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The Power of the Holy Spirit in Your Preaching

Robert V. Rakestraw First presented at the Bethel Seminary Preaching Institute, St. Paul, MN, February 24, 1992. The topic before us is one of the most critical issues facing the Church of Jesus Christ today. There are few matters more important than rethinking the role of preaching, and the task, the responsibility, the delight, the joy, the burden of proclaiming God's truth in the power of the Holy Spirit. Wesley Duewel has written a book, Ablaze for God, that has been a blessing and challenge to many people. It is not a book about preaching; it is a book about leadership by a wise and seasoned Christian leader. He makes a statement concerning our subject that hits us all hard. " Over many a Christian leader's record, (and, we could say, over many a pastor's record) could be stamped these words: LACKS POWER. Why do so many ministers and lay leaders have a vague restless awareness that something is lacking in their leadership?" (p. 78). Duewel then identifies the missing something as the unction, the anointing of the Holy Spirit in our preaching and our leadership. In his view, " perhaps the greatest lack in most Christian leadership and ministry is this divine bestowal, the Spirit's empowerment. . . . Perhaps the greatest, and most revolutionary change that could happen to your leadership would be for you to receive and continually experience the divine dimension. Once you receive it and experience the difference it makes, you will not want to minister without it" (p. 79). Is boring the people the preacher's greatest sin? We sometimes hear this said. Ninetyseven percent of the population of England, according to a recent survey find church boring. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, in his Preaching and Preachers, says: " If the people are not attending places of worship I hold the pulpit to be primarily responsible" (p. 52). Is boring the people the preacher's greatest sin? Yes and no. The preacher's greatest sin, I suggest, is not proclaiming the Word of God in the power of the Spirit of God. Of course, if you are not doing that you will be boring the people. Every sermon you preach, and every sermon I preach, not only can be but must be preached in the power of the Holy Spirit. This is a mandate, and it is possible for us. When this begins to happen in us, our preaching, our overall ministry is literally revolutionized. I hope it is not inappropriate for me to refer to myself, but what I am saying here comes very much out of my own experience as well as from scripture. I know it works and have seen it work in others, although I've not by any means fully grasped the significance of this material. I am a beginner, but a very excited beginner, and I want to share what God has done for me.

THE MEANING OF THE POWER

What do we mean by the Spirit's power in our preaching? Sometimes people use the words " unction" or " anointing" to describe the power, and these are fitting terms. First and foremost it is the confidence, the assurance that God is at work in you and through you, and that your preaching - both your preparation and your delivery - is not primarily a human endeavor. Secondly, there is a sense or awareness of God's presence and guidance during your preparation and delivery. The first aspect emphasizes the assurance of God's promises. The second aspect is more the actual experiencing of God's direction. Think a bit about your preparation. What do we mean by the Spirit's power in your preparation? Let me suggest four things. First, a sense of utter futility unless God does the work. When this comes to you, this is the Spirit working. John Piper says: " All genuine preaching is rooted in a feeling of desperation" (p. 37). This desperation has gripped me so much in my preaching, much more in recent years than in my early years. In my earlier years I wrote a sermon and went out and preached it. I prayed, of course. But I didn't feel the desperation as I do now. Paul felt it also. " I came to you in weakness and fear, with much trembling" (1 Cor. 2:3). At times I tend to put off the preparation of a sermon. I don't know how much of this hesitation is of God and how much is due to my own unbelief or laziness. But because it is such an impossible task, by human standards, sometimes I just say, What's the use? Why begin? The responsibility is overwhelming. Of course, I think the evil one can latch hold of this desperation and keep us from careful sermon preparation. But we do need this sense of utter futility without God. And when we have this, it is the working of God in us, as it was in Paul. Secondly, there is an awareness of God's leading, his direction, his prompting, to specific explanations, wordings, illustrations, auxiliary scriptures, applications, and arrangements ofmaterial. In your preparation you are actually sensing that God is prompting you, directing, you. There is, of course, an element of subjectivity here, but there is also an objective work of the Spirit. Consider a certain point of application that comes to you in your preparation. Where did you get it? You didn't find it in a commentary. You didn't get it in an illustration book. It came to you because you are in communion with God and involved with your people in an intimate way. You know God and you know people, and you become a sensitive and Spirit-led discerner of human frailty and needs. A third element of the Spirit's power in your sermon preparation is conviction of sin. While you are preparing, you sense the need to confess before going on. This is a more important part of preparation than writing the sermon. You've got to stop and meet God. This is not a quick prayer, but biblical repentance, confession, and receiving of forgiveness. This is a glorious aspect of sermon preparation, and must be attended to if and when the Spirit convicts. And this leads to our fourth element - an excitement, an optimism about what God is going to do through this sermon. You can sense the mind of Christ in you and in the emerging sermon. Now with regard to the preaching itself, what do we mean by the Spirit's power in preaching? Most of all, there is a strong assurance of divine authority and of your being God's voice. You know it. You know you are anointed by God, and you speak that way. There is a sense of your words striking home as you explain, exhort, and apply. There is a

