Is there a particular personality type or preaching style that's most effective when it comes to sharing God's Word?
Actually it's possible for someone's personality to be a distraction from the gospel message. Today on Truth for Life, Alistair Begg shares keys to successful preaching. He concludes a message titled, The Call of Ministry. I simply remind you of some of these central truths that Paul is affirming here in writing this letter that we know of as 2 Corinthians.
I want essentially to look with you at these great declarations that he makes concerning the ministry of the gospel to which he and his colleagues have been called. Paul says, no, we do not lose heart. We do not use deception.
We do not use distortion. Fourthly, we do not preach ourselves. We live in a world with personalities and no heroes, right? If we get nothing to say, we could talk about ourselves, I suppose. Now, up to a point as preachers, we can't avoid the Paul polis. So you can't avoid the fact that we can be an encouragement to one another, that God uses us at a certain point in the race, just to give each other a lift on.
Come on, let's run on. It's helpful. Thanks for doing that.
Mark this down. This was important to me. I can give you my Bibles. They're full of people's names that I've asked to sign my Bible. Why? Because they're the greatest things since sliced bread?
No, just because I appreciate them, and the fact that they have their name in the flyleaf of my Bible or my book is a reminder to me of just an important point along the journey. And so we recognize that. So we can't avoid the Paul polis thing, but we can avoid cultivating it. If it happens, we've got to deal with it.
If we're trying to make it happen, that's a different thing, you know? Look at all the minivans that are driving around Greater Cleveland with the stickers on the back about who their kids are, you know? I have an honor student here.
I have an honor student there, you know? What is that about, for goodness sake? Years ago, no parent would have stuck that on their van and driven around the town.
Why? Because it would have been regarded as totally proud and self-assertive. You don't brag about your kids and stick it on the back of your van and drive around town, you know? But you do now, because those poor, fledgling little children are so ruined in their esteem and in their lostness. And what they need to know is how brilliant and wonderful they all are so that they can have pride of place in the restaurant so that we can't hear ourselves think, because little Penelope has to do her thing, and we've got to deal with her, and we basically want to take her and chuck her out of the window. And chuck her mother and father right out of the window after her.
And say, when did these things become the center of the universe? Don't you know what you're supposed to do? I was in the cooker restaurant over here at 480 in Rockside, and there was a little girl who had a man reduced to tears in the toilet. She had her father in tears. She wasn't three years old. And I knew the answer, but he wasn't for hearing it, and she wouldn't have enjoyed it. I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, well, his kids are dumb as dirt, and he never got one of those stickers. Well, they may be dumb as dirt, but I did get the stickers.
We stuck them on the fridge for about seven minutes. But my wife has not been seen walking around Greater Cleveland with a refrigerator so that her friends and neighbors could understand how brilliant our kids are. We do not preach ourselves. You know the Scotsman who is showing slides of the Highlands in England. He's now made his domicile in England. And somebody asked him a question in the course of all the beautiful photography that he's shown about Scotland. He said to him, and you've been in England now for a long time. And do you not feel yourself to be more English than Scottish?
Oh, no, said the man. I was born a Scot. I live as a Scot, and I will die as a Scot. Somebody was here to remark, some people have got no ambition at all. Oscar Wilde, coming in from France into America, was asked if he had anything to declare the customs, and he replied, quote, nothing except my genius.
Let me take you back to where we started. I cannot say, he is, he is, he is, if I'm always saying, I am, I am, I am. You know the story of Alexander White in Free St. George's? Where the young man, in the context of the exemplary ministry of Alexander White, is itching for an opportunity to preach in the pulpit at Free St. George's. He knows that Alexander White is famous and effective as a preacher, but he has a sneaking suspicion that he is a young man, once he gets in the pulpit, will be able to take the shine off Alexander White's ministry. And everybody will understand that really the individual they've been waiting for is this young fellow who's itching and bursting to get his first chance at the pulpit. And so the story goes that he managed to get himself and his Bible and his notes, and he bounded up the pulpit steps and into the pulpit, and he laid it down, and he announced his text, and he began to deliver it. And he'd got a sentence or two and some more, no saliva in his mouth, his tongue cleaving to the lip of his mouth, he was like, and eventually he dribbled to a conclusion. Announced a benediction, took his stuff, went down the other side, like this.
And an elderly gentleman sitting at the back turned to his friend and he said, if that young boy had gone up the way he can do, he would have gone down the way he went up. We do not preach ourselves. We're a voice crying, we're a finger pointing, we're a light shining, we have the treasure in jars of clay to show that this all surpassing power is from God and not from us. When I get to heaven, one of the questions I have for Paul is, were you thinking about Gideon when you wrote that verse?
As a sneaking suspicion he may have been. You think of Gideon's motley little crew. No, you've still got far too many. What?
No, whittle it down again. And the lappers and the people with a face in the water and all the extraneous details that everybody gets tied up in knots about trying to do the story of Gideon, basically irrelevant material. All that God is doing is he's getting it down to a number that is going to display unequivocally the fact that the victory is God's. And God will do that in all of our lives, whatever way he chooses to do it. I can identify for you ways in which he's done it in my life. You may sit there and say, well, he needs to do it a few more times. I would concur with that, but nevertheless, the fact is that he has all kinds of ways of showing us that unless God does this, there is nothing going to happen. I was struck again.
