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PREACHING AS MIRACLE!
A Study By Rev Earl Jackson
on the nature of true preaching.
1Cor. 1:18 For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.
Rom. 10:17 So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
The gifts of God are not well recognized or properly received in today's electronic and well educated age. In fact, today many of the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit are distorted out of recognition, and others, which should be easy to recognize, like the prophetic gift, are almost completely lacking in our churches. You might think it strange that a person who is a preacher, a prophet, a communicator of the word of God, would say that He feels the prophetic gift to be almost completely lacking in the 21st century churches. Let me show you and explain why I think this to be the case.
The gifts of the Spirit are miraculous. They are supernatural gifts that are undefinable and unexplainable by human effort, power, education or technology. None of our vast human resources can produce a miracle. None of our power, education, wealth, wisdom or technology can create a supernatural effect. If we are the cause or the explanation, then the result will never be miraculous. It takes God to be God. It takes God to do miracles. Man cannot do what only God can do. We may have cheap imitations, and phony look-a-likes, but real miracle, has to come from the miraculous source. God is the cause of the miraculous effect. What we cause is usually a mess. All of the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit are miraculous, and this includes the prophet's gifts.
The prophetic gift has to do with just one thing...accurately delivering a Divine message from God Himself, to a people whom God intends to hear it. The message can be about the past, the present, the future or any combination of these, but it is always a message from God Himself to specific hearers. When a preacher stands in the pulpit to speak, he stands to speak not his own words, wisdom, thoughts, ideas or convictions; But the words and wisdom of God Himself. The act of true preaching and the effects associated with it are nothing short of miraculous. The whole contrivance of preaching and the whole purpose for it is one vast life-changing miracle. I will explain more, but first let me show you why I think the true prophetic gift is so absent today in our churches.
Stops The Mouth of God
Cessationism has redefined all the Holy Spirit's gifts in order to keep them from being used today. Cessationism is one of Satan's greatest false doctrines. Here is the most common form of it. You will hear some teachers say: "the Divine revelation from God is closed"... "God no longer speaks directly to men, we have everything He wants us to know in his word"... "there is no such thing as revelation any more, only inspiration". Be very careful friend of these insidious teachings. They leave God as a mute being, who is unable to communicate in to today's world. It may well be true that God is no longer writing...as in the case of the Bible, but where are we ever told that God has ceased to communicate with His children? This is a very dangerous and perverted doctrine. Did not Christ indicate "my sheep hear my voice"(John 10:27)? Are we to interpret that to mean that He has quit speaking to them? Even the book of Hebrews indicates that God's people are to be always busy hearing His voice. That seems to be clearly indicated in the words of Heb. 3:7-8 " Wherefore (as the Holy Ghost saith, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts,as in the provocation". Hear His voice today, would be meaningless if He has no voice. God would have simply said read His word today. But he said "hear His voice today". That is a far different and important thing. The same thought is repeated in Hebrews 4:7. Likewise, the doctrine of effectual calling, requires that Christ speaks and calls His elect to life. "Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live" (John 5:25) "Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light" (Eph 5:14). Christ still speaks and calls men to life from death, and the idea that he does not destroys any hope of salvation, because it leaves the dead to awaken themselves. They hear no voice from God, speaking them to life. They hear only their own voices in their own head. Horrible bad doctrine. Dispense of it at once. It is a doctrine of death and despair. It is a doctrine of powerlessness and hopelessness. Preaching is a voice from God. If it is not, you are wasting your time and your breath if you try to engage in it. Preaching is God speaking directly to men, through a human instrument (the prophet), and that is the only thing that makes it profitable.
Teaching is Not Preaching
Many things are very close and very similar to true preaching, but they have no miracle at all about them. A scholarly lecture would be one such thing. The student goes to hear the teacher discuss about a well documented and well studied subject, and he goes with the intent of having the teacher's vast knowledge about a subject transferred from the teachers brain to the pea brain of the student. This happens every day in colleges,universities and schools all around the world, and students are thus educated and learn great and valuable truths. But there is nothing miraculous at all about it. It is a lecture, not a prophetic utterance. It is caused by the professor's wisdom and intellectual prowess, and not by the gifting of the Holy Spirit. Many sermons are indistinguishable from lessons, teaching events, lectures or other such forms of public speaking.
