Hebrews 4.8-13; John 16.12-16; 2 Timothy 4.1-5
St. Augustine,the 4th Century Church father, said, “The Holy Scriptures are our letters from Home.”Of course by ‘home’ he referred to our heavenly Father’s Home.
On April 6, 1983, my relationship with my wife began. She was at Makerere University, while I was at the University of Melbourne, Australia. This day inaugurated a long distance mail and phone courtship. We wrote lengthy letters, often six-pages on foolscap paper three times a week!
The reading of them was no less passionate! Inefficient postal services ensured that we sometimes received several letters, written on different dates, on one day. I would then arrange them chronologically and read them repeatedly, with glee. They were letters from home, from one I loved.
Imagine being in love and reading your friend’s mail with disinterest! Such a relationship can be predicted accurately to end. Love longs to hear from the beloved. A Christian’s relationship with the ‘Letter from Home’ summarises his/her relationship with God.
Similarly, the pulpit reveals the preacher’s love life with God. I have heard sermons preached making no reference to and citing no Biblical text throughout the sermon. Some exhibit utter disengagement from the Bible Readings of the day, or focus on generating laughter from the congregation. We can only conclude that the preacher did not study the Biblical text or more seriously, does not have real intimacy with God.
I sadly bemoan text readers who stammer through the passage, sometimes uttering unintelligible sentences but who read on oblivious of their meaningless message. They are clearly unfamiliar with the text. They have never passed that way – never read the passage in their private devotion, if they have regular devotion anyway!
In 1988, after several years of reflection, the LORD called me out of academia to preach the Gospel of Christ. I was not promised anything except to follow Jesus and to say what He bid me say. At ordination, ministers are severally admonished to, “Proclaim the Word of God.”Thirty-one years later, God has not changed His mandate to me, or to anyone that He calls to preach the Word. My personal fellowship with God in His Word precedes my preaching.
Paul charged his son, Timothy, “I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, … preach the word; … in season and out of season.”He believed in the sufficiency of God’s Word for our salvation.
One of our foundational Statements for the Anglican Church is the “Thirty-Nine Articles of the Christian Religion”. On the “Sufficiency of the Holy Scriptures forSalvation”,Article VI states that,
“Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation: so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed as an article of the Faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation….”
Only the preaching of the Word of God proclaims authentic salvation. For since it is True, God’s Word is BOTH unchanging and Life changing. Truth vindicates itself for it is true today, tomorrow and will always be true. Therefore this truth (of God) sets sinners free from their sin.
Consequently, nothing should come out of the pulpit that may not be deduced from the Scriptures by faithful study to hear God speaking, or if the message does not exalt Jesus. Preachers who sermonise to make people laugh or to attack others are in error. Such preaching pampers the devil and cannot quench his arrows.
When the Holy Spirit speaks, His Word shows us the LORD Jesus Christ. It cannot be the Word of the Holy Spirit when the preacher’s words exalt the preacher. Preachers, or even churches, who seek self-glory, who relish being thanked, revered or recognition do not speak from the Holy Spirit.
The principal function of a sermon is never to promise listeners a good future or to be interesting, desirable as those may be; these are incidental to making Jesus visible in the church. Every preacher should pray, “LORD speak to me so that You may speak through me.”
Furthermore, diligence in reading and applying the Letter from Home results in a wholesome Christian life.It trains us the ‘home lifestyle’, the knowledge of right and wrong from God’s perspective, rather than man-made values. Then we can live a life appropriate to our Home.
We cannot and must not preach to gratify the listeners’ appetite, or hold on to man-made ‘truths’,but be faithful to God’s truth that changes life. Only God’s Word is sound doctrine with penetrating insight and power into the deeper recesses of a person’s heart.
Often, the Word of God offends a sinful lifestyle and demands the conversion of sinners and the edification of believers.I have heard sermons that sound uninspiring. Yet people flock to surrender to Jesus Christ at the altar call! It is the Letter from Home!
So Paul “did not (aim at) proclaiming … the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom.”He knew the Word of God penetrates human hearts and breaks down the rebellious that hide their wily plans from others. God is faithful to His Word and calls us to listen attentively and be His mouthpiece.
When did you last read Your Letter from Home?