I think I said this to you and eventually go full circle, which you know it's time to quit. But I was struck again in standing in Billy Graham's study in the Cove to realize that he had there just that one diploma, which was from Wheaton College. He's got one diploma. And then I bought it.
No, I didn't buy it. I was given a Time Life book of the ministry and life of Billy Graham. And I looked, and I think he has been given twenty-five doctorates from all over the world. On all these occasions, he's had to gown up and go through the procedure, and all the time knowing that he never earned a single one of them. God has chosen to shower upon him all of his blessing and his anointing. So let us remember that. And when our personality tends to intrude, then let us get back to making much of Christ. You can't show yourself brilliant and Jesus wonderful simultaneously.
And finally—penultimately, I should say—we commend ourselves to every man's conscience. Are you tracking the way I'm doing this? You say, you're not doing a very good job of it. That's okay. I want to be an encouragement to you.
All right? We do not lose heart. We do not use deception. We do not distort the Word of God. We do not preach ourselves. We commend ourselves to every man's conscience. Paul was on the receiving end of fake accusations. So he says, now be honest.
Figure it out. On what basis does he make this appeal? By setting forth the truth plainly. By setting forth the truth plainly, we commend ourselves to every man's conscience. May God help us as we go back to this weekend to set forth the truth plainly. And then notice we preach Jesus Christ as Lord. We do not preach ourselves, but we preach Jesus Christ as Lord. John chapter 14, verse 6, our world is prepared to absorb, provided we do not finish the verse. Our congregations and our friends and neighbors as we deal evangelistically are quite prepared to have us stand up and say, Jesus said, I am the way, the truth, and the life. What our contemporary culture cannot cope with is the conclusion of the verse.
No one comes to the Father but by me. And an undefined Christianity is absorbable. It is a defined Christianity which is unpopular. What are we preaching? We're preaching Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your servants for Christ's sake. And in the context of pluralism in which we are now living, it is that which will give the biting edge to what's happening. When the apostles preached, there was, says James Stewart in his wonderful book, The Heralds of God, a divine invasion.
They were not simply saying, you know, here's a historical record, but there was a sense in which when they preached, God was there. There was, again, to quote Stewart, a waft of the supernatural, a mysterious power like the stirring of a dawn wind. Don't you long for that? Don't you long for that?
I know I do. Oh, God, you know, you must open the heavens and come down. People have asked me about the anointing of God and all of that stuff. Whatever it is, we need it. Whatever it is, we want it.
And we want it in spades. And I want to read all about it, and then I want to read more about it, and I want to ask God for it. And I understand that the Spirit of God has been given to the man of God in order that the Word of God may be proclaimed to the benefit of the people of God. And all word and no spirit, and the people dry up. All spirit and no word, and the people blow up. Both spirit and word, and the people grow up. And we cannot preach Jesus as Lord and make it dull and boring.
The preaching of Jesus was lively, it was authoritative, it was well organized, it was practical, it was interesting, and it was true. Well, that's all that I really want to share with you from this. I want to conclude and give you just a couple of illustrations that I've been wanting to provide for you. Let your eyes run down to verse 16 again. Therefore we do not lose heart, though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.
I want to finish up by offering to you stuff from three of my heroes. This is from page 747—you should remember that, those of you who like aircraft—in the second volume of Martin Lloyd-Jones, whose lovely picture adorns the cover of this book as well. We're now at the very end of Lloyd-Jones's life, which is an encouragement to those of you who like to read the end of the story before you ever start, and let this be a help to you. Among his last audible words were those spoken to his consultant, that is his doctor, Grant Williams, who visited him on February the 24th. Mr. Williams wanted to give him some antibiotics. Lloyd-Jones shook his head in disagreement. Well, said his doctor, when the Lord's time comes, even though I fill you up to the top of your head with antibiotics, it won't make any difference.
His patient still shook his head. I want to make you comfortable, more comfortable, Williams went on. It grieves me to see you here, weary, worn, and sad. And he's quoting Bonner's hymn, which he knew Lloyd-Jones would recognize. So he says, It grieves me to see you here, sitting weary, worn, and sad. That was too much for Martin Lloyd-Jones. Not sad, he declared.
Not sad. The truth was that he believed the work of dying was done, and he was ready to go. Last night, Grant Williams wrote to Martin Lloyd-Jones's local doctor on February the 25th, quotes, He refused to take any antibiotic, could hardly talk, and I think will die very shortly.
I think he is very lucid and knows exactly what he wants to do. And when his speech was gone, his daughter Elizabeth, sitting beside him, he pointed her very definitely to the words of 2 Corinthians 4, 16 to 18, Which begin, for which cause we faint not. But though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.
