In narrating the circumstances in which Jesus was born, Luke tells us that Mary "wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn" (Luke 2:7).
This is the first description of the disagreeable attitude of men toward their Redeemer. Christian painters, with the magic touch of their brushes, transformed the rude stable of Bethlehem, in which Jesus was born, into a beautiful porch; but they have not been able to erase the tragic reality contained in the statement "there was no room for them in the inn."
Almost two thousand years have passed and today the world is full of religious systems, crosses, and cults. But, as in the city of David, there is no room for Jesus. Because of this the contemporary civilization agonizes without God and without hope.
As preachers we are made sad because of this distressing situation. And at this time it seems opportune to ask ourselves, "Is there room for Jesus in my activities?"
A young man had been preaching in the presence of a venerable divine, and after he had finished he went to the minister.
"What did you think of my sermon?" he asked.
"A very poor sermon, indeed," said he. "A poor sermon?" said the young man. "It took me a long time to study for it." "Yes, no doubt it did."
"Did you think my explanation of the text was poor?"
"No," said the old preacher; "in fact, it was very good."
"Well, then why do you say it was a poor sermon? Didn't you think the illustrations were appropriate, and the arguments conclusive?"
"Yes, they were very good, so far as they go; but still it was a poor sermon."
"Will you tell me why you think it was a poor sermon?"
"Because," said he, "there was no Christ in it."
"Well," said the young man, "Christ was not in the text; we are not to be preaching Christ always; we must preach what is in the text." London?"
Yes," said the young man.
And the old man said, "Don't you know, young man, that from every town and every village and every little hamlet in England, wherever it may be, there is a road to
"Well," said the old minister, "from every text in Scripture there is a road to the center of the Scriptures—that is Christ. And, my dear brother, when you get a text your business is to say, Now, what is the road to Christ?' and then preach a sermon running along the road to the center—to Christ. And," he continued, "I have not yet found a text that does not have a road to Christ in it. Find that road, then go over hedge and ditch until you arrive at the Master, for the sermon cannot do any good unless there is a rich savor of Christ in it."
Yes, in the cross of Christ is the secret of power in the work of evangelism. Christ must be the absorbing passion of the minister. The apostle to the Gentiles revealed the source of his evangelistic power when in his pastoral letter to the believers in Corinth he said, "For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified" (1 Cor. 2:2).
Humberto Rhoden, in a strong statement, stresses this truth:
Paul is a book that speaks only of Christ.
He is a flame that is on fire for Christ.
He is a genius that only thinks of Christ.
He is a will that only wants Christ.
He is a hero who only fights for Christ.
He is a soul that lives only for Christ, by Christ,
and through Christ.
In his vibrant messages and learned teachings there was always an unmistakable and definite place for Christ. There is the secret of his power as an evangelist.
Are we, Adventist ministers, magnifying Christ in our sermons?
An elderly man, after he had listened to the message night after night in an evangelistic series, expressed his enthusiasm about the convincing and logical way the prophecies were presented. But some years later he joined the Baptist Church by baptism. To explain his decision he made the following statement: "With the Adventists I learned to know the beauties of the prophecies, but with the Baptists I learned to know Christ."
This declaration was a severe rebuke to the evangelist, who with his diagrams and illustrations had vividly proved the authenticity of the prophecies but had forgotten to give Jesus the outstanding place He holds within Biblical prophecies.
Some modern preachers present to their congregations a poetical Christ, an eminent sociologist, a moralist, or a philosopher who consecrated His life to defending the oppressed; not a Christ crucified, not a Christ with the crown of thorns and the robe of humility, but a Christ presented so that He will not be repulsive to the rational mentality of this age.
The following statement is opportune from the messenger of the Lord:
Christ crucified, Christ risen, Christ ascended into the heavens, Christ coming again, should so soften, gladden, and fill the mind of the minister that he will present these truths to the people in love and deep earnestness. The minister will then be lost sight of and Jesus will be made manifest. Lift up Jesus, you that teach the people, lift Him up in sermon, in song, in prayer. Let all your powers be directed to pointing souls, confused, bewildered, lost, to "the Lamb of God.- Lift Him up, the risen Saviour, and say to all who hear, Come to Him who "hath loved us, and bath given Himself for us." Let the science of salvation be the burden of every sermon, the theme of every song. Let it be poured forth in every supplication. Bring nothing into your preaching to supplement Christ, the wisdom and power of God. Hold forth the word of life, presenting Jesus as the hope of the penitent and the stronghold of every believer. Reveal the way of peace to the troubled and the despondent, and show forth the grace and completeness of the Saviour. —Gospel Workers, pp. 159, 160.
One learned preacher who quite frequently in his sermons stressed sociology and ethics found on his pulpit one day a piece of paper containing the following words written by a pious deacon: "Pastor, we want to see Jesus." The pastor realized that this phrase contained a silent censure of his scholarly sermons in which there was no place for Christ. The words on this small piece of paper made him kneel with contrite spirit and ask God for the necessary knowledge to feed his congregation. The Lord heard the supplication of the repentant pastor. He returned to the pulpit clothed with new power, with a predominant preoccupation of proclaiming the unfathomable riches of Christ. His messages became so powerful that the faithful deacon, interpreting the sentiment of the whole congregation, put another paper on the pulpit containing these words: "Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord" (John 20:20).
Therefore let us put Jesus in a prominent place in our sermons, so that through the influence of our ministry souls will rejoice in the harmonious beauty of Christ and His learned teachings.