The Net Pastor's Journal, Eng Ed, Issue 19 Spring 2016
“Strengthening the Church in Biblical Preaching and Leadership”
Part I: The Power For Preaching, Pt. 3 Continued
“The Power of the Holy Spirit”
Let’s continue our discussion from the last edition of this Journal (Winter 2016) on the subject of “The Power for Preaching,” specifically, “The Power of the Holy Spirit”. In order to preach with power, you must be “filled” with the Holy Spirit. In the Spring 2014 edition of this Journal we talked about the filling of the Spirit in connection with being a godly role model. Now I want to discuss the filling of the Spirit in connection with being a powerful preacher.
To be “filled with the Spirit” means to be controlled by the Spirit, to be under the dominion of the Spirit, to be directed by the Spirit, to live your life in the Spirit, to live according to the new birth, to be sensitive to the operation of the Spirit, to surrender moment by moment to the Spirit. To be filled with the Spirit means to allow the Spirit to do his work in you – illuminating you, guiding you, teaching you, convicting you. It means to be so occupied with the things of God that there is no room for anything else in your life.
In order to preach with the power of the Spirit, we must be filled with the Spirit and anointed (empowered) by Him for preaching. In order for this to be so, we must confess our sins, submit our will and thought to the Spirit, be God-centred not self-centred (Eph. 5:1-7), be light not darkness (Eph. 5:8-14), live in the consciousness of the personal presence of the Lord, fill ourselves with the Word, keep in step with the Spirit (Gal. 5:25), manifest the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22).
So, what then is this Spirit-empowered, anointed preaching? “Anointing”, as we are using that term here, is the setting aside and special empowerment of someone for divine service. Anointing is the Spirit’s empowerment of a person’s ministry that manifests itself in the effectiveness and fruitfulness of the Word in the hearers in such a way that the power is evidently of God and accomplishes God-glorifying ends. The Spirit’s empowerment (sometimes called “unction”) is “an impartation of the power of God coming upon the preacher mightily during his preaching that enables him to preach with power, authority and liberty which leads to conviction of the conscience and conversion of the listeners.” (Johnson T. K. Lim, Power in Preaching, 121.)
A preacher’s empowerment of the Spirit, it seems to me, has nothing to do with the manifestation of dramatic phenomena or mystical experiences. It is not some sort of charismatic feeling or esoteric sense of power (cf. 1 Cor. 2:1-5). It is not a temporary experience of ecstatic speech or visions. The Spirit’s empowerment is not a personal, subjective feeling or experience, but rather it is the work of the Spirit in us and in our audiences with the specific view of glorifying God.
Preaching in the power of the Spirit, biblically, has everything to do with being meek, submissive, prayer-dependent, Spirit-filled, Word-based, gospel-centred, Christ-focused, holy preachers, whose lives are pleasing and acceptable to God, whom God has called (1 Cor. 1:17; Gal. 1:15-16; Rom. 10:14-15) and whom the Holy Spirit has gifted and specially empowered for preaching (Eph. 3:18; 2 Tim. 1:6; 1 Cor. 12:1-14; 1 Tim. 4:14). In Peter’s words, it is the “ability that God supplies” (1 Pet. 4:11).
Preaching in the power of the Spirit is about the sovereign work of the Spirit in people’s lives through the application of the Word (which is “living and powerful”) to their minds, hearts, wills, and consciences, resulting in their spiritual transformation through, for example, repentance for sin, healed relationships, changed attitudes, correct beliefs, deeper love for God and his Word. Without the empowerment of the Holy Spirit, our efforts would accomplish nothing. But with the Holy Spirit’s empowerment, our human feebleness and frailty is overshadowed by God’s supernatural power (2 Cor. 4:7).
Preaching in the power of the Spirit is about the Spirit enabling us to lead godly lives. He is the agent of practical sanctification (Rom. 8:1-17; Gal. 5:16-23), continuously transforming our moral and spiritual character. Life in the Spirit is in total contrast to life in the flesh. The work of the Spirit in sanctification is not merely the negative work of mortification of the flesh but also the positive work of producing in us likeness to Christ (cf. Rom. 8:29). And only to the degree that we lead godly lives can we preach with power.
Preaching in the power of the Spirit has to do with the Spirit empowering us with that gift, for only He can do that. Preaching is a sovereign gift from God, which is to be used for the benefit of the body of Christ.
