The Revival Preacher Circular No.4
The Revival Preacher Circular No.4
The Results Of Preaching
I praise the Lord that you have all agreed to become Revival Preachers, seeking to be like the great preachers of old, but I am becoming increasingly troubled by the fact that I am not hearing about the results of your preaching. If you are really speaking boldly against all forms of sin, and addressing people directly about this, as you have promised to do, then there will be a definite reaction to this, either positive or negative or both. Most people do not like the truth being told to them, as God`s servants have proved for centuries, so if they are told, they will respond in one way or another. You should be creating a stir wherever you go, and I would be hearing about it, but I am not. So something has gone wrong.
Stephen Green has pointed out that we are in danger of being far too tolerant of sin in the name of love. Yet true love risks being unpopular by telling the truth. In this, as in everything else, the Lord Jesus, the most loving person who ever lived, is our prime example. When He told the truth, everybody, apart from the twelve apostles, left Him, and the enemies he had made by telling the truth, killed Him.
In turn, the apostles did not mince words. Three times Peter called his hearers, murderers, told them that they were wicked and had rejected the cornerstone of God`s building. The preaching obviously hit home as the Jewish leaders reacted strongly to this, accusing Peter and John of trying to put the blame for the death of Jesus on to them. These days, almost all Christians would have responded by saying, "Oh no, of course we weren`t trying to blame you for anything," as they are afraid of offending anybody. But the apostles did not apologise, or backtrack at all, but preached against the Jewish Council with such anointing that the council members were infuriated and wanted to kill them.
The apostle Paul, in similar vein, was constantly disputing and stirring up trouble. On two occasions we are told that he rebuked the Jews, telling them that they had judged themselves unworthy of everlasting life, and warning them that their blood would be upon their own heads. This would hardly be considered "loving" in these days, but it was the truth and it needed to be said, otherwise, as God`s word tells us, their blood would have been on his head. How many people have you not warned, so that their blood is on your head? Paul`s treatment of the magician in Cyprus would, again, not be considered very gracious. He accused the sorcerer of deceit and fraud, of being a son of the devil, the enemy of all righteousness, and a perverter of the ways of the Lord, but the Lord confirmed the word of the apostle by blinding the magician, which was the means of converting the pro-consul.
Paul had none of the help that we regard as so indispensable these days: no microphones, no amplifiers, no powerpoint, no spotlights, no electric lights at all, no computers, no emails, no films, no telephones, no radio, no television, no cars, no buses, no trains, no planes, no newspapers, no postal service, no evangelistic literature, no church buildings, yet he caused more stir in each place he visited than we have caused in our whole lifetimes. Wherever he went, there was opposition, often very violent. Out of all the different places where we are told he preached, we are informed that in almost every place there was opposition, on three occasions people were amazed, in three places, threats were made against him, on six occasions there was violent dissension, in five instances, his enemies plotted to kill him, times without number he was beaten, five times beaten with whips, and three times beaten with rods, six times he was driven out of a place, he was stoned and left for dead, and frequently put in prison, while four times he was shipwrecked. He was in danger of drowning and constantly in danger from robbers. He was opposed by many groups inside and outside the Church. Yet, in almost all places, it is recorded that he had great success, critics were confounded, churches were established and grew.
That last sentence is not coincidental, it is directly related to the others. Opposition and success were closely linked, just as in the world today the places where the Church is experiencing persecution are the places of greatest genuine growth. In 18th century Britain, it was the same. Wherever the true gospel preachers went, they faced opposition, which, in many cases, was violent. But Wesley was not deterred, but actually welcomed it. "The more that evil men say of me, the more God will do. The more opposition I have, the more success I have and the more I am used of God. I enjoy the reproach."
Finney experienced a great deal of opposition and antagonism right from the first place where he evangelized. Threats were frequently made to him, and on one occasion a man went to a meeting with a loaded pistol ready to murder the evangelist. False rumours were spread about him, pulpits were closed to him, but Finney stood his ground, and like many other maligned evangelists, saw the Lord working powerfully through him. W.P. Nicholson wrote of his preaching experiences. "Those were great days, and great victories were won. We always managed a riot or a revival; sometimes a riot and no revival, but never a revival without a riot."