When I asked him, says Elizabeth, if that was his experience now, he nodded his head with great vigor. That's Lloyd-Jones. Then to Calvin. The more determined men become to despise the teaching of Christ, the more zealous should godly ministers be to assert it, and the more strenuous their efforts to preserve it entire, and more than that, by their diligence to ward off Satan's attack. In other words, loved ones, the harder the times, the deafer the people, then the clearer and the more persuasive our proclamation needs to be. Instead of turning around and capitulating to the spirit of the age and saying, you know, the people seem to be so deaf, they seem to be so dull, and the monologue does not work, therefore let's engage in all of this. No, no, no, we will not do that at all.
We will become even more committed to the Neanderthal approach of proclaiming the Bible in the power of the spirit, believing that by this means, God brings life from the dead. So you have Lloyd-Jones, you have Calvin, and who's my final hero to be? Dwight L. Moody. Dwight L. Moody. For those of you who are hard-bitten Calvinists, tough. He's still one of my great heroes. When Moody went to Scotland on the 21st of November 1873, he went in fear and trembling for, to quote from one of the biographies, Scottish people are eminent for their knowledge of theology.
They certainly were at the end of the nineteenth century. He who would edify a congregation of Scotsmen must come to them with the beaten oil of the sanctuary and pour it from vessels of a proper and traditional form. He should be a man of high attainments in learning. The stamp of some college should be upon him.
And more than all, he should come with the endorsement of some eminent body of divines. Now listen, all these things were lacking in Mr. Moody. If there were any preacher in all the world who was likely to be rejected in Scotland, aside from the power of God which attended him, Dwight L. Moody was that man.
In other words, he had no chance of making an impact in Scotland. And then you read on into the biography and it says this, The farewell meeting of Moody and Sankey was held on the slopes of Arthur's Seat. Now Arthur's Seat is that mound behind Holyrood Palace at the bottom of the Royal Mile, which if you have not been there, you have seen it on the film Chariots of Fire, where Eric walks out with his sister Jenny and she chides him for the fact that he is not giving himself wholeheartedly to the work. It is a great grassy domain just in that region of Edinburgh.
The farewell meeting of Moody and Sankey was held on the slopes of Arthur's Seat. Why? No building being able at all to adequately accommodate the vast congregation. And from the historic Seat of Christianity, which they had entered in fear and trembling, they went forth with joy in their hearts. Why? Because Moody was such a special little man?
No. Because the Gospel is such a glorious story. May God make us men of the Gospel. It is the Spirit's power, not the preacher's personality, that is most important when it comes to effectively proclaiming the Gospel. You're listening to Truth for Life, that is Alistair Begg reminding us that God alone brings life from death.
Alistair returns in just a moment to close today's program. Even pastors and church leaders have to be reminded of the necessity of God's Spirit and the power of His Word. That's why our mission at Truth for Life is to teach the Bible with clarity and relevance every single day. We want to encourage other pastors to remain confident in the Scriptures. We trust God will use the teaching of His Word to draw unbelievers to Jesus, to grow the faith of those who already believe, and ultimately to help strengthen local churches. This is the mission you support every time you donate to Truth for Life.
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You can find out more and sign up to become a truth partner at truthforlife.org slash truth partner or call us at 888-588-7884. Now we invite our truth partners to request two books that we recommend each month. That's one of the ways we say thank you for your support of this ministry. The title we've selected today is called The Grumbler's Guide to Giving Thanks. This is a book that will help you reflect on God's faithfulness so you can get a better grasp of His goodness, His grace, and His glory. In The Grumbler's Guide you'll discover how thankfulness is a lost spiritual discipline that every Christian can improve on.
So what does that look like? Well, with enough practice, it leads to regularly giving thanks to God and experiencing joy in Him as a result. You can get started right away. Request The Grumbler's Guide to Giving Thanks when you sign up to become a truth partner. The book is also available with a one-time donation at truthforlife.org slash donate. Now here's Alistair with a closing prayer. Before the throne of God above, I have a strong and perfect plea, A great high priest whose name is love, whoever lives and pleads for me. When Satan tempts me to despair and tells me of the guilt within, Upward I look and see him there who made an end to all my sin.
Because the sinless Savior died, my guilty soul is counted free, For God the just is satisfied to look on him and pardon me. We are in awe before you, gracious God, That of all the places that we might be you have so ordered our steps As to grant us the privilege of the company of one another, And far more than that, the abiding presence of God the Spirit, In our coming together to exalt Christ and his word, And in our desire to exhort and encourage one another, And all the more as we see the day of Christ's return drawing closer. We pray for one another, and we want to commit each other into your care and keeping. We pray that we may not in a volume of words lose sight of the core issues. And we pray that we might be drawn afresh to Christ and to his word, And that you will fill us anew with your Spirit and send us to the places of our appointing, With renewed zeal, a genuine humility, A desire to have you come and do things that can only be explained Because you have shown up in your power and in your might. Save us from making small plans, Because they have no ability to fire the ambitions of men. Give us then a gaze at that vast company that no one can number, And help us then so to walk through our days, As to play our part, whatever it might be, In seeking to see unbelieving men and women become the committed followers of Jesus Christ. And now unto him who is able to keep you from falling, And to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, To the only wise God our Savior, Be glory and majesty, dominion and power, Now and forevermore. Amen. Amen.
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