Rev Dr Edgar Mayer; Living Grace Toowoomba Church; Date: 21 April 2013

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Hearing God 01 – Words from the Mouth

 

Jesus said – Matthew 4:4: “It is written [in the Bible]: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” When he had not eaten anything for forty days in an extended fast – when he was starving – when he was being tempted and tested in a weakened state – Jesus maintained and insisted against the devil and his lies (with an empty tummy): “My most basic hunger is for God to speak to me – not bread.” God put a craving for his words into all of humanity and this craving is bigger and more powerful than any other. Jesus said: “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

In your experience, was Jesus right? What do you live on? After starving for forty days, Jesus could have been excused for wanting bread first before considering deep spiritual questions about what is coming from the mouth of God and maybe people in general can be excused for wanting a career first – a marriage partner first, a good time first – before thinking about God. But what do you live on? Is there something beyond bread?

Jesus did not eat – did not put bread into his mouth – at the devil’s bidding – and – on occasion – maybe this morning – I advise you to do the same. Put a check onto your many cravings – delay the gratification of your many appetites – until you discover the most important craving that is in you by God’s design – (maybe it is hidden from you) – the deep hunger for his words. Allow yourself to get hungry.

When Jesus had his confrontation with the devil, he was starving for food and – let me make this clear – he was – at the same time – also starving for the words of God. He was not at a place where he was hearing anything personal from God – he was not on a spiritual high – he was not being lost in prophetic revelations – which would have made it easy for him to forget the needs of the body for bread. All he had was the Bible and sticking to the truth of the Bible – the trusted record of God’s history with his people – 2 Timothy 3:16: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.” – and God helped him to obey the Bible’s clear instructions but there was nothing like what he had experienced only days earlier:

 

Matthew 3:16-17: As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”

 

At this baptism, Jesus heard the audible voice of God. In front of all the other people, Jesus heard God the Father declare his love for him and his pleasure in what he was doing. Jesus was about to begin his work of preaching and the audible voice of God confirmed his identity – (he was the son of the Father in heaven) – and calling – (God was pleased with him). Who cares then about any human opposition?

Jesus must have been oncloud nine”. You can live on the words that he heard on that day. They validate all the previous sacrifices and living by faith. You have words that penetrate your heart and assure you of God’s love – for all eternity. You can go on and stay the course. God speaks the truth – a wonderful and holy truth – which affirms you.

Jesus knew what it was like to hear God speaking to him – personally and practically – and – coming back to the beginning – he remembered the value of God’s words even when his tummy was empty: “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

How do you hear the words that are coming from the mouth of God? [Please, notice the difference between the words that are coming from the mouth of God now and the written down words of the Scriptures which are a record of past history and proclaim more general truths and principles.] God the Father spoke to Jesus in an audible voice but this has not happened to me yet and is not the common means of communication between God and us according to the Bible. How can you hear God?

Before I attempt to answer this question, I want to backtrack and ask the fundamental question: “Why do we live? What is the purpose of our lives?” Without making this complicated, you could say: “God loved the idea of us; therefore made us.” God made us in his own image for friendship but the friendship is not between equals. He is God and we are not. As his creations, we owe him worship and obedience. Our purpose is his glory.

I give you a few Bible verses:

 

1 Corinthians 10:31: ... whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.

 

Revelation 14:7: He said in a loud voice, “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come. Worship him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea and the springs of water.”

 

1 Peter 4:11: ... If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.

 

Romans 1:5: Through him we received grace and apostleship to call all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith for his name’s sake.

 

Romans 15:18: I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done.

 

Romans 16:26: Now to him who is able to establish you in accordance with my gospel, the message I proclaim about Jesus Christ, in keeping with the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all the Gentiles might come to the obedience that comes from faith.

 

Romans 12:1-2: Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

 

1 Peter 1:2: ... who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to be obedient to Jesus Christ and sprinkled with his blood:

Grace and peace be yours in abundance.

 

Matthew 28:18-20:  Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

 

1 John 2:3-6: We know that we have come to know him if we keep his commands. Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person. But if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.