When Stephen Green of Christian Voice was put in prison just for declaring what God says in His word about homosexuality, I certainly heard about that, and he isn`t a Revival Preacher! So why am I not hearing similar things about you, especially when I have asked you to keep me informed of the results of your preaching? At the very least, I should be hearing about you being spurned and rejected. As Paul had all the Christians in Asia Minor turn away from him, as Martin Luther was maligned, as Jonathan Edwards, the most gracious of men, was driven from his church after many years of labour, as John Wesley had hundreds of pulpits closed to him, why am I not hearing that, at the very least, pulpits have been closed to you?
I am being forced to the conclusion that either you have been opposed and threatened, pulpits have been closed to you, you have suffered for the cause of Christ, and great victories have been won, but you have not informed me; or you have not been preaching boldly against sin, and have softened your messages and made them less direct and more acceptable, so that people would think more highly of you. I suspect that it is mainly the second, but if it is the first, then all the Interceders are longing to hear about it, so let me know straightaway. If it is the second, then you are on dangerous ground. The desire for acceptability is the greatest enemy of the Lord`s preacher. Don`t give way to it for one second.
"Beware when all men speak well of you," said the Son of God. If they do, and you are not crying over it, it means you have become ineffective in the Lord`s service, whatever the outward appearance may be. You are there to attack and destroy the enemy`s strongholds, and bring everything into subjection to Christ. If you are doing that, the devil will attack you on all fronts, and all men will certainly not speak well of you. All believers are promised that in this world they will have tribulation, and be hated for His sake; and all who desire to live godly lives will suffer persecution, so how much more does this apply to Christian preachers who are, or should be, at the forefront of the battle? You should be under constant attack from the evil one, but should also be seeing constant victories.
We all want to be liked and to be popular. We don`t like to give offence. But the true gospel is offensive, and if what we preach doesn`t give offence, it is not the true gospel. Our popularity has got to be sacrificed if we are to bring people to real salvation from sin. The only way our hearers are going to be really converted and regenerated is if we speak directly to them with the authority of the living God by the power of His Spirit, and tell them the truth about their sins, so that the Holy Spirit can use it to bring them to conviction.
You may think that it was easier to do this in the past as people were more used to hearing preaching against sin, but even in the 18th century, it was not the case. Whitefield pointed out that preaching against sin and its consequences was so little insisted on in his day. This was why he was particularly pleased with the preaching of William Tennent and his sons, and "their fearless denunciation of sin and its consequences." Whitfield said of Gilbert Tennent, the eldest of the sons, "He urgently warned the stubborn sinner and the hypocrite of a final judgment and eternal hell. Hypocrites must soon be converted or enraged at his preaching."
Tennent always preached as if he was never sure to preach again. He described the popular preaching of his day. "They often strengthened the hands of the wicked by promising them life. They comfort people before they convince them, sow before they plough, and are busy in raising a building before they lay a foundation. These foolish builders strengthen men`s carnal security by their soft, selfish, cowardly discourses. They have not the courage or honesty to thrust the nail of terror into sleeping souls." The vast majority of preachers today would come under the same censure. Make sure you are not among them. "It is a poor sermon," said Whitefield, " that gives no offence, that neither makes the hearer displeased with himself nor with the preacher." How many sermons would pass Whitefield`s test today? Would all yours? "If Jesus had preached the same message that ministers preach today, He would never have been crucified." (Leonard Ravenhill)
May I remind you of what you have committed yourself to doing. It is to preach the whole truth of God without fear or favour in these days, when "the God of eternal holiness and majesty is hardly mentioned at all. Preachers used to declare with holy boldness, "You are lost." Today it is, "You are loved" Unless preachers walk in the fear of the Lord, and step out of eternity into their pulpits, the spiritual life of the nation will continue on its descent to weakness and finally apostasy. The Holy Spirit will have nothing to do with a message or a minister who is afraid of disturbing, or afraid of what people will say or do. The tragic plight of human souls today cannot be met by soft and easy words." (Ravenhill) As the situation in our land gets worse by the day, with more alcoholism, more binge drinking, more drug taking, more promiscuity, more sexually transmitted diseases, more homosexuality, more living in sin, more marriage breakdown, more dysfunctional families, more truancy and expulsions from school, more rebellion, more lawlessness, more crime, more violence, more murders, even of children and by children, more sadness and heartache; how much more do we have to experience to have the importance of preaching the whole gospel burned into our hearts? The world does not have the answer to any of this, but we have. If we do not preach the greatness, the holiness, the law and the grace of God, and apply it directly to our hearers, not only will they have no understanding of sin and what God requires, they will not be separated from their sin, so cannot be saved and cannot please God. Almost everybody in the country, especially young people, are in absolute spiritual darkness. They have no knowledge of God, no knowledge of sin, no understanding of the purpose of life. How can they know, "how can they hear unless someone preaches to them?"
