Jump Start # 3211
Hebrews 4:12 “For the Word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”
Solomon Stoddard was an early New England preacher who died in 1729. He preached for sixty years. Mostly forgotten these days, Stoddard is best known for training his grandson, the great Jonathan Edwards. Stoddard said about preachers, “We are not sent into the pulpit to shew our wit and eloquences, but to set the consciences of men on fire.” In our times, the wonderful Dee Bowman said of preachers, “We are to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.”
God’s word is powerful, as our verse reveals. It is active. It works on our conscience. It has a way of bothering us and disturbing us. It has a way of staying with us. And, that is the thrust and the key of preaching. Paul told the Corinthians that “we persuade men.” Preaching is not a “feel good” moment. It’s not a college lecture, full of facts and information. It’s not a comedy skit as moderns like to make it. Preaching is thrusting that sharp sword of God’s word deep into our hearts. It ought to set our conscience on fire as Stoddard said many, many years ago.
Some things we must remember:
First, we preachers must preach. Dull, lifeless sermons won’t awaken a sleeping mouse in the church house, let alone the hearts of men. Sermons that don’t lead to any conclusions, changes, or actions on our part, will do just that, nothing. When Peter preached that first Gospel sermon the audience was pierced. When Stephen preached the audience was cut. We don’t need tricks, side show antics, cutting edge videos from the world to accomplish this. What we need is preaching that comes from the heart. We preachers need to pour our hearts onto the pulpit. Passionless preaching is like pumpkin pie without whip cream, it’s ok, but it’s sure missing something.
Second, we listeners need to encourage our preachers to bring the fire. Our toes need to be stepped on. We need to see how to live better and more holy lives. Tickling ears is not for us. We need to be told the truth and only the truth can save us. There will be Sundays when you leave realizing that there needs to be some changes in your life. There will be some Sundays when you feel convicted but that feeling will propel the changes that will lead to a more righteous life.
Third, our verse reminds us of how specific the Word of God can be within our hearts. It can judge our thoughts and our intentions. No one really knows our thoughts unless we share them. We can stand there smiling in a conversation with someone, all the while wishing we could get away from that person. How hurt that person would be if they knew our thoughts. God’s Word works right into those thoughts. This is why Jesus said it wasn’t just adultery and murder that were wrong, but the thoughts behind them. The lust and the hatred are also wrong.
Our intentions imply motives. Motives are the reason why we do things. In Matthew six, Jesus revealed the false and phony motives of those who gave alms, prayed and fasted, all to be seen by men. Their purpose in all of that was to draw attention to themselves. In Corinthians, Paul said that if love was not the basis of our deeds, then the good we did was not really good. Intentions. Purpose. Motive. Why do we attend worship? Why do we help others out? The Word of God gets behind the act and looks at the motive. And, through the preaching of God’s Word, our motives are examined and looked at. There are times we need adjustments because we are not aligned correctly with God. All we do ought to point to God. It’s the glory of God, not our glory, that we ought to seek.
Set the conscience of men on fire, is what Stoddard said years ago. That burning fire within us will lead to revival, change, compassion, and zeal for the Lord. We need to be awakened spiritually. We need to come alive spiritually.
What a treasure it is to have God’s word. It’s not kept in a museum. It’s not locked in some ancient church building. It’s stored deep within our hearts. It’s what governs us, drives us, directs us and leads us. Through that wonderful Word of God we have come to know Jesus. It shapes our character and has led us to ask for forgiveness and has allowed us to forgive those who have hurt us.
Bring the fire…