Pastor John Samson
In the early verses of John chapter 3, Jesus tells Nicodemus in no uncertain terms, the absolute necessity of being born again (or born from above). Unless a man is first born again (regenerated) he can never enter or even see the kingdom of God. Jesus stresses the fact that this new birth is not merely an optional extra. It is imperative. Jesus said, “You must be born again” (3:7).
Jesus didn’t tell Nicodemus what he must do to be born again. Why? Because it was not within Nicodemus’ power to perform this miracle. “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” (John 3:6) Flesh can only reproduce flesh. It takes the Spirit to regenerate the human spirit. This miracle of regeneration cannot be achieved by human effort, or by self performed surgery.
The new birth is not the improvement of the old nature, but the creation of an entirely new one. It is a birth, a new birth, and like the first one we experienced, it did not occur because of our decision to be born. Our will was not a factor in any way. We were born as a result of the will of others – that of our parents, and of course, God’s will to create us using the means of human, physical intimacy.
In contrast to our first birth, this new birth does not occur through human means. God alone brings about this new creation in Christ Jesus. As John, the Gospel writer had already pointed out in chapter 1:12, 13, “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” Jesus makes it clear that human flesh can only reproduce flesh. It is the Holy Spirit alone who can recreate human spirits. The Holy Spirit is the sole Agent working regeneration in the human spirit.
In explaining this phenomenon of the new birth, Jesus then speaks of something very mysterious – the wind. Wind is mysterious, not because it is not real, but because it is not something we’ve ever actually seen. Though we know when it is around because of its effects, we’ve never actually observed wind with our eyes. Oh, we’ve seen trees swaying, leaves falling, papers flying through the air. Sometimes the effects of the wind are so powerful that the only word we can use for its effects would be devastation. The wind can cause havoc on a massive scale, as the victims of hurricanes can testify. But wind is mysterious because we can’t see it, and we are never sure about where it came from, or where it is going. It seems to have a mind of its own.
Concerning this, Jesus said, “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (3:8)
The word “pneuma” in Greek, like the word “ruach” in Hebrew means “breath, wind or spirit.” Jesus uses an obvious play on words here, describing the activity of the Holy Spirit in regeneration.
Of course, much more could and should be said about these opening verses in John chapter 3. But just for a moment, can we stop to appreciate the impact of verse 8? Here Jesus teaches us that when anyone is born of the Spirit, like the blowing of the wind, the invisible Sovereign Spirit of God has moved in mighty power. Yet in contrast to when a town or city experiences storm damage on a large scale, the effects of this “wind” are not in any way negative. Though powerful in the extreme, the Spirit’s work is amazingly precise.
When someone is born again, it is evidence of the fact that God, the Holy Spirit has performed extensive Divine surgery. He has taken out the stony heart and put in a heart of flesh (using the biblical imagery of Ezekiel, flesh is spoken of in contrast to stone, wheras Jesus, in John 3 is using the word flesh in a different way, speaking only of physical, human flesh). Ezekiel 36:26-27 declares, “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.” What an amazing miracle this is!
I remember going to a Christian service at age 14, not wanting to be there, hoping for the service to end (even though it had just begun). I was only there because my father had asked me to go. I had no interest in Christ, nor in what I was observing when the congregation sang, and certainly, had no interest in what the preacher had to say. But sometime during the message, my attitude changed. I became interested. In fact, I became intrigued. I was fascinated, and struck by the realities of heaven and hell, and the need for a Savior, and for the first time in my life, was attracted by a Treasure I had never seen before.
I didn’t know it then, but I know now, that what happened in a little metal shed-like building in Chester, England that Sunday night of May 11th, 1980 was this… God, the Holy Spirit, invisibly blew into that service, and while I was hearing the Gospel (under the ministry of Cliff Beasley), in Sovereign and colossal power, yet with the skill of an expert Surgeon, He went to work on my soul. In an instant in time, I was born from above, the old heart of stone was removed and a new heart was put in that with every beat, wanted to know the Master, the Lord Jesus Christ. This Jesus, so to speak, stepped off the old dusty pages of the Bible and became a living Person in my eyes. All of a sudden, I really wanted to know Him, I really wanted Him to save me, and I really wanted His will in my life. And when the Gospel appeal was made, I came to Christ willingly in repentance and faith.
