament to describe the appropriation of divine blessings to one's innermost being. It was God's way of providing spiritual nourishment for the soul. (See Jeremiah 15:16Isaiah 55:1-3; and Ezekiel 2:83:1

Jesus Confirmed 

Jesus informed His disciples there were times when He spoke figuratively (John 16:25) and often used that type of language to describe Himself. The Gospel of John records seven figurative declarations Jesus made of Himself -- "the bread of life" (6:48), "the light of the world" (8:12), "the door" (10:9), "the good shepherd" (10:11), "the resurrection and the life" (11:25), "the way, the truth and the life" (14:6), and "the true vine" (15:1). He also referred to His body as the temple (2:19). 

Words Were Spiritual 

Jesus ended this teaching by revealing "the words I have spoken to you are spirit" (6:63). As with each of the seven miracles in John's Gospel, Jesus uses the miracle to convey a spiritual truth. Here Jesus has just multiplied the loaves and fish and uses a human analogy to teach the necessity of spiritual nourishment. This is consistent with His teaching on how we are to worship God. "God is Spirit and His worshippers must worship in spirit and in truth" (John 4:24). As we worship Christ He is present spiritually, not physically. In fact, Jesus can only be bodily present at one place at one time. His omnipresence refers only to His spirit. It is impossible for Christ to be bodily present in thousands of Catholic Churches around the world. 

When Jesus is received spiritually, one time in the heart, there is no need to receive him physically, over and over again in the stomach.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Get in the Word of God Today -and EVERY DAY!

A true word from brother Tim. This is an excerpt from a sermon he preached recently in his series on Hebrews. You can listen to the full sermons in the series on their website here.

Isn't it true that when we stop soaking in the Word, and we stop hearing His voice every day, that our hearts tend to harden, we tend to start to drift away from beholding Christ, and we fail to see and appreciate the true glory of Christ as more precious than anything this world has to offer? If you're not beholding glory continually as you meditate on the Word, there is something wrong with your spiritual state. True Christianity is the constant beholding of Christ through His Word and being transformed into His likeness in ever-increasing degrees (2 Cor. 3:18). The Word of God is living, and if it's not LIFE to your soul then you're either sick (loss of appetite is a sign of illness) or dead. Those who know their God cherish His Word which He has exalted, together with His name, above all things (Psa. 138:2). Is it more precious to you than gold? Or is it so worthless to you that your Bible collects enough dust in order for someone to write "damnation" across it with their finger?