Meeting the Spiritual Needs of Our Hearer
C. G. F. TULASZEWSKI: Pastor, Illinois Conference
The Lord has entrusted to this movement and its ministry the proclamation of Heaven's last message to men. Do the results of our labor the souls added to the church, the spiritual condition of our constituency justify the assertion that we are fulfilling our mission acceptably? Pass by for a moment the number of souls won, the growing income in tithe and offerings, the volume of activity in missionary lines both by workers and by members. Is what remains, the spiritual condition of the church, the realization of the kingdom of God in men? If not, what are the reasons?
We will have to admit that there is a considerable number of workers who are probably without knowing it unwilling to develop their intellectual faculties. They are always ready to enter a series of public meetings. They have everything ready at home because for fifteen, twenty, or twenty-five years they have preached from the same outlines, with just a few changes and some added quotations. W. A. Spicer once spoke to the point in regard to such outlines. He said that when he was on a trip somewhere in the Far East, "God had mercy on me and sent a thief who' stole all my sermon outlines." I have met many workers through the years, and I have preached against this evident weakness, but it seems that many ministers cannot find source material in the Bible for more than thirty or forty outlines. That may account for some of our poor preaching.
Even if we admit that our material is somewhat limited, can we not at least feed the right food to the flock? Does what we preach answer the spiritual needs of humanity? Soul winning requires a deep understanding of the human heart and its problems. "He that winneth souls is wise." Prov. 11:30. Before we ever undertake to speak to a soul, we should prayerfully try to understand his needs, sorrows, temptations, and problems. When we preach to a congregation we should realize our dependence upon God for heavenly wisdom. Surely we are not pre pared to stand before a congregation without line No. 15 or No. 22 in hand, even though we already know it by heart.
What, then, are the needs of our hearers? There are many. We live in a turbulent world, and millions are perplexed as to the meaning of all that happens today. The prophetic Word and its sound interpretation can be a light to the perplexed, showing them that there is a God in heaven who still has the government of this earth in His hands, and who will take His children to a glorious destination. There are untold multitudes who are bewildered as to what constitutes Bible truth and sound doc trine. We can make the light shine upon their path, and they will be filled with joy. Yet prophecy is not the full message. Prophetic interpretation and Bible doctrine are stepping- stones to a knowledge of spiritual things the beginning of spiritual life, not its end. (Heb. 6:1, 2.)
We may have no personal problems or trouble in regard to Bible teaching. Yet are we all true Christians? Are our souls filled with power, and do we have victory over sin? I am afraid that many of us lack a true knowledge of God, the only reason for glorying: "But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the Lord." Jer. 9:24. It was to church members that the apostle made the charge that they did not know God. "Awake to righteousness, and sin not; for some have not the knowledge of God: I speak this in your shame." 1 Cor. 15:34.
It is evident, therefore, that one can be a church member and know prophetic interpretation, Bible truth, and doctrine well without knowing God. That is probably the meaning of the words of Jesus in Matthew 23:15, concerning proselytes who have been won by great effort and travels over land and sea, who agree to all teaching but are still unconverted and unchanged at heart. In this text Paul points out the essential thing that makes the difference "awake to righteousness, and sin not."
The Real Problem
The ultimate and real problem of the human soul is sin. The trouble is not in the brain or the intellect; it is in the heart and the flesh. And as long as a minister fails to find the solution of the sin problem in the blood of Jesus Christ, making this the substance of his preaching, he does not preach either the gospel or the Advent message. Go through your Bible and read the expressions of grief and despair of souls lost in sin. You will find some persons very much concerned over theological problems or doctrine; but the others, the vast majority, are fighting the battle against sin. Prophetic interpretation, theology, and doctrine are all important items in the great fabric of the plan of redemption. But the greatest, ultimate, and most important problem is: Lord, make me free.
