Preaching: All about the Messenger, the Message, & the Ministry.
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The Preaching Ezine (the newsletter of Preachology.com)
Issue #035, September 30, 2014
What's in this Issue:
1. What were the circumstances of your calling?
2. Sermon "Power in Belief" (at bottom of ezine)
3. New sermons, outlines, and illustrations (Some great poems too!)!
4. You could have your own sermon web page on Preachology.com!!
Mark Hollingsworth here. I hope you had a great Lord's Day past!
John Henry Jowett wrote on being "Called to Preach." So I'm asking questions...Is our call based on man or God? ...What are the circumstances of your calling?
Jowett said, "How different, again, are the circumstances attending the call of Jeremiah! There are liquids which a "shake" will precipitate into solids: and there are fluid and nebulous things in life, vague things lying back in the mists of consciousness, which some sudden shaking or shifting of circumstances can precipitate into clear intuition, into firm knowledge, and we have the mind and will of God. Yes, a little tilt of circumstances, and the mist becomes a vision, and uncertainty changes into realized destiny. I think it was even so with Jeremiah.
In his life there had been thinkings without conclusions, obscure moments of consciousness without clear guidance, broodings without definite
vocations. But one day, we know not how, his circumstances slightly shifted, and his vague meditation changed into vivid conviction, and he heard the voice of the Lord God saying unto him, "Before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet." It was a clear call: like lightning rather than light: and it was greatly feared, and reluctantly accepted."
I think we all have differing circumstances in our calling! What do you think? More on the subject next time!!
2 Tim. 4:2 Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.
Happy Coming Lord's Day!!
...from the Hollingsworth Family.
YOU are a blessing to me and the ministry!
2 Tim. 4:3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching
What's New at Preachology.com?
There are new sermons and some great poems on my website...take a look!
Keep praying for us as we minister at the Prison to the prisoners (We had 18 saved last Saturday in a special Evangelism Seminar) and the officers and pray as Janey and I minister at the church as well.
I am praying for you and your ministry and enjoy hearing from you with your prayer requests.
PREACHOLOGY BIBLE INSTITUTE...still coming...!!!
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POWER IN BELIEF
1. When the Great Depression struck in the 1930's many people lost all that they owned. One man was able to keep nothing but some fine furniture and carpets. It also happened that a real estate developer was building expensive houses that he was having trouble selling.
The developer did a strange thing. He asked the man and his wife who had all the costly furniture and carpets to move into one of his houses. His theory was that if customers could see an occupied house, they would be more willing to buy. The idea worked, and so he had the couple move into another house and then another.
2. We human beings often try to rebuild our lives. We see our failures and the emptiness and the heartaches and are motivated to change.
But if you are seeking to rebuild your life, you can not simply clean it up and leave it empty. That is what the man in
the parable tried and his attempt was a failure. An unclean spirit left the man and then returned.
Let's look together and see what lessons we can learn from him.
I. The Inadequacy of a Reformed Life.
Evil can be cast out, but not destroyed. Some of us try to throw out the evil through reformation. We make a decision to change. Even a lost man may reform his life. He cleanses his heart of some evil practice, but it is left empty. There is nothing to come in and fill it. After a while that heart fills up with many other sins. Salvation is more than reformation. It takes the presence of Christ in the heart to keep sin out.
Some of us try to throw out the evil through education. Within the last century there have been those who have said that the big problem of mankind is ignorance. If we can remove the ignorance, then we can solve our problems. But many times education only makes us more efficient sinners. It does not
solve the basic problem of man.
The man in the parable had an evil spirit driven from his life. Everything was swept clean and his life put in order. But the spirit later returned with seven others even worse than him.
All of us want to change and become more like Christ -- that is the quest, the desire of every true believer. But a Christian is never cured of his temptations. They will remain with him as long as he lives in this world.
The alcoholic who quits drinking remains an alcoholic for as long as he lives. He may remain sober, but he is always an alcoholic. Even one drink can cause all his defenses to fall apart..and he starts drinking again.