If you are born of the Spirit, God did the exact same thing for you. The Reformation sola of Sola Gratia (Grace Alone) simply expresses in doctrine what God has done for His people in experience. It is God and God alone who has saved us. All the credit for it goes to Him, because this birth had nothing to do with our intelligence (that we somehow worked out who Jesus was for ourselves), or our humility (we having conquered our own pride, were able to humble ourselves to be able to respond in faith to the Gospel). No, a thousand times, no! We are Christians because of the all conquering power of the mighty Spirit of God, who graciously stormed our hearts and worked His Sovereign will. He brought us forth by the word of truth, causing us to find sheer delight in the presence of God both now and for all eternity.
When Lazarus was raised from death, he did not immediately seek an attorney in order to sue Jesus for violating his right to stay dead! Nor did all the town’s people sue Jesus for not at the very same time raising all of their dead relatives from the graves. No, everyone marveled at the all-powerful call of Jesus. By the power of just His word, He actually brought a putrifying corpse back to life. Of course, no one was more thrilled with this Divine mercy than Lazarus himself.
Why do we speak so much about God’s grace? Because with Lazarus we can say that by the effectual call of God, grace has conquered our hearts and brought us to life. When we were spiritually dead in our trespasses and sins (the Greek word for dead in Ephesians 2:1, “necros” means “dead like a corpse”) God made us alive (Eph. 2:5).
C. H. Spurgeon once said, “The great King, immortal, invisible, the Divine person, called the Holy Spirit: it is He that stimulates the soul, or else it would lie dead forever; it is He that makes it tender, or else it would never feel; it is He that imparts power to the Word preached, or else it could never reach further than the ear; it is He who breaks the heart, it is He who makes it whole; He, from first to last, is the great worker of Salvation in us, just as Jesus Christ was the author of Salvation for us.”
“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience – among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved…” Eph. 2:1-5
Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me… Twas grace that taught my heart to fear, and grace my fears relieved, how precious did that grace appear, the hour I first believed.
Prayer: “Heavenly Father, Sovereign King, hear our cry. As Your gospel is heralded around the world, may the Holy Spirit of God, like a mighty triumphant wind, conquer dead human hearts today! It is man’s only hope! For Your great Name’s sake and for Your glory alone. Amen.”
Dr. R. C. Sproul
THE TESTIMONY OF JESUS HIMSELF
John 14:6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
THE TESTIMONY OF PETER
Acts 4:10-12 then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. He is “‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the capstone.’ Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”
THE TESTIMONY OF PAUL
1 Timothy 2:5 For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus
One of the main objections people have to the Christian Gospel is this issue …of exclusivity: that the Christian proclaims that only in Jesus Christ is salvation to be found. Certainly it would be less objectionable if Jesus was merely presented as simply one of the many ways to God. Yet it needs to be pointed out that it is not the Christian who came up with this idea, but the claim comes directly from Jesus Himself. Because of this, either Jesus is the Way to God as He said, or else He is a liar and a deceiver, and not even one way to God!
Lets think about this idea of there only being one way to God by looking at it from a hypothetical perspective. Follow the logic of Dr. R.C. Sproul as he writes the following in his book “Reason to Believe”:
Let’s suppose that there is a God who is absolute in His holiness and righteousness. Suppose He freely creates mankind and gives each human being the gift of life. Suppose He sets His creatures in an ideal environment with the freedom to enjoy the wonders of the entire creation. Then let’s suppose that God imposes one small restriction upon them, and warns them that if they violate that restriction, they will die. Would such a God have the right to impose such a restriction with the penalty of forfeiture of the gift of life if His authority was violated?
Then let’s suppose that for no just cause, the ungrateful creatures disobeyed the restriction. Yet suppose that when He discovered their violation, instead of killing them instantly, He redeemed them.
Suppose the descendants of the first violators increase their hostility and disobedience to God to the point that the whole world become enemies of God.
Suppose God still determined to redeem these people, and set aside a distinct nation for Himself, giving them special gifts, so that through them, the entire world would be blessed.
Suppose He kept delivering them from all their enemies, yet as soon as they were liberated, they rose up in rebellion to Him. Suppose, because of His mercy and grace, God sent specially endowed messengers or prophets to plead with His people to return to Him.
