In the last post, I covered some of the daily acts of piety that should undergird our Christian life. They had to be emphasized because the minister is a Christian first, and too often we allow the pressures of life to crowd out the things of God.
Now I want to turn to those things that are foundational to preaching: namely our convictions about ourselves, our God, and our Bible.
Brothers, you ought to have certain well-settled convictions before you ever dare step behind the sacred desk. I find that these are so central, that if a man does not have them, then he has no business preaching. While I am not dogmatic on a number of things, I am on these.
First, you need to have a few settled convictions about yourself. You must be absolutely convinced of two things before all—that you are a hell-deserving sinner whose heart is deceitfully wicked, and that you have been saved by the grace of Jesus Christ through faith in Him. These two convictions must form the end points between which the pendulum of your own heart swings. Next, you need to be absolutely convinced that you are not just a sinner saved by grace alone, but that you are a sinner sent by grace. You can see this conviction in Paul when he writes,
To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ (Eph. 3:8).
This is not the place to go into the details of the call to ministry, but suffice it to say that there must be a burden or longing to preach based on the right motives: the desires to obey God, edify the saints, and save souls. This internal call should then be confirmed by the church examining the gifts and graces of the potential minister.
We must labor to constantly maintain this sense of divine call at every point: during sermon preparation, during our preaching, and during our reflection on the results of our preaching. This will cause us to swing from humility to authority. We will be humble, because we know that it is solely by divine mercy and not our own merit that we have been made ministers. And we will preach with authority, because we know that we have been commissioned by God for the task before us.
But we aren’t just saved by grace, and sent by grace. We are also supplied with the necessary gifts by the grace of God. God must gift ministers with a strong sense of self-discipline, as we don’t have a “boss” or manager in the traditional sense. Because of this, we can do as little or as much as we wish, and very few beyond ourselves will ever know. This is why so many lazy young men have gone into ministry, and it’s why their preaching is so poor.
Beyond self-discipline, we must be gifted with a love of studying. Studying the Word of God is the core of our task as preachers, so God must bless us with the ability to study diligently.
We must also be graciously gifted with an ability to communicate. We may have all of these other convictions and gifts, but if we do not have the ability to clearly communicate the truth we have loved and studied, all of those other gifts are for naught.
Finally, brothers, we must be supernaturally gifted by God with profound love for His people.
Let me bare my soul at this point: I am an introvert by nature. I’m perfectly happy to spend the majority of my day with little to no personal interaction whatsoever. I’m not naturally a people person. Were it not for the grace of God, I could not derive any enjoyment from visiting and feeding the flock. It is solely by reliance on the grace of God that I’m able to get through meeting with people, counseling them, and visiting them in their homes. But without love for the people of God, my message from God will fall on deaf ears.
Having looked at our convictions about our God and about ourselves, tomorrow I’d like to look at our convictions about our Bible.