(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of The Augusta Press.)
Jesus did not die on the cross so that we could live the way people do. He died to enable us to live differently; on a higher plane. In Romans 6: 1-2, Paul speaks to this when he said “Shall we sin so that grace may abound? God forbid!” Why would God forbid? Because He gave up His Only Son for us to be able to live differently.
Once a person comes “to” the cross and commits their life to Christ, they cannot go back to where they were or else their conversion was not real. The only way they can go is to continue to the other side of the Cross with a new life that is equipped to serve God and to live differently. If a Christian becomes disobedient, God will deal with His own child. I don’t want to go “behind the woodshed” with God. Too painful.
When the cross is confronted, one cannot stand still. They cannot turn around and go back to where they were. They must go on forward to and through the cross to the other side where the Lord Jesus gives them a new life and a new meaning. If one is to have a new life then there has to be a change or life isn’t new. And, when it’s new, there is a new direction, a new purpose, a new way of thinking; and a new way of living.
Too many people have come to the cross but they did not have a change in direction when confronted by the cross of Christ much less a new purpose. Those are the people who think that life can go on as it was while at the same time claiming the power of the Cross of Christ. I am concerned that too much of the preaching of today does not lead people to understand that a change must come if a person is really saved. The people are not prepared for what must happen when they are confronted by the Cross. They have been left with the idea that any level of understanding of the salvation event is enough to satisfy God. The people don’t understand that the word for “faith” or “believe” in scripture actually means “to commit to.” There is a vast difference in what people believe about the word “faith” and what it actually means. One does not have to be a doctrinal expert or a theological genius in order to be saved. A simple commitment to Christ in faith is sufficient. But, a true saving commitment will drive a person to be different. The Lord saves a person out of the world and makes them a citizen of heaven. You can’t be a citizen of heaven and live like the world wants you to live and be pleasing to God at the same time.
The only preaching style that passes along the proper Biblical understanding is expository preaching. This is not to say that there is no value in topical preaching because there is, but expository preaching which expounds the Word and gives us the proper meaning of what is said there will teach us what God is actually saying about salvation and a proper relationship to Him through Jesus Christ.
But, expository preaching is becoming a rarity in today’s pulpits. Too many young preachers are not or will not put the time and effort into the proper preparation in order to preach the Gospel and teach the Bible at the same time. Most pastors these days reserve only abut 20-25 minutes for a sermon after all of the hoopla has been given the time that should have been spent on preaching the Word. One cannot do justice to an expository sermon in 20-25 minutes. It simply takes longer to develop a proper sermon than that. And, the preaching that IS done is weak with little meat and lots of fluff and show. No wonder we have so many shallow Christians. The preachers act as if they are afraid, they might say something that someone wouldn’t like. Just let me say this: I know there are some good men coming along. The Lord always has a remnant and will use them as a restorative element. Although I know a few who are actually good preachers, they are becoming a rarity in these days. The sad thing is that the average Christian doesn’t know the difference in what is actually good preaching and what is not. Just about anything will do for them as long as they feel good about their Sunday activities.
We must have men who are prophets of God who are faithful to the Word of God no matter the cost. We have enough “counselors” in the pulpit. We need the prophet’s preaching salvation and righteous living. Currently, the average Christian expects no more than for the preacher to give them an encouraging word to make them feel better about themselves while what they really need is a desperate desire for a man of God to deliver God’s message about salvation and holy living. A good, solid understanding of correct doctrine is lacking in today’s Christianity. The average church member knows very little doctrine and that is what determines everything about a person. That lack of doctrinal knowledge and practice is the fault of the preachers who are giving their people the shallowest fluff I have ever heard. People don’t know what the preachers are trying to say and, quite frankly, I don’t think the preachers have a really good idea themselves. Too many sermons today are basically history lessons and the people can read that for themselves in the Bible. The preacher should take them a little deeper and give them instruction from the Word on how to be saved and how to live after one has committed their life to Christ who died on the Cross for us to be able to live differently from what we did before. Preaching which impacts the everyday life of the people is what is needed. Sadly, most people can’t remember what the preacher had to say by the time they get to their car. I’m not interested in some preacher stroking his ego and putting on a show that is suppose to be a sermon. God’s people need the Word delivered with integrity, honesty and power. That is life-changing preaching.
If a man is called to preach by the Lord Himself, he can do nothing else. He might try to find something else in life to do but nothing will ultimately satisfy him until he answers the “call” that the Lord put on his life. The doctor, lawyer and other professionals decided what they wanted to do and that has satisfied them in life. But, God’s Call upon the life is different. The man who is called didn’t ask for it. It was told to him what he would do in life and if he is ever to be happy, he must do it. And, if God actually calls someone to His service, He will equip that person to do the job He wants done. If He did not equip them to do what He told them to do, He would be locking them into disobedience and frustration. I’m sorry to say that much of what I am hearing today has no power. A good ole’ boy from the other side of the mountain, down a secluded hollow with no seminary training but who is genuinely called and filled with God’s Holy Spirit, can preach circles around someone with a string of degrees behind their name.
So, I think I have made the point that what people understand about being confronted with the Cross of Christ and the change it should bring, is vitally dependent upon what the preachers do in the pulpit. Given that, preachers must not let anything else infringe upon their calling and that is to faithfully preach the Word. God will do the saving.
The New Life and New Direction is made possible to those who responded to the faithful preaching of the Word and committed their life to Jesus Christ. A new direction enabled by the new life is a necessity when one comes to the Cross of Christ. Remember, one cannot go back to where they were and drag Christ along with them. He won’t go. The happiest people on earth are those who are genuinely saved and who live obedient lives. The most unhappy people are those who are saved but who, in disobedience, try to return to their former life. It won’t work and God’s judgment awaits that person. And the reason it won’t work is that Christ died so that we could be enabled to live with a New Direction and a New Purpose in life.
Reverend William (Bill) Harrell has been in ministry 49 years. He served as the pastor of Abilene Baptist Church in Martinez, GA for over 31 of those years. He can be reached at email@example.com. You can also check out his blog at www.williamfharrell.com