My Dear Shepherds,
“Who, having been called to be a preacher, would stoop to be a king?” The Puritan, Thomas Carlyle, said that, and all God’s preachers say, “Amen!”
We preach Christ crucified … (1 Cor. 1:23)
For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord … (2 Cor. 4:5)
Although I am less than the least of all the Lord’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the boundless riches of Christ. … (Eph. 3:8)
I wonder if our people ever look at us on Sunday morning and marvel that such a privilege has been given to the likes of us! We well know that this royal assignment did not come to us by virtue of our qualifications but rather (I suspect) because God delights in creating ex nihilo.
This gift begins with our preaching staple, the evangel—declaring the basic gospel message of redemption in Christ. I’ve never worn vestments but I wonder if we shouldn’t be outfitted in red coats with gold buttons and braids, announced by a trumpet fanfare, and carrying a scroll which we unroll to declare, “Hear ye! Hear ye! Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved!”
What’s more, pastors are given the honor of getting up week after week, year after year, to bring out Scripture’s new and old treasures for our people, deposited in our own hearts by Bible study and prayer. I’ve preached 2250 sermons so far. I never get over the fact that in Christ “are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” With every sermon, every Bible lesson, we are like a jeweler, spreading diamonds on black velvet under the bright light of Christ. “No matter how many promises God has made,” (embedded in every part of Scripture), “they are ‘Yes’ in Christ. And so through him the ‘Amen’ is spoken by us to the glory of God” (2 Cor. 1:20). That’s what our sermons are: Amens to the glory of God!
One time Jim Bell came to our pastors’ group, his face shining. In his sermon prep he’d come to Rom. 5:10, “For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!” It was the “how much more” that stunned him.
I’ll let him tell you:
I grew up in the church and turned out to be a fourth-generation pastor. I have always been taught that the Cross was the greatest demonstration of God’s love ever, and the Empty Tomb was the greatest demonstration of God’s power ever, and now Paul has the nerve to suggest that they’re puny compared to what is in store for me.
Jim went on to tell me:
I do not have a vocabulary to describe things being greater than the Cross, don’t have an imagination that includes things greater than the Cross, but I recognize immediately (after reading the text in darkness 100 times) that Paul must be right. I am moved to speechless awe at a truth that has been right in front of me, unseen, for all my life. Doubt cannot live here. The Cross is the threshold leading to an infinitely greater demonstration of love and power, kept in heaven for me, overflowing into time and space for me.
Jim, being a Methodist, would sing enthusiastically Charles Wesley’s hymn:
Happy, if with my latest breath
I may but gasp His name:
Preach Him to all, and cry in death,
“Behold, behold the Lamb!”
Thank God for that gift to pastors!
Be ye glad!