holy hush among the listeners. And there will be emotion in your voice, your face, and your total delivery. This is not self-induced but God-given. " Sermons with good content may fall flat for many reasons. Perhaps the most common is that they are delivered with an absence of feeling" (Lutzer, 64). When the Spirit is upon you, there is feeling, emotion, passion. There may also be a realization of some weakness in the sermon, even as you are preaching. This should not be a major flaw because that would have been detected in your practice. But you sense the need for a mid-course correction. For example, you're too heavy at this point, or there is a need for further clarification, for application, for omission, which can be corrected during the sermon itself. There may also be new insights and especially new applications as you are preaching. Wayne Grudem's book, The Gift of Prophecy in the New Testament and Today, may speak to this point. Grudem considers the New Testament gift of prophecy to be " reporting something God spontaneously brings to mind." The preacher's words are not necessarily free from human error, however, so there is still the need for discernment. But there is a sense in which we can call this work of God a spontaneous, personal revelation from the Holy Spirit for the good of the congregation. However we describe this experience theologically, we know when it happens. New insights and applications come to you that you did not have in your preparation. There is a sense of freedom as you proclaim these ideas, and they flow easily from your mouth.

IS THE CONCEPT BIBLICAL? Does the Bible support an emphasis on the Spirit's power in our preaching? I believe it does. In 1 Corinthians two, Paul states: " My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit's power, so that your faith might not rest on men's wisdom, but on God's power" (vss. 4-5). and then he says that " God has revealed [the riches of God's wisdom] to us by his Spirit," for " the Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God" (vss. 10-11). " We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words" (vss. 12, 13). God's truth is " spiritually discerned" (v. 14), and because " we have the mind of Christ" (v. 16) we may proclaim these truths with spiritual insight and power. In 1 Thessalonians 1:5 Paul writes that " our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction." There are many other scriptures that support - either directly or indirectly - this foundational truth ( Acts 1: 8; 4:29-3 1; 1 Cor. 15: 10-11; 2 Cor. 3:3-6; 12:9; Col. 1:28-29; Mt. 28:18-20).