When I was in college we did not have computers, electronic gadgets to download and broadcast sermons, or any of that stuff. We did have old fashioned tape recorder's, but they were large and bulky and few people carried them about. After I graduated, however, the cassette tape became popular and churches started what they called "tape ministries"...the distribution of sermons and lessons on tape to the far corners of the world. I think this is really when preaching began to downgrade into a form of entertainment and teaching, and ceased to be preaching. People became sermon experts, and sermon critics. Everybody had their own favorite little preachers in a box full of cassette tapes, and people listened to "enjoy" the preaching not necessarily to be changed by it. They new norm was to listen to sermons to learn stuff. Listen to learn doctrine. Listen to learn facts,figures,historical narratives and principles. Teaching is all about stuff. Teaching is about learning the facts. Teaching is about knowing details and learning stuff. Preaching is none of that. I'll explain in a minute. But suffice me to say that teaching and preaching are clearly different and distinguishable from each other. We need both, but we must never confuse the two. Teaching cannot be preaching, because it is not miraculous. And anything claiming to be preaching, that is not miraculous, is something else.
I'm telling you this because I feel I have witnessed a great shift in both the definition and the actual expression of preaching in my lifetime. When I went to college, we actually had classes called preaching classes. Today we have "public speaking" classes, and the assumption is made that these are the same thing. "Preaching" and "public speaking" have become indistinguishable. Most people have no problem with this, and in fact they think it is accurate, and is the way that it is supposed to be. Preachers are simply paid public speakers who deliver a nice little speech, talk, homily, sermon or sermonette on Sunday mornings. Preaching no longer has anything to do with being a mouthpiece for God, but it is simply teaching about the stuff of God. The false idea that "God cannot speak today", has killed the very definition of preaching. Men no longer expect to hear directly from God when they go to church. And sadly, preachers no longer expect to speak as the very lips of God to the people. That's why there is so little true preaching today.
So Called Expository Preaching
has also Killed true preaching.
Exposition of the Bible is not preaching. It should not be called preaching, and the mindless preachers who have fallen into the largely Presbyterian system of so called "expository preaching" have lost the true preaching and true prophets from their churches. It is wholly based upon the idea that God wrote the Bible verse by verse, and in the context in which it was given. The expositor seeks to study the scriptures in their context just as given by God, and there is nothing wrong with that idea, until it is conceived by us as the way that God is supposed to speak today. All orthodox Christians are agreed that God already wrote the Bible. He is not writing more Bible today. So while the idea of exposition is true, the substitution of it for preaching is not true. The idea that God speaks and can only accurately speak when a preacher is going through a lengthy study say, 314 sermons on Romans, is ridiculous. In fact these speakers are not preaching at all but simply reading and teaching the Bible and making applications from this weeks predetermined text. If we are preaching on the 4th verse this Sunday, then we have to preach from verse 15 next Sunday. So instead of God giving the preacher a message to preach, the preacher predetermines what God is supposed to say, and restricts God to say it from a particular chapter and verse. There is no interplay and interaction or direction from the Holy Spirit. In fact the whole system, is designed to force God to speak what we want Him to speak, and to teach us according to our preconceived notion, that preaching has to be expository in order to be Biblical. My voice may seem radical, but I am telling you that this kind of preaching is not preaching at all. It is simply teaching... teaching that is dressed up and disguised as preaching. It is a lazy preachers cop out. Rather than seeking God fresh each week, and asking God, what message His congregation needs to hear, and rather than getting fresh manna from heaven, the expositor, dishes up stale and often totally irrelevant stuff instead of delivering the feast that God has for his people this week. What is termed expository preaching, is actually and simply teaching that belongs in Sunday School, but this can never be, nor should it ever be the voice of a prophet on Sunday Morning. Exposition belongs in Sunday School but never in a pulpit. If you disagree, it is because you have bought into a bunch of hog wash, and have been hoodwinked to think that exposition is the methodology of the Holy Spirit. Jesus did not preach expositionally. None of the Apostles ever preached 314 sermons on Isaiah or Daniel. Exposition is unnecessary, because people can read it and study it and learn it on their own. Exposition makes church completely unnecessary. Why should I go to a place and listen to a man read and explain the same verses that I can read and explain myself, at home, using study tools, tapes, etc? Church is an unnecessary waste of time. if that's all it is.
Preaching is about God speaking directly to Me
in a manner that I can get no other way.
Make no mistake about this. This is what makes prophecy miraculous. Listen. Here is how this thing is supposed to work. The object of all true preaching is to present the word of God in a living and powerful way, that will actually speak to the hearers, not about facts and figures, but about a living and true person. Paul said that when he preached, "He preached Christ". This is very significant. Paul did not preach "about Christ" He actually preached a person! This sounds foolish, and Paul's says that it is the very foolishness which confounds the wisdom of this world. The great central content of all true preaching, is the same as the great central content of the Bible itself...Christ. The Bible is the word written, and we should certainly know it, and teaching is designed to inform us about it. That is good. But Christ is the word living and powerful and sharper than any two edged sword, and when He is preached the word written becomes the word living, and the miracle of Faith is created in the hearts of hearers. "Faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the word of Christ" (many translations translate it this way instead of just "by the word of God"). I think that is a better translation because, Christ is the living word.
