Principles of Preaching Cross-Culturally
The engine in your automobile has thousands of parts. It will only run if the parts do their job. It can be argued that a single washer or bolt is less important than a piston or crankshaft; it certainly costs less. However, every part has its purpose; and if the engine is going to last 100k, 200k or even 300k miles, your engine must have its parts in working order. The same is true of the ministry, whether overseas or in the homeland: emphasis should not be given to one area of ministry to the detriment of other (seemingly less important) areas. Sadly, there is a common trend among preachers, and especially among missionaries, where too little emphasis is given to Biblical preaching.
Many have heard it said that missionaries often “Cannot preach themselves out of a wet paper bag.” If this assertion is even slightly true, it is a sad commentary on 21st Century missions. Of all men who take the Word of God, go to an unsaved people group and preach the eternal message of salvation; missionaries should be the gold standard as it relates to handling the Word of God correctly. Oftentimes, less emphasis is given by missionaries to their preaching and sermon preparation because they deem it less important than evangelism. These are not mutually exclusive! Conversely, a vibrant preaching ministry is a vital part of evangelism. The lost sheep need the Savior, and the found sheep need fed! Christians of every race and nation need to be fed the Word of God, and this responsibility should not be relegated to the ministry of the national pastor. The missionary must set the example of handling the Word of God correctly as well as training pastors and church planters how it is done. Preaching cross-culturally is more complex, requires more time in the study, and can be more taxing; but it is worth it in order to minister to the people. They deserve nothing less.
As in any preaching ministry, there are many important aspects: sensitivity to the Holy Spirit, sensitivity to the needs of the congregation, ability to relate the message to the people in their culture, diligent study of God’s Word, and methods of homiletics/presentation. There are also dangers to be avoided such as taking verses out of context, placing oneself on a pedestal, or allowing every sermon to be a “missions message,” exclusively.
Handle the Word of God Correctly
One of the principal qualities of Heartland Baptist Bible College is its emphasis on Biblical preaching. Praise God for leadership that understands the unique roll of preaching in the Lord’s service. Many great preachers were trained at Heartland Baptist Bible College; there are also many great preachers who received training from other Bible colleges, institutes or seminaries. A sound handling of God’s Word is not exclusive to Heartland Alumni, nor does having an exceptional Alma Mater assure the alumnus that he is handling God’s Word correctly. This is critical to a ministry’s being scriptural, and the preacher alone must examine his preaching to assure it is giving justice to the Holy Scriptures. The many books, helps, philosophies and other tools acquired in Bible college for the purpose of Biblical preaching are just that, tools. By themselves, tools cannot build, maintain or improve upon any object including preaching. The craftsman must develop a keen ability to use well the tools at his disposal. Tragically, there is often a disconnect between Homiletics Class in Bible college and the missionary’s preaching ministry. While emphasis should be given to prayer, outreach, raising support and learning a language; the preaching of the Word of God is the divine method given to us to reach the world. It is incumbent upon the missionary to develop his preaching skills. A teacher of culinary arts cannot teach his students to prepare fine cuisine if he is not able to do so himself, nor can a missionary train national pastors to preach if he himself routinely fumbles the Word of God.
Feed the Flock of God
The goal of the missionary should be to train a national pastor who can take over the preaching ministry. The work of training takes time, and a key part of pastor-training is the preaching of God’s Word! From the newest convert to the pastor-in-training, God’s sheep must be fed. Each Christian is at a different stage of growth; accordingly, each Christian has a specific need in his “diet” of the Word of God. We are grateful to God for our newest family member, Jedidiah, to whom my wife gave birth right here in Mexico. The way he eats, I am certain Jedidiah will grow to be a beast of a man some day; but for now, he is on a strict, milk-only diet. Why? Because as a baby, all he needs is milk. Our other three children drink milk also (cow’s), but they need more. We would be negligent parents if we served nothing to our children but a bowl of milk three times per day. They need bread, vegetables, meat and fruit; so we do our best to provide what they need. The missionary should be equally sensitive to the needs of the listeners. A healthy congregation has baby Christians, recent converts and new additions to the fellowship. At the same time, a healthy Congregation does not remain baby Christians but are in a continuous pattern of growth. For this reason alone, the missionary absolutely must preach the whole counsel of God, and provide for the sheep to be fed in every stage of growth. By setting this example, the pastor-in-training will not only be better fed himself, but he will have observed the appropriate handling of God’s Word so that he might continue feeding the flock decades after the missionary has departed. The one part of the flock that will continue with the missionary is his own family. Oftentimes, the only preaching his wife and children will hear is his. They also need fed the Word of God! The missionary’s wife needs to hear fresh and scriptural preaching from her husband. If the family is allowed to languish spiritually, the ministry will eventually follow.