Suppose the people killed these divine messengers and mocked their message. Suppose they then began to worship idols of stone and things they had made. Suppose they then invented religions which were totally opposed to the truth He had made clear to them, and they worshiped creatures rather than the Creator.
Suppose in an ultimate act of redemption, God Himself became incarnate in the person of His Son.
Suppose this Son came into the world not to condemn the world, but to redeem it. Suppose this Son were rejected, slandered, mocked, tortured, and murdered.
Yet, suppose that God accepted the murder of His own Son as punishment for the sins of the very persons who murdered Him. Suppose this God offered forgiveness, and a cleansing from all guilt, victory over death and eternal peace with Himself. Suppose God gave these people as a free gift the promise of a future life that would be without pain, without sickness, without death, and without tears.
Suppose that God said to these people, “There is one thing that I demand. I demand that you honor my one and only Son and that you worship and serve Him alone.”
Suppose God did all that, would you be willing to say to Him, “God, that’s not fair, you haven’t done enough?” If man has in fact committed cosmic treason against God, what reason could we possibly have that God should provide any way of redemption? In light of the universal rebellion against God, the issue is not why is there only one way, but why is there any way at all?
“There seems to be growing up amongst us an idea that a man is of a persecuting spirit if he does not think that the one who flatly contradicts him is as right as himself. If we do as some wish, we shall in time reach that blessed state of charity which had been attained by the courtiers of the Sultan, who, when he said at mid-day, “It is midnight,” replied, “Yes, sire, there is the moon, and there are the stars.” Today, we are expected not to protest against Popery, lest we should be considered bigots; we must subscribe to all that men teach, if only they are sincere. Suppose a man, travelling due North, was sincere in thinking that he would get to the South, do you think his sincerity would bring him to the desired destination? If a man was sincere in thinking that prussic acid was a wholesome food, would the poison do him no injury? If a man starved himself while he sincerely believed himself to be feasting, how long would it take him to get fat? You say “these things are contrary to the laws of nature.” Just so, and the laws of God’s gospel are as fixed and true as are the laws of nature. If you are honest and sincere in keeping to the road of ruin, you will reach the natural end of that road, eternal destruction. Sincerity in believing a lie does not change that lie to the truth. There is only one way to heaven; there is only one Saviour, Jesus Christ is exclusively “the way.” This excludes all by-paths, all cross-roads, and all short cuts. Scripture knows nothing of the new theory, that we may be all right though we are in direct opposition to the Word of God.”
– C. H. Spurgeon, from a sermon delivered on a Sunday evening in 1856, at New Park Street. Notes taken by Pastor T.W. Medhurst.
Pastor John Samson
In a communist Russian dictionary, Jesus is described as “a mythical figure who never existed.” Of course, no serious historian could hold to that position today. The evidence is overwhelming as to the fact that Jesus existed, not just from the Gospels and other Christian literature around the first century, but also from non-Christian sources.
Well respected historians of the day, including Tacitus (a Roman) speak of him, as well as the noted Jewish historian Josephus. He writes “Now there was about this time, Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man, for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him, both many of the Jews, and many of the Gentiles. He was [the] Christ; and when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at first did not forsake him, for he appeared to them alive again the third day, as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him; and the tribe of Christians so named after him, are not extinct at this day.” Josephus: Antiquities XVIII 63f
Of course, a whole book is needed to cover all the evidence regarding the existence of Jesus. In fact, Josh McDowelI has already written one, called “He walked among us.” Suffice it to say that there is overwhelming evidence to say that Jesus was a real historical person.
At this point you might say, “O.K. so he existed, but what does that have to do with me?”
Knowing that Jesus existed is not only relevant to lovers of history, but, as we shall see, is of supreme importance to everyone.
Why? The answer lies in discovering who this Jesus really was.
In all the surveys I’ve conducted, asking people who they thought Jesus was, I received a number of different answers. Some said, “He was a good teacher who lived 2,000 years ago.” Others, that “He was a miracle worker and one of the many ways to God.” Others said that they didn’t know who Jesus was, and didn’t want to look into such a controversial question. Of course, I met a number of people who said, “Jesus was and is the Son of God.”