I have reason to believe that a great part of our ministry fails in this respect. Even talking about a complete surrender may mean nothing more than evangelistic phraseology. There are thousands of our own church members who go away empty from church after a sermon, and many visitors to our public meetings get no answer to their question: Is there a deliverance from sin?
The great evangelists of the past have brought multitudes to a new experience and a life in fellowship with Christ. They did not play with the feelings or sentiments of their hearers, but they analyzed life's problems and temptations, its pitfalls and the deception of sin, in the light of the Bible. And when a sinner could see that God's Word covered his own case, that forgiveness was his, and that God's mercy was meant for him, he accepted both the cleansing from a sinful past and the Christ who made him a new man.
Again, the Spirit of prophecy shows us the real issue of a minister's warfare:
"The world will never know the work secretly going on between the soul and God, nor the inward bitterness of spirit, the self-loathing, and the constant efforts "to control self; but many of the world will be able to appreciate the result of these efforts. "Gospel Workers, p. 323.
"The sacrifice of Christ as an atonement for sin is the great truth around which all other truths cluster. In order to be rightly understood and appreciated, every truth in the word of God, from Genesis to Revelation, must be studied in the light that streams from the cross of Calvary. I present before you the great, grand monument of mercy and regeneration, salvation and redemption, the Son of God uplifted on the cross. This is to be the foundation of every discourse given by our ministers." Ibid., p. 315.
When I was in Jerusalem it was my privilege to take a walk with some of my fellow ministers late one evening on the walls of Old Jerusalem. I felt a deep desire to be alone when we came to the place where one could see that hill of all hills Calvary. There I gazed through the stillness of the night at the place where my Saviour died for my sins. More than ever before I realized my duties as a messenger of the gospel of forgiveness and freedom from sin. There in the silent night I learned that there are still outstretched arms to embrace repentant sinners, and that the theme of my message as a minister of this last movement must be the Christ of Golgotha.
Two Interesting Pulpit Designs
HOWARD B. WEEKS: Assistant Secretary General Conference Bureau of Press Relations
As a member of that large fraternity of ministers who have difficulty with a combination of low pulpits and weak eyesight, I was delighted recently to discover a really satisfactory adjustable pulpit. It was in the Visalia, California, church and had been designed and built by Jesse Custer, one of the laymen there.
The usual adjustment on variable pulpits is by an arrangement of wing nuts so difficult to operate quickly that it is generally considered less trouble for all concerned to leave the pulpit height as it is. The working unit of this pulpit (see illustration), however, is a small hydraulic automobile jack purchased from an auto supply store. A few strokes on this elevates the desk top and the entire inside section of the pulpit, to which the top is attached. This construction eliminates the difficulty usually encountered in keeping the top of the pulpit horizontal. To lower the desk, a flick of a lever on the jack is all that is necessary.
Another bane in most ministers' experience is the question of what to do with Bible and notes, if any, at the midweek prayer meeting in small churches where the minister usually stands down among the pews to speak. Another layman, R. Lowell Scarbrough, has the perfect answer to that: a pulpit top that slips easily over the back of a regular church pew, complete with electrical plug for a reading light. (See second illustration.)
This was not the end of the wonders I dis covered in the Visalia church, however. Brother Custer had also constructed a disappearing dais for the choir leader. The church choir loft not having room for both choir and conductor, this gentleman had removed a section of the paneling in front of the rostrum, directly under the choir loft, and had built onto the back side of it a sliding platform about six feet long.
When the choir is ready to perform, this plat form can be pulled out in one quick motion, in position for the choir leader to stand upon. When the singing is over, the platform can just as easily be slipped back underneath the loft. This leaves the paneling of the rostrum front undisturbed, with no sign of the clever carpentry it conceals.
Let Us Watch Our Aim
LeROY ALBERS: Former Student, S.D.A. Theological Seminary
Standing more than one thousand feet above the street, I waited for the fog to clear. I was anxious to get a panoramic photograph of the city of New York from this vantage point, the observation floor of the Empire State building. The nearby buildings were easily distinguishable, but the end of Manhattan Island presented a worse than smoky-glass view. Gradually the fog rolled out to sea, and I was able to take the pictures I wanted.
