17. Some Thoughts On Preaching
(by Alan Eyre)
17. 1“THIS GOD IS OUR GOD”
The God, or god, people believe in, worship and preach unmistakably moulds
their message. Muslims proclaim the god they worship when their terrorist
bombs leave maimed and bleeding schoolchildren in blasted buses. An Iranian
Shi’ite who visited a Bible Exhibition in Sydney mocked at the Saviour
we honour: “Your hero told you to turn the other cheek. What a fool! Our
heroes blow up jumbo jets!” I was driving through the vine-growing valley
of Eshcol when an Orthodox Jew riding with me suddenly grabbed an Uzi
machine gun and began firing at some unarmed Arab children. I asked him
if his God would approve of such unprovoked barbarity. “Of course”, came
the answer, “my Scriptures tell me Adonai is a God of war and I am His
battle axe”. I had a neighbour once who boasted, like those in James 4
and 5, that he kept his heathen workers submissive by always keeping back
some of their pay by fraud. He always dressed in white and never missed
a Sunday in the church where he was an elder. The workers were told that
he was indeed a model Christian, so he was the kind of god that Christians
worshipped. In the end they murdered him in the name of his ‘Christian’
god. Mother Teresa of Calcutta so imprinted the spirit of her merciful
God upon her Indian neighbours that many Hindus were inspired to change
the very concept of divinity.
We are no exception to this rule. As we preach, so our God (or god) is
publicly revealed to all.
It is a pity, almost a tragedy, that the most important biblical doctrine
of all gets only a passing mention in our statements of faith, and
is only rarely touched upon in our public proclamation. It is the profound
truth: God is love (I John 4:8). In one Instructor
“children under eight” are taught that God is “glorious spirit substance”,
and that they “have to be very careful” of what they do or say, and that
if God isn’t pleased with them they will be “driven away [from Him] in
shame and disgrace”. These little tots are taught about the different
fates of the responsible and irresponsible dead and the names of sons
of Israel. But there is not a word, not one word, about how happy Jesus
was when children sat on his knee, not one word about the fact that God
loves them all and wants them to live for ever in a peaceful Kingdom right
here on earth. There is nothing at all about the fact that God loves them
so deeply and dearly that long ago He sent His Son as a baby born in a
stable, a baby who grew up to be such a wonderful, wonderful person that
all the world ever since knows what God is really like.
The God of the Instructor is defined thus: “He is kind yet inflexible”
(1). That may have been Calvin’s God but
it is certainly not the God of the Bible. How can we possibly tell people
that we read and believe the Bible and yet preach a God like that? Abraham
did not believe that his God was inflexible when he prayed for Sodom.
God was not inflexible with Pharaoh, or Rahab, or Ruth, or David, or Manasseh,
or Ahab, or Simon the Samaritan, or the Ninevites, or a host of others.
He hears the cry of every contrite heart. He strengthens the weak hands
and the feeble knees. Only the wicked slothful servant thought that his
Master was hard and inflexible (Matthew 25:24). Our God turns, repents,
changes His mind and His plans, sometimes with inexplicable caprice, and
loves the unthankful and the unholy until it hurts. The God we proclaim
is a God of whom it is said that in the days of Noah, man’s sin grieved
Him so much that “His heart was filled with pain” (Genesis 6:6).
As we preach, we must proclaim the God of the whole Bible, not Adonai
the cruel God of the Israeli army, not the benevolent grandfather God
of the television evangelists who is so soft that he will cure AIDS for
a few dollars, and not the puritanical God of the capitalist “Christian
right” who will bless you with boundless material prosperity if you only
work hard enough. No, the “God of truth” (Deuteronomy 32:4) whom we preach
is the God who is love. Our message could not be better expressed than
by John Thomas, in his matchless English prose:
“[The true faith] precludes entirely the idea of appeasing the wrath
of God. God needs not to be appeased by man; and every system, therefore,
which is predicated upon the notion that it is necessary, is not only
unscriptural, but essentially false. God is already reconciled
to the world, which He has always loved; although it acts the part of,
and therefore is, the enemy of God. “He so loved the world that He gave
His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in him should not perish,
but have everlasting life”. The fact of a divine religion being instituted
is proof of the love He bears the human race. He seeks to appease men
by His goodness, which invites them to repentance. His love is manifested
in all that He has done for the world. He has sought to enlighten it,
and to exalt it to a participation in the divine nature by the ameliorating
influences of the truth. He has sent messengers to it with their lives
in their hands, ready to lay them down in the divine work of beseeching
mankind to be reconciled to God” (2).
