So these came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, "Sir, we wish to see Jesus."
- John 12.21
May my teacher deliver me/ to Christ, dear beyond loving...
- Oengus mac Oengobann, Feilire Oengusso (Irish, 9th century)
I recall a sermon I once heard by a man candidating for a call to the ministry. It was a detailed exposition of 1 Thessalonians 2, with particular emphasis - since he was preaching to a crowd of preachers and elders - on the work of elders in caring for the church.
After he preached he was dismissed so that the brethren could assess his message. One after another men rose to extol the clarity of his logic, the ease of his presentation, and the careful explanation of the work of elders which he had presented.
The positive comments continued for some moments until a member of the body rose to ask, "Brethren, has it occurred to no one here that not once in this message - not once - did this young man mention the name of Jesus, or that he did not explain the Gospel?"
The assembly was dumbstruck. Then one of the outspoken defenders of the candidate rose to protest, "Well, if we wanted him to preach an evangelistic message, we should have said so."
The questioner retorted: "Sir, my understanding is that all Scripture is about Jesus. No Scripture can be properly understood apart from Jesus. Knowing Jesus and attaining the upward prize of the high calling of God in Him is our very reason and purpose for living. How can we accredit a message from the Word of Jesus on behalf of the Church of Jesus by the chief apostle appointed by Jesus but which fails even to mention Jesus in the exposition?"
The candidate passed by a wide margin, but it was agreed that his sponsoring committee would "encourage" him to give due consideration to all the remarks voiced during his assessment.
And that's a large part of what's wrong with the Church today: The ministry of the Word is not delivering listeners into the presence of Jesus, to meet Him in His glory, to be searched and taught by His Spirit, and to be transformed into His image.
It's just doctrine or practical advise or soothing words for this or that malady or discomfort.
But those ancient Greeks had the right idea, and so did Oengus. All teaching and preaching should bring us to Jesus, risen from the dead, seated at the Father's right hand, at large in the world, making all things new, and advancing His Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. Only Jesus has the power to save and transform us. If our teaching and preaching aim at anything less than delivering people to Jesus, then it's just as well we find some other line of work.
At the beginning of his compositions, J. S. Bach often wrote the letters, "JJ" - an abbreviation of the Latin for "Jesus, help!" Let us write, at the beginning of all our lesson plans, teaching notes, and anything else we consult as we are preaching and teaching, "Sir, we would see Jesus."
Then let us plead with the Spirit to use our speech to deliver our hearers into the presence and power of Him Who alone makes all things new.
Order copies of If Men Will Pray for as many men as you know. Paul means business about this, and we need to as well. What might God do if Christian men will only begin to pray?
T. M. Moore, Principal