Be Culturally Sensitive
Virtually every book on missions belabors this point, so I will just give a few reminders. Avoid idioms, colloquialisms, illustrations and anecdotes that will not make sense to the hearers! There are many slang phrases that are understood in the field, but many are not. Yesterday, between church services, we celebrated the birthday of a dear lady in the church who turned 77. While standing on the patio eating cake and visiting with one of the men, the intense Mexico sun began burning my ears. I promptly moved over a couple feet into the shade and mentioned to him my ears were burning. I went on to say that in English, one’s ears are “burning” when someone gossips about him. I asked if the phrase is used in Spanish, and sure enough it is. One of the ladies then mentioned that in Mexico, when a white person gets bad sunburn, he is called a “camarón,” or shrimp, because his color changes from white to red, just like shrimp when cooked. I told them we must therefore be “Ameri-camarones.” Theirs was an example of phraseology that might not be well received in the United States. The missionary should avoid American phrases that would not be well received on the field.
While it is good to avoid overtly importing American culture into the foreign church, the missionary in preaching the Word of God should not shy away from historic, cultural realities. The culture of the Bible is very different from American culture; it is even different in many ways from modern Israeli culture. The missionary has no right to bend the meaning of scripture in order to make historic reality more palatable to the hearers. He must therefore give due diligence in the study, coming to a full understanding of the culture of the Bible necessary to preach the passage, and then work to convey the cultural differences to the hearers so they might have a good grip on the text. The same Holy Spirit who indwells the missionary also indwells every born again believer in the congregation; if He can help the preacher understand the text, He is able to do the same for them. Watering down the meaning or changing cultural peculiarities is a disservice to the Word of God and to the flock.
Be a Student of Language
It has been said that studying the Bible in English is akin to watching a black and white television. Studying the Greek is like watching the same motion picture, but in color. The Textus Receptus is the same message as the King James, but knowledge of Greek syntax can help give a more crisp understanding of difficult passages. As a missionary, I have the blessing of preparing sermons in Spanish. Because English is my first language, I study the King James and the Spanish Bible in sermon preparation. Because Spanish is a Latin language with similar grammatical structure to the Greek, I find it refreshing to reference the Textus Receptus and see the close similarities. At times, the King James adds a clearer picture to the meaning of the Spanish. It is intriguing to see how two translations of the Scriptures in two separate languages are so closely knit together with the original Greek. I advise any prospective missionary to take advantage of Greek and Hebrew classes, if they are offered. The linguistic rudiments covered in such classes can be applied to any language. It will help on the field in the area of sermon preparation and delivery.
Avoid Common Pitfalls
There is probably not a preacher in existence today who has never taken a verse out of context. While this mistake can be avoided with careful study, it is sadly way too common. Sometimes, an entire message is built on a notion that is not actually present in the passage of scripture. Just because we missionaries have the responsibility to preach in an entirely different language does not give us license to pick a verse here or there as we please in order to preach our sermon. We should rather study to preach the Lord’s sermon. For this reason, I mostly preach expository sermons. There are times when a topical message is appropriate, but such should be founded on a passage of scripture that actually covers the topic. The Word of God is powerful, and a sermon built on the meaning of the text will be much more potent and effective than a sermon constructed using key search words.
Both pastors and missionaries face the temptation to place oneself on a pedestal; but as missionaries, it can be even more tempting if one starts to compare education, time spent studying scripture, income levels, culture or even language. It is not hard to develop an attitude of superiority over the people. When a dear fellow Christian corrects your grammar or assumes you misunderstood a third person and then presumes to try and frame it in English for your sake, take it like an adult! Learn from it. Work to become a better missionary without being bitter against those who would dare correct you. They mean well. The people in our congregation are some of the sweetest Christians I know in this world. In order to minister to them and to reach those without, it is imperative that we do as John the Baptist: decrease, while allowing Christ to be increased in our ministry.
