Rev Dr Edgar Mayer – Living Grace Lutheran Church, Toowoomba – Date: 1 February 2015
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Paul was secure in his world-view. He had it all worked out – was super-passionate about God – absolutely firm and proud in his convictions – until Jesus knocked him off his (high) horse [the Bible passage does not specifically mention a horse but it is a reasonable assumption]:
Acts 9:1-8: Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”
“Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.
“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”
The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus.
There was nothing wrong with Paul. He got the highest marks for Bible reading, prayer and dedication. He literally went the extra mile to Damascus persecuting some other fellow believers. There was absolutely nothing wrong with his heritage. But – at the same time – this super-believer was wrong about everything – everything that mattered:
Philippians 3:4-9: … If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.
But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.
[Romans 9:1-5: I speak the truth in Christ—I am not lying, my conscience confirms it through the Holy Spirit— I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my people, those of my own race, the people of Israel. Theirs is the adoption to sonship; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises. Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of the Messiah, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen.]
Paul did not know about Jesus even though his own Bible – the books that were written up to that point (Old Testament) – prophesied his coming. He had his own ideas about the Messiah – the one that was to come in the anointing of the Holy Spirit – and he had many compatriots sharing his religious views (they were still expecting a more political figure that would be ruling on an earthly throne heading up a human army) but he – together with them – failed to see that Jesus was the one.
John 5:39-40: You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.
2 Timothy 3:15: … the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.
Luke 24:44-45: He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.” Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.
Paul was an expert in his religion and it can be very upsetting when experts are challenged in their field of expertise. What do you think that you know about God – the meaning of life? You may be here in church (seeing value in the community – maybe it’s good for the kids) but manage to keep God and faith at a distance because you can’t quite imagine that God is real in a hands-on way. Like Paul, you may be very secure in your world-view but what if it is about to be shaken? If truth turned out to be different from your opinions, would this be okay?
Then, there are some of us and I was one of them – we have been church goers all of our lives – (many of us “good Lutherans”) – like Paul, dedicated in our faith but also, like him, misguided on core issues of our relationship with Jesus Christ:
I remember how Mark Gierke joined Living Grace from another more conservative Lutheran congregation in Lockyer Valley. When I asked him how he was coping with Living Grace, he said that he was okay but he made a radical statement: “I just wiped everything that I thought that I knew and started from scratch learning about the Christian faith.”
Kirsty Humphrey joined us from the Lutheran congregation in Warwick and shared the same experience but Mark and Kirsty only experienced what we all went through. They just did not have years of transition but a crash course of joining us on the way.
What had we missed? I could now talk about the Holy Spirit but I won’t. There were other core revelations about our life with God. For instance, the first budding internal conflict in Living Grace was on the issue of discipleship (October 2002), more specifically the idea that disobedience – especially holding unforgiveness towards another person – would attract discipline and judgement from God. The whole idea that obedience mattered to God was new to many of us. It seemed to contradict our beautiful teaching on grace. Yet, God gives grace for obedience and expects it from us.
We avoided a full blown internal conflict and all of us were on a learning curve. How do you preach on discipleship without becoming a finger-wagging disciplinarian – a legalist and preacher of the law? The key is the Holy Spirit and understanding that obedience is never by our own strength and power but God’s.
In 2005, the same teaching on obedience led to a serious external conflict with fellow Lutheran pastors who (struggling as we did) queried the importance of obedience, objecting specifically to the idea that “God’s blessings follows Christian obedience”.
Yet, blessings do follow obedience. As much as this may have shaken many of us seasoned Christians the Bible is absolutely clear on the importance of obedience and we can experience the truth of it:
Hebrews 11:6: And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. / Matthew 6:1-4: Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them (giving, prayer, fasting) … your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. / John 15:5-8: I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
Rewards of Seven Churches in Revelation – Ephesus: “To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life which is in the paradise of God” (2:7); Smyrna: “Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life” (2:10). “He who overcomes will not be hurt at all by the second death” (2:11); Pergamum …
Matthew 7:21-23: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven … ” / Romans 6:1-14: “ … do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires … but rather … offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness … ” / Romans 8:12-13: “ … we have an obligation … if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live … ” / Galatians 5:19-21: “The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity … witchcraft, hatred, discord, jealousy … and envy … I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.” / Philippians 2:12-13: “Therefore … as you have always obeyed – not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence – continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.” / James 1:22: “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.”
