Fight for Joy! Blog
Where Jesus Changes Everything
“For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified… and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God” (1 Corinthians 2:2, 4-5). Gainesville, Florida pastor Terry Jones has made news recently for his on again off again plans to burn copies of the Koran on the ninth anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks on our country. His plans have created a firestorm of protest worldwide. Political and religious leaders have expressed their concern. Many adherents to Islam the world over have staged protests in response. It was even reported that some churches in the Gainesville, Florida community would read from the Koran as part of their worship services to protest Jones’ plans—a huge mistake if you ask me. But, this article is not about the wisdom of incorporating the Koran into Christian worship services. My question is this: Is it ever right for a Christian—one who names the name of Christ—to burn or otherwise desecrate the sacred texts of other religions even though those religions are nothing more than false religious systems that lead people away from the true Christ of Holy Scripture? I think the answer is definitely no! Destroying the sacred texts of a false religious system serves absolutely no purpose whatsoever.
When Paul came to Corinth, the Bible tells us he came for one purpose, “to declare the testimony of God” (1 Cor. 2:1). He could have come with his superior intellect and his God-given ability to reason and debate persuasively. I would imagine he could have even hosted a scroll burning event. After all, the city of Corinth was known for its rampant immorality and paganism. But Paul chose not to waste all his energy by attacking all things Corinthian. He wrote, “For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2). The worddetermined, taken from the Greek word κρίνω (krino), here means to resolve. Paul resolved to focus on the gospel—preaching Christ—rather than “persuasive words of wisdom” (1 Cor. 2:4). If we are not careful, we can get in the way of the gospel instead of being a servant or minister of the gospel. Any other approach is dangerous indeed. Burning books, especially the sacred texts of false religious systems, obscures Jesus Christ. But the Holy Spirit anointed preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ does just the opposite. It frees God to demonstrate His power to save. When that happens, “Your faith rests not on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God” (1 Cor. 2:5). No one will ever be persuaded into the Kingdom of God via man’s wisdom. But when the “demonstration of the Spirit and of power,” is involved, people are saved and lives are changed. “For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.” This is the Word of the Lord!
Adoniram Judson (1788-1850) was an American Baptist missionary who spent almost 40 years in Burma (today known as Myanmar). He translated the Bible into Burmese. He planted more than 100 churches, and led more than 8,000 to faith in Jesus Christ. What was his secret? He preached Jesus, not anti-Buddhism. Pastor Jones could learn a lot from the Apostle Paul and from Adoniram Judson. We all can. The answer is never book burning but Holy Spirit anointed, Gospel-centered, repentance filled preaching. May we all resolve to preach Jesus—in word and deed—to all whom the Lord will grant us opportunity. Who knows, maybe long after we’re gone from this world it will be said about us, he (or she) led over 8,000 to faith in Jesus Christ. Don’t waste your energy on desecrating the sacred texts of another. Just preach Jesus and God will take care of the rest. “Jesus answered and said, … And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself” (John 12:32).
“I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the Word; be ready in season and out of season, reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry” (2 Timothy 4:1-5). If the meal you were about to eat contained one kernel of poison, would you still eat it? Would you try to find the poison and then eat around it? Would you eat one bite at a time until you died? Or would you avoid the meal altogether and choose a meal that would be beneficial to your health? Obviously, you would not eat the meal with the poison. In fact, you would avoid it at all cost (R. Oakland). I have been very troubled by developments I have witnessed firsthand over the past few years. The church is being told that Christianity needs to be re-invented in order to reach this postmodern generation. This push to re-invent Christianity seems to be all over the place. “The message never changes,” we are told. “But we must find new methods of reaching this generation.” That statement sounds legitimate. The problem is, in the rush to find new methods; most are laying aside the unchanging message. Rather than sound, verse-by-verse expository preaching, what we find these days is topical felt-needs preaching (or talks). It seems the Bible has taken a backseat to a here’s how to feel good about yourself kind of preaching. In the minds of postmodern preachers, the Word of God and the gospel no longer have the life changing power they once had. But Paul was clear and to the point: “Preach the Word; be ready in season and out of season.” This was a forceful order and directive. It wasn’t up for discussion. He didn’t say preach it until it’s no longer popular. God’s Word is clear. If we want to see lives changed and people saved, the preaching of the Word must remain central, even in this postmodern generation.