So, why do some preachers seem to have this power of the Spirit while others do not? Why do some preachers achieve such powerful results while others do not appear to do so? Does this mean that if our preaching produces no visible results that we have no spiritual power? For example, was Jeremiah an utter failure? Did his preaching lack the power of the Spirit because his ministry produced little or no visible results? No! Jeremiah’s message was the true and faithful word of the Lord, which word was rejected and opposed – e.g. he was imprisoned under King Zedekiah (37:11f.) and denounced by Hananiah (28:10f.).
The Spirit sovereignly applies the word of God to people’s hearts, minds, wills, and consciences with a view to their transformation. Such transformation may or may not take place but that is the sovereign work of the Spirit and not an indication of the preacher’s spiritual empowerment. Take, for example, Jesus’ own ministry. He received two reactions to his ministry – the reaction of wonder and the reaction of wrath (Lk. 4:22; 28-29). Some people responded positively to his message (“wonder”) and some reacted negatively (“wrath”). Both reactions are the product of the work of the Spirit in the hearers. So, perhaps it would be more accurate to say that no reaction at all might be more of an indication of no empowerment by the Spirit. The biblical truth is that the “wind blows wherever it wishes” (Jn. 3:8). We have no control over the sovereign action of the Spirit of God, but we can hinder it. So, visible results (especially in the form of subjective physical manifestations) are not the indicator as to whether you are preaching with spiritual power. However, I am not denying that the subjective type of reactions to the Spirit’s work may be and can be true.
We don't know when or how God will use our preaching to accomplish his purposes. It may not even be in our lifetime. Therefore, we should not rely on visible results as the affirmation that we are preaching with spiritual power. Immediate and identifiable results certainly are an encouragement to us, but the end results are known only to God and will be manifested in eternity.
Part II: Preparing For Preaching
“Identifying the Structure of the Text”, Pt. 2
In studying how to prepare for preaching, the last few editions of this journal have taught us the importance of reading the text, writing out the text in your own words, preparing a grammatical diagram of the text, and, lastly, finding the structure of the text by identifying its subject and complements. From this process, you should now understand the grammatical structure of the text and from the grammatical structure you should now be able to identify the literary structure of the textual (i.e. how the passage is constructed in units of thought or “scenes”). The textual structure is a vital stepping stone for preparing your sermon outline.
It is important never to force a structure on the biblical text. Always allow the text to reveal its own structure. This is fundamental to expository preaching in order to allow the Word of God to speak and to be faithful to the text.
The structure of the text exposes the author’s ideas in the passage and it expresses those ideas in the terms employed by the text – i.e. it usually speaks in the past tense (since the action of the text happened at a specific time in the past); uses the names and places in the text (since it has to do with specific people in particular places - e.g. Paul said…; Moses told the people…; the Ephesians were…); and reflects the argument, rebuke, exhortation, or teaching of the text.
Finding the structure of the text ensures that you know the subject of the passage and the flow of thought in the passage (the complements) – i.e. the points that the biblical author has expressed to his audience; how the author has crafted his material; how one sentence or group of sentences relates to the one before and the one after (i.e. the syntactical structure of the passage).
Let me now show you the textual structure of a few passages of Scripture so that you can see actual examples of what we have been learning:
Subject: The man who is blessed by God
Question: What is a godly person like?
1. He separates himself from the ungodly (1)
2. He delights in the law of God (2)
3. He is like a tree planted by the water (3)
Subject: God’s intervention when things go wrong
Question: What happens when things go wrong?
1. Sarah’s bad attitude resulted in resentment (9-10)
2. Abraham’s bad decision resulted in a predicament (11-14a)
3. Hagar’s bad circumstances resulted in banishment (14b-16)
4. God’s goodness resulted in His intervention (17-21)
Subject: Paul’s exhortation on Christian devotion
Question: What is Paul’s teaching about Christian devotion to God?
1. Paul exhorts the Christians in Rome to sacrifice themselves to God (1)
(1a) A sacrifice that is living, holy, and acceptable to God
(1b) A sacrifice that is their reasonable service
2. Paul exhorts the Christians in Rome how to sacrifice themselves to God (2)
(2a) By not being conformed to the world
(2b) But by being transformed in their minds
... through renewing their minds
... with a view to finding God’s will
1 Corinthians 2:1-5
Subject: Paul’s preaching
Question: How and what did Paul preach?
