I have been listening to some cassettes of a certain style of preaching which seems to have swept the evangelical church. Its emphasis is the Bible as a history of redemption (which it is), but it claims to be the one Christian group which is expounding and exegeting Scripture.
It takes large sweeps across the biblical landscape, travelling across centuries with ease, but then it will also go into minute details concerning a word or a theme. Often people come to those churches equipped with pen and notebook. The preacher may use an overhead projector and skilfully slip onto the screen his outline, neatly written, sub-point by sub-point. The prime emphasis of this preaching is on knowledge and information.
It is an overly-cerebral event. There is no confrontation. There is little application. There is no focus on the affections, to stir people to be broken over their sins or to be moved to love God more. The preacher’s focus, mistakenly, is the intellect and the correct explanation of the passage of the Bible. The danger is that you could learn just as much from that approach by staying at home and reading a commentary.
Al Martin says, ‘The preacher must employ the rhetoric which Jael used upon Sisera, putting his nail to the head of the auditor, and driving it sheer and clean through his brain.’ Most preaching today simply takes the tent peg and loosens the dandruff on Sisera’s head, instead of fastening his skull to the ground.
If preaching is to be searching and lively in application, it must go beyond shaking a few flakes loose, and get to the real business of fastening the truth firmly into the heads of the listeners.
Charles Bridges says, ‘The general sermons that are preached to everybody, in fact, are preached to nobody.’
The congregation must be made to feel the conviction of sin, deeply and firmly. They must be made to feel the consolation of precious and magnificent promises. They must be made to feel that Christ is for them, that his blood can cleanse from their sins. The tent peg of truth must be driven home if they are to discern feelingly, with judgment day discrimination, whether or not they are among Christ’s sheep. Nothing less than that constitutes biblical preaching.
There was a persuasiveness and lucidity in the way the Lord Jesus spoke. It was utterly fascinating and compelling so that his audiences had to listen even until the sun went down and they realised how hungry they were. We are told that the common people heard him gladly. The teaching was often profound. Even his own disciples, who heard some of these messages many times, did not understand all he said. The messages were constantly provocative and controversial, but as you listened there was something that gripped your attention and you hung on to every word.
I remember in September 1958 hearing Dr. Lloyd-Jones for the first time at the induction services of Dr Eifion Evans in Memorial Hall in Cardiff. I was still in my teens, but only barely. I had left school that year and the university lay before me.
What I heard in that black-suited, great-hymned, word-centred sober service was all very different from what I had come across before. It was as if they had all been an imitation of this reality. I might have gone through life never having coming across this factualness. I left that meeting believing that I had been to something important. But I did not know why, and had to find out. There was a different dimension to the occasion, and that was all. I could not even tell you what the text was (though I subsequently learned about it from Dr Lloyd-Jones). There have been other occasions when I have heard men preach, on whom God’s hand seemed to be resting.
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