How can a person stay on the path of purity?
By living according to the Lord’s word. (Psalm 119:9)
A God-blessed Message
Stuart Briscoe, author and long-time pastor tells this story: In the 1990s, I traveled to Poland for itinerant ministry while Poland was occupied by Russia (USSR). One winter day my sponsors drove me in the dead of night to the middle of nowhere. I walked into a dilapidated building crammed with one hundred young people and I realized this was a unique opportunity. Through an interpreter, I preached from John 15 on “Abiding in Christ.” Ten minutes into my message, the lights went out. Pitch black.
My interpreter urged me to keep talking. Unable to see my notes or read my Bible, I continued. After I had preached in the dark for twenty minutes, the lights suddenly blinked on, and what I saw startled me. Everyone was on their knees, and they remained there for the rest of my message. The next day one man said, “After you left, we stayed on our knees most of the night. Your teaching was new to us. We wanted to make sure we were abiding in Christ.”1
Briscoe’s story reminds us that God often blesses our teaching and preaching and He is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us.2 Effective messages come from study, discipline, prayer, and especially the blessing of the Holy Spirit operating on the souls of the people we speak to.3
Here are some guidelines for my own teaching and preaching that I used at Belhaven University in Houston, TX. I have also used them at Jester III prison and with other pastors and Christian workers. They are adapted from an older document written for pastor-teachers, but I apply them to all Christian teachers and preachers, men and women.4
We Should Teach and Preach Scripture Truth
Scriptures: Titus 2:1,9 You must teach what is appropriate to sound doctrine….Hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that you can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it. 1 Peter 4:11 If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God.
Comments: The Scriptures teach that the biggest problem in the world is human sinfulness and that Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, is God’s only solution. Christ saves us by His sinless life, His crucifixion and atoning death, His bodily resurrection, His sending the Holy Spirit, His eternal alive-ness, His presence with us, His ongoing help and prayers for us, and His certain return for us at the end of the age. John R. de Witt said, “The teaching or sermon which is the richest, most profitable, instructive, and edifying is the one which is fullest of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Screw the truth into people’s minds. (Richard Baxter)
We Should Teach and Preach Accurately
Scriptures: Acts 18:25 Apollos had been instructed in the way of the Lord…and taught about Jesus accurately. Ezra 7:10 Ezra devoted himself to the study and observance of the Law of the LORD, and to teaching God’s decrees and laws. Psalm 1:1-2 Blessed is the one whose delight is in the law of the LORD, and who meditates on His law day and night. James 3:1 Not many of you should become teachers because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. 2 Timothy 2:15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling God’s word of truth.
Comments: Paul challenged Timothy to “keep reminding” believers of the truths Paul had written at Christ’s command. Timothy must also warn them against fighting over mere words which is a waste of time. That has no value and only damages the listeners. Timothy and all teachers are to do our best, being zealous and eager for accuracy, then when our work is inspected by God, we will not be embarrassed. Rightly handling God’s word of truth means guiding our teaching along His straight path, not adding anything to the Lord’s Scripture message or taking anything away.5
There’s a way to teach and preach the Bible unbiblically. You can use the Bible as the springboard for all kinds of ideas. Look around in here and find something that fits your fancy and then launch a rocket off it. People say, “That was amazing, wasn’t it? Remarkable what they got out of that.” Well they put it in before they got it out. (Alistair Begg)
We Should Teach and Preach in Season and out of Season
Scriptures: 2 Timothy 4:2 Preach the word, be ready whether it is convenient or not, reprove, rebuke, exhort with complete patience and instruction.
Comments: We are to teach and preach God’s eternal, authoritative word of truth in the Holy Scriptures, not our own opinions. We must be ready for opportunities to go out into enemy territory with God’s good news of peace in Christ as the Lord opens doors for us. “When we relax in our tents, we are in deadly peril. Our safety is to be found in following the beautiful feet of Jesus our Savior, bearing His glad tidings and publishing His peace.”6
Take my feet and let them be / Swift and beautiful for Thee
(Frances Ridley Havergal)
We Should Teach and Preach Clearly
Scriptures: 1 Corinthians 14:9 Unless you speak intelligible words with your tongue, how will anyone know what you are saying? You will just be speaking into the air.
Comments: Someone asked John Stott (1921-2011) the most important thing for teachers to learn. He said, “Three things: Be clear. Be clear. Be clear.” Stott taught in a straightforward and crystal clear way. He never wasted words in needless repetition and waffle. He was easy to listen to but not shallow or simplistic. He dealt with profound and deep Bible truths in a way that was digestible and nourishing for the mind and heart.7 It is our job to be clear, logical, and easy to follow. We must not make it hard for listeners to figure out what we are saying. Our lack of clarity confuses and frustrates people.8 Mark 12:37 says that the common people heard Jesus gladly. Changing hearts is the Holy Spirit’s business. Making the message clear is our job, not His.9
There are very few real teachers. It is not a job; it is a calling. Many qualities must be combined: love of truth, knowledge, loving concern for students, clarity, and patience. (Alice von Hildebrand)
To be continued. You can read Teaching and Preaching the Bible (Part 2)
Notes (various Bible translations used): 1 Marshall Shelley, Changing Lives Through Preaching and Worship, p. 147. 2 Eph 3:20. 3 Adapted from James H. Thornwell. 4 See Westminster Larger Catechism #159, Modern Language Version (2004). 5 Expositor’s Bible Commentary. 6 William McDonald, see also Isaiah 52:7; Rom 10:15; 1 Cor 16:8-9; Eph 6:15. 7 Adapted from Chris Wright. 8 Adapted from Dave Anderson. 9 See also J. C. Ryle’s “Simplicity in Preaching” in The Upper Room.