1. The persuasion of Paul’s preaching (1-2)
(1a) Not human oratory or wisdom (1)
(1b) But only Christ and his crucifixion (2)
2. The power of Paul’s preaching (3-4)
(2a) Not from his personal presence or words (3)
(2b) But from the Spirit’s power (4)
3. The purpose of Paul’s preaching (5)
(3a) Not for faith in human beings (5a)
(3b) But for faith in God’s power (5b)
Subject: Living by the Spirit
Question: What is living by the Spirit?
1. Living by the Spirit is a life of conflict (16-18)
2. Living by the Spirit is a life of contrast (19-23)
– works of the flesh vs. fruit of the Spirit
3. Living by the Spirit is a life of crucifixion (24)
4. Living by the Spirit is a life of conformity (25)
Subject: Paul’s conversion
Question: What changed when Paul got saved?
1. Paul changed his priorities – his confidence in the flesh (4-6)
(1a) Confidence in his family heritage (5)
(1b) Confidence in his religious activity (6)
2. Paul changed his perspective (7-8c)
(2a) What once meant everything (vv. 4-6) now meant nothing (7)
(2b) What once meant nothing now meant everything (8a-c)
3. Paul changed his purpose (8d-12)
(2a) His life-long purpose was to be like Christ (8d-10)
(2b) His life-long purpose was to be with Christ (11-12)
4. Paul changed his pursuit (13-14)
(3a) He forgot what was behind – failures and successes (12-13a)
(3b) He reached forward to what was ahead – the upward call of God (13b-14)
1 Thessalonians 1:1-10
Subject: The example of the church in Thessalonica
Question: What was their example?
1. How their testimony is remembered (2-3)
(1a) By their work of faith
(1b) By their labour of love
(1c) By their endurance / patience of hope
2. How the gospel changed them (4-10)
(2a) They became followers of the apostles and Christ (4-6)
(2b) They became examples to others (7-10)
1 Timothy 3:14-16
Subject: The house of God
Question: What is God’s house to be like?
1. The description of God’s house (15)
(1a) It is the church of the living God (15a)
(1b) It is the pillar and ground of the truth (15b)
2. The doctrine of God’s house (16)
(2a) The revelation of God by Christ
(2b) The vindication of Christ by the Spirit
(2c) The observation of Christ by the angels
(2d) The declaration of Christ among the nations
(2e) The response to Christ in the world
(2f) The reception of Christ into glory
Part III. Leadership Devotional
We are continuing our study of 1 Thessalonians 2:7-12 from the last edition, where we saw that a strong Christian leader is a loving care-giver. Now, notice also, that A STRONG CHRISTIAN LEADER IS AN AUTHENTIC ROLE MODEL (10-11). A spiritual father is portrayed here as a role model in his walk and his words. First...
1. Strong spiritual leaders are role models in their walk (10)
Paul’s spiritual life had been exemplary and his spiritual children could testify to it. A spiritual father’s walk must set a good example for his children to follow. “You are witnesses and God also, how devoutly and justly and blamelessly we behaved ourselves among you who believe” (10).
Not only had the Thessalonians witnessed Paul’s exemplary life, but God himself had also witnessed it. Paul wasn’t afraid of God’s scrutiny. His life among them had been holy (devout, pious, set apart for God), righteous in his dealings with others (marked by integrity), and blameless in his public reputation - his enemies might accuse him but no one could bring a legitimate charge against him.
To be an example to others what we do must confirm and emphasize what we say. As Christian leaders, we cannot be a testimony to our spiritual children unless our behaviour complies with our teaching.
At a family level, spiritual leadership is the responsibility of the father but, sadly, it often falls mostly to the mother. It’s about time men took up this responsibility. Fathers should set the standard for spirituality by modelling godliness in front of their wives and children. The older our children grow the more the world has a pull on them and the more important their decisions. Daughters need to see their fathers as a model of the man they would like to marry - strong but tender, decisive but understanding. Sons need to see their fathers as models of the man they would like to be - manly but soft-hearted, a leader but a servant.
Take the example of St. Augustine whose father was not a Christian. In his “Confessions” Augustine speaks to God about his father:
“No one had anything but praise for my father who, despite his slender resources, was ready to provide his son with all that was needed to enable him to travel so far for the purpose of study. Many of our townsmen, far richer than my father, went to no such trouble for their children’s sake. Yet this same father of mine took no trouble at all to see how I was growing in Your sight or whether I was chaste or not. He cared only that I should have a fertile tongue, leaving my heart to bear none of Your fruits, my God, though You are the only Master, true and good, of its husbandry.”
