Preaching as a Divine Task and its Power

Preaching is more than public speaking. It is certainly greater than the shouting of words and ideas to convince its listeners. It is certainly even more than an activity, or task, that is practiced weekly among churches. Preaching is, essentially, along with the reading of the Word, the main method chosen by God to reveal Himself to man. It is by the preaching of the Word that the lost is saved and the Church is strengthened. Preaching is a divine task, and its power is divine in nature.

Romans 10:13-14 (KJV) For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?

1 Corinthians 1:17-19 (KJV) For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect. For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.

The spirituality of preaching is something that is not fully acknowledged by the Church today, even among its preachers. Too often we tend to look at it only as a technical task. Of course we pray for it, and ask the prayers of others, but deep within our hearts we don’t fully acknowledge its spirituality and the source of its power. I have written a separate article about its importance, “The Primacy of Preaching”. Also, in an another article, “Preaching as Public Speaking”, preaching as a form of public speaking is discussed, focusing on its technical aspects. In this article however we will deal about its spirituality and power.

Every true preaching affects the heart and mind of its listeners, driving them towards positive change, which is reflected thru repentance and genuine sanctification. That is why it is puzzling today, why many preachers today do not positively affect their listeners; after hours and minutes of preaching, there is not a single sorrow for sins felt, nor a determination to do what is right. Alas, preaching has become a scholarly class, an informational yet dry discourse of Biblical truth. Where is the power in today’s preaching? The absence of its power can immediately be attributed by the preacher’s negligence of its spiritually.

Before we discuss the reasons for the lack of power in today’s preaching, let us first lay down some clarifications to avoid confusions later.

Firstly, the Word of God in itself is alive and powerful, and its power never at any time diminish or increase, rather it is constant in its purity and power, and shall accomplish the holy and immutable precepts of God.

Hebrews 4:12 (KJV) For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

Isaiah 55:11 (KJV) So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.

Throughout this writing we will talk about certain times why preaching sometimes lacks power. This however, does not in any mean try to say that there are times when the Word of God itself lacks the power and authority to deliver what God intends to accomplish, for the Word’s power is tied directly to the very personhood and character of God, which is of course immutable so is His Word and its accompanying power. Rather, there are certain factors that may sometimes hinder or stop the flow of power of God’s Holy and authoritative Word.

Secondly, being called to preach is surely one of the noblest callings in God’s economy and kingdom. Though this writing will deal in some parts with the weaknesses and failures of today’s preachers which often contribute to the lack of power in today’s preaching, still, we go with the Scriptures that highly esteem the call of preaching. We never intend to belittle preachers and their preaching but rather try to expose their weaknesses which are mostly spiritual in nature in an effort to strengthen both the preacher and his preaching.

Isaiah 52:7 (KJV) How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth!

Now that we have laid down our clarifications, we are ready to talk about the reasons for today’s lack of power in preaching. These reasons revolve around two distinct yet complementary areas, namely the preacher himself and the practice of preaching.

The preacher could never be separated from his task of preaching. If we want to know why there is the presence or lack of power preaching, it will always be good to look unto the preacher himself. There are some reasons why the preacher could be devoid of the power in his preaching.

Firstly, a preacher will lack the power in his preaching if he lives in sin. This could not be overlooked. We all know as Christians that prevailing sins in our life will cut us off from the eternal supply of power from the Holy Spirit that is available to us in Jesus Christ.

Isaiah 59:1-3 (KJV) Behold, the LORD’S hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear: But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear. For your hands are defiled with blood, and your fingers with iniquity; your lips have spoken lies, your tongue hath muttered perverseness.

John 15:4-5 (KJV) Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.

In this regard we have to clarify two things. The first one is that there is a big difference between living in sin and sinning everyday. All believers, preachers or not will surely sin everyday; that is something painful that we need to face everyday, and only in heaven in our second life will sin be completely removed (1 John 1:8-10). However, living in sin means dwelling in the same sins in the sense of having pleasure in them – and this is very dangerous and destructive, yet present in the Church not only in the life of some preachers. This does not only cut off the preacher from God’s power in his preaching, but worse, his life becomes a stumbling block to many.

The second clarification is that sometimes, though rarely, in God’s grace and mysterious ways, He will bless the preaching of those preachers who live in sin. This is of course not because of any merit in the life of the unrepentant preacher (even righteous preachers do not deserve this blessing for we are all unworthy), but because God desires to advance His Kingdom through the act of preaching. This is evident in the ministry of the Apostle Paul when he showed gratefulness that the Gospel is preached even by those who had wrong motives (Philippians 1:18).