OBTAINING THE POWER

How do we come to experience this power? First of all, we need to feel our deep need. Spurgeon said: " If there be any brother here who thinks he can preach as well as he should, I would advise him to leave off altogether" (p. 41). Those who attend preaching seminars are not necessarily coming because they are weak preachers, but because they know their need. And those who sense their need are - everything else being equal - the best preachers. Whether we are in our twenties, our fifties, or our eighties, God wants to revolutionize our preaching. But we must feet our need deeply. Secondly, ask and believe. For years I was robbed of Luke 11:13. " How much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him." I was robbed because I was taught that this promise was simply for the disciples before Pentecost. Since Pentecost we all have the Holy Spirit, so we don't pray this prayer. I have taken that back now. This promise is for all of us today in our ministries. The verse is in the same context with the Lord's prayer, and the parable of the woman who comes pleading. And Jesus says, " ask, seek, and knock." These are instructions for us in daily living. And then the paragraph - verses 1-13 - concludes with this great and marvelous scripture, which seems to be the culminating point: " How much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him." All Christians have the Spirit indwelling, of course, but we continually desire the Spirit's fullness and power in our lives. James 1:5-8 addresses those who " lack wisdom." When do we lack wisdom more than when we come to preparing a sermon? If you lack wisdom, ask God. He gives to all generously. He doesn't scold us, but we must believe that He is going to give us the wisdom. If we don't, we won't receive anything from the Lord, because we're really double-minded. My wife was looking over these materials recently. And she said to me, " You know, what you're saying is so basic." And she was right. It is so basic, so fundamental. And yet this promise is so often overlooked. Ask God for wisdom and power, and believe that he will give them. " You have not because you ask not" (Jas. 4:2). Mark 11:22-25 is another scripture on asking and believing. Maybe we're afraid of this text because of those who are always telling us to " name it and claim it." But why can't we " name it and claim it" when it comes to the power of God in our preaching? The verses simply say whatever we ask for and believe for, it will be done. Say to this mountain: " Be removed." If you have a mountain of difficulty in your preaching and you know you are not effective, or if you are having difficulty in a particular sermon preparation, you say to the mountain, " Be removed. " But again, it's the same emphasis that James makes in his epistle. Believe that God wants to do it and that he will do it, and it will be done. There is no question about powerful preaching being God's will. This has everything in the world to do with the kind of authority that you have when you get into the pulpit. The power is there. Ask for it! In addition to feeling our need and asking in faith, we need to seek. By this I mean to think, study, pray, confess, write. " As Dean Hutton remarked [of John Wesley], his sermons came straight from his heart as well as from his sound, strong head.' In this combination of heat and light lay the secret of Wesley's power as a gospel preacher. It was in the tension of the two that the Spirit worked so mightily" (A. Skevington Wood, p.

156). He proclaimed " truth on fire." That's something the devil doesn't know what to do with. You can have all the truth in the world, but if you're not on fire, you're not a real threat to Satan's kingdom. You can have all the passion in the world, but if you don't have a carefully worked out, well-planned message, you're not going to have much of an impact - not in a way that endures. When you get the two together the devil doesn't know what to do with you. And he can't really thwart what God wants to do through you. Seeking involves not only careful preparation, but prayer also. " Schools teach everything about preaching except the important part, praying" (Tozer, Renewed Day by Day, January 10). " The major part of Tozer's preparation was prayer" (Snyder, p. 104). John Piper writes that his " sermon's preparation [is] done in almost constant prayer for help, and I get up three and a half hours before the first service to spend two hours getting my heart as ready as I can before I come to the church" (Piper, p. 45). This, of course, is not some kind of legalistic requirement. Some of you may do most of your praying during the week, and Sunday morning you wake up and you pray a short while, and you know God is with you. Or you pray Saturday night, or whatever. The idea is pray, pray, and pray. And then, after seeking God through careful preparation and prayer, knock. Many of us stop at asking and seeking. We need to knock. In other words, do it. Do it with confidence, and expect the power to flow. I love 1 Peter 4:11. There is hardly a time when I get into the pulpit that I do not remind myself of about three or four basic verses.And one of them is 1 Peter 4:11. " Those of you who speak," Peter says, " speak with the authority which God gives, as speaking the very words of God." There is a Godgiven authority in preaching that we cannot fully comprehend, yet we dare not neglect. " My grace is sufficient for you, because my strength is made perfect in weakness" (2 Cor. 12:9). So let's do it, because when we are weak, we are strong. Expect the power. LloydJones says: What then are we to do about this [need for power]? There is only one obvious conclusion: Seek Him! . . . But go seeking Him. . . .Are you expecting anyone to have a climactic experience? That is what preaching is meant to do. That is what you find in the Bible and in the subsequent history of the church. Seek the power, expect this power, yearn for this power; and when the power comes, yield to Him. Do not resist. Forget all about your sermon if necessary. Let Him loose you; let Him manifest His power in you and through you. . . . Seek it until you have it; be content with nothing less" (p. 325). And when you do begin to experience this power, you will never, ever go back to the way you used to preach.