Some preaching is often responsible for spiritual imperception on the part of the hearers. Like fog, it limits the view of the listeners to the immediate interests and pet persuasions of the minister. The congregation longs to get a sweeping view of the wonderful plan of redemption from sin, but the preacher camouflages much of the picture by emphasizing over and over in his preaching only those things that are so sadly apparent the sinfulness of the people, their insufficient labor for God, and their failure in living up to doctrine. The camera is focused on. the congregation, the source of failure, when it should be focused on Christ, the power to keep them from failing.
"The object of every sermon is to lift men from the lowlands of self and sin and lead them into the presence of the living God." ROY ALLAN ANDERSON, The Shepherd-Evangelist, p. 414.
As human beings regretfully experienced in sin and its dreadful results, we are all woe fully aware when we have failed, and need not to be reminded of it repeatedly. It is not wrong, however, for a minister to point out sin; but it is a terrible mistake, having done this, for him to fail to bring the sinner into the very presence of Jesus Christ for cleansing and to establish a fellowship between the penitent one and his Saviour.
An almost ritualistic order has developed of presenting the faults of the people and tacking on an appeal to come to Christ before they are lost. Why not begin the sermon by telling of the love of a sin-pardoning Saviour, and then apply this healing balm to the needs of the hearers? Note these words from Mrs. E. G. White:
"The very first and most important thing is to melt and subdue the soul by presenting our Lord Jesus Christ as the sin-pardoning Saviour. Never should a sermon be preached, or Bible instruction in any line be given, without pointing the hearers to 'the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.' John 1:29. Every true doctrine makes Christ the center, every precept receives force from His words." Testimonies, vol. 6, pp. 53, 54.
The gospel of Jesus Christ is a gospel of love and mercy. As the apostle Paul says, "Neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God." Acts 20:24. After several years' experience in preaching, using all kinds of approaches and methods, he determined that he would know nothing among the people except "Jesus Christ, and him crucified." May the time come quickly when all ministers will have made this decision. "Christ and His righteousness, let this be our plat form, the very life of our faith." MRS. E. G. WHITE in Review and Herald, Aug. 31, 1905. There is no home missionary sermon, no evangelistic sermon, or any other type of sermon that cannot and should not be made to center itself in this theme.
The reason for preaching Christ-centered sermons is very evident. Sister White says:
"The central theme of the Bible, the theme about which every other in the whole book clusters, is the redemption plan, the restoration in the human soul of the image of God." Education, p. 125.
And Christ is the center of the plan of salvation, the manifestation of the infinite grace of the Father. Without the life of Christ incarnate we would have no gospel to preach.
To bring the congregation into the presence of Christ requires much thought. The preaching must be simple and clear, without high-sounding phrases. There is a danger of sacrificing all else for perfect oratory and preciseness of Biblical exegesis.
Scientists have recently been blessed with a new invention micro tools. These microscopic hammers, knives, needles, and so forth are as small as 1/250,000 of an inch in diameter at the working end. If these micro tools are operated with a pneumatic manipulator, they can be used to dissect and observe a single cancer cell and try to find out how it is fed. The preacher too has the privilege of microscopic study. Separate words and varieties of interpretation can be technically torn apart and put together again in his study of the Bible. But, in general, technicalities have little place in the pulpit. Unless they further reveal Christ they ought to be left in the study, for too often preciseness is a substitute for a truly Christ- centered appeal.
There are two things with which the minister must become familiar. He must know a living faith that is in Christ and be often found in the prayer closet. Then a familiarity with the Bible will qualify one as a representative of Christ. (Gospel Workers, p. 252.) Know the Man and His Word, and a Christ-centered life will produce Christ-centered messages.
