As with most churches, ours offers a prayer and visitors card for those in attendance, to inform us of a guest or to communicate a need. They also apparently serve well for a child’s creative thoughts and/or art work. Probably the funniest card – or maybe the saddest – was one I found a few years back lying on a rear pew. Written in what appeared to be a 2nd or 3rd grade hand were these words: “Would You Please Just Stop Talking.” Now, I will let you know – for the sake of my own pastoral ego – that this card appeared on a Sunday when we had a guest preacher. But if you think that I believe my messages to be immune from such thoughts of little lambs as I sit here writing this post, you would be completely wide of the mark. Despite my best efforts to keep in mind and heart my wee listeners, I know that I have failed them.
This brings us to the point of our thought for the day. What preacher’s interest would not be peeked by the faithful eyewitness report of Luke of the response to Paul’s first recorded sermon in Acts 13: “As Paul and Barnabas were going out, the people kept begging that these things might be spoken to them the next Sabbath.” (13:42)
While it would be wrong to say that all sermons must be exactly like this one (particularly since this is an evangelistic message, in a particular kind of setting, and not one delivered for the benefit of those already believers and disciples of Christ), we can surely see in this the proper reflex of souls who realize the riches to be found only in Christ Jesus. What was it in the message used by the powerful Spirit of Christ, which brought about this response? I can glean at least ten qualities to warm the hearts of Gospel preachers, and more, to thrill the hearts of all who have ears to hear – even little ears:
- A message of grace – “Paul and Barnabas, who, speaking to them, were urging them to continue in the grace of God.” 13:43
- A message of salvation – 13:26 “… to us the message of this salvation has been sent.” (also 23, 32, 47)
- A message of eternal life – 13:46
- An historical message – not rooted in philosophy or ideology, but in the flow of redemptive history
- A biblical message – no less than five texts are quoted
- An eschatological message – kept in mind the promise nature of the OT
- A Christ-centered sermon – Jesus the fulfillment of the OT promises, types and shadows
- A cross and resurrection message – Jesus the righteous wickedly put to death, and His glorious vindication and exaltation by God in being raised bodily from the tomb
- A ministerial message – pointing to the medium of preaching, teaching, authoritative witness, making known through proclamation
- An applicational sermon – the people were called to an appropriate response, to believe and be saved, as well as warned of foretold consequences of responding rebelliously in unbelief
I remember a story from the mission field in Uganda, as Rev. Tony Curto was first bringing the gospel to the Karamajong, that as he was preaching, a man very humbly crept up and curled his body around the feet of the missionary. Mildly startled, he asked what was happening, and it was explained to him that the man was moved to great thankfulness for the message brought by this servant.
We all should be so thankful for the Lord Jesus bringing us the word of life; whether we are young or old, black or white, male or female, rich or poor, eastern or western, Jew or Gentile, self-righteous moralists or self-pleasing pagans. We all are sinners and Jesus is the only Savior. We will either beg for mercy in our sins before Him as a Judge, or beg for more of the bread of heaven which alone has fed our famished souls.