Secondly, a preacher will lack the power in his preaching if he lives a weak prayer life. The important role that prayer plays in the holy business of preaching could not be overstated; God’s anointing is not just a matter of our position in Christ, it is also surely brought out in power by continuous and heartfelt prayers. Without our fervent prayers, our preaching will be devoid of power. Since preaching is more of a divine task and calling rather than a mere mechanical speech, we need prayer to supply its power, and there is no other way. No matter how good the peacher is in terms of oratory skills, there will be no divine fruits in his preaching if he doesn’t know how to kneel down in humble and dependent prayer before God.

Thirdly, a preacher will lack the power in his preaching if he does not care to apply his preaching in his own life. The old advice is well said, “Walk your talk.” A preacher loses his sense of authority in preaching if the people around him do not see him live it. The Pharisees and scribes in Jesus’ day lacked authority in their teaching and that is because they do not live their own message (Matthew 7:29; 23:2-4).

To summarize, Robert McCheyne has said, “A holy minister is an awesome weapon in the hand of God.” Avoiding sin, having a strong prayer life, and living out your preaching will all lead to a holy life, certainly making you a powerful instrument of God.

I could stop right here but there’s one more concern that somehow exerts an influence on the power of preaching, though maybe not as much as the preacher himself. This one talks about the practice of preaching.

Firstly, preaching will lack in power if the preacher does not study his Bible enough. The noble task of preaching demands a deeper study of the Bible than the regular devotions, journaling, or almost any other Bible-related tasks. There is a saying that in order to fully understand a Scripture text for a sermon, one has to read it at least forty times. The constant companion of a preacher are his different Bible translations, a Bible dictionary, a notebook and a pen or pencil. A good Study Bible also gives valuable help. If one does not study well his sermon, it will be reflected in a few minutes of his preaching – it will be a confusing message with no one big idea to talk about, or a message that does not speak clearly the message of the chosen text.

2 Timothy 2:15 (KJV) Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

Secondly, preaching will lack in power if the preacher is not aware of his own methodology in preaching. As preachers we are not being legalistic nor mechanical but every preacher must be sure of his own style or methodology in his preaching. It is like a driver that knows well his car; he is the person that could drive it well. A preacher that has not yet mastered his way of preaching will result in a preacher that lacks confidence and authority in delivery. It needs to be said however, that ultimately, it is not really our methodology in preaching that gives the spiritual power of preaching, nor gives preaching its divinity. Rather, in the mystery of God, His Spirit anoints even our methodology to give it power in perfect harmony with the innate power of the Holy Word.

On the outside, preaching seems to be a mechanical task, an act of oratory or public speech. But what happens in the preacher and his listeners before and during and after the act of preaching is for the most part, divine and spiritual. Let us therefore pray earnestly always that God give us the power to affect souls and eternity thru our heartfelt and mind-invested preaching.

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The Primacy of Preaching

Preaching as a primary task of the Church deserves a prominent place in the lives of the believers, the respect of the congregation, and the awareness of the surrounding community. By this I put great emphasis: if preaching is not primary in the tasks of a local church, then that church is dead.
I observe with great brokenness that the Church today has resorted too much to misplaced contextualization that the once highly-esteemed position of preaching has been replaced by other activities and their various forms. These activities and forms are not necessarily worldly or unspiritual in themselves, but too much focus on these tend to dethrone the authority and place of preaching.

Before I tell my observations regarding this unsettling displacement of the preaching task, let me first tell the reasons why preaching is a major task of the Church, hence, its supremacy.

The first reason for the supremacy of preaching is because it is the Gospel of Jesus Christ that saves people. No other thing, no methodology, no persuasion, no philosophy, no good works, no acts of mercy will bring down a sinner in humble submission and faith to Christ except by the Gospel.

Romans 1:16 (KJV) For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.

And how is the Gospel presented and received? How is faith produced to believe in Christ? It is by hearing the Gospel, and the Gospel is heard by preaching.

Romans 10:13-14 (KJV) For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?

It is important to note that I am not against good works or acts of kindness – I even propose that the Church is weak in these areas, and should be developed. What I am trying to say is that nothing can replace the role of preaching for the salvation of man and the strengthening of the Church. The preaching task, partnered with fervent prayers, is still the primary task of the Church for the harvesting of souls and the furtherance of God’s Kingdom. Good works will touch the mind and heart of people, but only the Gospel brought by preaching through the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit could revive the dead spirit of man.