One more pitfall is that of allowing every sermon to be a “missions message” exclusively. While on the deputation trail, the job of the missionary is to emphasize the need of missions to the thousands of American Christians whom he will encounter. In the context of deputation and furlough, missions-centered messages are always appropriate! Harking back to an earlier point, the Christians on the field need to hear more than just missions messages. It is important, but so is every other doctrine taught us in God’s Word. Be a well-rounded preacher. Study to shew thyself approved. Feed the flock of God. Be a teacher of preachers. The world needs missionaries who can preach the Word.
The congregational singing is finished, the assistant pastor wraps up the weekly announcements, and now comes the moment in the church service when hearts are to be prepared for the preaching of the Word: an individual, duet or trio walks onto the podium to bless hearts in special music. The song choice is appropriate, and the message of the song is spot-on; but one thing seems to steal what would be an otherwise perfect presentation of special music: the singer is full of himself. We all recall times when this scenario played out in our own experiences. Some of us recall, perhaps, being the person singing. While many elements contribute to music’s fulfilling its purpose in honoring God, the heart of the musician can make or break a presentation of God’s Word through song. Moreover, this theme carries far beyond the context of church music. Yes, the heart of the musician is critically important; but so is the heart of the preacher, the heart of the teacher, the heart of the soul-winner, the heart of the deacon, the heart of the bus captain, the heart of the pianist, the heart of the church treasurer, the heart of the choir director, the heart of the greeters and custodian alike can help meet or tragically undermine the church’s goal of glorifying Jesus Christ.
Pride is the original sin. Even prior to Adam’s disobedience in the Garden of Eden, the anointed cherub that covereth, Lucifer, lifted his heart in pride against the Almighty God (Isaiah 14:12-15). Since the Garden of Eden, we have dealt with the issue of pride. Those who have been born again are crucified with Christ: Glory to God! The handwriting of ordinances against us has been taken out of the way, being nailed to the cross of Christ. We are seated with Christ in heavenly places; our salvation is sure, being sealed with the Holy Spirit. We are regenerated, made new creatures in Christ; yet for the time being, this treasure is housed in earthen vessels. The “earthly house of this tabernacle” (2 Cor. 5), the body, has a tendency to self-exalt. We are prideful people. To deny or minimize this fact rather proves it. Anyone who wants to glorify God with his or her life must recognize the battle of pride within. In striving to live for God, we must conquer our greatest enemy—ourselves. Satan is real, alive and powerful; but his power is limited by Christ Jesus. Our pride is something we must conquer every day for us to be adequate channels of God’s grace to a dying world.
A beautiful hymn written by Mary Maxwell in 1900, Channels Only, highlights what should be the attitude of our hearts when serving God:
1. How I praise Thee, precious Savior,
That Thy love laid hold of me;
Thou hast saved and cleaned and filled me
That I might Thy channel be.
2. Just a channel full of blessing,
To the thirsty hearts around;
To tell out Thy full salvation
All Thy loving message sound.
3. Emptied that Thou shouldest fill me,
A clean vessel in Thy hand;
With no pow’r but as Thou givest
Graciously with each command.
Channels only, blessed Master,
But with all Thy wondrous pow’r
Flowing through us, Thou canst use us
Every day and every hour.
Channels convey things. There are many types, sizes, qualities and purposes of channels: water channels often give passage to ships; other water channels may have the sole purpose of conveying water itself, such as an aqueduct. A tunnel conveys potable water below our city’s streets a mere mile from our house in Mexico. Other channels convey electrical pulses, such as the wire running from your church sound board to the pulpit-mic: this is a very important channel. Channels have been applied more broadly to distinct radio frequencies, which are also important: I do not want an emergency responder’s radio picking up a radio-talk-show when I am in need of emergency assistance.
