Saturday, October 11, 2014

Tasting the Glory of Christ in the Preaching of the Word

Last year I came across a quote from Augustine (A.D. 354-430) who, as you may know, is one of the most important figures in Christian history. He was a scholar, a pastor, a bishop, a missionary, and one who suffered greatly for the sake of Christ. After he had preached the Word of God for many years, he wrote these wise and penetrating words:

“My preaching almost always displeases me. For I am eager after something better, of which I often have an inward enjoyment before I set about expressing my thoughts in audible words. Then, when I have failed to utter my meaning as clearly as I conceived it, I am disappointed that my tongue is incapable of doing justice to that which is in my heart. What I myself understand I wish my hearers to understand as fully; and I feel I am not so speaking as to effect this. The chief reason is that the conception lights up the mind in a kind of rapid flash; whereas the utterance is slow, lagging and far unlike what it would convey” (Augustine, Catechizing the Uninstructed, chapter 2, ca. A.D. 403).

I feel what Augustine felt almost every Sunday. At times this feeling is mild and at times it is nearly paralyzing, but it is almost always there. Augustine was a wise and seasoned preacher when he wrote this, and I accept his explanation as to why there is such a gulf between the experience of truth in the soul of the preacher and the power of truth expressed through the mouth of the preacher. But it seems to me that the wisdom of God is at work here in another way that has to do with you, that is, those who mainly hear sermons rather than preach them.

I think God has designed preaching to expose the truth that is inherent in the Word of God and to lay out the path by which the listeners may taste the glory of that truth. But in order to taste the glory, they must trod the path themselves. Hopefully, they will see true passion in the preacher and be moved by what they see, but at the end of the day that experience is but an invitation from the Lord that says, “Come near to me, my child, and let me show you marvelous things in my Word. Seek me for yourself and I will allow you to taste the glory you have glimpsed.”

God uses sermons to instruct and inspire, but more importantly he uses them to invite his children to seek him with all their hearts. So listen well to the Word of God that will be preached to you today, but then draw near to your Father and let him feed you with the glory that fed this preacher all week long.

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