I am convinced that the highest, holiest, and hardest calling for the man of God is to preach the Word of God. Certainly the God-called evangelist should be a mighty preacher for God.
Since preaching is God’s idea, and it is He who has put us in the ministry (1 Timothy 1:12), our greatest desire in preaching should be to please Him! I have no desire to be a “seeker sensitive” preacher, but I do have every desire to be a “Saviour sensitive” preacher.
Second Timothy 4 lays out the principles for that kind of preaching. Paul declared, “I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.”
God’s first and foremost method for communicating His Word to this generation is preaching. Titus 1:3 says, “But hath in due times manifested his word through preaching, which is committed unto me according to the commandment of God our Saviour.” God has not chosen drama, movies, and concerts, but preaching as His primary means of revelation.
First Corinthians 1:21 reminds us that, “It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.” There is no question that preaching pleases God. The question is does my preaching please God? No doubt the two best books ever written on preaching are Paul’s epistles to Timothy. You might even entitle 2 Timothy Encouragement from Death Row. The faithful Apostle was preparing to die for his faith and the preaching of it when he wrote 2 Timothy. I am convinced that his counsel to a young preacher in the first century is still valid for every preacher in the twenty-first century. He gives us a detailed description of preaching that pleases God.
Preach with the Awareness of Christ
“The eyes of the LORD are in every place, beholding the evil and the good.” Proverbs 15:3
“Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord.” Ephesians 5:10
“For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.” Galatians 1:10
I’ll never forget the first time I preached with my dad in the audience. Needless to say, my pastor/father had a sobering effect on me.
The awareness of his presence both inspired and intimidated me. He was my preaching hero and I definitely wanted his approval. How much more important is it to live in the constant awareness that Almighty God is at every preaching event!
If you were to go into the choir room in my home church, you would see plainly the sign that reads, “Sing for the audience of ONE.” Preachers, we must preach for the audience of One. I often remind myself, “I have nothing to prove, I have one Person to please.” Repeatedly I have announced to teenagers, “You can be a crowd pleaser or a Christ pleaser, but you cannot be both.” Do you practice the presence of God every time you stand to declare the Word of God?
Preach for the Assessment of Christ
Your ultimate accountability for the sermon is not to the deacons, congregation or your alma mater, but to Christ. It is Christ who enlisted you, empowered you, and will one day examine you. Romans 14:12 is plain, “So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.” Barnes writes,
“That is, of his character and conduct; his words and actions; his plans and purposes. In the fearful arraignment of that day, every work and purpose shall be brought forth, and tried by the unerring standard of justice. As we shall be called to so fearful an account with God, we should not be engaged in condemning our brethren, but should examine whether we are prepared to give up our account with joy, and not with grief.”
The Apostle James cautions preachers, “My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation” (James 3:1). The judgment seat of Christ will be an amazing event for every believer, but the strictest, strongest, and severest judgment is reserved for the preacher or teacher of the Word of God. Extreme caution must be taken to preach for Christ alone. Often I say to myself, “You are not preaching for them, but for HIM! Keep your eye on the THRONE when preaching to the throng!”
The phrase, “at his appearing” was used of a Roman emperor who would come to visit a town. Months of preparation were made before his arrival or appearing. It was the event of a lifetime. The greatest event in the future of a preacher is the appearing of Christ and His assessment of the preacher. Paul put it this way, “For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire” (1 Corinthians 3:11–15).
Years ago I preached a message entitled, “There is Fire in Your Future.” There is not only the fire of Hell for the unbeliever, but the fire of the judgment seat for the believer.
I have often wondered if the fire there may be the scrutinizing eyes of our sovereign Saviour examining our motives and methods of preaching. It is my privilege to preach over five hundred times yearly somewhere in this world. Rarely do I stand to declare the Word of God without thinking, “Will this message be fireproof?” Fellow evangelist, is your ministry fireproof? Oh my preacher brethren, we must preach accountably.
This is part one of this article. Please click here for part two.