Regardless of the type of channel, or what it conveys, there are certain qualities required in channels: it must carry its load from Point-A to Point-B; it should not lose any of its load; it should keep its load clean and free from interference/contamination. Limiting our analogy to that given in Maxwell’s hymn—a channel for carrying water—the requirements would be as follows: 1) The water must flow from the Source to the intended recipient, 2) The water must not be spilled nor leaked, 3) The water must arrive clean, pure and free of contaminants. A similar metaphor was given by Jesus in John 7:37-38:
“In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, ‘If any man thirst,
let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out
of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.’”
Verse 39 explains the metaphor: Christ was speaking of the Holy Spirit which would be given to everyone who believes. The Holy Spirit did not enter our hearts just to reside idle; Christ used the metaphor of a river because the grace of God, the work of the Holy Spirit, is to flow through our lives and affect those around us even as a flowing river benefits the land downstream. The command given by Christ in the sermon on the mount, to “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven,” cannot truly be fulfilled until one is saved and living according to the Spirit of God. No one can see the Father except through the Son, Who is declared by the Holy Spirit of God. Jesus could have used a different metaphor: a pit, a swamp or bog, or even the Dead Sea; however, these only receive water and never give. Much like your bathroom rug: it absorbs everything that touches it, but it does not give back. The life of the believer should not be as the Dead Sea or your bathroom rug; it should be a channel.
My final year of Bible college was a busy year: The Lord blessed me with a fulltime job at a company named Kim Ray, working the graveyard shift to save money for a diamond ring and marriage. Kim Ray manufactures instruments for oil and gas companies (i.e. valves, regulators, pumps, et al). When an oil company lays pipeline for 100s of miles, their goal is to transport oil from Point-A to Point-B. They do not want to lose any of the oil, contaminating the countryside and wasting product; nor do they want anything seeping into the pipes, which could be equally hazardous. In essence, the pipeline needs to have the same qualities as any other channel. Every Kim Ray valve I saw produced was painted a beautiful “fire engine red.” While it is a trademark of the Kim Ray Valve, it is of little importance out in the field. The rancher near to whose land the pipeline crosses does not care whether the valves are red or blue, so long as the pipes do not leak. The Exxon Mobile employee does not care whether pipes are painted with flat or glossy paint, so long as the oil arrives at its destination. The value of a channel is not determined by its outward appearance, style or even people’s opinions of said channel; its value lies in what precious item it conveys. For oil companies, it is the valuable black gold taken from the earth. For shipping companies, it is the safe passage of their vessels through the waterways. For the emergency medical professional, it is the accurate and timely data given through his trusty radio; and for the lost soul, it is the grace of God in a clear Gospel message, flowing through the clean heart of a believer whose goal is to elevate Christ and not himself.
We are blessed beyond precedent. Speaking for those born in America, we were born with opportunities and freedoms many people in the world only dream of. If someone shared with you the Gospel, you have been blessed even in hearing It. If you accepted the gift of salvation, there is no greater gift or blessing than eternal life through Jesus Christ. If you own a copy of God’s Word in your language, you are tremendously blessed. If you had the opportunity to be baptized, join and attend a Bible-preaching Baptist church, you are blessed even still. Being the recipient of manifold blessings, opportunities and resources can be dangerous. While I am not writing in any form that it is wrong to receive great things—which are blessings from God (James 1:17)—we must maintain a cautious mindset in the midst of such blessings, lest the gifts themselves rob God’s rightful place in our hearts.
Great men do not generally falter in their ascent to greatness. It is at the summit where men are most vulnerable: a place where power, influence, prosperity and blessings can steal a man’s focus from the Lord who made him to be great. Scripture gives us examples of men who, though having begun on the right track, made their greatest mistakes and failures when they were lifted up: Saul, David and Solomon are a few examples. The same pattern exists in Israel’s history: their greatest struggles with idolatry were in times of national freedom and prosperity. It was in captivity where they learned to repent toward God and serve Him, even if only for a season. We do not have to rise to the position of King to face the same danger: in our lives, we are the most vulnerable when full, prosperous, succeeding, winning, achieving, receiving and partaking of blessings. It is the place of great responsibilities, positions of importance and noteworthy titles that adorn our names. It is the place where people know us, recognize our talents, pat our backs and praise our deeds. It is in this place where we must be most cautious against personal pride.