The Law and the Gospel
L. C. EVANS: President, Southwestern Union Conference
Text: 1 John 3:4
I. INTRODUCTION ORIGIN OF THE LAW.
1. Lucifer sinned in heaven. Eze. 28:16.
2. Where no law is, there is no transgression. Rom. 4:15. Therefore the law existed in heaven.
II. PURPOSE OF THE LAW.
1. What is sin? New Testament definition. 1 John 3:4.
2. By law is knowledge of sin. Rom. 3:20.
3. Paul knew sin only by law. Rom. 7:7.
III. CHARACTER OF THE LAW.
1. Perfect. Ps. 19:7.
2. Enlightening. Verse 8.
3. The truth. Ps. 119:142.
4. Holy. Rom. 7:12.
5. Spiritual. Verse 14.
6. Good. Verses 12, 16.
7. Just. Verse 12.
IV. CHRIST'S TEACHING CONCERNING THE LAW.
1. Not even to think He changed it. Matt. 5:17.
2. Every jot and tittle binding. Verse 18.
3. Should teach men to keep commandments, not to break them. Verse 19.
4. "If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments." Matt. 19:17.
5. "How readest thou?" Luke 10:26.
V. PAUL'S TEACHING CONCERNING THE LAW.
1. Declared law is good. Rom. 7:12, 16.
2. Established the law. Rom. 3:31.
3. Not abolished, but written in the heart. 2 Cor. 3:2, 3; Heb. 8:10.
4. Not hearers, but doers of it justified. Rom. 2:13.
VI. JAMES AND THE LAW.
1. If we break one, we break all. James 2:10-12- God's law is one law in ten parts, not ten laws. Obedience is the expression of love, loyalty, and worship.
2. Blessed by obedience to the law. James 1:22-25.
3. Our faith and our works must agree. James 2:19-24.
VII. CONCLUSION APPEAL.
1. Conclusion whole duty of man. Eccl. 12:13, 14.
2. "If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments." Matt. 19:17.
3. God's definition of sin. 1 John 3:4.
4. "Blessed are they that do," or "have washed their robes." Rev. 22:14.
ROBERT F. CORREIA: Evangelist, North Brazil Union
Faithful Ones—Ps. 101:6
1. Faithful steward, 1 Cor. 4:2.
2. Faithful brother, Col. 1:2.
3. Faithful friend, Prov. 27:6.
4. Faithful wife, 1 Tim. 3:11.
5. Faithful children, Titus. 1:6.
6. Faithful messenger, Prov. 25:13.
7. Faithful martyr, Rev. 2:13.
Things Always to Do
1. Always keep commandments, Deut. 5:29.
2. Always rejoice, Prov. 8:30.
3. Always confident, 2 Cor. 5:6.
4. Always ready to answer, 1 Peter 3:15.
5. Always praying, Eph. 6:18.
6. Always thanking, Eph. 5:20.
7. Always laboring, Col. 4:12.
Preparing for the Advent
1. Wake up, Rom. 13:11.
2. Watch, 1 Peter 4:7.
3. Work, John 9:4.
4. Warn, Eze. 33:7-9.
5. Withdraw, 2 Thess. 3:6.
6. Withstand, Eph. 6:13.
7. Wait, 1 Cor. 1:7.
Things to Choose
1. Choose God, Joshua 24:15.
2. Choose life, Deut. 30:19.
3. Choose truth, Ps. 119:30.
4. Choose good, Isa. 7:15.
5. Choose things pleasing to God, Isa. 56:4.
6. Choose better part, Luke 10:42.
7. Choose to be with God's people, Heb. 11:25.
Causes for Falling
1. Fall because of pride, Prov. 16:18.
2. Fall because of ignorance, Hosea 4:14.
3. Fall because of riches, Prov. 11:28.
4. Fall because of perverse tongue, Prov. 17:20.
5. Fall because of hard heart, Prov. 28:14.
6. Fall because of false leadership, Matt. 15:14.
7. Fall because of shallow roots, Luke 8:13.