PRINCIPLES OF THE GOSPEL
19 Through mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God; so that from Jerusalem, and round about unto Illyricum, I have fully preached the gospel of Christ.
Many preachers have learned how to draw crowd by preaching the principles of the Gospel. This is what most preachers do. They preach broad principles but they do not flesh out the Gospel. Their message is so generic and so broad that it really says nothing at all to the individual hearer.
You may be asking, “What is wrong with the Principles of the Gospel?” Absolutely nothing! We need to preach those principles. Here are some of the great principles of the Gospel that need to be preached:
1. By grace are you saved through faith.
2. You must be Born Again.
3. The dangers of temptation and sin.
4. Sin will lead you to Hell.
5. Be ye holy for I am holy.
6. Without holiness no man shall see God.
7. Love one another.
8. If ye love me keep my commandments.
9. Be filled with the Spirit.
10. We must pray.
All of the above is absolutely true and must be preached regularly. The problem is not with the principles it is with the application.
Most preachers today get up and preach a beautiful message filled with vague generalities about God and the Bible but they really never apply it to the listener. The listener leaves the Church thinking, “What a great message”, but they have applied nothing to their heart – there has been no change.
I read a story a few years ago about a young pioneer preacher in the 1800’s who went out west to pastor a small congregation. The little town he went to was a logging community on a large river. In those days the logging companies used the river to transport their logs to the mill downriver. They would cut the trees down and then affix a stamp on the end of the log that indentified who cut the log and who would get paid for it. One day the pastor was out walking and noticed some of his parishioners pulling logs out of the river that belonged to another lumber company and sawing the end of the log off that had the stamp on it and affixing their own stamp. The next Sunday morning the young Pastor preached on, “Thou shalt not steal”. After service everyone thanked him for his great message. The next week he again saw his parishioners pulling logs out of the river and cutting the ends off of the logs. The next Sunday he preached on, “Thou shalt not cut off the end of thy neighbor’s logs”. After that message they ran him out of town.
What is the moral of this story? The first time the Pastor just preached the principles of the Word of God: “Thou shalt not steal”. The principle is it is wrong to steal. Everyone at the Church was happy with that – it offended no one. The second time the young Pastor preached he applied those principles to the lives of his listeners. We all know that what they were doing was stealing but the carnal man is crafty and will seek any avenue out of admitting he is wrong – it was not until the preacher defined stealing as cutting “off the end of thy neighbor’s logs” that the message really had impact. This is why they ran him out of town.
Preacher, you are never going to make anybody mad just preaching principles! If you want to effect those that listen to you preach then you must preach the Gospel in a specific manner, you must apply the Gospel, by the Holy Ghost, to the hearer.
People tell me all the time, “That is a great Holiness preacher. They preach holiness. They preach against sin.” Then I go and hear them preach and they say things like, “We need to live holy lives, and we need to live separated lives. Sin is wrong. Sin will send you to hell. We need to repent of sin.” All of that is true but they have really not said anything to the individual.
It takes more than using the word, “Holy” to make you a Holiness Preacher! It takes more than using the word, “Sin” to preach against Sin. In order to make an impact we must name the sin. In order to bring conviction we must set the parameters of holiness and modesty. Preacher, when you fail to define sin and holiness, you leave it up to the listener to define it for themselves. You can see readily what that has done in churches today.
I have been to churches and there is so much carnality and sin sitting on the pew. Not just visiting! The sin has been there for years! Do you know what that tells me? The Pastor of that Church really has not dealt with his congregation personally by his preaching. I am not saying that we should point directly at a person and single them out (there are times for that but that is another subject for another time). Oh, no! But I am saying that we need to apply this Gospel directly to those we preach to in such a way that they know exactly what is expected of them. The most powerful preaching is preaching that makes mean uncomfortable.
If smoking is a sin, please tell them! If wearing a mini-skirt is not holy, then tell them! If coming to church only on Sunday Morning is being unfaithful to God’s House, tell them! If a refusal to pay tithes is sin, then tell them!
When Nathan stood before David years after David’s sin with Bath-Sheba he preached a beautiful parable of a man with a little ewe lamb and how another man with a large flock took the little ewe lamb away. Nathan could have closed his message right there and David would have never known his own sin, but Nathan did not do that. He pointed his finger at David and said, “Thou art the man”. It was this direct message that brought David to repentance.
All of the Prophets of the Old Testament applied their messages to the people they preached to. If you do not believe it then re-read the prophets again. It was their direct, and often confrontational, preaching that brought many of them to a martyr’s death.
Generalized preaching never makes anyone angry, and rarely ever produces true repentance. It is pinpoint preaching that gets the job done! If you need surgery to remove a diseased appendix you do not want the doctor to open you up with a chain saw. No! You want precision, accuracy, and a precise hand. Why should we want anything less from the preacher?
Preacher, why use a shotgun when the Holy Ghost can sight in the problem and make a surgical strike? Allow that same Holy Ghost to guide you and you will never miss the mark.
When Stephen, the first martyr, stood before the Jewish leaders it was his preaching of, “Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye” (Acts 7:51), that brought down their wrath. It was not the general words of an unprepared preacher – it as the specific words of a man of God that found the hidden sin in their heart.
Thank God for the broad principles of His Word, but let us seek the face of God until those same principles are applied directly to each of our hearts.