Most people in ministry had “humble beginnings”; few have been very wealthy by earthly standards. I thank God for the wealthy few who do serve Him, but they are indeed few. Most people who preach well, teach well, sing or play instruments well did not begin that way. Spiritual gifts come from God, but we still have to put our God-given talents to use: we have to develop, strengthen and exercise our talents. Good preaching, for instance, requires fine-tuning and diligent study. One is not likely to preach a deep, convicting and substantive sermon if he does not prepare until Saturday evening to preach. Soldiers in our military have the duty of preparing themselves for battle: they are required to be fit, trained, prepared and willing to fight. More than any other, the Soldier of the Cross needs to prepare himself for the spiritual battle that will ensue. The danger lies in adopting a success-driven mindset in the ministry; while we should strive for success—as the Lord defines it—it is all too easy to borrow the world’s standard of measuring success. Financial gain, notoriety, power and influence are what the world defines as success. Jesus emphasized how the world’s standard of success simply does not work within the context of ministry: “But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant.” - Matthew 23:11. While laziness in the Lord’s work is inexcusable, a Christian can also fall into the other extreme of placing too much emphasis on perfectionism. A church can be run as a well-oiled machine, crossing every “T” and dotting every “I”; a church can invest in the best of technologies, having state-of-the-art networking arrangements, sound-systems, media and computing. These assets can be greatly used for the Lord’s work, but they can also become an end in themselves. If a visitor walks out the door enamored with the technology, impressed by the building and speaking highly of the staff without having met with God, heard from God or brought closer to God; the church did not serve that visitor well. However, if the visitor leaves the service having been spiritually fed and brought into closer union with God in spite of the technology and superficial ministry tools, the service ministered to him well. Doing the work of ministry with excellence is truly excellent; but if excellence supplants the ministry in the work, it becomes failure of ministry. Using the tools, resources and talents God gives us; we should elevate the Savior, giving Him the glory for victories and never forget the humble beginnings from which He brought us.
As one need not be a King in order to fall into the snare of self-promotion, neither does one have to be a pauper in order to serve Christ successfully. An elder gentleman by the name of Don Fox hired me when I was 16 to work at his bargain grocery store, the Big Giant Warehouse in Oklahoma City. While Mr. Fox was considered successful in the world’s eyes, owning a grocery store, farms and ranches in Oklahoma before passing on to be with the Lord; what made him truly successful was his servant’s heart. Mr. Fox treated his employees well: he rewarded hard work, forgave short-comings and always was willing to give people a second chance. He treated his customers well: I recall many times when he would help people with their groceries, visit with the customers and make them feel at home. He was not above helping people, and he emphasized to his employees the importance of helping customers. Mr. Fox was generous with the blessings God gave him; but he was humble in his philanthropy, not doing it for show. Many acts of generosity are not widely known simply for his desire to help people, not his own image. Mr. Fox was a channel of God’s blessing. Like the late Mr. Don Fox, one can be wealthy and humble; conversely, one could be poverty-stricken and arrogant. Pride is a matter of the heart, not a matter of estate or portfolio.
We sometimes give “pride” a positive connotation: we are proud of our children, proud of our heritage, proud to be Americans, etc. This type of pride is really an appreciation; if it translates into gratefulness toward God, it is a healthy emotion. We did not choose our birthplace, we did not get to pick our heritage, nor do we ultimately decide the paths our children take in life. These things are beyond our control, so we easily recognize God’s grace through such unsolicited, unearned blessings. Sinful-pride has its strongest presence in areas of personal achievement. This was the mindset of Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 4:29-30:
“At the end of twelve months he walked in the palace of the kingdom of Babylon.
The king spake, and said, Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for the house
of the kingdom by the might of my power, and for the honour of my majesty?”
It was pride in his own works that led to his humiliation, having to eat grass like an ox for seven years. A distinction must be made between taking pride in one’s work versus being prideful because of one’s work. We ought to “take pride” in the sense all things are to be done heartily, as unto the Lord. He deserves our best work; He deserves excellence as previously mentioned. Pride arrests our hearts when we lose sight of the fact God has given us the opportunities and abilities we have. He can just as easily take them away from us; and if He did, it would be perfectly right and just of Him. It is only by His grace we have life, abilities, positions, possessions, influence and a ministry.
