If men in the service of public well. fare willingly put forth almost superhuman efforts to save their fellow men from the physical death that is common to all, how earnestly should men in the service of spiritual welfare seek to save souls in peril of eternal death. If we, as preachers of the gospel, would seriously gaze into the face of every person sitting in our audience, and visualize what those poor souls must pass through should they reject the message we are sent to deliver, I believe the result would tend to eliminate much of the cold, formal spirit which so often creeps into our preaching.
I believe it would put Holy Ghost fire into tame, lifeless messages, if we could actually see what it means for these souls who have been attracted to the meetings, to experience the tortures of the seven last plagues. To sense truly what it will mean to hear the heart-rending cries of the lost—the men and women who may have listened to our preaching, but have not been brought to repentance and obedience—will cause us to seek God earnestly for a bestowal of power which will make us spiritual ministers of His word.
While the song leader is conducting the musical program, I find it is a good thing for me to look seriously over the congregation, and singling out men and women one by one, to anticipate the joy that will come to them if they accept the message of truth, and also the terrible fate of each one who rejects it. This brings to me a new sense of the awful responsibility resting upon me for the rescue of these men and women from the doom awaiting the world. And when I feel that my preaching is becoming cold and dry and lifeless, I like to sit down and read the stirring messages found in the Spirit of prophecy in regard to the worth of a soul, and of the earnestness which should characterize our preaching. The inevitable result of such study and meditation is the bringing of a new life into my own heart, and consequently into my ministry.
The theme of every sermon must be Christ and His power to save. Souls must accept Christ in order to become converted; and when they are converted, they are ready to accept any phase of present truth of which Christ is the center and circumference. We must present every part of the message in the most convincing and logical manner, but always make Christ central.
The subject which is likely to be the most difficult for people to accept, should be made the most spiritual. In the present series of meetings, one of the most marked revivals took place in connection with the presentation of the state of the dead. I presented the outline as clearly as I could, and the people thought it was a wonderful Bible truth, and the prejudice which usually greets such a subject was entirely lacking. I am convinced, and more and more deeply convinced as the days go by, that there is not one phase of our message which does not hinge on the acceptance of Christ. I wish to call attention to the following statements:
"He calls upon us to work diligently in gathering up the jewels of truth, and placing them in the framework of the gospel." "If we would have the spirit and power of the third angel's message, we must present the law and the gospel together, for they go hand in hand." "Of all professing Christians, Seventh-day Adventists should be foremost in uplifting Christ before the world. The proclamation of the third angel's message calls for the presentation of the Sabbath truth. This truth, with others included in the message, is to be proclaimed; but the great center of attraction, Christ Jesus, must not be left out."—"Gospel Workers," pp. 289, 161, 156.
We have the truth, and we preach the truth; but so often we seem to forget the "Center of Attraction," and consequently our preaching is lifeless.
Notice the instruction, that we are diligently to gather jewels of truth and place them in the framework of the gospel. It is so easy to place the jewels of truth we gather in another framework,—the framework of logic and argument.
"It is the efficiency of the Holy Spirit that makes the ministry of the word effective. When Christ speaks through the minister, the Holy Spirit prepares the hearts of the listeners to receive the word."—Id., p. 155.
"No one can tell what is lost by attempting to preach without the unction of the Holy Spirit. In every congregation there are souls who are hesitating, almost decided to be wholly for God. Decisions are being made; but too often the minister has not the spirit and power of the message, and no direct appeals are made to those who are trembling in the balance."—Id., p. 151.
In making my sermon outlines I have been led to spend much time in prayer. I ask God to guide in the outlining and organization of the thoughts to be presented, so as to meet the needs of the people who will hear the message, for He alone knows the individual need. I find it is a good plan to get all the workers in my company to meet together just before the meeting, for united prayer that God's Spirit may be present; and often I request a group to go to some secluded place and pray that God will attend the preaching of the word with power, and put willing obedience into the hearts of the hearers.
I think we often miss much by failing to make direct appeals to the congregation to accept Christ. At the very time when the message has been presented in the framework of the gospel, an appeal should be made to the people to yield their hearts to the Lord. We make revival calls at camp meeting, and souls are moved to repentance. Why not work in the same way to reach the men and women who come to the evangelistic service night after night?
I remember a sermon I preached one evening, in which the Holy Spirit came very near and hearts were touched. But that evening I did not make a call for personal decision. As we were singing the closing hymn, a lady came walking down the aisle, and as I stepped down to speak to her she said, "I waited for you to make a call for sinners to come to the altar and give their hearts to God, but since you did not make such a call, I decided to come anyway." That was a lesson to me which I have never forgotten.
May God help us to present the third angel's message in such spiritual zeal that the world will be filled with our doctrine and multitudes be won to God.