“But what’s the big deal? Does it really matter what we think about Jesus?”
My answer may startle you, but I suggest that your answer to this question, is the biggest single issue in your life! “What?” you might say. Yes, who you believe Jesus to be is the most important question you will ever be asked. That’s because if Jesus is the Son of God, and His claims are true, then your acceptance or rejection of Him will mean either eternal life with Him, or eternal separation from Him, and an eternity in hell. Wow, that’s heavy duty stuff, but let me give you an example to illustrate what I’m saying.
Suppose I met you in the street, and said, “Hi, I’m John Samson, and I’m the only way to God. Me and God, we’re one. If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen God. I am the Way, the Truth and the life, no one comes to God but through me. If you believe in me you’ll have eternal life, but if you don’t you’ll be punished forever.”
How would you react? Well there’s a number of ways you could react. One of them would be to call for the guys in white coats to come and collect me!
But, wait a minute. Did you know that the things I said about myself to you in the street, are exactly the same things Jesus said about himself? Now think logically about this.
If Jesus was not all that He claimed to be, then it would be impossible for him to be put in the class of a good teacher.
Because Jesus’ whole teaching centered around who he was claiming to be. Jesus was the one making those claims, not the Christians that followed him. The problem is that he has led multiplied millions astray in following after him as the way to God. If indeed, Jesus was not who He claimed to be He would be nothing more than another false teacher, leading his followers into error. He would be just another clever con man.
“So, he can’t be a good teacher, and be leading people into deception. I get that! But are there any other options?”
Another option is that Jesus was a stark raving lunatic! I’ve never heard anyone suggest Jesus was a madman but we must face that possibility. In fact, experts in the realm of psychology and the mind sciences have commented that in their study of Jesus from the Gospels, they conclude that he was perhaps the person who was “most whole” in all of history. It’s nice that they say that, but could they be wrong?
Well the evidence points towards the fact that Jesus was fully aware of his surroundings, and that he knew he was the fulfillment of biblical prophecy. We all know the story of Jesus birth, but did you know that these events were foretold centuries beforehand in the Old Testament prophecies of the Messiah. He was born of a virgin, in a town called Bethlehem, as the Bible declared he would be (see Isaiah 7:14; Micah 5:2). And just before you say that he tried to fulfill prophecy to claim he was the Messiah, let me just point out that it is pretty impossible to control who your parents are and where you’ll be born. Ever tried it?
In fact, he fulfilled around thirty prophecies in just one day – the day He died. He even claimed that after his death He would be raised again to life in three days. This was a known claim of Jesus, and the Romans made sure that a strong troop of soldiers were posted around his tomb to make sure that none of Jesus’ disciples could secretly break in to the tomb, steal the body, and claim that Jesus was raised from the dead. One scholar of history has said that there is more evidence for the resurrection of Jesus, than any other event in history. That’s quite a claim isn’t it? (for more on this I recommend Frank Morrison’s book, “Who Moved the Stone?”)
Let me take you to a passage in Matthew’s Gospel Chapter 16. It reads as follows:
13 When Jesus came into the region Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?”
15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”
16 Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
17 Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.
Obviously, Jesus said and Jesus taught, that he was the Christ (or Messiah) the Son of God.
“So, are there any other views on who Jesus is? What are my options?”
There are only three options to choose from concerning who Jesus was:
#1 JESUS WAS MAD – He was a misled man who deceived many because he was deceived himself
#2 JESUS WAS BAD – He was an artist, a con man, who managed to start a whole world wide religion
#3 JESUS WAS GOD! – He was exactly who He claimed to be..
Certainly, the Bible teaches that Jesus is the Divine Son of God.
John 1:1 says “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.” Talking of Jesus, verse 14 of that same chapter says, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us…”
(You can check it out more references on this yourself if you look up these verses in a Bible: Isa 9:6; John 20:28,29; Acts 20:28; Titus 2:13; Heb 1:8; – these are just a few of the many verses that could be quoted)
C. S. Lewis once wrote, “I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic – on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg – or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronising nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.” (Mere Christianity, The MacMillan Company, 1960, pp. 40-41.)