Twice Jesus was asked the pointed question: “What must I do to inherit eternal life” (Matthew 19:16; Luke 10:25)? And twice his answer insisted on obedience – Matthew 19:17: “If you want to enter life, obey the commandments.” Luke 10:28: “Do this [obey the commandments] and you will live.” The last book of the Bible contains Jesus’ letters to seven churches – communicated to John in a prophetic encounter – and they substantiate – once again – that Jesus was not softening in his demand for obedience. For instance, he wrote to the church in Ephesus – Revelation 2:4-6: “. I hold this against you. You have forsaken your first love … Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place [cast you out from my presence] …”
I mention the issue of obedience – the submission of our will (mind, body and soul) to God – because it will remain important later on. However, before we continue, I want to add another current point of tension or debate (in our denomination but we are not being involved) that is about another core issue of our faith – as basic as the question: Does God talk to you? When you pray, do you get affirmation from him and guidance – experiencing a living relationship with Jesus – or is this not necessary because he has given us the Bible to read? Is the Bible more a manual of doctrines (instead of salvation history with God continuing this history with us) which you then apply according to what makes sense to good rational thinking?
In 2007, we studied a resource by Henry Blackaby who said:
In the Old Testament God spoke at many times and in a variety of ways. Through Jesus, God Himself spoke to His people during His lifetime. Now God speaks through the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit will teach you all things, will call to your memory the things Jesus said, will guide you into all truth, will speak what He hears from the Father, will tell you what is yet to come, and glorify Christ as He reveals Christ to you. Does God really speak to His people in our day? Will He reveal to you where He is working when He wants to use you? Yes! God has not changed. He still speaks to His people. If you have trouble hearing God speak, you are in trouble at the very heart of your Christian experience.
There are many who react to him – not always reflecting him correctly:
http://cicministry.org/commentary/issue99.htm: Blackaby’s book is filled with claims that we all need personal revelations from God, that these are binding upon us, and that if we do not gain these “words from God” we are going to fail God and live frustrated and empty lives. He claims that we are to obey these words seemingly without question: “When you do what He tells you, no matter how insensible it may seem, God accomplishes what He purposed through you. Not only do you experience God’s power and presence, but so do those who observe what you are doing.” This is simply wrong and is a version of works righteousness.
All that I can possibly know as God’s binding, authoritative will is what God TOLD me (Scripture) not what God “tells” me (subjective ideas that may or may not be from God). It is abusive to bind people to non-authoritative, fallible words (even insensible ones) and tell them that obeying such words is the key to God’s presence in their lives. This, in my opinion, is an attack against the gospel.
Do you agree? This is not a trifling topic. Does God talk to you about your daily life or not? I am not going to explore this theme – (no time for it now) – but you may consider a few Bible verses:
John 16:12-13: I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth …
Romans 8:14: For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God.
John 5:19-20: So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing …
Acts 13:2-3: While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.
Acts 11:4-17: Starting from the beginning, Peter told them the whole story: “I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision. I saw something like a large sheet being let down from heaven by its four corners, and it came down to where I was. I looked into it and saw four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, reptiles and birds. Then I heard a voice telling me, ‘Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.’
I replied, ‘Surely not, Lord! Nothing impure or unclean has ever entered my mouth.’
The voice spoke from heaven a second time, ‘Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.’ This happened three times, and then it was all pulled up to heaven again.
Right then three men who had been sent to me from Caesarea stopped at the house where I was staying. The Spirit told me to have no hesitation about going with them. These six brothers also went with me, and we entered the man’s house. He told us how he had seen an angel appear in his house and say, ‘Send to Joppa for Simon who is called Peter. He will bring you a message through which you and all your household will be saved.’
As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit came on them as he had come on us at the beginning. Then I remembered what the Lord had said: ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ So if God gave them the same gift he gave us who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could stand in God’s way?”
Mark 13:11: Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit.
[Matthew 10:29-31: Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.]
What action or project have you ever started or done that was prompted and directed by God speaking to you? (E.g.: Jesus Tent, accepting a call into a new parish.)
[Another issue: Is there hope for the future; therefore it makes sense to do something in this world? Or is the Bible teaching that everything turns from bad to worse and we simply retreat and wait to be raptured?]
So maybe Paul is not so strange to us. He was committed, passionate for God (always reading the Bible and always praying), going the extra mile but – at the same time – he was also absolutely wrong about some core issues in his relationship with God. In his actions – not in his heart – he was actually opposed to God, persecuting Christians.