 

1 John 5:2-3:  This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome ...

 

1 Samuel 15:22-23: But Samuel replied: “Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams. For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, he has rejected you as king.”[1]

 

How can you obey God and bring him glory? How can you obey anyone? (Now this is where our purpose in life connects with the theme of today’s message.) You must hear their voice – pay attention to their words – and listen to what they want from you. It is the same with God; therefore – according to the Bible – the highest form of worship – the most holy times with God – are the times when he speaks and we listen to obey.

Do you believe me? The highest form of worship is not necessarily singing praises to God with our hands raised high but listening to his words – (which could happen in the preaching) – with an obedient heart. When God instructed his people to worship, he made them build a place for worship which was modelled on a reality in heaven – its name: the tabernacle:

 

Hebrews 8:5: “They [human priests] serve at a sanctuary that is a copy and shadow of what is in heaven. This is why Moses was warned when he was about to build the tabernacle: ‘See to it that you make everything according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.’” Another person actually had a vision of the tabernacle in heaven – Revelations 15:5: “After this I looked and in heaven the temple, that is, the tabernacle of the Testimony was opened.” [Cf. Revelations 11:19: “Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and within his temple was seen the ark of his covenant.”]

 

Without going into details, God instructed his people that there is a progression in worship whereby he moves people into his intensifying presence. We begin at theOuter Court” – beginning our worship with praising God and turning away from our sins and receiving forgiveness. Then, we are busy praying and moving in the gifts of the Spirit in theHoly Placebut when God takes us into theHoly of Holies”, we become very still and only God does anything and he speaks. In theHoly of Holies”, there is nothing for us to do except lying prostrate before him. This place is too holy for human actions. [It is like in ancient times: when the king is parading through the town, everyone celebrates and shouts praises but when you are invited into the palace before his throne you lie prostrate before him.]

 

The Bible word for glory – kaboth – means weight/heaviness and – in the Bible – more than once the glory weight of God – when it came – pinned everyone down in worship so that the requirement of stillness was not even optional. God himself imposed the stillness that alone is fitting next to him – Exodus 40:34-35: “ … Moses could not enter … because … the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.” 2 Chronicles 5:13-14: “ … Then the temple of the Lord was filled with a cloud, and the priests could not perform their service because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the temple of God.”

One pastor writes: “The first time I came under the glory of God occurred in … 1995 … I found myself face down on the platform of the altar unable to move for well over an hour. I could not move any part of my body, although I was conscious of what was going on around me … The second time this occurred in … 1996 … As I stood in the pulpit, I literally collapsed on the red brick floor from the sheer weight of the glory. Just before I fell, my words to the people began to slur and came off my tongue slowly and with great effort. Finally, my mouth didn’t work anymore. My flesh fell hard to the ground. God shows us He shares the stage with no man. All flesh must bow and die before him … ” (Francis J. Sizer: Into His Presence, Shippensburg: Destiniy Image 2007, p164).

In this pastor’s case the glory of God did not just pin him down but also silenced him – stilled his body and his mouth. The same occurred to another Christian who had sought after God with a passion. He did everything that he could – prayed in tongues for hours – prayed with praise and worship and intercession. When he decided to pray for an hour, he would pray for an hour and he was loud about it. He wanted a breakthrough. But – according to his testimony – his way of praying took him not into the presence of God but out of the presence of God. He had developed a routine. In intercession he prayed in tongues for fifteen minutes, praised for fifteen minutes and worshipped for fifteen minutes. It had become the duty of prayer and it was always the same. He cried out in holy desperation. However, his prayer life was so busy. When he prayed for an hour, he was the one talking.

I quote now from his testimony: “And one day in the middle of all that business, because I was hungry, the Holy Ghost, in the middle of a prayer, took the words right out of my mouth and I went mute. Mute! I was like, ‘Hey, Jesus’ – nothing. Just like that, mute. And I was forced, and I was just in my chair … no words. Then it was like literally, liquid honey, which was the Glory of the Lord. And it was warm hovering in the living room. I was in the Glory of the Lord. And the weight of glory was falling on me, the Presence of the Lord grew to such intensity that I was bent over and fell off my chair onto my face. And I lied there in God’s glory for I don’t know how long, not being able to talk or move.”