GOD'S SOVEREIGN CONTROL How does God's sovereignty fit into this teaching? Should all expect to be preachers with mighty power and authority? Lloyd-Jones recognizes the sovereign bestowal of God for exceptional power in revival, yet urges all preachers to seek this special unction and anointing of the Spirit every time we preach (pp. 304-325). My conviction is that no one should preach without the Spirit's power. It can be and should be expected every time we preach.

Now there is a sovereign element in the bestowal of gifts, in the placement of gifted servants, and in the granting of specific results. This threefold pattern is seen in 1 Corinthians 12:4-6 (the sovereign bestowal is seen also in v. 11, and Eph. 4:4-13). There are different gifts of the Spirit (v. 4), different spheres of ministry in which God places the gifted servant (v. 5), and different degrees of empowering (v. 6). Regarding this third point, look at what Wesley wrote in his Journal for May 25, 1765: " Both in the morning and evening I spoke as closely and sharply as I could, but yet I cannot find the way to wound the people. They are neither offended nor convinced." While the specific results are beyond our control, if we preach regularly we can, and must, have the unction of the Spirit. You can be on fire even if no one else in your congregation is. If you are on fire, people will at least come to see you burn! You may find agnostics and even atheists coming to your congregation, because when people hear that there's somebody on fire they're going to come and watch you burn. I'm not talking about some kind of theatrical performance. I'm not talking about something that's necessarily related to a person's temperament or ethnic background, or whether you're more given to emotion than another person is. I'm talking about the power of the Spirit. This power will come through in different ways in different individuals. But your people know when it's there. It's something very genuine and very much from God. If we preach regularly, we can and must have the unction.

HINDERING THE POWER What are some hindrances to receiving this power? Perhaps more than anything else is the failure to acknowledge and/or repent of sin in one's life. You might see the sin but you're not repenting of it. Alexander Maclaren said, " Power for service is second. Power for holiness and character is first. . . . The first, second, and third requisite for our work is personal godliness." J. D. Jones said, " The one indispensable condition of our usefulness and success in the work of the ministry is that we should be good men - men of pure and holy life - men of God. . . . The effect of our words on the Sabbath will really depend on our lives during the week, for it is always the man behind the speech which wields the power" (Wiersbe, p. 144). Another hindrance is our desiring the power out of wrong motives. James writes: " When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives" (4:3). Unbelief is another major reason for the lack of power in our preaching, and in our lives. Many preachers - perhaps the majority who are not preaching in the power of the Spirit of God don't really believe it's possible. They say, " Well, I'm this kind of person, you know. I have this kind of temperament or personality." My life and ministry were revolutionized (I do not use this word lightly) in 1982 by the realization that I could actually live the way God said I should live in the Bible and that I could have the power in my ministry that Jesus desires his servants to have. I had been a pastor for seven years and a Bible college professor for five years before I became

dissatisfied enough and desperate enough to " trust and obey," as the song says. For me, the breakthrough came partly by recognizing and believing the plain truth of God's promises for victory and power in ministry, and partly through the renunciation of sin in my life - refusing to cling any longer to that which had, for years, hindered my full effectiveness for Christ. Another obstacle may be your past preaching courses! You might need to unlearn them! If you've been taught to be a detached, dispassionate, objective-type lecturer, you need to discard that teaching. Preaching is not a lecture. Preaching is a dynamic encounter with God, and when people hear real preaching, they want it more and more, and they want God more and more. A final hindrance is the general tone and pattern of American evangelical churches, especially in two areas. First, there is a fear of enthusiasm. In John Wesley's day - the 18th century - the greatest sin was not adultery, fornication, or whatever. It was " enthusiasm," because you weren't calm and detached and purely rational. The Spirit's anointing and its results, however, may not be calm, sophisticated, and as controlled as we would like. " Some of us," Wesley Duewel says, " have so rarely experienced the added dimension which the Holy Spirit can give, that we hardly understand what God longs to do in our ministry. We fear it might tend to fanaticism" (p. 81). And then there is the practice of doing God's work as a business, with our plans, our schemes, our abilities, and our sermons. " We experience little of God's touch upon us because our asking for it is so casual and superficial. . . . We tend to be more concerned to perform our part creditably than we are about God's mighty involvement in our efforts. We tend to be more hungry for success than we are for God's empowering" (Duewel, 81). God made it clear to Zerubbabel that the task of rebuilding the temple would be accomplished " not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit" (Zech. 4:6). It takes a long time for confidence in ourselves to die, but be thankful for whatever God uses to destroy it. As Phillips Brooks said, " Never allow yourself to feel equal to your work. If you ever find that spirit growing on you, be afraid" (Piper, 38).