This is a God for “all men everywhere” (Acts 17:31). This truth will
draw the Hindu, the Muslim, the Buddhist, the Chinese, the dissatisfied
Christian, close to the true and living God, the God who forgives, loves
Here then is our God, the God we must preach, in every book from Genesis
Genesis. The God who promises a way
of redemption, and who is grieved at sin. The God who will spare if
it is in any way possible. The God who is interested and involved in
the petty domestic problems of a heathen king. The God who expects us
to forgive our brethren, even those who hate us, freely. 3:15; 6:6;
18:16-33; 20:17; 50:15-21.
Exodus. The God who is compassionate and
gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining
love to thousands. 34:6,7.
Leviticus. The God who does not bear
grudges and expects that we do not bear them either. The God who helps
us up when we are down and remembers us even when we forget Him. 19:18,
Numbers. The God who accepts mediatorial
prayer for the foolish. The God who was so anxious that His people would
not forget Him that he made them wear a hem of blue that would remind
them of heaven every day. 12:13, 15:37-41.
Deuteronomy. The God who loves the
stranger and the alien, the widow and the fatherless. 10:18.
Joshua. The God who loves and saves those
who have faith, regardless of their origins. 6:22-23.
Judges. The God who, when people cry out
for help in desperation, listens and delivers. 6:6-8.
Ruth. The God who provides rest for the weary
soul. 1:9, 2:12, 3:1.
I Samuel. The God who is ready and eager
to give even the most stubborn of men a chance. 15:30-35.
II Samuel. The God who will promptly and
absolutely forgive the most heinous of transgressions, including adultery
and murder, whenever and wherever there is genuine repentance. 12:13.
I Kings. The God who turns wayward people’s
hearts towards Him. 18:37.
II Kings. The God who will bless the preaching
of a teenage girl so that a prominent opponent of God is converted.
I Chronicles. The God who is exalted as head
over all, is ruler of all things, and who gives strength to all. 29:11-12.
II Chronicles. The God whose love endures
for ever, 20:21.
Ezra. The God who is gracious, righteous,
and who punishes us less than our sins deserve. 9:8,13,15.
Nehemiah. The God who gives life to everything,
and who is deeply moved by human suffering. 9:5-9.
Esther. The God who saves and delivers through
the willing sacrifice of those who love Him. 4:14.
Job. The God who responds to mediatorial
prayer from his saints, even on behalf of those who are totally unworthy
of it. 42:7-10.
Psalms. The God who is a personal God, fully
and intimately involved in people’s day to day lives. All the Psalms!
Proverbs. The God who is a shield to all
who take refuge in Him. 30:5.
Ecclesiastes. The God who gives satisfaction
and enjoyment through daily work, the family and every daily experience
of life. 3:13.
Song of Songs. The God who blesses love between
man and woman because it is a reflection of His own. 8:6.
Isaiah. The God who willingly gave His beloved
Son to be a guilt offering for us all. 53:10.
Jeremiah. The God who is a faithful husband
to the wayward people whom He loves. 31:32.
Lamentations. The God who is good to those
whose hope is in Him, even when times are hard. 3:25.
Ezekiel. The God who tends His sheep, searches
for the lost, and brings back the strays. 34:15-16.
Daniel. The God who is able to save and rescue
so dramatically that even the heathen marvel. 3:17,29.
Hosea. The God who speaks tenderly to the
weak and erring, and who continues to show love even to those who spurn
Joel. The God who is gracious ad compassionate,
who turns and has pity, and leaves behind a blessing. 2:13,14.
Amos. The God who, astonishingly, reveals
His thoughts to man. 4:13.
Obadiah. The God who sends deliverers when
His people are oppressed. 21.
Jonah. The God who is concerned for the big,
sinful cities of the world. 4:11.
Micah. The God who is the Light of His people
despite their sins. 7:8-9.