So that’s it! Those are the options. Jesus of Nazareth was either MAD, BAD OR GOD! The choice is yours to make. But remember, you must choose well, because if Jesus is indeed who He claimed to be, then the moment after you die, you will face Him, and stand to give an account of your answer. Here’s the good news, if you make Jesus the Lord (the Boss) and Savior of your life, you can look forward to eternal life with Him. Jesus Himself said, ” For God so loved the world that He gave His One and only Son, that whoever believes in Him, should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)
Jesus said “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out!” (John 6:37)
Pastor John Samson
“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9 (NASB)
In these words, the Apostle Paul destroys all notions of salvation by works. We are saved by the grace of God which is received through faith, and works play no part at all. As the next verse (v.10) makes clear, God has indeed planned for believers to do good works, but as this and many other passages in scripture would affirm, the works are the fruit and not the root of our salvation. True believers do good works, but works play no role at all in how we receive salvation, for it is “not as a result of works.”
This much is clear, but questions have arisen as to what exactly is meant by the one word “that” in Ephesians 2:8. We know that whatever it is, it is the gift of God, but can we determine exactly what this gift is?
Some say that the gift is “faith” while others say it is “grace” and still others say it is “salvation.” What may be a point of dispute from the reading of the English translations becomes settled when looking into the original Greek text.
Putting it in terms we can hopefully all understand, the Greek word for “that” is transliterated into English as touto and is in a neuter form. The way to determine what it refers to is to look for the other neuter in the immediate context. That’s how the issue would normally be resolved, except that in this particular case, there isn’t one. “Grace” is feminine; “have been saved” is masculine, and “faith” is also in a feminine form. In this case then, what the “that” refers to is all in the preceding clause. The grace, the salvation and the faith – all of these things – is the gift of God.
Paul is making it clear that nothing in our salvation comes from ourselves. Salvation, grace and faith – from start to finish, all of this is the gift of God, not as a result of works. God has designed salvation in this way for the very purpose of eliminating all grounds for human boasting. Boasting is not merely discouraged, or kept to a minimum, it is completely removed. That is because the entire work of salvation is God’s work from start to finish – “this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God” as the ESV renders it. The grace by which we are saved and the faith that is the mechanism through which we receive it – yes, even this faith – is the gift of God. Salvation is of the Lord and all the glory for it goes to God alone.
Pastor John Samson
But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work. I 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, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. – 2 Timothy 3:14 – 4:5 ESV
To serve as the pastor of King’s Church is a high calling and an amazing privilege. To serve the King of Kings and the people Christ died for – what could be greater than this? Yet with every great privilege comes great responsibility.
Have you noticed in the above text how it is the presentation of Scripture as God breathed (at the end of 2 Timothy 3) that is the basis for the solemn and holy charge given to preach the Word, in chapter 4? The one thing naturally leads to the other. It is because of the nature of Scripture as divinely inspired that Paul tells Timothy to preach it with boldness, in season and out of season. Literally this phrase means “in good times and bad times,” or by way of application, “preach the word when the people like it and when they do not.”
Being a pastor and talking with other pastors, I think I understand how pastors think. God has placed a servant’s heart in every true shepherd’s heart. The genuine pastor did not get into this for money or fame, for the gold or the glory, but because there is a driving passion in the heart, placed there by God, to obey the One who called him for His own eternal purposes. Sadly, what is crystal clear at the beginning phase of ministry can become fuzzy over time as Church pressures, politics and personalities all have their influence. But the above passage gives us a solemn charge to stay at our post knowing our chief responsibility under the gaze of God is to serve the people of God the Word of God.
I have met some people in ministry who have openly told me that they teach through the Scripture but seek to avoid controversial subjects. I know why they do this. They do not wish to divide their congregation. The Evangelist may count how many people were in a service, but a pastor is far more likely to count how many were not there – he aches inside to see the people he loves come and be built up in their most holy faith and knows what the Word of God can do for them. He organizes his whole week to make room for the serious study of God’s word. It is labor indeed – real work. Often it is in the early hours of the morning that he is awakened from sleep with inspiration to dig out or mine the Scripture – and the inspiration lasts until the clock tells him he must take a quick shower and get on with the business of the day (and restful sleep is only a hope for the next night).