Let me show you why true preaching is always Christ preaching, and how it works. A preacher has lets say 200 souls in his congregation an any given Sunday. The preacher knows that one of them is an addict, another is going through a painful divorce, another has incurable cancer and is fighting just to stay alive, another has recently lost their job, another is about to have their house repossessed because they can no longer make the payments due to shrunken paychecks and other factors. On any given Sunday, there might 75 or 100 elderly people who need to be prepared to meet God. There might be 100 or moore young people who are caught up in a very fast paced and technological lifestyle. There might be teenagers with self-image problems, school aged kids. In short the whole gamut of society might be represented in the preachers little congregation. He knows that he has to preach on Sunday, but He also knows that preaching is supposed to be God speaking to His people, and not him speaking to his people. So what He does, is he seeks the Lord. He prays to God and lays the burden of the souls at the Lord's feet. He says, "Lord I know that Sunday Joe Smith will be coming to hear from you about how He is to deal with His cancer, Nancy Rush will be here expecting to learn about grieving for her husband who just died, some of the school kids, will want to learn something to help them with the bullies at school, and Some of the teens have gender identity issues. "Lord, please give me the message that you wish to speak to all of them. Lord speak to every heart, and touch every person this Sunday. Show me Lord what you want me to say. I am waiting upon you Lord, because it cannot come from me". The pastor them enters a course of Bible reading, study and prayer, and careful listening to God and being guided by the Holy Spirit, until he knows that He has received God's message, which is designed by God to speak to every single person who will be present. Sometimes the preacher doesn't know it till late Saturday night, or in the wee hours of Sunday morning. But when the prophet receives his message this way. God always speaks to the people through the man in the pulpit. That is what it means to preach Christ, because Christ is the answer to every need, the word for every season, and the thought for every person, the wisdom of God and the power of God. When God speaks in a sermon, Christ is preached, needs are met, lives are changed and "faith comes by hearing". Voila. Preaching becomes a miracle which is designed, and fully capable of speaking individually to every person present! Preaching speaks Gods word, direct from His throne to each person in the congregation, and it does so, in a manner that you could never get outside of church, on your own, online, in books or tapes, or in Sunday School. The preaching event is a weekly, miracle event at every church where it happens. Preaching Christ, means Christ visits the congregation on Sunday, and in person. He shows up, where he is preached, and His life becomes powerful and vital in the people whom He touches with His presence. This is true preaching, and it is why I started out by saying that I feel it has largely disappeared today.
God has richly blessed me throughout my life and ministry as a Christian. When I first started out, I was saved under powerful preaching. In a balcony of a church in West Texas, Jesus paid a visit to my lost soul, and He personally and actually called me unto Himself, through the voice of a preacher preaching Christ. You will never convince me that Jesus does not now speak, vitally, savingly and sanctifying through preachers. I was saved through preaching, and the voice that I heard was not the voice of the preacher but the voice of Jesus Christ himself, calling another lost sheep into the fold.
Later on I was privileged to sit under some really great preachers, and to be mentored by some true giants of preaching. I was in the right place at the right time, and God allowed me to hear real preaching, and to be taught by these very men, how they listened to God exclusively in order to get their messages. Then I was blessed to have a continuous 35 years of steady active preaching ministry myself. Every week I felt the fresh call of God to deliver one or two or sometimes three messages a week to my congregation. I have never in all those years preached the same sermon twice. I ask God to give me fresh food specific to the people I am speaking to, and in all these years He has never said, I gave you the message for this Sunday, two years ago when you preached on April 12th. God is alive. Christ is alive. So why should we deliver up rehash or yesterday's morsels?