Yet, Jesus loved him and he loves us and anyone else that is keen on God but happens to be wrong about him and his ways (cf. Mark 10:17-22). Jesus appeared to Paul and loved him so much that he pushed through his stubborn fixations – his unmovable convictions and religious worldviews. Jesus stopped Paul by exposing him to his glory – a light flashing from heaven that was blinding him – a heaviness that made him fall to the ground. Then, Jesus spoke to him and Paul heard the audible voice of the Son of God, who – as a man – died on the cross and rose to eternal life after three days in the grave. Jesus asked him: “Saul, Saul, [his previous name] why do you persecute me?”
Jesus called out his name – twice – “Saul, Saul”. Jesus knew him by name – (God knows you by name) – and there was an urgency in getting to him: “Saul, Saul.” Yet, Saul did not know Jesus – he was sure that Jesus had remained dead – therefore, he couldn’t make sense of what was happening to him and at the highpoint of his religious life – the best religious experience he has ever had so far – he was puzzled and reduced to asking the most basic question: “Who are you, Lord? Who is speaking to me? What’s going on?” Jesus told him: “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.” [Cf. Harold Baker: Visions Beyond the Veil.]
Isn’t this the goodness of God? Jesus cared about Saul – the one that was flogging Christians, imprisoning them, confiscating their property and worse. Jesus loves sinners – everyone – and he will do for everyone what he did for Paul. We may not see a light flashing from heaven (even though a few months ago, Charlie Uebergang saw supernatural light at the Jesus Tent in Pittsworth) – we may not fall to the ground (even though many do) – we may not hear the audible voice of Jesus (though a few of us do) – but all of us – if we are only seeking God – all of us will come into an experience of him – something that will tell us about Jesus Christ and him crucified (a sacrifice for our sin so that we can be forgiven).
1 Corinthians 2:1-5: “… 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 human wisdom, but on God’s power.” Romans 15:18-19: “ … what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done – by the power of signs and miracles, through the power of the Spirit … I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ.” Galatians 3:5: “Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard?” / 1 Thessalonians 1:5-6: “. our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction … you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit.”
[At the Jesus Tent in Oakey, Lizzy took along a friend. He was searching for God and he came into an experience (sitting in his chair) that he knew was God touching him. / At the Jesus Tent in Pittsworth, a teenage girl kept asking the question: “Is God real?” She became frightened whenever the power of God made her lose her balance in prayer but she was shocked when Jesus healed her back in the end. She asked: “What happened?” I answered: “We were praying for healing in Jesus’ name and Jesus just showed you that he was real. He loves you.” The whole family was impacted.]
As Paul was coming out of his experience with Jesus, he did something that I wish everyone was doing after an experience of Jesus. He got up knowing that his life had to change. The Bible says – Acts 9:9: “For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.” Paul fasted – even of water (which is not easy for any length of time). He stopped everything that he was doing – including food – and just waited on God and further instructions.
So many times, I see people experiencing God and witnessing a miracle and nothing changes. There is – (or there seems to be) – no change in their commitment to Jesus, no change in life direction, no change in worship attendance or prayer life or anything spiritual. People may have seen a leg grow out or seen the supernatural gold sparkles on their skin but then they go home, have lunch, later on watch television, go to bed and their old life continues.
This is not the best way to process an experience of God. Paul fasted which is like pushing the pause button on your life. He resolved: “I will not eat and drink – I will not continue and satisfy any of my desires – until I know more about this Jesus who met me on the road and until I know how my life can be blessed by him and submitted to him.”
Maybe I can add something. In the church, it’s not only visitors or fringe Christians that like a healing or another miracle but then don’t do anything with the experience for their salvation or life with Jesus. There seem to be many Spirit-filled Christians that love and live for revival meetings which are as dramatic as Paul’s encounter with Jesus when supernatural light flashed around him, he was struck with blindness, fell to the ground and heard the audible voice of Jesus. Revival meetings like that are great. I love them as well (and we are going to have them especially when we do seminars and outreach because God uses them) but they are not everything.
Breakthrough times in God and life-changing times in God are not always about explosive experiences – the fireworks of the more spectacular signs and wonders. (I can’t believe that I am saying this [because I am so passionate for this kind of meeting] but it is true.) After the supernatural light and audible voice of Jesus, it was just as important that Paul fasted and waited on God. It was just as important that he submitted his desires and will to what God wanted him to know and do. Fasting and praying at home happens quietly – often in isolation – but it is just as spiritual and just as much part of the revival time as falling to the ground under the power and weight of God’s glory.
