For more than 1,600 years the church has suffered from a malady called pride. Christians are those people who follow Christ and Christ is almighty God who humbled himself to become like those whom He created. It stands to reason that those who would follow Him would have to humble themselves to be like him. Certainly, the true Christian humbles himself and is humbled by His Lord. However, Christians are not perfect this side of heaven, and knowing that we fight against three powerful foes, the world, the flesh, and the devil, is essential to become victorious in the fight.
To know that we fight against three foes may be true of many Christians, but how the enemy works is not always as clear, and this can cause a tremendous problem.
In the Fourth Century Christians began to think that because they were trying to reach the Gentiles, who were very educated, they needed to be educated also. There is certainly nothing wrong with being educated, but the first century Church turned the world upside down for Christ and they were mostly uneducated slaves and common people. “For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise.” (1 Corinthians 1:26, 27)
The Elder’s Calling The Christian needs to, ” Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.” (2 Tim. 2:15) However, there is a huge difference between the knowledge of God’s word and becoming a doctor of theology, by which a man is known as an expert in the things of God. Jesus, in speaking about such things, told the crowds and His followers,
“The scribes and the Pharisees …they do all their deeds to be seen by others ….But you are not to be called rabbi (a teacher respected for accumulating a great number of Bible facts), for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers. And call no man your father (one who imparts life) on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. Neither be called instructors (Master teacher, expert, professor, doctor), for you have one instructor the Christ. The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” (Matthew 23:2, 5, 8-12)
Notice that Jesus first says ‘be not called’, then He says ‘call no one’, and then He returns and says, ‘be not called’. Two-thirds of the responsibility is placed upon the leader to be not called something he is not, and one-third on the follower not to overly magnify the office. We have been given teachers for the perfecting of the saints and the work of the ministry (Ephesians 4), but we have also been instructed as to how we are to view them. We are led by brothers, fellow heirs of the grace of God, not masters, doctors, or experts. The ground is level at the cross! If we are to compete for anything it is to be for the bottom and the place of humility, and not for the top or the place of pride.
The Cause of Powerless Preaching Last night a man came over with whom I have discipled for about two years. He is young in the faith, has an enormous fervency and love for Christ. His zeal is apparent in his humble and teachable spirit. He is polite, quick to ask forgiveness and to forgive.
He was asked to speak in the church plant that he is now attending. Last night he asked me to critique the message that he prepared, which he was asked to give today. As he read his well prepared manuscript, I noticed that all his fire was missing. He prepared well, but their was no passion in his speaking, and more importantly, I could not even tell whether or not he believed what he was saying. If a preacher does not believe what he is saying why should we?
The imparting of knowledge during a sermon goes without saying, but that is not the whole of preaching. Passion is either in a sermon or it is lifeless. Pastors are to impart life giving truth, they are never to lecture as if they were a professor teaching a class at college. The great twentieth century preacher, Martin Lloyd Jones, put it this way,
The Christian does not begin at zero “The Christian is not taught as those in other disciplines; the doctor, engineer, and architect all begin knowing nothing. However, the Christian is taught all things by God, who gives us of His Spirit, so that we might receive those things about Him. (paraphrased)” The pastor prepares for ministry by broadening the knowledge that he has already received from God, as we all have. The Apostle John said it this way, “But the anointing that you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as His anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie—just as it has taught you, abide in Him.” (1 John 2:27)
Jesus Christ through the work of the Holy Spirit teaches the Christian all things. He is the Father that gave us life and new life. We have a received a new heart to understand, and He is the one who imparts knowledge; He also imparts the fruit of the Spirit, and a passion for Jesus Christ, His work, and sufferings. No man can impart knowledge! Men can speak the truth, but the work of changing hearts belongs to God.
It was so encouraging for me to watch my disciple go from the fear of man and trying to say all the right things, but merely seeking to impart knowledge, to a fervent follower of Jesus, seeking to share Christ from an honest fear of God. May it be with all of God’s servants. Dead facts kill, living truth gives life. A.W. TOZER put it this way.
“The essence of my belief is that there is a difference, a vast difference, between fact and truth. Truth in the Scriptures is more than a fact. A fact may be detached, impersonal, cold and totally dissociated from life. Truth on the other hand, is warm, living and spiritual. A theological fact may be held in the mind for a lifetime without its having any positive effect upon the moral character; but truth is creative, saving, transforming, and it always changes the one who receives it into a humbler and holier man. At what point, then, does a theological fact become for the one who holds it a life-giving truth? At the point where obedience begins. When faith gains the consent of the will to make an irrevocable committal to Christ as Lord, truth begins its saving, illuminating work; and not one moment before.” A.W. TOZER