The second reason for the supremacy of preaching is because it is a primary tool to strengthen the believers. I do not say that other activities do not do the work of strengthening the Church – they do, like worship, prayer, seminar, thanksgiving, etc. What I emphasize is that all of those activities serve their own purposes and the hearing of the Word of God completes them. The maturity of the believer is never complete apart from the hearing of the Word. If a Church event has plenty of activities but devoid of the Word, then that event is virtually fruitless.

Only the Word gives us the knowledge of God’s Truth that edifies us in many ways; leads us to sanctification together with the work of the Holy Spirit; corrects us; equips us in service; and brings us closer to Jesus Christ Himself.

2 Timothy 3:16-17 (KJV) All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.

Psalms 119:105 (KJV) Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.

Matthew 4:4 (KJV) But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.

Hebrews 4:12 (KJV) For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

Now that I have told why the preaching of the Word deserves a supreme place in the life activity of the Church, we are now ready to talk about some observations why the preaching of the Word seems not highly regarded like it was before.

The first obvious observation is that today the Church is willing to conduct big activities devoid of the Word, in an attempt to stoop down under the great name of contextualization.

Why preach the offensive Gospel to the hard-headed unbelievers when you can give them programs that will benefit their interests? Why preach the outdated Gospel to the postmodern youth when you can give them ‘holy worldly activities’? Why preach the commonly heard Gospel when you can share thousands of stories and philosophies that are humanistic?

Those are the cries of the Church today, as a product of many meetings and evaluations that arrogantly suggest that the Gospel is not enough or sufficient to confront the needs of modern man.

The second observation is that today, an honest analysis shows that preaching lacks Scripture. I could easily judge that today’s preaching lacks authority and power because it chose to deny its allegiance to its source of power – the Word of God. Many preachings have become nothing but rampant outrages of human voice and emotion, throwing thoughts randomly at the hearers without affecting any positive change or transformation.

This is evident in three ways. First, preaching has been norrowed to a single-verse shallow explanation. I say single verse because I see preachers quoting a single verse from Scripture then leaving it out entirely during the entire course of the sermon. I say shallow explanation because it has become a natural tendency for preachers nowadays to give room to highly subjective experiences and humanistic philosophy to interpret Scripture. The result then is a ‘Word-less preaching.’ If you want good preaching, you should devote yourself to several verses of Scripture that are explained in an expository manner.

Second, preaching has become ‘recycled.’ By this I mean that some preachers lazily just get canned sermons from books and internet and with little reading, deliver such sermons on Sundays. I am not against getting ideas from others, but the best sermon is the one that God has given you personally thru fervent prayers and faithful study of the Word. For sure it is the message that God Himself has fed you, the message that has penetrated your soul, this is the message that you are most capable of preaching with power.

Third, preaching has become a way to adulterise the Scriptures. I mean to say that we preach to promote our personal agendas and interpretations using the Scriptures as an outside cover. So many times preachers use the pulpit to defend their insecurities, to avenge their hurt feelings, to defend and cover up their sins, and some other acts or motives that are far from the pure Biblical motives of preaching.

Lastly, the third observation is that preachers today are much less equipped in the art and discipline of preaching. This observation goes on two extremes: being lowly equipped and being highly transcendent.

Being lowly equipped means that preachers are becoming less and less aware of the basic knowledge of the technicalities of preaching. They have become ignorant and hostile to the proper ways of constructing a sermon, or even worse, make preaching a contradiction of terms by believing that a devoted study and writing of a sermon is irrelevant and unnecessary because ‘the Holy Spirit will complete it anyway.’

Let me make this clear: I am never against completely relying upon the work of the Holy Spirit to bless a sermon and its preaching. I have witnessed that in many occassions, God has blessed my preaching (and the preaching of others) even though my notes were not with me (impromptu preaching), or I did not have enough time for serious study – but those cases are of course miracles of His Grace, and surely not to justify a preacher’s laziness. What I emphasize is that if God has called you to preach, you must give God and your calling the respect they deserve by a diligent study of the Word and its sermon preparation. Do we desire God to bless our sermon and preaching if we have not prepared for it, but lazily just picked up a random text and trusted God for its eternal benefits, especially when an ample amount of time is given for preparation? We must be ashamed.

2 Timothy 4:2 (KJV) Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.

2 Timothy 2:15 (KJV) Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

Ezra 7:10 (KJV) For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the law of the LORD, and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments.

By being highly transcendent, I mean the opposite of the former. Sometimes preachers, being too much idealistic, forget to grasp the reality of his surroundings. To preach effectively, we should adjust our methodology and style to suit the intellectual, emotional, and cultural level of our listeners, without compromising the Word. The effective preacher is not the one with the transcendent message or the greatest method of delivery, but the one who is able to make his message comprehensible to his listeners.

