It’s Time to Equip the Saints
By Nathele Graham
“For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God. Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.” Acts 20:27-28.
What did you learn last Sunday as you sat in that pew? Did you learn more about Jesus? Were you convicted of a sin you harbor and encouraged to repent? Did you learn how to use the spiritual weapons God provides to defend against enemy attack, or did you get a new joke to tell your friends at work? If Christ wasn’t preached from the pulpit, what was? “And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” 1 Corinthians 2:1-2. Paul’s mission was to win souls to Christ and He knew how to accomplish that. He didn’t tell jokes or soften the Truth in any way, but preached “… Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” That way of spreading God’s truth seems to be a lost skill today. In this day of the Laodicean church, where our Lord is on the outside knocking on the door desiring for anyone to open it and invite Him in, we find that the Gospel has been diminished. Christians don’t turn from sin because Christ isn’t preached and sin isn’t confronted. When Paul wrote to the congregation at Corinth he was writing to a very sin-filled congregation. Instead of preaching Christ crucified and confronting sin the leaders were proud of their open-mindedness. The Apostle Paul was shocked, and so should we be shocked by the sin in our own lives and in the congregation we attend. Many preachers today prefer to tell jokes and humorous stories rather than stand firmly upon the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Instead of quoting Scripture for authority, various books are cited in order to prove a point. Congregations grow and mega-churches are born and nobody is made to feel uncomfortable. Yoga, contemplative prayer, and meditation are promoted rather than the fervent prayers of righteous men and women. Deep study of God’s word is minimized.
The Holy Spirit has given us examples as to how effective sermons are structured. The most beautiful, of course, is the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus began this sermon by stating attitudes we need to nurture. “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God. Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.” Matthew 5:3-12. Jesus told of the rewards of a godly attitude. From there He moved to sin and how God’s definition of sin is so much stricter than man’s definition, He talked about our attitude in prayer, urged people to forgive each other, and so much more we need to be aware of. This sermon is recorded in Matthew chapters 5, 6, and 7 and there isn’t a single joke to be found. He cited Old Testament Scripture, but didn’t bring up the latest book by a popular author. His words were to the point, but full of love. I have to wonder how long it took for Him to deliver this sermon. Our modern preachers allocate fifteen to twenty minutes for a sermon so everyone can hurry to their favorite restaurant before other congregations get there. So much is compromised when the pure word of God is secondary to appeasing the congregation.
Peter was an interesting man. A fisherman who chose to follow Christ and learn His ways. Peter was brash and made many blunders. He swore he would never deny Christ, but hid in fear during the trial and crucifixion of Jesus. Then came the day of Pentecost. The Holy Spirit danced like flames upon the heads of the apostles and people thought they were drunk. It was Peter who stood up and preached a powerful sermon to the onlookers. This common fisherman began by explaining what was happening by quoting the prophet Joel (Joel 2:28-32). “And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: and on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy: and I will shew wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath; blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke: the sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before that great and notable day of the Lord come: and it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Acts 2:17-21. Peter went on to preach Jesus Christ and Him crucified. He spoke of the resurrection and that Jesus is seated at the right hand of God the Father. Peter cited Psalms 16 and 110 to authenticate his statements. He was very direct with his words and the men who heard were convicted. “Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.” Acts 2:37-39. The result of Peter’s direct approach was astounding. Three thousand people came to Christ that day. No jokes, no amusing little anecdotes, just Holy Spirit inspired words. Maybe this is why people today don’t understand they are sinners and need to turn to Jesus for salvation. Could it be that preachers aren’t preaching Holy Spirit inspired sermons, but are preaching a watered down Gospel?
That wasn’t the last time Peter preached a Holy Spirit led sermon. One day he and John were headed to the temple to pray. A lame man was there who asked for money. Peter said he had no money but would give the man what he really needed…healing in Jesus’ name. The man was thrilled and the people who saw the miracle were amazed. Peter didn’t give a standup comedy routine but got right to the point. “The God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob, the God of our fathers, hath glorified his Son Jesus; whom ye delivered up, and denied him in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let him go. But ye denied the Holy One and the Just, and desired a murderer to be granted unto you; and killed the Prince of life, whom God hath raised from the dead; whereof we are witnesses.” Acts 3:13-15. Peter was honest and direct, but he wasn’t harsh. He said their actions had been through ignorance and that the things Christ endured had been prophesied. “Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord; and he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you: whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.” Acts 3:19-21. Jesus Christ must be preached and the truth of His death, burial, and resurrection cannot be a side note.
Jesus Christ was God in the flesh and that fact is fundamental to the Christian faith. Every cult denies the deity of Christ, so preachers need to be sure the congregation understands this truth. “Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is the devil; and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham. Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted.” Hebrews 2:14-18. My husband and I attended Sunday services where an “ex”-Mormon also attended. This man didn’t believe in the deity of Christ and held to many erroneous beliefs. The pastor preached loud sermons but he never preached that Jesus was God in the flesh in order not to offend the “ex”-Mormon. God’s word was compromised and the truth was hidden. That “ex”-Mormon has now died and I often wonder if he ever truly came to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. God became flesh and understands our troubles in life. He was tempted, but didn’t yield to temptation. He quotedScripture not the latest self-help book. He became human in order to bring salvation to humans. Because He was fully God His blood was pure and untainted by sin, so His sacrifice takes our sin away. If this truth is hidden behind jokes or loud words then those who are being preached to are being deceived.
Does your life make a joke out of God’s word? What sermon do you preach? You say you’re not a preacher, but think again. Not all sermons are preached from the pulpit. “But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.” Galatians 6:14. Follow Christ, not the world. Language filled with anger, cussing, and gossip doesn’t preach Jesus Christ to anyone. Every word you speak reflects your heart. If you’re a Christian then you need to reflect Christ. The way you dress shows the world who you imitate. Do you wear revealing clothes that are too tight? If you claim to be a Christian but cling to a sin, then you’re preaching a false doctrine to the people around you and deny Christ Search the Scriptures daily and study for yourself, then make God’s word a part of you. Glory in the accomplishment of Christ at Calvary and tell others. Turn away from the ways of the world and live so others see Christ living in you.
Prophecy is rapidly being fulfilled and now is not the time to preach jokes instead of Christ and Him crucified. It’s not a time for jokes but it’s time to equip the saints.
All original scripture is “theopneustos” God breathed.
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