The Apostle Paul, while addressing the carnal disunity in the Corinthian church, set forth a profound truth through several rhetorical questions:
“For who maketh thee to differ from another? And what hast thou that thou didst
not receive? Now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hast not
received it?” – 1 Corinthians 4:7
We often boast of things that did not originated with us. We have no room to boast, or in Paul’s words, to “glory.” Have you an ability to take the Word of God and preach with power? You received it. It was a gift. Have you a beautiful voice with which to carry a tune? You received it as a gift from God. Pastor, you received your position only by the grace of God; do not forget who graciously allows you to be a pastor. Missionary, only by God’s grace do you have the ability to travel to a foreign country and tell people about Jesus in a different language. It is a gift. You did not reach the field by your own prowess. College alumnus, the education you have is only by the grace of God. There are many people who struggle their entire lives with conditions of the mind, not being able to lead a normal life, let alone acquire a college degree. You could have just as easily been born with such a condition, but God in His mercy and grace gave you the opportunity to learn. Do not boast of your education, your degree, a position on church staff: these are gifts from God which you only received by His grace. College student, it is by God’s grace you are where you are; it is by His grace you will finish your studies in His time. In the midst of great blessing, may we humble our hearts in gratefulness to God. Seek to serve those around us, not to earn ourselves a good name but to exalt Christ’s Name. Multitudes are heading for an eternity without Christ. Now more than ever, we need to be channels only; humbling our hearts and getting ourselves out of the way so the love of Christ can shine through us, the Gospel of Christ can pass through our lips, and the power of God can be manifested in the lives of people.
"And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written, The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, To preach the acceptable year of the Lord. And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him. And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears. And all bare him witness, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth." Luke 4:18-22a
Jesus spoke of Deliverance and Liberty: Two priceless gifts for which many wars have been fought; two priceless gifts to you and me, paid for with the blood of soldiers, martyrs, patriots, farmers, countrymen and their families. Deliverance and Liberty are not free. We simply have not had to pay the price as did our forebears.
Two hundred forty years ago, a document was signed by representatives of the 13 original British colonies. This document, the Declaration of Independence, formally marked the birth of a new nation: the United States of America. Since that historic day, the U.S.A. has been a bastion of freedom for the entire world: Well over 100 nations have since adopted similar Democratic-Republican forms of government, allowing for greater Liberty and Deliverance from oppression and tyranny. Enjoying its own unprecedented religious liberty, the United States has been the launch pad for countless evangelistic missions around the globe. The liberty cherished by Americans for 240 years truly is an Anomaly on the spectrum of human history. Thank God for civil liberty! Thank God for the blood that was spilled in purchasing for our generation, this liberty. May we never forget.
As years pass by, it seems liberties are being lost. Those with power wax more powerful, and the people—the citizenry—lose influence. This trend causes many to despise government, to crave anarchy, to desire complete and total uprising against the authorities. Conventional wisdom dictates that if government brings oppression, absence of government equals liberty; the truth, however, is that liberty is more than simply having lower taxes and better representation. It has a much deeper meaning.
Human government has not always existed. For 1656 years, there was essentially a global anarchy. People lived by what seemed right in their own eyes. Wickedness and violence grew to a point so terrible, that God brought a devastating flood upon the earth circa 4400 years ago. It was for this reason, God instituted human government. Sure, human government has its problems and weaknesses because it is HUMAN government; nevertheless, it keeps a check on the wickedness of mankind, at least to a degree.
The Libertarian Party (LP) preaches liberty as its focus. While I do espouse many of the same positions as the LP regarding Limited Government, there is one major area where I disagree: it is that regarding Legislated Morality. The LP holds that government should have no say in people's private, day-to-day morals. They believe government should effectively turn a blind-eye to abortion or homosexuality, relegating these personal moral decisions to the conscience of those making them. While some view this position as the epitome of Liberty, in reality, it is not liberty.
