Preachers and Preaching
Isaiah 66:2 For all those things hath mine hand made, and all those things have been, saith the LORD: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word.
Where is the preacher today that trembles at His word? This verse is not spoken to or about the sinful, the arrogant, nor the spiritually dead. It is spoken to the one who is without resources and sees himself as needy at the heart of all he is. He is one stricken with his own inadequacies and unworthiness to speak. Instead of such preachers, education and natural speaking ability have given him confindence that he can speak God's word to His people. They think that simply by re-speaking that which God has spoken is the same as speaking God's word. It is not. God's word is quick and powerful more than a two edged sword that divides the thoughts and intents of the heart. It is God's current word, even though He is re-stating well known truths that have been spoken many times before. It is not just the speaking of God's word, it is speaking the appropriate word for the instant in time - Jesus' temptation in the wilderness by satan was a good example of the misuse and proper use of God's word and clearly shows how crucial the right word is for a specific time.
Where is the one who can be new sharp threshing instrument having teeth and thresh the mountains [strongholds], and beat them small, and shalt make the hills as chaff (Isaiah 41:15 )? Where is the preacher who has been on his face seeking the Lord for such a word of life for his hearers (John 6:63)? The idea that putting together truths to weave a message (even if a doctrinally correct message) is born of the natural mind and is no less than what a worldly speaker does toward his subject. Therefore, it has the same kind of impact. It can move and inspire men, but it cannot change them and transform them from glory to glory or from faith to faith.
The approach to the bringing of God's word is all too casual and human. There is no trembling, no awe, no sense of unworthiness to speak His word, no unsureness of the specicifity of that word. Professional training and natural ability and common sense have taken the place of awe and seeking., and humble prostration.
Is it any wonder that the church of today looks nothing like the first church?
I think Art Katz has said it better than any other in Chapter 4 of Apostolic Foundations
The Preaching Mandate
We need to repent of the casual way we have been speaking up until now. We must stop the shallow abuse and misuse of the word of God and ‘playing’ with the Scriptures as if they were God’s provision for us to perform a sermon. Paul did not say to Timothy, "Sermonize!" but, "Preach the word! Be instant in season and out of season. Reprove and rebuke with all long-suffering." Here is our mandate! This should be the essential substance of all our preaching. The purpose of preaching is not to construct interesting sermons, or to enjoy the word of God, as if we are spiritual sensualists. The word of God is given for practical purposes, namely, to reprove, to rebuke, and to exhort, but how many of our congregations can even accept this most elementary thing? They are coming for something else on Sunday. They want to be ‘comforted,’ or hear a calming word. After all, they say, they have had a heavy week. Can you see that the whole construct of our church, and its whole mentality is warped?
"I charge you before God," Paul says, "and the Lord Jesus Christ who shall judge … preach the word."
In other words, sermons, though they may well be doctrinally sound, will have the effect of dulling the audience. It is this that makes one a professional performer. If we are going to have an apostolic word, a creative word that works a work in those that hear it, then it is going to come through men and women who are not ruled by the fear of man. God seeks those who will wait for His word, and who will not find it in their concordances. There is a place where God bids us come to commune with Him within the veil, in the holiest place of all, between the cherubim and above the Ark of the Covenant. He is a real God with a real purpose for mankind, and He says,
"I will speak to you about all that I will give you in commandment for the sons of Israel."
This is why Paul could say to his listeners:
And pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in proclaiming it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak. (Ephesians 6:19–20)
If Paul had to plead for such prayer for himself, a man who had an encyclopedic knowledge of apostolic things, and who had been a student under the Rabbi Gamaliel, then how much more must we discard any casual approach to the ministry of God’s word! Paul would not dream of fashioning his own words.
The Voice of the Preacher
There should be the resonance of God in our speaking, conveying not only the content and the meaning, but also the disposition of God’s own heart, and how He feels about what is being said. I often pray, "Lord, so possess me that Your word will have full expression, even the mood of the speaking." The mood has nothing to do with the preacher’s choosing. There are times when he is like a piece of cardboard, or a straight monotone, and he cannot alter it. He is uncomfortable speaking like that, and wishes he had the liberty to give the word the flourish that it needs. He is, however, as much bound in God in the manner of the speaking as the content of the speaking. Other times the same man is beside himself, unable to be contained, falling off the edge of the platform in the intensity of the moment. In both cases, it is not the man who makes that determination, but God.
We do not have to bring to the word an additional quality so as to make it compelling to the hearer. The word itself speaks for itself. Anyone who would seek to bring an extraneous element through his own personality or manner of speaking is likely false. If we are highly individualistic, and want to cut a swath for ourselves, or do our own thing in our own way, then we are disqualified. "I will put My word in your mouth, and that is what you will speak, and you will speak it in the manner that I want it spoken." This is not a surrender of identity, but an establishing of it. The man in God may loses his life, but actually he has found it."
If Jesus would not so much as speak His own words, what then shall we presume to speak? [John 14:10] Indeed, it is humbling to wait for that which is given, especially when you are naturally clever in yourself, and even have a flair with words. To be utterly dependent upon God, for that which is given, is a humiliation for man in his pride.
We must never be satisfied with a mere ‘good thing.’ God invites us to an apostolic jealousy for a word that is given in communion with Him. Moses received his instruction at the top of the Mount of God, where he spent forty days and forty nights neither eating nor drinking. He came up into the presence of God that he might receive the tablets of the Law, and right from the very first invitation, we see the whole genius of God with man: "Come up unto Me, and be there, and I will give you the stone tablets with the Law and the commandments which I have written that you may teach them," God says, to all with any fleshly ambition, "and do not think that you are just going to come up and grab them from Me and go. I know your craven religious ambition to establish your preaching reputation, but I am a holy God, and you are not going to be preaching some abstract thing from My Word."
The first requirement of apostolic preaching is ever and always this: "Come up unto Me, not for what you are going to receive from Me, but unto Me, for My own sake, and be there in totality, all that you are in union with all that I am, and then I will give you the tablets of the Law."
This is the requirement of God, and yet the majority of us seem to feel that we have the liberty to violate His Word, and to extract Scriptures and to ‘make’ sermons. God is calling us to a higher thing, through the restoration of apostolic reality and glory, by men and women who do not take their liberty with the Scriptures, but receive from God the explicit word that is given in only one place—His presence! "Come up unto Me, and be there" is in itself the apostolic message. What the world is dying for is not information about God, but men and women who will communicate God as He is in Himself. This is the only thing that shall save us from becoming mere technicians, and from being the victims of yet another religious phraseology.
The world needs the knowledge of a God that is exuded by men and women who speak to them out of the presence of God. The world does not know how to live, and that is why it chases after its drugs, eroticism, and sensuality. They have no idea of what it means to be there. They need to see apostolic reality in those who will teach them how to live, and how to be there in totality, and to enjoy the depths of fellowship with both God and their fellow man. To ‘come up’ is not an easy coming, and indeed, no ‘going up’ is ever an easy going, yet it is the only place of true communion.
We must speak the word of God in the sight and presence of God at all times.
Art Katz - Chapter 4 Apostolic Foundations
If preachers would but heed those words and approach His word with awe and trembling and total reliance, the church would once again look as it did at first.