EVIDENCES OF THE POWER Where are some evidences that this power is upon you? Let's consider first the effects in your people. They want to come to hear strong preaching from the word of God. They're thirsty; they're expectant. And when they come, the expressions on their faces while you are preaching reveal a keen interest in your words and ideas, because they sense that these are not really your ideas, but God's.And then there are the comments after the service. The people are no longer just saying, " That was a nice talk, thank you." They're saying something else. Many of them will continue to offer the obligatory courteous praise, but others will say and show that they have heard from God. You can tell it in their eyes; you see in their faces that the Lord has been at work. You should be noticing some of this after your sermons.

Then, too, there is a sense of the presence of God while you are preaching. " The most privileged and moving experience a preacher can have is when, in the middle of a sermon, a strange hush descends upon the congregation. The sleepers have woken up, the coughers have stopped coughing, and the fidgeters are sitting still. No eyes or minds are wandering. Everybody is attending, though not to the preacher. For the preacher is forgotten, and the people are face-to-face with the living God, listening to his still, small voice" (John Stott, in Catherwood, 38). That can happen; it needs to happen. If there is not conviction of sin, repentance for sin, encouragement, and an increase in devotion to God, at least in some of the people most of the time, it seems that the power of God is either absent or greatly diminished in our preaching. Conversions happen also. We need to get away from the notion that our church people do not need to hear the message of salvation very often, since they all know it so well. I have found that people appreciate an explanation of the gospel, and an appeal to be born again, and I try to include in most of my sermons an exhortation - if only two minutes - to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. Christians appreciate the concern for the lost, and the lost sometimes get found! You will also see growth in your people's service to the church. Christians get excited about God, and when this happens, they get excited about God's church and God's mission in this world. And there are effects in you personally. There is boldness, there is confidence, there is a sense of the authority of God, there is mental alertness, there is physical stamina. Even when you are exhausted and you step into the pulpit exhausted, God gives you the stamina. Then, too, there is fluency and vibrancy in your speaking and joy in your life and your preaching. " The joy of the Lord is your strength" (Neh. 8:10).

WORKING WITH THE SPIRIT How can we cooperate with and facilitate the Spirit's power in our preaching? Here I offer a potpourri of thoughts - some bits and pieces that can help us be more intentional about the task of preaching in line with the Spirit's purposes and power. Step into the pulpit with authority and preach with authority. We have the authority of Jesus (Mt. 28:18-20). In the upper room, on the day of his resurrection, Jesus breathed on the disciples and said, " Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven" (John 20:22-23). You and I have been given the authority to proclaim God's forgiveness of sins, and God's refusal to grant forgiveness of sins. Because Jesus' empowering of the disciples in the Great Commission is clearly intended to be a pattern until the end of the age (Mt. 28:18-20), he says to us also, " Receive the Holy Spirit" for your ministries. Have a single theme and a clear purpose. Jay Adams writes: " This matter of purpose is such an important consideration in preaching that if your wife were to awaken you on Sunday morning at 4 o'clock and ask, what is the purpose of this morning's message?' you ought to be able to rattle it off in one crisp sentence, roll over and go to sleep again, all