Why? Because morality is already legislated by God Himself on the hearts and minds of every person. Our conscience teaches us basic, moral truths. A person whose seared conscience no longer convicts him of wrongdoing, if left to do as he so desires, will not experience liberty. He will continue bound in a prison of his own making: constrained by chains of his own sinfulness, deceived, thinking his life is free.
While civil liberties are indeed being lost over time, tyranny and governmental oppression are not the greatest foes of our liberty. True oppression, captivity, incarceration and imprisonment are those of the Soul. It is no secret, that many wealthy, renown, influential people have passed to the grave in sorrow and depression: many having taken their own lives because of the chains of sin that gripped their miserable souls. All the wealth, power and civil liberty in the world could not deliver them from such anguish.
"If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed." John 8:36
If true captivity is that of the soul, then True Liberty is that which only comes by the way of the Cross.
Paul and Silas lost their physical freedom in Philippi, but their liberated Souls could not help but praise God in song even while imprisoned.
I thank God for the United States of America and the freedom it brought to the world. I thank God for hundreds of thousands of dear people before us who purchased civil liberty with their own blood. Moreover, I thank God for the True Liberty of the Soul which was Once purchased, on a Cross, with the sinless blood of God's own Son.
Governments come and go. Kings and rulers rise; they fall.
True liberty is eternal and can only be received by accepting Jesus Christ as your personal Saviour.
"And Zedekiah the son of Chenaanah made him horns of iron: and he said, Thus saith the Lord, With these shalt thou push the Syrians, until thou have consumed them." 1 Kings 22:11
A worldly misconception has crept into the minds of some in our Lord's churches. It is that of believing the loudest, most dynamic and unforgettable preaching must be the best preaching.
No doubt this Zedekiah mentioned in 1 Kings preached with power, he probably hollered and cried so loud the folks on the back pew were shouting "Amen," "That's right brother!" and "Park it there a while!" Zedekiah came prepared with an object lesson, powerful illustration and very persuasive words for king Ahab.
What many today would have considered to be awesome preaching, in reality was terrible preaching. It lacked truth. Because it lacked truth, it also was devoid of love. This message promised a false sense of security, much like a message of salvation by works: it leaves people heading for hell believing all is well with their soul.
Back to Zedekiah's message. Having high volume and making windows rattle does not itself make a sermon great. Having illustrations, word pictures and object lessons do not themselves make a sermon great. What makes a sermon great is when it is TRUTH presented in LOVE which calls sinners to repentance before God.
Search the Scriptures. With the heart of a Berean, be a student of the Word. False prophets are often the loudest, well talented and persuasive.
Preach with power! Use illustrations and object lessons to relate the message to sinners' ears, but see to it your message is Solid Truth presented through the clean heart of a humble preacher whose goal is to glorify God.
- Bro. Josiah Jones
"As the whirlwind passeth, so is the wicked no more: but the righteous is an everlasting foundation." Proverbs 10:25
Growing up in Oklahoma, tornadoes and the weather that brought them always have intrigued me. I recall in the summer of 1998, while living in the countryside southwest of Tecumseh, we witnessed firsthand the breathtaking power and mysterious character of the tornado. The large bay windows of our one-story house lent a spectacular view as the horizontal rain beat upon the eastern side of the house. The tornado had been on the ground a couple miles east as it headed our direction, but God lifted it up over our house. For mere seconds, the rain ceased, the thunderous wind dropped silent; we were in the tornado's eye. The eerie calm left as quickly as it arrived, but the rain started beating upon the west side of the house. Within 30 minutes, the storm had passed altogether leaving tree branches scattered over our five acre lot.
The whirlwind, the tornado, leaves as quickly as it comes. The Wicked in this world are equal: they are not permanent. Their days are numbered; however, destruction, loss, sorrow and misery are left in their wake. A wicked king, a wicked president, a wicked judge, a wicked leader will pass like that tornado. It may take months, years or generations to clean up the mess that is left behind.
Don't lose hope. The second part of Proverbs 10:25 relates the righteous to an "everlasting foundation." The best defense against a tornado is to get underground, enclosed in a concrete foundation - a cellar or basement - for instance. The world is full of wicked individuals who come and go but leave things worse off. How do you abide strong?