Living Epistles

23 Jan

There are all sorts of different impressions you take away from a sermon.

Some you leave thankful that the preacher really did his exegesis. Others you leave impressed by the preacher’s rhetoric. Still others you are impressed by their extensive knowledge.

But I wonder how many you leave overwhelmed by Jesus and struck by their desire for Him?

Listen to the comment one person made after hearing Robert Murray McCheyne preach.

“There was something singularly attractive about Mr. McCheyne’s holiness. It was not his matter nor his manner either that struck me; it was just the living epistle of Christ – a picture so lovely, I felt I would have given all the world to be as he was, but knew all the time I was dead in my sins.”

May God raise up more preachers who are something more than good communicators, men who are also “living epistles of Christ…”

I wonder what that would look like?

Perhaps it would start with one’s motive for preaching. Is it to make much of Christ or self? Now, this question seems fairly obvious except of course if we remember that most of the time no one would answer that they are preaching to make much of themselves. But is there a longing, I am talking gut level, when you are alone and it is just you and God, is there a deep, overwhelming desire to see Christ lifted up?

It also has to do with one’s life outside the pulpit. Is the preacher known as a man who is sacrificially denying himself for the cause of Christ, as a man who desires Christ with deep affection, as a man who loves others the way Christ has loved him, as a man who fears God and hates sin? His own sins included? I don’t think we should underestimate the way God uses a godly life to help a congregation hear and be changed by messages. It can be very difficult to be impacted by calls to love God and love others from a person who doesn’t.

I’m sure all of this even has to do with one’s style of preaching. Style being not quite the right word, but I am not sure what other word to use. One of the things I have noticed in many of the older preachers that I sometimes find lacking in much modern preaching are examples of preachers expressing their own great desire and love for Christ and longing for their people to love and know Christ personally in their sermons. Some preachers seem to have the ability to take texts that were meant to impact people personally and transform those into academic subjects that are dissected and studied and then left there, unowned, unexperienced, outside, uninternalized. Others, you know this isn’t simply a passage that they have analyzed, this is a passage that has analyzed them. Of course, there are many different personalities and many different ways people express their love for others so we shouldn’t become legalistic and force every one into expressing their love for Christ in the pulpit in the same exact way, but if you really love someone, it seems to me that it’s going to pop out through your personality somehow, someway.

Yes, when it comes to preaching, I am convinced Herman Bavinck was one hundred percent correct when he wrote, ‘A man cannot only preach, he must also live. And the life that he lives, with all its little peculiarities, is one of two things: either it emasculates his preaching or it gives it flesh and blood.’

2 Responses to “Living Epistles”

  1. Tommie January 24, 2012 at 4:46 am #

    Great post brother. Preach from the heart not the head.


  1. Live and Preach as a “Living Epistle” « Faithful Discipleship - January 26, 2012

    […] enjoyed this post from Josh Mack. May there be more pastors who live and preach like […]

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