PREACHING, FREEDOM AND RESPONSIBILITY

Not long after I started writing daily on Facebook, I posted the following paragraph;

Why am I writing all this about Jesus, the Bible and religion? I guess I am like the prophet Jeremiah. “His word was in my heart like a burning fire Shut up in my bones; I was weary of holding it back, And I could not.” Free to be silent, he chose to not speak God’s word but found that he could not keep it in. God’s word is so important and the need for it so great that it compels believers to “ring it out.”  (Posted10/20/10).

As with many things relating to the Bible and Christianity, preaching the gospel is surrounded by mystery and misunderstanding insofar as many people are concerned. It is unfortunate that this is so. Such misunderstandings contribute to confusion and unbelief. There is a great need that we have better insight into what actually is taught in the Bible in order that we not hinder the truth from being accepted by those who have a great need to know it.

When we approach the Bible it should be with an understanding that it is God’s message to mankind about Himself and His purpose for His creation. Underlying this conclusion is the assumption that God is an intelligent being, capable of communicating with human beings and being understood by them. His message is communicated in human language – in words capable of being understood by ordinary men and women. And He has enlisted ordinary people to spread that message since the first century.

This does not mean that His message is ordinary! Indeed, it is anything but ordinary. When we consider that this is a communication of the Creator of the universe to man who is only a small part of that creation. But again, that does not mean that man is an insignificant part of the creation. In fact, human beings are the only part of God’s entire earthly creation that was made in the “image” of God. This fact accounts for man having the intelligence to understand a communication from God, and also the freedom to do something about it.

There has long been the misconception that one must be specially called by God before he can be a true preacher of the gospel. Yet among those who claim a special call, there are wide variations in what they preach. It just cannot be that God would call people to carry His message to mankind and then give them different and conflicting messages!

A preacher is no different from any other Christian except for those who do it for the right reason. He has freely chosen to spend his life in preparation and preaching the precious message of the cross whereas others have not made that choice.  He has not been compelled by God to do this wonderful work. God doesn’t make anyone do anything he doesn’t want to do. Whatever “call” one may feel is by his own recognition of the burning need for people to do this work.

There is a sense in which every Christian has been called to spread the message of God’s love and salvation. Everyone is called in a general sense, but not as individuals specifically. Jesus’ words giving us this commission were,

Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:19-20)

But whether we choose to preach it or not is entirely up to us. Choosing not to teach others may not please God and we certainly will not be a blessing to others, but He leaves us free to choose whether we will or will not. Certainly there are many people today who choose not to preach even though they have both the knowledge and ability. Their problem is that they lack the desire to do so. However, if we do not choose to preach, there is a price to be paid. It is the price at least one preacher was unwilling to pay.

The apostle Paul had been called by God to be an apostle and preacher of the gospel. (Rom. 1:1). He knew the message that God wanted preached – the gospel of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus, our Lord and Savior (1 Cor. 2:2). He writes of both the compulsion he was under to preach and the consequences of not doing so.

For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for necessity is laid upon me; yes, woe is me if I do not preach the gospel!” (1 Cor. 9:16).

When he speaks of necessity being on him, he did not mean that God was making him preach against his will. It was his own sense of indebtedness that drove him on in this great work.

I am a debtor both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to wise and to unwise.” (Rom. 1:14).

To preach the gospel was the only way he could be truly free. As he said, “woe is me if I do not preach the gospel!” It was his own conscience that would have condemned him had he not done all he could do to be God’s messenger to all he could reach.

It is a source of joy, not only to preach the gospel, but to see people respond in faith to the “old, old story of Jesus and His love.” Paul found those whom he had converted to be such.

For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Is it not even you in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming?” (1 Thess 2:19).

And again in Philippians 4:1;

Therefore, my beloved and longed-for brethren, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, beloved.”

Herein lies the greatest freedom one can know – becoming a partner with God in the great work of saving souls – knowing something of the joy that God Himself knows in the transformation of even one sinner from a wasted life into a life of joy and peace in the service of God – being allied with heaven in the greatest rescue project that ever has been undertaken since time began.

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