Dr. Edwin Mays, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Kilgore, served as the chairman of the ordination council that did this candidate evaluation. I got a lot of tough questions and a few softballs as well. Advice and admonitions were freely and lovingly given. It was an exhilarating time.
As Ed brought the council’s examination to a close having given each man opportunity to speak and ask whatever questions they desired he closed out by saying to me that I should adopt the Apostle Paul’s attitude toward sharing the Gospel and then quoted First Corinthians 2:1-5: “When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I decided to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. My message and my preaching were not with persuasive words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith would not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.”
That was probably the most important piece of advice ever given to me by another preacher. My job as God’s preacher is not to be the congregations therapist, economic advisor, political activist. My job is to make Jesus known to all people through the proclamation of the Gospel. In short he was telling me to make all my preaching Christocentric. I have endeavored to do just that. Now that was not the first time I had heard this advice. My home church pastor told me the same thing when I “surrenderd” to preach. More importantly may pastors over the years practiced Christocentric preaching and as a result I witnessed the power of such preaching to meet the spiritual needs in people’s lives. In fact, to this day there are others who would attest to these life changing experiences of which I speak.
Unfortunately we live in a day when this kind of focused preaching is an anomaly. Now as I travel about and visit churches or listen to services broadcast on television I have to search hard to find the Christ anywhere in the message of the day. I usually learn a lot of psych-theology about raising my children; having a good relationship with my wife; about how to build a relationship with my neighbors and get along with society in general. If I do all that I can do that is what I get but if I let the Holy Spirit do all He can do I get what God can do. I think I prefer God's working rather than mine. Before we started stumbling all over ourselves to demonstrate to a secular world that we were legitimate and had a message that addressed their perceived needs we relied on the Holy Spirit to change lives.
Changed lives bring changed communities and changed communities produce a changed society and a changed society brings a changed world. But here is the catch only the life that is changed by the Holy Spirit of God can set in motion such a series of changes. I believe the church needs a fresh touch by the Lord. We must never forget as we endeavor to reach the world for Christ that it is never about our effort but buy how God uses our witness.
We need to abandon this fruitless and powerless psycho-theology that is nothing but a pseudo
Most “Christians” are not telling the Gospel story because they have not actually experienced the Gospel. I believe that if preachers were to return to Christocentric preaching they’d see half of their members come to true faith. The kind of faith that can stand when the praise band is entertaining them; the kind of faith that can look Isis in the eye and say, “Jesus is Lord.”
The truth is that this testimony is linchpin on which true faith and feigned faith hang. In the first century not one single “Christian” would have died if they had been willing to reject Christ by simply declaring “Ο Καίσαρας είναι Κύριος” (Caesar is Lord). Instead they said, “ο Ιησούς είναι Κύριος” (Jesus is Lord) and went to their death. They were willing to give up what they could not keep to gain that which they could not loose . . . . eternal life. If one really want to feel the impact of Christocentric preaching one merely needs to view the motion picture Paul: Apostle of Christ.
We are living in a day like no other and yet is increasingly beginning to reflect the first century. Preachers should preaching Jesus Christ and Him crucified. We should spend more time preaching against Sin and less time pointing out people’s sins. We need be declaring the universal truth that all of us are sinners and that all of us are repeatedly coming short of God’s expectations and what is more there I nothing that we can do other than to acknowledge our sin and receive God’s forgiveness by receiving Jesus Christ as Lord. We need to get back to basics . . . our world needs us to get back to basics so that those who do come to faith will be able to say “I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have complete boldness, so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”
My concern is that we are so busy building religious kingdoms that we have forgotten the Kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ.” History tells us one thing for certain and that is everything done by man will return to the earth from which it came only that which is done for Christ will last. And just what do we do for Christ. Well, as one who has done so, I can tell you it is not beautiful houses of worship. It is living and telling what the Lord has done for you.
That’s why I stress the importance of Christocentric preaching. People need to know the Lord in a life changing way. If the core and focus of your life has not been changed then you need Jesus. Everyone who trust Jesus Christ as Lord is changed fundamentally. They become a new creature. Paul is so right when he says in Ephesians that he takes both the pagan and the Jew and makes of both of them a new kind of man (ἵνα τοὺς δύο κτίσῃ ἐν αὑτ εἰς ἕνα καινὸν ἄνθρωπον ποιων εἰρήνην,). The kind of man who will knowingly stand and facing certain death declare “Jesus is Lord.”
Another aspect of this is that he will not deny Jesus by his manner of living. You see, as much faith as it takes to not deny Jesus in the face of physical death it requires and equal faith to not deny him in our daily living. Our prayer should be “Lord help me to live in such a self forgetful way that others they face may see.”
As a Christian you have two ways of sharing the gospel. First, by telling what the Lord has done for you. Share your experience with the Lord. Like the blind man you simply tell what you do know. “ I can’t answer all my own questions let alone yours but this one thing I do know, once I was blind but now I can see.” Remember, your story is authentic. It is what you experienced. As you make your way through life the Holy Spirit will open ways for you to share His story by sharing your story. Jesus told the healed demoniac to "’Return home and tell how much God has done for you.’ So the man went away and told all over town how much Jesus had done for him.”
I can guarantee you that when you become a Christian and your life starts reflecting that fact people will take notice and you will have ample opportunity to tell them what the Lord has done for you and share the truth that He can do it for them as well.
The second is the manner of life you live. Our lives are to reflect the life of Jesus. We used to sing, “Things are different now something happened to me when I gave my life to Jesus.” Trust me, when Jesus saves you you’ll know it. The external signs may be minimal or they may be dramatic but the internal changes are always dramatic. “I once was lost but now I’m found was blind but now I see.” When we receive Christ as Lord He becomes our Savior by not just forgiving our sin but creating of us a καινὸν ἄνθρωπον (new kind of man) called Christian.
This is the creative work of the Holy Spirit and it enables the Christian to life on a higher plane morally and ethically. We express this theologically as “Christ in us the hope of glory.” This also explains the miraculous stories in the Bible and in my home church. I want us to once again experience in our churches the powerful life changing work of the Holy Spirit.
Paul’s name is one that is remembered from those early days of the Faith but there were hundreds of thousands of others whose names are lost to history who faithfully lived their lives day by day expressing the gifts of the Spirit to their community. It was this that drew their neighbors to faith. They may have seen and heard Paul preach once or twice but their neighbors they saw each day. The love and compassion they shared and the strength of their faith in the face of ridicule, persecution and death cause people to stand up and take notice and they soon discovered for themselves that what He did for other He also will do for them.
Hebrews 12 introduces us to what I call God’s Hall of Fame by pointing out that all the believers before us are as it were a great cloud of witnesses encouraging us to complete our race. In light of what many of those between the day that these words were penned and our day many have actually died for the faith and have been added to this collection of faithful saints whose names have been entered into God’s Hall of Fame. “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds. Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin.
Your name may not appear down here
In this world’s Hall of Fame.
In fact, you may be so unknown
That no one knows your name;
The headlines here may pass you by,
The neon lights of blue,
But if you love and serve the Lord,
Then I have news for you.
This Hall of Fame is only good
As long as time shall be;
But keep in mind, God’s Hall of Fame
Is for eternity.
This crowd on earth they soon forget
The heroes of the past.
They cheer like mad until you fail
and that’s how long you last.
But in God’s Hall of Fame
By just believing on His Son
Inscribed you’ll find your name.
I tell you, friend, I wouldn’t trade
My name, however small,
That’s written there beyond the stars
In that Celestial Hall,
For any famous name on earth,
Or glory that it shares;
I’d rather be an unknown here
And have my name up there.