In fact, without processing the experience and letting it work change in you, you can fall to the ground as often as you want in as many meetings as you want and it will do you no good. Some people seem to put pressure on me – (and I used to become confused about whether they were right) – when not every meeting ends up with bodies lying everywhere but there is a time for everything and the times of fasting and waiting on God and preparing ourselves to produce fruit are equally as important. (And then doing the jobs that are part of producing fruit.) [A constant of explosive experiences just leads to burn-out.]
[When the “Toronto blessing” began impacting churches, Pastor Clark Taylor was sometimes called to deal with tensions and conflict that arose from this move of God. At night, God gave him a dream where he saw a mighty river – representing the Spirit of God. There were some people on the bank of the river and they frolicked and had fun splashing water around. That’s all they did – enjoying the Spirit in one meeting after another – but another man was looking at the flowing river and saying to himself: “In this river, there is enough power to light a city.” Explosive experiences are wonderful and essential but then we do something with them and let the Spirit produce fruit through us.]
As a church, we are beginning a fast today. Last year was an amazing year where God granted us so much grace. For me at least but maybe also for you, it was a wild roller-coaster ride of growing together as a church – (first family camp, new leader and team of Living Stones, “Guess who’s coming for dinner”, expansion of staff team, Petite Sisterhood, Lads and Dads, church BBQs, etc.) – and experiencing new open doors for reaching out and bringing other places into the fullness of God’s Spirit – (Rockhampton, Warrambui, Canberra, Portland, Victor Harbour, Oakey, Pittsworth, YWAM DTS, Indonesia, Shed Happens, Women’s Ministry [first women’s conference], etc.). I was having so much fun that I didn’t realize how tired I was before I went on holidays. I like it when we are building something and it is creative and full of possibilities. (I like it less when all we do is trouble shooting and putting out spot fires.)
Yet, I think that now is a good time to do what Paul did after his intense encounter with Jesus. We fast and wait and go slow (tuning our ears to God) because we don’t want to make the mistake of barging ahead without having received instructions first. Everything that we do is always about Jesus and following his leadership, not our own. Last year, he moved among us and he certainly got our attention – we couldn’t have done anything in our own strength – but now is the time to ask: “What does it all mean?” We may feel secure in what seem to know but what is Jesus saying – in this season?
I give you one instance where I am intensively waiting on God and where we have to do work together …
Paul fasted for three whole days. When Jesus fasted and some other people in the Bible (e.g.: Moses), they had fasts where they abstained from food for forty days. Fasting and waiting on God takes time. And it’s not because of God. It’s us that are slow to process what God is doing. Paul had one encounter with Jesus where Jesus, in an instant, turned his whole world upside down. Paul, in an instant, changed from a person that was persecuting Christians – being absolutely convinced that the lordship of Jesus was a figment of the imagination – to one that was becoming a Christian himself – worshipping Jesus whom he met on the road. Usually, we are not coping well when God invades our lives like that. (With God and what he is doing to you, you can change in an instant from being standoffish about the gift of tongues to a person that speaks in tongues themselves.) We need the time of fasting to process what has just happened to us and slowly tune our will and desires into what God wants and has revealed to us. Fasting gives us the time to learn obedience (as we resist the feelings of hunger and resolve to be hungry just for God). The Bible talks about our need to be trained in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16). Righteous living – obedience – living in accordance with the will of God – this is learned over time – with much training and testing our skills – and fasting is one of the key training exercises.
The outcome of it is that we can better hold on to the gifts of God. We develop the capacity to steward what Jesus has revealed to us and done to us. After three days, Paul had let the past go – (for three days, the experience of Jesus on the road was consuming him and he absorbed its meaning) – and then was ready to embrace everything that Jesus was able to give to him:
Acts 9:17-19: So Ananias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized; and taking food, he was strengthened.
After three days of fasting, Paul was baptized with water for salvation and filled with the Holy Spirit by the laying on of hands (and healed). Sometimes it takes time for us to align ourselves to Jesus with expectation and submission to his will and truth. It takes time for all of us to be aligned – mind, emotions and will – our soul. [The first disciples waited for the baptism with the Holy Spirit for ten days and, throughout church history, people knew to wait for the desired breakthroughs (proper conversions, baptism with the Spirit, healing). Some even used a special “mourner’s seat” or special room for those waiting and needing prayers from others.)]