This is extremely crucial considering the times in which we live. It seems in an effort to be relevant to this generation, many preachers have set aside the Bible for a more relevant message. Relevant? What could be more relevant than the message of salvation by grace through faith (Eph. 2:10), which says, “Unless you repent, you will all perish” (Luke13:3). Paul warned Timothy (and us), “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine.” He also wrote, “But the Spirit explicitly says that in the later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons” (1 Tim. 4:1). The only place we will ever hear sound doctrine is through the expository preaching of God’s Word. However, when solid preaching is replaced by felt-needs preaching and when the message of sin and repentance, the gospel and the coming judgment is watered down into easy-believism, the door is opened wide for deception. And I’m afraid that many people who sit in churches across this land are deceived. But why should this surprise us? Especially when many preachers are entering their pulpits with no Bible in hand. Just preach the Word! The Bible tells us that God is always right and man is almost always wrong. When we rely upon human consensus we end up with man’s perspective and not God’s revelation. This is why Paul solemnly charged Timothy and us to preach the Word in season and out! Preach the Word!
The Bible says in the last days Satan will deceive the whole world with doctrines of demons and seducing spirits. Therefore, the Bible must be our authority. Imagine how astounded I was the day a fellow minister suggested we include in our worship service such activities as centering (or contemplative) prayer and prayer labyrinths, both of which are nothing more than far eastern meditative and religious practices repackaged under a Christian label. I’m sorry, but God’s Word does not call for us to repackage activities of other religions in an effort to drum up Jesus. It calls upon us to preach the Word and to filter everything that comes our way through the grid of God’s Word. Sometimes I wonder if we really and truly understand how dangerous it is when we abandon the forceful order and directive to “preach the Word…in season and out of season.” We may as well be eating poison. Whatever happened to the Bible?
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are downtrodden, to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord” (Luke 4:18-19). Spirit-anointed preaching is still the greatest instrument the Church possesses. Every preacher should ask himself, “Do I have the anointing?” And, “If not, why?” Unless the man of God has the anointing of God’s Spirit, he cannot bring the message of the gospel with authority and power. Furthermore, when a preacher stands behind the sacred desk with God’s anointing upon him, like John the Baptist, he will understand, “I must decrease; He must increase” (John 3:30).
Three things can be said of Spirit-anointed preaching. First of all, it is due to the Spirit of God. Jesus promised, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you” (Acts 1:8). Secondly, Spirit-anointed preaching is expository preaching. By expository, I mean the verse-by-verse preaching of God’s Word. Far too many preachers today are more often prone to preach in a way that panders to the self-centered “felt needs” of people while ignoring their deepest, eternal needs. It seems too many preachers have become “seeker-sensitive” at the expense of expository preaching. Now don’t misunderstand. My goal here is not to knock so called seeker-sensitive churches. However, we must understand, in reality, apart from the Spirit of God there is no one who seeks after God (see Romans 3:11). Furthermore, there really is only one seeker, and His name is Jesus Christ. He said, “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). Finally, Spirit-anointed preaching is Christ centered. This should be no surprise. After all, all Scripture centers in the person and work of Jesus Christ. In John 5:39, Jesus said, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that bear witness of Me.”
Spirit-anointed preaching is preaching God uses. It is centered in Christ and always true to the text. It lets the Bible tell its own eternal message. It is less interested in felt needs but wholly interested in deep, eternal needs. Think about it, God’s Word says that He is “well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe” (1 Cor. 1:21). Ministers of the Gospel should preach expository, Christ-centered messages over feel good man-centered messages. It’s no wonder many churches aren’t growing today. They have departed from the clear expository, Christ-centered preaching of God’s Word. Jesus said, “And I, if I am lifted up, will draw all men to Myself” (John 12:32).
Are you a minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ? If so, is your preaching expository and Christ-centered? If not, why? Is your preaching anointed by the Spirit of God? If not, why? The anointing of the Holy Spirit is essential for life-changing preaching. “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He anointed Me to preach the gospel…”
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