Currently I do not have a pastorate, due to some health issues and other factors, but I still preach at our Sunday evening services where I attend. Now I find that I am once again, sort of where I started out. I'm once again listening to great preachers which God has put me under. I go to church now on Sundays, to listen to my new great preachers that God has blessed me with privilege of sitting under. It is a great privileged joy and blessing, to see that now in a different stage of my life, that when the preacher stands up on Sunday, opens up the Bible, and opens His mouth, that Jesus still shows up. That is the most relevant and exciting thing I know. When the preaching starts, Earl Jackson and the other expectant listeners, find that Christ comes to them. He is there in our midst, healing, touching,m gifting, blessing, directing and guiding His dear children all along the dark a wearisome journey through this vale of tears. I have told my pastors how blessed it is to hear them preach Christ. They know that that is there calling, and they also know that the day they quit preaching Him, will be the day that I quit attending there services. There is absolutely no reason to go to a church where Christ is not preached. When teaching, dialog, discussion, movies, exposition or anything takes the place of preaching, then I am out of there. I'm a Christian, and I go to church for my weekly encounter with Christ among His flock. I know that I have a direct communion with Him every day. But He speaks to the souls of the entire body, in the corporate worship on Sunday, where preaching is the centerpiece. There is no church without preaching, because preaching alone delivers up Jesus personally, powerfully fresh and relevantly.
Let me encourage you, if you are hearing something like this for the first time. First, if you are called to preach, then let me encourage you to do just that. Get rid of yourself. Crucify yourself, and step into your appointed role as a mouthpiece for the almighty. That is your calling, nothing more, or nothing less. If you are a preacher, you are God's lips. So when you open your mouth, you better be certain that God is speaking, and that you are keeping absolutely silent. Nobody wants to hear you, and nobody needs to here anything you have to say. But everybody will want to hear Christ, and everybody needs to hear what He says. If Christ speaks through you, as he should and must, then your church will grow massively and miraculously, because your preaching will be a miracle every time you preach, because Christ is in it. If you go to a church which lacks miracle preaching because it lacks true preaching. Then let your pastors read this, and tell them that if they do not start actually preaching, that you will go somewhere else where Christ really is preached. Churches without true preaching, are nothing more than clubs and social institutions with stained glass windows. They deserve to be abandoned because they have abandoned the only reason for their existence. No preaching, or false preaching renders any church a complete waste of time. Get out. But if you have a church where real preaching takes place then there are at least three things that you must do daily.
- Pray earnestly for your preacher, that every word he speaks will come directly from the Divine source, and will directly hit the Divine Bulls-eye intended for that sermon.
- Go to church in the attitude of expectational listening. Expect God to speak directly to you, and He will, because that is what preaching is designed to do. Every sermon is for you. Every sermon is aimed directly at you, not a someone else. Ask God to speak to you each Sunday and He will. You are not a "sermon critic". God did not establish that as one of the offices of His church. The sermon, on the other hand is your soul's critic. Look... Heb 4:12 "and is a critic of the thoughts and intents of the heart".
- Take what you learned from Jesus through the prophet, and use it throughout the week in your life. Remember what you get on Sunday, when you are exposed to real preaching, is a direct message from God that you could not have received any other way. This is why you go to church, rather than stay home and watch televangelist's or listen to canned sermons on tapes. Those things have a function but is never the same as receiving the promptings, teachings and directions of the Holy Spirit in person through a divine prophet who is looking at you in your eyeballs, and who's heart and words speak Christ to life right in your presence. That is awesome, that is wonderful.
THE REVIVAL OF TRUE PREACHING
I want to conclude with a thought about the Revival of true preaching. It is a patent fact that historically every revival of true religion, has been accompanied by a revival of true and powerful preaching. In fact the story of revivals are identical with the story of great preachers and preaching. I hear people all the time, who think that because there is a revival of reformed doctrines, that that is the same as the awakenings and revivals of the past. It is not. In fact, based upon my observations, and I preach throughout the Northeast, I would have to say, that we are in a great drought, a dearth and a desert at this time in Christianity. Mega churches abound, and they teach falsehoods that people want to hear, and preaching, as I have described, is 100% absent. There is no revival in them. The reformed groups, both Baptist and Presbyterian, as well as some of the others like the Christian Reformed, they largely have fallen into the easy snare of exposition rather than preaching, and so there is no revival in them. It pains me to say this, but I think many of the Arminian, and Charismatics, are closer to revival, because they often have a truer form of preaching, even though their doctrine is abominable. Many of those people deeply love the Lord, because He still actually speaks to them in their preaching, and that... in spite of their doctrinal liabilities and weaknesses. I'm not recommending that you go to a church with false doctrine, but neither am I recommending that you go to a church with true doctrine, but false preaching. Find a church where revival is happening, and you will find a church where Christ is preached, and the doctrines are also right! That's where you want to be. I'm not telling you that any church is perfect on this earth. But all churches are in the process of becoming perfect, in as much as Christ is alive and well in them, speaking to them and leading them through faithful and true preachers who actually do what they have been called to do...preach Christ, the power of God, the wisdom of God.