That’s not what we want our children to say about us, that we were only interested in their worldly advancements. No! We need to be interested and active in all aspects of their lives, setting before them a role model of how to live as a Christian. And that’s our responsibility as Christian leaders towards our spiritual children as well.
Well, strong Christian leaders are role models in their walk. And …
2. Strong Christian leaders are role model in their words (11-12)
“You know how we exhorted, and comforted, and charged everyone of you, as a father does his own children” (11). A spiritual father is a role model in his words of caution. To “exhort” means to caution, challenge, encourage. That’s what a father does for his children. He challenges them about decisions they make and conduct they display. He cautions them about consequences of actions they take. He warns them of danger ahead. He encourages them in the face of discouragement.
A spiritual father is also a role model in his words of comfort. To “comfort” means to cheer up, to console. This is an intensification of “exhortation”. A father makes his children feel better when they are sad, hurt (cf. 2 Cor. 1:4), by showing his tenderness, understanding, gentle care and affection.
Notice also, a spiritual father is a role model in his words of compulsion. To “implore” means to entreat, charge, appeal, urge. This is done within the framework of giving the benefit of one’s experience. On the basis of his experience, a father urges his children to follow his counsel. The ultimate charge of every Christian, spiritual father to his children is “that you would walk worthy of God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory” (12).
This is the goal of every strong Christian leader - that his children “walk worthy of God” (1 Thess. 2:12); that his children “walk in the truth” (2 Jn. 1:4); that his children “walk worthy of the Lord unto all well-pleasing” (Col. 1:10); that his children “walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called” (Eph. 4:1). Every strong spiritual father wants to channel his children to follow the Lord, to teach them how to walk as Jesus walked (1 Jn. 2:6), to see them enter God’s kingdom and share his glory, to hear them voluntarily respond to God’s call on their lives, to witness them display a worthy life of holiness and obedience.
A strong spiritual leader, then, is faithful and true. He is a loving care-giver and an authentic role model. A spiritual leader is someone who is his spiritual children’s greatest cheer leader, who exhorts, encourages, and implores, who so models the Christian life that his spiritual children will want to be like him. Someone has said that “Each day we make deposits into the memory bank of our children.”
A Christian father does not fit a sexual stereotype at home, where the mother feeds and cares and the father provides and disciplines. Scripture encourages rather than discourages the sharing of responsibilities. And that is the message that Paul is conveying by using these two metaphors here – the nursing mother (7-8), the devoted father (9-12). Like Paul, strong spiritual leaders must love their spiritual children as a mother and exhort them as a father.
Biblical masculinity is a balance of gentleness and strength, affection and discipline, instruction and exhortation, comfort and correction. When we look at our heavenly Father, we don’t see a passive uninterested father, but we see one who is actively involved in our lives. We don’t see a father who distances himself from us, but we see one who reaches out to us. We don’t see a father who abandons his family, but we see one who remains faithful even when we are unfaithful. We don’t see someone who is content to have his family in discord and chaos, but we see someone who unifies us and calls us to the bond of peace. We don’t see someone who is self-centred, focused on personal pleasure, but we see someone who sacrifices for the well-being of the human family even to the point of sacrificing his own beloved Son. We don’t see someone with a half-hearted, lukewarm attitude toward his family, but we see someone who is zealous, intense, passionate in his concern. We don’t see someone whose son does not model him, but we see one of whom his Son is the exact replica so much so that, Jesus said, “he who has seen me has seen the Father”
And so, to all of spiritual leaders, I encourage you to keep the model of our heavenly Father always in front of you. To those of you who demonstrate godly leadership at home and at church with diligence and commitment, love and care, I applaud you and honour you. To those of you who are struggling with the responsibilities of being a spiritual leader, I urge and encourage you to imitate the example of our heavenly Father as demonstrated in the apostle Paul, to make this a matter of prayer and dependence on God. This task isn’t easy but with God’s help and in submission to the Holy Spirit, we can fulfill the task he has given us to be “godly men”.
Part IV: Sermon Outlines
Title: Jesus is the Light of the World (Jn. 8:12)
Point #1: Jesus is the source of spiritual light (12a)
1. He is the exclusive source of spiritual light (“I am the light…)
2. He is the universal source of spiritual light (“…of the world)
Point #2: Jesus is the way to spiritual light (12b)
1. Those who follow Christ will not walk in darkness
2. To follow Christ is to have the light of life
Related Topics: Pastors