I have seen lives that God has taken and turned around overnight. A man can stop drinking, running around, destroying his family, and fighting in a very short time with God's help. It's funny that we never hear of doctors or psychiatrists doing the same thing for a person. But
even with God's help, many of the temptations are still around, and the desires are just below the surface.
a) Your weakness may be laziness? A teenager might be able to work himself to death playing hockey, but he looses all his energy when he looks at the huge yard his father wants him to cut. The lotus plant in Greek mythology made men forget their homes and want to lie all day in the sun. The Christian may have to use a lot of effort to prevent the lotus laziness from tempting him to sin.
b) Your weakness may be a temper. Many a person has allowed his temper to make him a slave. Alexander the Great, the man who cried because there were no more worlds to conquer, got drunk one night and threw a spear into his best friend because of his temper. All of his power could not bring his friend back. The Christian with the temper may have to fight his uncontrolled emotions for the rest of his life.
c) Your temptation may be selfishness. In
some obscure places in the world, there are people who call themselves survivors. They believe that civilization is about to collapse and their plan is to stockpile food and weapons. They are prepared to shoot anybody that tries to get their food. They many be crazy and paranoid, but they are also intensely interested in themselves. The temptation to be selfish remains a problem for many Christians.
d) Your temptation may be lust. Our society seems to be driven by sexuality. A detached observer would conclude that we are obsessed by sex.
e) Your temptation may be a critical spirit or a loose tongue.
f) Maybe you are tempted to be pessimistic and negative.
No matter what tempts you the most--laziness, a temper, selfishness, or something else, it will probably remain with you for the rest of your life. Satan tempts us in our area of weakness, and not our strength. God can help you drive evil out of your life, but it is not
destroyed. There is a saying, "Scratch a Russian and you will find a Mongol." If you scratch a Christian, you will find someone who always has the potential to sin again. That means that we must always be on guard against our weaknesses, and avoid situations where we might be weak.
I had lived for several years apart from Christ. Then I rededicated my life. I assumed that because I was making this turn in my life that the temptations would not be such a struggle anymore. But I found that the first year was the most difficult. The old temptations were still there, and I became discouraged that I was not more like Christ. I found that evil may be cast out but not destroyed.
II. The Uncertainty of the Complacent Life.
When the unclean spirit could find no place else to go, it went back to where it had been before. It found the place unoccupied -- evidence of complacency. We can be like that. We come to church and sit in our comfortable
pews and look around for someone else to be stirred and make some kind of decision. But all the while our own hearts are far from God.
Like so many others we are holding back something from God. The Rich Young Ruler went to Jesus and wanted salvation desperately. Jesus told him to sell all that he had and give everything to the poor. But he was unable to give up that part of his life. He wanted to hold on to that part of his life.
Can you imagine trying to sell a house. As you show the prospective buyer the house, he asks, "What is in this room?" And you say, "You can't go in there. You may go into any other room, but that room is reserved." No one would be foolish enough to buy such a house. What makes us think that God will accept a portion of our lives?
I have seen people with few talents or few opportunities who might have said, "Why should I work so hard? I'll just give God a little." Our churches are filled with people that
have committed a little of themselves to
God. Willis A. Sutton once taught a Sunday School class in a small country church. Most of the time he had only one pupil in the class. But he carefully prepared his lesson and gave it his best. That student later became a preacher in the Church and Dr. Sutton became a well known teacher. Even when his opportunity was small, he did not hold back.
Some of us are complacent about prayer -- complacent about bible study -- complacent about seeking God.
From my vantage point up here, I can see the people in the congregation as you sing. Some do not sing at all, others make feeble attempts while staring into space. But there are others who sing as a form of worship to their God. The praise they have helps to create an enthusiastic atmosphere and they enjoy it themselves. By giving more, they receive more. They don't hold back. There is the uncertainty of the complacent life.
III. The Danger of an
In the beginning there was evidence of some labor. The room had been swept and put in order. But nothing was added to this.
The empty room in the parable is like the empty lives of so many people today. That room is going to fill up with something. In this poor man's case, it was filled with seven evil spirits even worse than the first. But it could just as easily have been totally filled by walking in the steps of Christ. John says, "This is how you know that your experience is real -- that is you obey his commandments."