without missing a single stroke in your snoring" (Adams, 31)! There needs to be an overall unity to your message without forcing the theme. This singular focus is sometimes called the " proposition." Whatever you call it, and whether you have an inductive or deductive sermon, there should be a singular focus to your message. Then, too, preach expositorily. Piper says it well: " One of the biggest problems I have with younger preachers I am called on to critique is that they fail to quote the texts that support the points they are making. It makes me wonder if they have been taught to get the drift of a text and then talk in your own words for thirty minutes." This is not expository preaching. " The effect of that kind of preaching is to leave people groping for the Word of God and wondering whether what you said is really in the Bible" (Piper, 41). Also, interpret carefully. Your sermon should be " logic on fire." " What drew the crowds [to Lloyd-Jones] was that his message was both reasonable - 'logic,' and urgent - 'on fire.' It was cogent, structured, yet filled with power, so that he himself would often get carried away"(Catherwood, 107). His message had both reasonable, biblical logic and a sense of passion and urgency. The same has been said of Wesley. You don't have to choose between careful interpretation and the fire of the Spirit. Use the best resources in your study. In the 1970s, as a pastor, I spent two years of Sunday morning messages preaching through the book of Genesis. (I had other messages for Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, Mother's Day, Father's Day, and other special occasions.) The books most helpful to me in my preparation were H. C. Leupold for exegesis, Derek Kidner for background, Henry Morris for character studies, and Griffith Thomas for application. Get the best books and put them to work for you. Be yourself. " Let a man be a true preacher, really uttering the truth through his own personality, and it is strange how men will gather to listen to him" (Phillips Brooks, in Wiersbe, 87). Don't try to be someone you are not. But don't be less than you are either. Be honest about your weaknesses but also about what Christ has wrought in you. I don't think you have to do this in an arrogant way. Preach as though you've experienced the victory that you want your people to experience. James Stalker said: " What an audience looks for, before everything else, in the texture of a sermon is the bloodstreak of experience. . . . " (Wiersbe, 209). And then practice, especially looking for clarity, flow, and heaviness. Don't ever get into the pulpit without practicing your sermon. If you do, it should be very rarely, because of some unusual circumstance. Practice is almost as important as prayer. When you practice, especially if you speak out loud, you sense things that you do not sense in your other preparation. You may sense that the sermon is not flowing well. Or you may notice when it is getting too heavy. You may notice things that are not clear to you. And if they are not clear to you they are not going to be clear to your people. Spurgeon said: " When a man does not make me understand what he means, it is because he does not himself know what he means. An average hearer, who is unable to follow the course of thought of the preacher, ought not to worry himself, but to blame the preacher, whose business it is to make the matter clear" (Spurgeon, 42). Tozer said: " Get the idea clear, and the words will take care of themselves during delivery" (Snyder, 107).