This is why the Revival Preachers was set up, to seek to meet that need, to make sure that the eternal truths of the eternal God, without which there is no hope for this nation, were declared to the people. Such truths will always meet with opposition, and especially in this nation at this time, with not just increasing Godlessness, but also anti Biblical government legislation. And that is why I have been so disappointed at not hearing of any opposition or riots, or even rejections, for they must come if the truth is declared. So, however you do it, make sure it is done. Not in a vague, general way, but be specific. Spell out the sins, everything that displeases God and grieves the Holy Spirit. Speak about the judgment of God. Speak about hell, but do it with tears. Universalism is rampant in almost all churches. Be in earnest. Be 100% for God. Remember Finney, who told others to preach against each sin until the people could no longer look you in the face, but hung their heads in shame and sought the mercy of God. When did you last see that? It is not God`s best, but do not be satisfied with anything less. "The religion that does not summon the world to judgment before its holy demands and lofty standards has already signed its death warrant." (E.K.Cox) But that is exactly what the Church in the West has done, and why we are seeing it die.
So declare the word of the eternal God. "God has placed His own value on His word. He calls it a fire, a hammer and a sword. Fire burns, a blow from a hammer hurts, and a cut from a sword causes real pain. So when His word is proclaimed in the power of the anointing, it will have exactly the same results. It will burn like fire, it will break like a hammer, and pierce like a sword; and the spiritual or mental pain will be just as real and just as severe as the physical. If this doesn`t happen, then there is something wrong with the messenger or the message or both." (Oswald Smith)
"If we have the anointing of the Spirit, and preach His word with authority and power, there will be fruit. Men will break down in our meetings, and sob out their sins to God. If I am a man of God, endued with power from on high, souls will be convicted and break down under my preaching. If I am not, nothing out of the ordinary will take place. Let this be the test for every preacher. By this we stand or fall….Should not every sermon that fails to break the people down, drive us to our knees, and result in deep heart searching and humiliation. Let us never blame the people. It is our fault." (Oswald Smith)
"Let us then lay everything aside and cry unto the Lord. We read in the biographies of our forefathers, who were most successful in winning souls, that they prayed for hours in private. The question therefore, arises, can we get the same results without following their example? If we can, then let us prove to the world that we have found a better way, but if not, then in God`s name let us begin to follow those who through faith and patience inherited the promises." (Oswald Smith)
I would ask you, therefore, to reaffirm your commitment from this moment on, to preach the whole truth of the whole gospel in the power of the Spirit, applying it directly to your hearers, whatever it costs, and to go on doing so until you see the Holy Spirit working in your hearers lives, bringing conviction and conversion, surrender and sanctification, healing and transformation.
"Several years ago," wrote Paul Washer, "I began to read a book by Ernie Reisinger called Today`s Evangelism. I got half way through that book,….and fell out of that chair with such a fear of God upon my life that I pressed my face into the old boards of that room in the city of Lima as far as I could get…and cried out to God, "Oh God, if You promise not to kill me for the way I`ve preached Your gospel, I promise that from here on, I`ll never preach that way again."