It is interesting to watch people change a habit. One man said, "I can quit smoking anytime I want. I've already done it a hundred times." It doesn't take so long to get over the craving for nicotine, that can be done in a week or two. But smoking involves time as well. A man smokes with his cup of coffee; he smokes when he talks on the phone; he smokes after a meal. A person trying to quit smoking
often goes berserk trying to replace all the extra time he has. It is so hard that some people quit for a year or two and then start back up. In the same way, you might drive some evil out of your life, but unless you commit to following Christ daily, it can come back even worse than before.
Suppose a man acquires a garden that had been allowed to run wild. He digs it, takes out the weeds and cleans the whole place up. But if he then leaves it alone, the weeds will soon come back and cover the whole garden. He can't leave it empty, but must plant it with vegetables or flowers. The best way to deep out the weeds is to gave so many useful plants, there is no room for the weeds.
The church today seems to be one characterized by easy believing. You understand that Jesus lived and died and arose again. You walk down the aisle and say you want to be a Christian. You are baptized and made a member in good standing. And that is the end of the
story...Right? There is the danger of the idle life.
IV. The Failure of an Empty Life.
In this parable Jesus may have been referring to the Jews after their exile into Babylon. Throughout their history they had worshiped idols. While in the wilderness they made an idol of Baal out of gold and bowed down and worshiped it. When they entered the promised land they followed after false gods. Finally God allowed them to be sent into captivity into Babylon. After this they never practiced idol worship again. Ezra emptied and swept and garnished. But all this was not enough. The people still did not fill their hearts with God.
No one is safe whose life is empty.
All this demonstrates that a negative religion is a failure. It must be replaced with the presence of God's Spirit. From the earliest training in Sunday School, we learn about how much we do that is wrong. We are told to learn the "thou shalt nots" in the Old Testament as
well as all the ones that our tradition tell us. It is the tendency of all religions and all men use a set of rules as the way to God.
Paul said that such laws and rules were good for a time to teach us. They make us aware that we cannot be good enough within ourselves. But there is also a problem. A negative religion never makes anyone right with God.
We may strive so hard to follow all the rules and regulations, we try to separate ourselves from others. The pious Jews would not touch the gentiles or visit with them because they did not want to be contaminated. We may begin to compare ourselves with others and say, "I am not so bad. At least I am better than John down the street."
The key to the problem of the man in the parable was replacement. The evil spirit was driven out, but he didn't replace the emptiness with anything else. You can sterilize a life, but it can be reinfected unless something else is there to take its place.
A life built upon "thou shalt nots" is one that may hate evil, but the Christian must fill his life with the presence of Christ. How often have you heard someone say, "I've never done anyone harm." Such a negative religion only gives us the minimum standard to shoot for. And it doesn't fill our lives with anything positive.
If you take an empty glass, you might wonder what the best way of removing the air might be. You can't pour it out. You can't dig it out. But if you fill it with water then all the air is removed. When we look into our lives that are filled with sin, we can't pour out the sin or dig out the sin. It can only be removed by being filled with the Spirit of Christ.
1. We do not have to be weak and helpless in the face of temptations. We do not have to feel that God is only a small portion of our lives. Power fills every life. We are given the opportunity to be filled with the power of God's Spirit. John says, "Greater
is he that is in you than he that is in the world." A lady once rented a jeep and drove out to the beach. She had been told that the jeep could go anywhere and was surprised when it got stuck in the sand. She raced the motor but the wheels only sank further into the sand.
She walked to a garage to get a wrecker, and the man explained that she did not need one. He went out with her to the beach and showed her that the jeep had a pulling gear that gave four-wheel drive. As soon as she engaged the gear, the jeep pulled right out of the sand. The man later said, "The lady thought she was stuck but she had more power than she thought."
2. Could the same thing be true of you? Are you tired of an empty life that is going nowhere? Have you lost all the battles with sin? Jesus can offer you the power to get out of the rut. There is power in him. He said, "If you can believe, all things are possible." Will you believe now?
Paul said, "I can do
all things through Christ who strengthens me."