This is the key: God wants us to be still. He says in the Bible – Psalm 46:10: “Be still and know that I am God.” God wants a deeper intimacy which goes beyond words. I continue with the testimony: “ … the Holy Spirit said: ‘I’m trying to teach you something. I’m trying to teach you how to receive. I’m trying to teach you that you don’t have to strive. I know you’re hungry and I want to reveal myself to you more than you want me to reveal myself to you. But, you’ve got to quiet yourself. You’ve got to become still. That’s why I took the words out of your mouth, that’s why I’m pouring out such glory on you. It’s to get you positioned in quietness and at my feet and in the place of stillness so I can speak to you.”

 

One pastor described his own experience of drawing closer to God in worship. This is how it feels for him to progress from the Outer Court to the Holy Place and then the Holy of Holies. Everyone begins to pray in the flesh which means that you are pretty much starting in your own strength. You begin with what you know (prayer lists, immediate concerns). You are busy confessing your sin and at this stage you suffer from distractions – your emotions and then also your natural senses are getting in the way. The body is tired – worn out. The legs hurt. You get up and move around. Then you are back on your knees. Prayer is repetitious: “O Jesus, where are you. O Jesus.” Nothing seems to happen. The clock is ticking so slowly. The dog barks. The phone rings. Muscles ache. You just have to get something to eat.

If you haven’t prayed in a while, this phase in the Outer Court may last for two hours before you feel anything or even three hours. It may take longer than most of us are prepared to pray. However, if you are in the habit of praying, then it may take you only fifteen minutes to move on to the next stage. According to this pastor while you are in the Outer Court you do not actually know how much you have progressed to the Holy Place because the flesh – your natural senses – cannot discern the spiritual progress. You may only be minutes away from your breakthrough in prayer but you don’t know and therefore you go and fix yourself a sandwich.

When you come to the Holy Place there is suddenly an explosion of praise. The flesh no longer fights you. You are no longer aware of distractions or the clock. The words become wealthy. God begins to talk to you. Worship comes in. Tears begin to flow. There are no longer repetitious prayer but we quit talking to him according to what we seem to know and let him take over. Jesus becomes so real to us. Everything is just right. There is the peace that surpasses all understanding. Feels so good.

According to this pastor most Christian think that this is it but there is more. If they stayed just a little longer – maybe another half hour in prayer – then Jesus would bring them into the Holy of Holies where it is indescribable. One minute in there changes your life forever and – maybe the estimate is right – only very few people have ever entered into this place. There words are inadequate. God sits on his throne and we are on our knees. This is no longer the time where we say: “I need this. I need that.” But God speaks and says: “I need this. Go and tell them this. Go and do that.” This is also the place of silence where we are still and know that he is God. He satisfies our souls. Deep communicates unto deep (Psalm 42:7).

The pastor had one experience where he was in the Holy of Holies for the very first time. He was surprised and amazed and he just mouthed the word: “Hallelujah.” But when he did so, the presence of God withdrew – at once – which puzzled him and frightened him. Didn’t God want praise. Immediately the Spirit said to him: “In here even your words are unacceptable.” This was not the place for the mind to function – for words or feelings to be expressed. Here heart talks to heart – spirit to spirit. The soul finds rest and is satisfied.

 

In the Bible, God told us clearly what he would do in theHoly of Holies” – Exodus 25:22: “There, above the cover between the two cherubim that are over the Ark of the Testimony, I will meet with you and give you all my commands … ” (cf. Numbers 7:89). For God, this is of supreme value: hear him and obey him.

Over the next few weeks, we will study in more detail how God speaks to us and how we can hear him – discern his voice – but – for now – the most basic way for God to speak to any of us is through the preaching of another person. The preacher may not look like much but the most basic and most important communication from God – (the first message of salvation) – comes through another person that knows Jesus Christ:

 

Luke 24:47-48: ... repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.

 

2 Corinthians 5:19-21: ... he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

 

Luke 10:16: Whoever listens to you listens to me; whoever rejects you rejects me; but whoever rejects me rejects him who sent me.