Fasting prepared Paul for his thorough conversion and the infilling with the Holy Spirit which then prepared him for pioneering work and powerful preaching and also suffering:
Acts 9:15-16: But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”
I may ask again the question. How does this work? How does fasting benefit you? I may share a testimony of Charles Finney:
Charles Finney: Power from God, New Kensington: Whitaker House 1996, p19-20: To the honour of God alone I will say a little of my own experience in this matter. I was powerfully converted on the morning of the 10th of October, 1821. In the evening of the same day I received overwhelming baptisms of the Holy Ghost that went through me, as it seemed to me, body and soul. I immediately found myself endued with such power from on high that a few words dropped here and there to individual were the means of their immediate conversion. My words seemed to fasten like barbed arrows in the souls of men.
They cut like a sword. They broke the heart like a hammer. Multitudes can attest to this. Oftentimes a word dropped without my remembering it would fasten conviction, and often result in almost immediate conversion.
Sometimes I would find myself, in a great measure, empty of this power. I would go and visit, and find that I made no saving impression. I would exhort and pray, with the same result. I would then set apart a day for private fasting and prayer, fearing that his power had departed from me, and would inquire anxiously after the reason of this apparent emptiness. After humbling myself, and crying out for help, the power would return upon me with all its freshness. This has been the experience of my life.
As we fast, we take time out – we discipline ourselves – we humble ourselves – to process what God is doing and say to him: “Less of me and more of you.” After three days of fasting, Paul was ready totally to belong to God – be baptized for salvation and filled with the Spirit to preach the truth with power (even in hostile environments). Fasting also renewed Charles Finney’s power in preaching.
Let’s stay with preaching. Why is this kind of preparation – fasting and praying and waiting on God for what is on his mind – important for preaching? Why can’t we just have a person get up on Sunday and read a chapter out of good Christian book? Why is this not preaching and – mostly – a poor substitute for the power that is in proper preaching (even though it may be a chapter of sound Christian teaching)? Why can’t I save myself time and occasionally read you a sermon from another preacher? (There are millions of sermon transcripts on the net.)
The answer is that the truth alone – a sound message alone – is not enough. Even after the resurrection and much instruction, Jesus told the disciples to wait with their preaching until they were filled with the Spirit. Wait to be filled. Unless the preacher is filled with the Spirit, he can speak the truth but it is going to lack impact because the truth – the preaching of the Word of God – must work in union with the Spirit because the Word of God operates as “the sword of the Spirit” (Ephesians 6:17).
Reading someone else’s sermon to you would be easy but I would not do it in the fullness of the Spirit (unless I make the other pastor’s sermon my own). Just reading out a chapter from a book would be easy for anyone but it may not come from your heart. You may not fully carry the message because maybe some of the language of the book is not how you would talk or put things. Some illustrations may be a little dated or too American and you may not even agree with everything in every paragraph.
If a preacher desires to be properly filled with the Spirit for the work of preaching, he must come into alignment with the message that the Spirit wants to speak through him. You prepare for preaching by allowing the Spirit to make the message burn in you, tasting its truth, and submitting to it first in your own life. You take time for the Spirit to fill you – your mind, emotions and will – with his message so that it comes out of the depth of you with power. You desire to be an empty vessel that is filled with the Spirit and what he wants to say. Then, preaching works (as God designed it) and everything else we do works – parenting, running a business, administration, doing our jobs.
Jeremiah 20:9: But if I say, “I will not mention his word or speak anymore in his name,” his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot.
Ezekiel 3:1-4: And he said to me, “Son of man, eat what is before you, eat this scroll; then go and speak to the people of Israel.” So I opened my mouth, and he gave me the scroll to eat. Then he said to me, “Son of man, eat this scroll I am giving you and fill your stomach with it.” So I ate it, and it tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth. He then said to me: “Son of man, go now to the people of Israel and speak my words to them. (Cf. Revelation 10.)
John 1:14: The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
[Cf. Consider also the importance of physical submission to the word in prophetic actions and prayer and worship. Maybe this is why some prayers (ministering to people in the prayer line) are louder than at other times. The strength and volume of the voice must also be in submission to the Spirit’s leading and word.]
I come to a close. Fasting may not be our favourite exercise but – please – we do this together as a church. Jesus has done much among us and much has happened quickly. We need the time to wait on him, listen, humble ourselves, learn discipline and become totally aligned and submitted to Jesus and what he wants to do so that he can fill us with his power through the Holy Spirit. We need all of Jesus for what he wants us to do. Amen.