Pointers to Progress
By: R. Allan Anderson
"While I was musing the fire burned." Ps. 39:3.
We have no right to come to the congregation unless the fire has burned in our own hearts. But it will never burn there unless we give it time to come off the paper of our sermon notes into our hearts. When a sermon is prepared it may be like Ezekiel's valley of dry bones, everything brought together into the right place; all the flesh and sinews and everything else binding it together; but it will not be a living thing until the breath of God comes into it. Then, and then only, will it stand upon its feet!
After your diligent preparation, go for a walk, taking the sermon with you; go over it point by point. If you took the time to write it out, you of course have now reduced it to a brief. Now take that sheet of paper and go alone somewhere. I like to go for a quiet walk, if I can, and let my sermon thoughts become part of me. Then going over each point, live in the atmosphere of prayer until the thoughts burn into your soul.
You may not always be able to preach the sermon to an imaginary congregation; but if you can, do so. Let the Spirit of God impress you anew with the thoughts. Then visualize the people:
"There is Brother Jones down there—Lord, he is facing the test of the Sabbath this week; he must make a decision. Make this point very clear to him. And here is little Mrs. Williams. She has a daughter who is giving her a great deal of anxiety. Help me to put the pathos of Jesus into my tone, that I may help her. And there is that wayward lad who has broken his mother's heart—he may be there. Help me touch his heart!"
Talk to the Lord about it. It is a dead thing until it takes hold of your heart. The sermon must reach out with holy hands, as it were, and take hold of the preacher. It must not be something added to the service, but the climax of the service.
As you talk with God about that sermon, do what Elijah did to the widow's son—stretch yourself upon it until it opens its eyes and searches your own soul. Let it speak either encouragement or rebuke to your own heart. Then from the depths of your own stirred soul bring it to the people. It will not be a dead sermon, but alive and vibrant with the power of God. The people always know when they are in the hands of one whose heart the Lord has touched.
Not a Philosophy, but a Person
By: R. Allan Anderson
The thing that makes Christianity appealing is not merely a philosophy, but a Person; that is what makes the message real to us. Paul preaching to the Galatians (3:1) said Jesus Christ "hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you." Moffatt's translation is: "O sense less Galatians, who has bewitched you — you who had Jesus Christ the crucified placarded before your very eyes?"
A placard is not filled up with all the little detail. It stands right out. You know, there are two types or two main schools of art: There is the art that introduces a hundred and one de tails — puts all the feathers on the birds and all the leaves on the trees. Then there is the impressionistic school where just bold strokes are ' used, but you get the impression and get it quickly. The great thought is not lost in the detail: So in our preaching we must come face to face with the challenge of how to bring Christ before our people vividly, in such a way that they will see Him and not see us.
Old Elder G. B. Starr was telling me one day how Moody preached. It was very fresh in his mind — he had been associated with Moody before accepting this message. He said Moody had an unusual command of words, so that when he spoke of the characters in the parables, you actually saw them. When he spoke of Jesus it just seemed as if you could actually see Him. He would move around the stage, not rushing around like some later evangelists have done, but he would place his characters in such a way and so live the part that every one of those personalities in the parables of Jesus just stood out. People really saw what he was talking about. His sentences were not all well balanced; he was not a faultless student of English. In fact, his language at times was very disappointing, for he had no background of education. But there was a vividness about his preaching that gripped the hearts of the people and made them completely oblivious to his grammatical errors.
When the apostles preached, something happened. When Moody preached, something happened. When the pioneers of this movement preached, something happened. And, brethren, something must happen when we preach. Our listeners must see Christ in our message, and seeing Him, be moved by Him.
When our doctrines grow out of Christ, out of something in His life or in the purpose of His life, the people become unconscious of the doctrine and are face to face with their Lord; they are making a decision, not for a system, but for a Person. If they see Jesus standing right there before them, not only in challenge but in sympathetic appeal, they will then forget their differences in doctrine and will respond to His call. God help us to so preach Christ that He will be placarded before our hearts.
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