If we want revivals in our local churches, the basics need to be present: humility and repentance, prayer and Bible reading, holiness and devotion, and worship and the preaching of God’s Word.

Broken Fellowships

By the term broken I didn’t mean having fractures. I only meant inward brokenness, or the brokenness of the heart.

I and my friends in the ministry and faith gathered as we were celebrating a birthday party. Our conversations however were mostly contrary to the usual ones that you’ll likely to hear during like events. We were happy to see each other, but we were also open to hear and learn from the wounds of the past.

In fact, I recall a particular passage in the Bible where God promised destruction as His discipline for His erring and stubborn children but also the rare privilege of being excluded from His anger upon hearing some who were talking of their sinfulness before God. Truly, God is near to them that are of a broken heart, and saves those who are contrite (Psalm 34:18).

I will go on to say that being broken and repentant in heart is something that pleases God, a sacrifice or a gift that God never takes for granted (Psalm 51:17). That is a lesson we learned from David when he was on the act of repenting to God after he realized his sins of adultery and murder.

Truly, it delights God to hear our praises. But often, we become hypocritical of concealing our weakness and sins and just choose to tell our good side – our ministry, sacrifices, and everything good that we do for the Lord. These good things are not bad in themselves, but God desires too that we reveal who we are truly before God – weak and always in need of help. This kind of spirit should never leave the Christian – it is a sign of continuous humility before God.

I observe that as Christians we are all in danger of feeling strong in ourselves. We often look on the outward things: the results of the ministry, the number of our members, our sacrifices, the amount of money that we contribute, or spiritual gifts at work, and the list could go on. But are these things really the measure of our true spirituality and condition before God? I am afraid that often, it is not.

I am saying this because we could choose to hide our flaws and sins behind our ministries and achievements. But deep inward – the part that sometimes only God could see (because we hide it from others) – we are filthy, weak, and in need of help.

Let true humility and repentance be in our hearts. It is never a shame to be honest before God. And by being broken, we could allow God to cleanse and mold us so we can be a blessing to others. By being tried, we could be a source of strength to others (2 Corinthians 1:6).

My Family will Serve the Lord

​Joshua 24:15 (KJV)  but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.


I say it with Joshua, my family will save the LORD.

After the miraculous healing of Tito Ronnie, who could now walk with minimal support, God has continuously work His way to my family. Last Saturday, I was with my parents ministering with some different people who are also my relatives.

I praise God for His wonderful love and salvation.

What it Takes to be a Social Being

Everyone as a human being
Is not an isolated earthling
If you will just look around
There is so much to be found

There are so many dying
They need proper feeding and clothing
Would you dare to share
An extra pound of care?

Children need proper guidance
In this world of disturbance
They need to know the right values
In everyday life that should be used

The world around you is utterly broken
Even the tiniest of hopes seems to be shaken
What could be my role in this society
What could be my share of responsibility

The Death of a Puppy, the Resurrection of the Heart

December 23, 2014, 6:39 in the evening, my favorite puppy Diobels died. Around 7:45 the same evening, I buried her with great tears. I even tried to pray for her resurrection.

What happened challenged me to think and reflect, How many times have I cried for the people that I serve in the ministry? Do I care and love enough? Is service to people really service if you don’t love them enough?

The last time I did pray with tears for the people whom I serve was about two years ago. Something is wrong. I don’t love enough the people now. My heart needs fixing.

The Call and Obedience

Let me share our Bible sharing this afternoon. The Text is Isaiah 6:1-8.

In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew.

And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”

And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!”

Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.”

And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.”

  

Obedience – Complying to the command and expectations of someone who is in higher authority.

 

Levels of Obedience:

  1. Against the will
  2. Half-hearted
  3. Wholehearted

 

Questions:

  1. In what level of obedience are you in?
  2. Do you think all of these three (levels of obedience) are acceptable to God?
  3. Do you think the first two can be used by God for His purposes?
  4. In God’s standard, are the first two can be called obedience?
  5. Are you obeying God now?

 

Sequence of events leading to obedience

  1. Seeing the Majesty of God, or receiving the Revelation of God. vv. 1-3
  2. Humility before God/Self-analysis before God. vv. 4-5
  3. Receiving God’s cleansing and forgiveness. vv. 6-7

 

Conclusions:

  1. All of these three are necessary to have a whole-hearted obedience.
  2. Obedience that is not whole-hearted could indicate a weakness in any of these three.