Love your people, and love them as you preach. Preach to people, with their everyday trials and joys in mind. When you think of specific people and situations as you prepare, and when you think about your people as you preach, your congregation knows that you know them, that you love them, and that you are speaking personally to them. Speak directly to the children and teenagers as well, with such statements as, " You who are in Junior High School, God wants to encourage you today." " ccording to Stalker, " our sermons must rise out of the congregation if they are ever to reach down to it again" (Wiersbe, 209). He is not discounting the priority of scripture, but, as Tozer puts it, " People, not ideas, should get first attention from the preacher. Yet we find many talented men who are cold toward people but fervent in their love for ideas. Terrible as it may be, it is yet true that one may spend a lifetime propagating religious ideas with little or no love for men back of it all" (Snyder, 116). Use personal or hypothetical illustrations, and make them practical. Don't use a dry, historical illustration about the Duke of Windsor unless it is extremely powerful. And don't lecture. A sermon is not a lecture. It's proclamation, it's exhortation. We could go into quite a discussion here on the difference between preaching and teaching. Preaching appeals to the will and the emotions far more than teaching, which appeals more to the intellect. Yet each involves the other to some extent. I can't teach my students without a bit of preaching at times, and I don't ever want to stifle that. But when I'm teaching I'm not preaching. In addition, speak directly, and speak at a lively pace. Use pauses effectively, but don't plod. People can often think far ahead of your words, and if you're plodding you're boring them. Preach for decision. Exhort. We have gotten away from exhortation. Yet Paul told Timothy: " Preach the Word. . .correct, rebuke and encourage - with great patience and careful instruction" (2 Tim. 4:2). If you do this in humility you will not be coming across as superior to your people. Use the first person plural and say (for example): " We have got to take this admonition seriously, dear men and women! We are told that the Lord's servant must not quarrel" (2 Tim. 2:24). Exhort, don't just dialogue. People want to be challenged boldly from scripture. They need it. James Stalker said: " I cannot help pausing here to say, that he will never be a preacher who does not know how to get at the conscience. . . ." (Wiersbe, 209). When John Wesley was asked, " What is the best general method of preaching?" he replied: " (1) To invite. (2) To convince. (3) To offer Christ. (4) To build up; and to do this in some measure in every sermon." Wood says of Wesley: " He was out for a verdict. He was not content to present the gospel in any detached or exclusively objective fashion. He sought to exercise an influence on the conscience and the will." Again and again in Wesley's Journal we read such comments on his latest sermon as, " I applied words as closely as possible," or " I applied it to the conscience of each person" (Wood, 157-58). Concerning the preacher, Lloyd-Jones says: " He is there - and I want to emphasize this - to do something to those people; he is there to produce results of various kinds, he is there to influence people" (Lloyd-Jones, 53). In all of this we need to be tough and tender. " Nothing mars a sermon so much as a hesitating or nervous delivery, as though the preacher was not at all sure of the truth of his own words. But the fearlessness must be blended with tenderness. However courageous a man may be, his fearlessness alone may suggest severity and a disregard of

the feelings of his audience" (Thomas, 169-170). Preach for decision. And stay free from your notes. Use your notes, but be free. " Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom" (2 Cor. 3:17). And try to read a good book on preaching once a year if possible. Some helpful ones are listed in the bibliography. Why can't this Sunday's message be the most powerful you've ever preached? I ask again. Why can't this coming Sunday's message be the most powerful sermon you've ever preached? Is there any limit with God? I don't think so. It's true that some - perhaps many - people will not respond. Wesley said, " I couldn't find a way to move the people." But you can be on fire. Over time, some will be convicted. Some will be helped. Some will be encouraged. It can be and it must be. Settle for nothing less; anything less is unbiblical. " Our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power; with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction" (1 Thess. 1:5). May this be our goal and our experience from this day onward.

BIBLIOGRAPHY Adams, Jay E. Preaching With Purpose. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1982. Catherwood, Christopher. Five Evangelical Leaders (Stott, Lloyd-Jones, Schaeffer, Packer, Graham). Wheaton: Shaw, 1985. Duewel, Wesley L. Ablaze for God. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1989. Grudem, Wayne. The Gift of Prophecy in the New Testament and Today. Westchester: Crossway, 1988. Lewis, Ralph L. with Gregg Lewis. Inductive Preaching. Westchester: Crossway, 1983. Lloyd-Jones, D. Martyn. Preaching and Preachers. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1971. Lutzer, Erwin W. " Once More With Feeling." Moody Monthly (Sept. 1983), 64-65. Piper, John. The Supremacy of God in Preaching. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1990. Snyder, James L. In Pursuit of God: The Life of A. W. Tozer. Camp Hill, PA: Christian Publications, 1991. Spurgeon, C. H. An All-Round Ministry. London: Banner of Truth, 1960 edition. Stewart, James S. Heralds of God. New York: Scribner's, 1946. Thomas, W. H. Griffith. Ministerial Life and Work. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1974.

Tozer, A.W. Renewed Day by Day. Camp Hill, PA : Christian Publications, 1980. Wiersbe, Warren. Walking With the Giants. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1976. Wood, A. Skevington. The Burning Heart - John Wesley: Evangelist. Minneapolis: Bethany, 1967.