But here’s the problem. Love for the people is very commendable, but it should not be the chief motivation in ministry. There should be a greater love for the God who called us to obey Him. The truth is, if we preach the Word accurately and with the fire and passion He instills in us, this shows great love for people too, because we are giving them the very best thing imaginable – the word of Almighty God. People need a lot more than a pep talk once a week, as in a coach’s half time team talk. No, they need far more substance than this. What they need is a genuine word from God.
If we love Him, we will teach and preach in order to please Him first, for the message of the text is that we preach to the audience of One. God is watching us closely as we preach His Word. 2 Timothy 4:1 could accurately be translated, “I solemnly charge you as one under the gaze of God…”
I think if we were to see this from God’s perspective, when a pastor or preacher says he teaches the Bible but avoids controversial issues, he is acting as a disobedient slave of the Master as well as short changing the people. The fact is that controversy cannot be avoided. There’s no main truth of Scripture that is free from controversy. That’s true whether we are talking about the existence of God, His purpose in suffering, the Trinity, the full Deity and full humanity of Christ, the atoning work of Christ, the Person of the Holy Spirit, the doctrines of grace and how God saves by His grace alone through faith in Christ alone. You can try to find something in there that is not controversial, but I cannot. Truth is controversial – so get used to it.
Having a doctrinal position is unavoidable if we are to say anything about what Scripture means. The question is not can we avoid theology, but which theology is biblical. To try to avoid it is like saying to a waiter, “may I have some water, but can you hold the wet!” The wet comes with the water, because quite simply, water is wet.
If for illustration purposes the waiter is the preacher, then the cook (and owner of the restaurant and the franchise) is God Himself. Waiters are not permitted to look at the plate handed to them by the cook and then cut off the edges of the meat before serving the people. The cook determines what is served to the people not the waiter.
If the text speaks of controversial things such as true discipleship or Divine Sovereignty, who do we think we are if we then say, “this is not what the people want to hear, so I will leave that part out of the sermon”? This would be an act of defiance not of servant-hood, both of God and of the people. We need to ask, “who is it we are really serving?”
It is because of the fact that we are called to serve God first before we serve people that the text goes on to say “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions…” This is the truth so let us face it. Not everyone who listens to us will like us or the message we proclaim. As preachers, we must face this and get over it! If everyone likes the message, and I mean everyone, then perhaps the One we should always seek to please first may well be displeased. And this should scare us a lot more than it does, because one day we will stand before Him and give an account to Him, when no crowd is applauding us, its just you or me standing before the King.
There is an offense to the message of the cross – Jews want signs and Greeks seek wisdom – but preach the cross anyway, for this indeed is the true sign and the true wisdom of God. Not everyone who hears us can handle the truth of God’s Sovereignty, and they may leave. Lets remember that the crowd left Jesus, the Master communicator, when He preached it too:
John 6:65-68 And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.” After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. So Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life…
People will come and go. As much as it may sadden us, not everyone will stay with us for the long-haul. So lets face this fact and decide beforehand who we will be serving, and who it is we will be prepared to lose! We will lose people, but let us not lose true disciples who really want to know what the Word of God says. If we are going to lose people, lets be prepared to lose those who put their opinions and traditions above His word. Making this choice does not mean that in doing so our ministry will always be small. The God who called us is in charge of such things. Paul may plant, an Apollos may water but it is God who causes the growth. The size of the ministry is not in our hands, that is God’s decision, but because of His amazing providence, God’s book certainly is. Lets preach this Divine Word with boldness as heralds of the King, knowing the truth that “Christ’s sheep will never be offended by Christ’s voice.” (C. H. Spurgeon)
Preachers are to use wisdom in how they go about this task, of course, but that’s another subject for another day. But when it comes to a preacher’s job responsibilities, we have no real choice when it comes down to subject matter concerning what we leave out or what we put in. It is the height of presumption to think any other way. God has never asked us for our opinion on the matter. He is the Owner and cook – we are simply humble servant-waiters with an amazingly high calling to be His Royal Ambassadors.
2 Timothy 4 reminds me that my primary task at King’s Church is to serve the King’s food to the King’s people. Let us also realize that Christ’s sheep are amazingly precious to the Shepherd. He is concerned for the welfare of His flock and has established the menu for the diet of the sheep.
“Excuse me waiter, did you mess with the food?” Selah.