 

Lutherans – together with other Christians – believe that the Bible is the Word of God and that all preaching must be based and subjected to the truth of the Bible but – at the same time – they value preaching above the Bible. Preaching is theliving voice of God” – theliving voice of the Gospel” – because it applies the more general or historic record of the Bible to the current situation:

 

The apostles wrote very little, but they spoke a lot... Notice: it says let their voices be heard, not let their books be read. The ministry of the New Testament is not engraved on dead tablets of stone; rather it sounds in a living voice... Through a living Word God accomplishes and fulfils his gospel (Weimar Ausgabe 5, 537).

 

The Gospel should really not be something written, but an oral Word which bring the Scripture before us, as Christ and the apostles have done. This is why Christ Himself did not write anything but only spoke. He called His teaching not Scripture but Gospel, meaning good news or a proclamation that is spread not by pen but by word of mouth (LW 35, 123; SL, 11, xlv – altered translation)

 

Christ did not command the apostles to write but only to preach (WA X, I, I, 626).

 

 

Luther firmly believed that the preached word was nothing less than the viva vox Dei [the living voice of God], and, thus, he had little time for those he called “‘wearisome, obnoxious spirits”‘ who had little sense for spiritual matters. They asked, “What more than a fleeting breath are the words of a preacher?” Luther’s only reply to them was that, “‘if they had ever experienced the power and effect of Baptism, of the Sacrament, or of the oral Word, they would indeed keep their mouths shut”‘ [Luther’s Works: American Edition, ed. Jarislav Pelikan and Helmut Lehmann (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House; Philadelphia: Fortress Press) – LW, 24, p. 109].

Luther emphasized the centrality of the oral word in the life and the work of the church. He said, “The church is not a pen-house but a mouth-house” (LW, Companion Volume, p. 63). Again he said, “The Gospel should not be written but screamed” (Ibid., pp. 63-64). It is generally agreed that Luther made very productive use of the medium of print to communicate his message, but it was his opinion that people were reached most effectively through the medium of the human voice. In a sermon on July 21, 1532, Luther preached against the idea that people could read the Word of God at home with as much profit as having to listen to a preacher. “Even if they do read it,” Luther insisted, “it is not as fruitful or powerful as it is through a public preacher whom God has ordained to say and preach this” (ibid., p. 64, n. 66). Commenting on Malachi 2:7, “the lips of a priest guard knowledge,” Luther further claimed:

The Word is the channel through which the Holy Spirit is given. This is a passage against those who hold the spoken Word in contempt. The lips are the public reservoirs of the church. In them alone is kept the Word of God. You see, unless the Word is preached publicly, it slips away. The more it is preached, the more firmly it is retained. Reading it is not as profitable as hearing it, for the live voice teaches, exhorts, defends, and resists the spirit of error. Satan does not care a hoot for the written Word of God, but he flees at the speaking of the Word (LW, 18, p. 401).

 

Would to God that we would gradually train our hearts to believe that the preacher’s words are God’s Word and that the man addressing us is a scholar and a king. As a matter of fact, it is not an angel or a hundred thousand angels but the Divine Majesty Himself that is preaching there. To be sure, I do not hear this with my ears or see it with my eyes; all I hear is the voice of the preacher, or of my brother or father, and I behold only a man before me. But I view the picture correctly if I add that the voice and words of father or pastor are not his own words and doctrine but those of our Lord and God. It is not a prince, a king, or an archangel whom I hear; it is He who declares that He is able to dispense the water of eternal life. If we could believe this we would be content indeed. However, a fault which is manifest throughout the world and also in us is that we fail to recognize the gift and its Giver…. Flesh and blood are an impediment. They merely behold the person of the pastor and brother and hear only the voice of the father ... They refuse to regard the oral Word and the ministry as a treasure costlier and better than heaven and earth. People generally think: “If I had an opportunity to hear God speak in person, I would run my feet bloody.”… But you now have the Word of God in church … and this is God’s Word as surely as if God Himself were speaking to you (Sermons on the Gospel of St. John, LW, vol. 22, 526-527).

