2004-05-11 - What Do You Hear?
1 Corinthians 1:23, "But we preach Christ crucified, the Jews a stumbling block, and to Gentiles foolishness."
A lady went to church one Sunday and heard a visiting preacher at her church named Ebenezer Erskine. She was very moved by what he said. She inquired as to who he was, and the next Sunday, showed up at his church. However, when attending the service at Erskine's church, she felt none of the same impressions or emotions that she had felt the week before. She could not understand why this was, and so she went and visited Mr. Erskine and asked him if he could explain why she felt such a difference between the two services. He replied, "Madam, the reason is this: Last Sabbath, you went to hear Jesus Christ, but today you have come to hear Ebenezer Erskine." There are many things to notice here, but here are two.
First, notice the humility of Erskine. He could have blamed her. He could have asked if she had been involved in any sin between the two services that had hardened her heart. He could have emphasized and stressed that the fault was not his but rather hers. He did quite the opposite. He put the problem upon himself. He knew that his preaching was not how hearts were moved, but rather when a heart is touched by the sermon, it is because the Holy Spirit has taken the preached Word and applied it to that heart. Erskine knew that without the application of his preaching by the Holy Spirit, his efforts were useless.
Second, notice that he knew the priority of Christ in the preaching of the Word of God. It is a common saying that if the gospel of Jesus Christ is not preached in a sermon, then it is not a sermon. When we go to church, we do not go to hear the minister, but rather we go to hear the man who has spent the week meeting with Christ in prayer and through His Word is now delivering the Word of Christ to us. If we go to a particular church because the sermon is short, or the preacher only says "nice" things, or for any other reason than to hear Christ speak to our hearts, then we are going for the wrong reason. Erskine knew why the woman who came to hear him was disappointed. She had not come to hear Christ, but rather a man.
It is a common joke that the minister only works one hour a week. I once worked with a minister who consistently would ask me five minutes before the service, "Have you heard any good stories this week? I need an ending to this sermon." He was addicted to afternoon soaps and really a sham pastor. He no longer has a church. The minister at the church I am currently attending is quite a different story. He does not take a day off and works at least 12 hours a day. I know not to call on Monday or Saturday because those are sermon preparation days. I also never call before noon because those morning hours are his time in study alone with God. He spends his week meeting with God and on Sunday comes to share with the congregation what he has learned as he has met with God throughout the week.
The minister is to be the man of God who meets with God throughout the week and then shares with the people of God what he has learned. The center and focus of what he says is to be upon Christ. The man of God knows that he is not to use his position to have a "bully" pulpit where he expresses his political views. He is to be the mouth of the Lord to His people. It is a high calling. It is also a high calling to attend such a service of worship, because we don't go there to hear the man, but rather Christ speaking through the man to us. We go to hear Christ. It is my hope that you do hear Christ when you hear the sermon at your local place of worship.
Soli Deo Gloria,