 

If you struggle to hear God by yourself, then listen to another man of God – or a woman of God – preaching. This is what I do. I love listening to other people’s preaching and the internet makes available the best preaching from across the globe. It’s great. The preacher has done the hard work of studying the Bible, praying and listening to God for revelation and current application – (in coming weeks, we will learn to do this kind of work) – and I simply sit down in comfort and listen to the words which are God’s words.

I share one testimony with you. Listen to how powerful preaching can be:

 

Charles Finney: Memoirs of Charles Finney – Revival at Antwerp: When I arrived at the appointed hour I found the schoolhouse full, and I could only get a standing place near the door, which stood open – and the windows were all open. I read a hymn – and I cannot call it singing, for they seemed never to have had any church music in that place. However, they pretended to sing. But it amounted to about this: each one bawled in his own way. My ears had been cultivated by teaching church music; and their horrible discord distressed me so much that at first I thought I must go out. I finally put both hands over my ears and held them with the full strength of my arms. But this did not shut out the discords. I held my head down over my knees, with my hands on my ears, and shook my head, and tried as far as possible to get rid of the horrible discords that seemed almost to make me mad. I stood it, however, until they were through; and then I cast myself down on my knees almost in a state of desperation, and began to pray. The Lord opened the windows of heaven and the Spirit of prayer was poured out, and I let my whole heart out in prayer.

I had taken no thought with regard to a text upon which to preach, but waited to see the congregation, as I was in the habit of doing in those days, before I selected a text. As soon as I had done praying, I arose from my knees and said: “Up, get ye out of this place; for the Lord will destroy this city.” I said I did not recollect where that text was, but I told them very nearly where they would find it, and then went on to explain it. I said that there was such a man as Abraham, and also who he was; and that there was such a man as Lot, and who he was; their relations to each other; their separating from each other on account of differences between their herdsmen; and that Abraham took the hill country, and Lot settled in the vale of Sodom. I then told them how exceedingly wicked Sodom became, and what abominable practices they fell into. I told them that the Lord decided to destroy Sodom, and visited Abraham and informed him what He was about to do. That Abraham prayed to the Lord to spare Sodom if He found so many righteous there, and the Lord promised to do so for their sakes. That then Abraham besought Him to save it for a certain less number, and the Lord said He would spare it for their sakes. That he kept on reducing the number until he reduced the number of righteous persons to ten; and God promised him that if He found ten righteous persons in the city, He would spare it. Abraham made no farther request, and Jehovah left him. But it was found that there was but one righteous person there, and that was Lot, Abraham’s nephew. “And the men said to Lot, Hast thou here any besides? Son-in-law, and thy sons, and thy daughters, and whatsoever thou hast in the city, bring them out of this place; for we will destroy this place, because the cry of them is waxen great before the face of the Lord; and the Lord hath sent us to destroy it. And Lot went out and spake unto his sons-in-law, which married his daughters, and said, Up, get you out of this place, for the Lord will destroy the city. But he seemed as one that mocked unto his sons-in-law” Genesis 19:12--I4.

While I was relating these facts I observed the people looked as if they were angry. Many of the men were in their shirt sleeves; and they looked at each other and at me, as if they were ready to pitch into me and chastise me for something on the spot. I saw their strange and unaccountable looks, and could not understand what I was saying that had offended them. However, it seemed to me that their anger arose higher and higher as I continued the narrative. As soon as I had finished the narrative I turned upon them and said, that I understood that they had never had a religious meeting in that place; and that therefore I had a right to take it for granted, and was compelled to take it for granted, that they were an ungodly people. I pressed that home upon them with more and more energy, with my heart full to bursting.

I had not spoken to them in this strain of direct application, I should think more than a quarter of an hour, when all at once an awful solemnity seemed to settle down upon them, and a something flashed over the congregation – a kind of shimmering, as if there was some agitation in the atmosphere itself. The congregation began to fall from their seats; and they fell in every direction, and cried for mercy. If I had had a sword in each hand, I could not have cut them off their seats as fast as they fell. Indeed nearly the whole congregation were either on their knees or prostrate, I should think, in less than two minutes from this first shock that fell upon them. Everyone prayed for himself, who was able to speak at all. I, of course was obliged to stop preaching, for they no longer paid any attention. I saw the old man who had invited me there to preach sitting about in the middle of the house, and looking around with utter amazement. I raised my voice almost to a scream to make him hear, and pointing to him said, “Can’t you pray?” He instantly fell upon his knees, and with a stentorian voice poured himself out to God, but he did not at all get the attention of the people. I then spake as loud as I could, and tried to make them attend to me. I said to them, “You are not in hell yet; and now let me direct you to Christ.” For a few moments I tried to hold forth the Gospel to them, but scarcely any of them paid any attention. My heart was so overflowing with joy at such a scene that I could hardly contain myself. A little way from where I stood was an open fireplace.

I recollect very well that my joy was so great, that I could not help laughing in a most spasmodic manner. I knelt down and stuck my head into that fireplace, and hung my pocket handkerchief over my head, lest they should see me laugh; for I was aware that they would not understand that it was irrepressible, holy joy that made me laugh. It was with much difficulty that I refrained from shouting, and giving glory to God.

As soon as I could sufficiently control my feelings I turned to a young man who was close to me, and was engaged in praying for himself, laid my hand on his shoulder, thus getting his attention, and preached in his ear Jesus. As soon as I got his attention to the cross of Christ he believed, was calm and quiet for a minute or two, and then broke out in praying for the others. I then turned to another and took the same course with him, with the same result – and then another, and another. In this way I kept on until I found the time had arrived when I must leave them, and go and fulfil an appointment in the village. I then told them so. I asked the old man who had invited me there to remain and take charge of the meeting while I went to another place. He did so. But there was too much interest, and too many wounded souls, to dismiss the meeting; and so it was held all night. In the morning there were still those there that could not get away, and they were carried to a private house in the neighbourhood to make room for the school. In the afternoon they sent for me to come down there, as they could not yet break up the meeting.

When I went down the second time I got an explanation of the anger manifested by the congregation during the introduction of my first sermon there. I learned that the place was called Sodom – but I knew it not – and that there was but one pious man in the place, and him they called Lot. This was the old man that invited me there. The people supposed that I had chosen my subject, and preached to them in that manner, because they were so wicked as to be called Sodom. This was a striking coincidence, but so far as I was concerned, it was altogether accidental.

I have not been in that place for many years. A few years since, I was labouring in Syracuse in the state of New York. Two gentlemen called upon me one day; one quite an elderly man, another perhaps a man of 47 years of age. The younger man introduced the older one to me as Deacon White, an elder in his church, saying that he had called on me to give a hundred dollars to Oberlin College. The older man in his turn introduced the younger, saying, “This is my minister, the Rev Mr. Cross. He was converted under your ministry.” Whereupon Brother Cross said to me: Do you remember preaching at such a time in Antwerp, and in such a part of the town in a schoolhouse in the afternoon, and that such a scene – describing it – occurred there? I said, “I remember it very well, and can never forget it while I remember anything.” “Well,” said he, “I was then but a young man, and was converted in that meeting.” He has been many years a successful minister. Several of his children have obtained their education in our college in Oberlin. As nearly as I can learn, although that revival came upon them so suddenly, and was of such a powerful type, the converts were sound and the work permanent and genuine. I never heard of any disastrous reaction as having taken place.

 

The preacher prayed; then heard from God what he should preach from the Bible – the old and current truth of Sodom and Lot. And – considering the evidence (people falling from their seats, crying for mercy and then finding peace and joy in Jesus Christ) – the preaching was coming straight from the mouth of God – through the mouth of Charles Finney – with power to save people. Jesus was absolutely right when he maintained and insisted against the devil and his lies (with an empty tummy) – Matthew 4:4: “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.

Have you ever heard God? Have you ever heard the Good News preached to you? You are lost without Jesus – dead in your sin – doomed and cursed – but – on account of His sacrifice – on account of the blood which Jesus shed for you on the cross and his victory over death on the day of His resurrection – you are being saved, if you believe him – if you hear the words and trust him with your salvation. Listen with an obedient heart and live. Amen.

 



[1] Cf. Ephesians 1:4-6: For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love, he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.

 

Ephesians 1:11-12: In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory.

 

John 14:13: And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.

 

Luke 11:28: He replied, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.”