Nahum. The God who is slow to anger and great
in power. 1:3.
Habakkuk. The God who in wrath remembers
Zephaniah. The God who is mighty to save.
Haggai. The God who grants peace. 2:9.
Zechariah. The God who speaks kind and comforting
Malachi. The God who blesses married life
and seeks godly offspring. 2:15.
Matthew. The God who causes His sun to rise
on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and unrighteous
Mark. The God with whom all things are possible.
Luke. The God who is kind to the ungrateful
and wicked. 6:35.
John. The God who so loved the world that
He gave His own Son to save it. 3:16.
Acts. The God who raised up His servant and
sent him to bless us. 3:26.
Romans. The God who justifies those who have
faith in Jesus. 3:26.
I Corinthians. The God who gives us the victory
through our Lord Jesus Christ. 15:57.
II Corinthians. The God who spreads everywhere
the fragrance of the knowledge of Christ. 2:14.
Galatians. The God who rescues us from this
present evil age. 1:4.
Ephesians. The God who is great in love and
rich in mercy. 2:4.
Philippians. The God whose peace passes all
Colossians. The God who reconciles us to
Himself, making peace through the blood of Jesus shed on the cross.
I Thessalonians. The God who appoints us
to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. 4:9.
II Thessalonians. The God who is faithful,
who strengthens us and protects us from evil. 3:3.
I Timothy. The God who pours out grace abundantly.
II Timothy. The God who rescues us from every
evil attack and will bring us safely to His heavenly Kingdom. 4:18.
Titus. The God who saves us through the washing
of rebirth. 3:5.
Philemon. The God whose grace and peace fill
our homes. 2-3.
Hebrews. The God who remembers our sins and
lawless acts no more. 10:17.
James. The God who gives us every good and
perfect gift, and who does not change like shifting shadows. 1:17.
I Peter. The God who calls us to eternal
glory in Christ. 5:10.
II Peter. The God who is patient with us,
not wanting anyone to perish. 3:9.
I John. The God who is love. 4:8.
II John. The God who gives grace, mercy and
peace, in truth and love. 3.
III John. The God who does good so that we
might imitate His goodness. 11.
Jude. The God who is able to keep us from
Revelation. The God who will wipe away every
This is our God. A consistent God from Genesis to Revelation. A God who
shares our thoughts, emotions, heartaches, sorrows, sins and victories.
A mighty God who saves. The one true and living God. Not just the Creator
and sustainer of galaxies and black holes, but a God who pours out
love, mercy and grace upon all. A God for every nation under heaven, to
be adored in every tongue on earth. A God before whom every earnest seeking
soul will tremble and bow the knee. He is the God we rejoice to proclaim.
When we thus preach the one true and living God, many contrite hearts
will open, but hearts which selfishness has filled with hate become as
hard as stone. The god of this world will blind the minds of unbelievers,
so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ,
who is the image of God. We commend ourselves to every man’s conscience
in the sight of God. That is how Paul viewed the challenge of witnessing
(2 Corinthians 4).
The Bible informs us clearly that there are dire responsibilities consequent
upon preaching the true God. How can we preach a merciful God but pass
by the helpless on the other side? How can we teach others about the love
of God, yet scandalize other people? How can we quote the Scriptures,
yet deliberately or thoughtlessly neglect the poor and needy, or turn
a deaf ear to their cry?
Preaching can be so many empty words about a cosmological God who is
“glorious spirit substance”, one not three. If God is love, so must be
His witnesses. They must be love, as He is. The spirit of the
preacher must be the spirit of God - “rising early” so as to send His
messengers “again and again because He had pity” (2 Chronicles 36:15).
I know one sister who instructed her many converts at 4am because that
was the only time she had available. One ecclesia wanted to take a candidate
to a river to baptize him, but it was dry. They decided to read I Kings
18 and pray for rain as Elijah did. On that very day the long drought
God is love. God is longsuffering and tolerant, but He is not mocked.
Those who claim to be His and eat at His table, but actually worship the
idols in their own hearts, will perish utterly (Ezekiel 14:4). Those who
imagine that the Lord does not see what they do in secret will be in no
better case (8:12). In our preaching we must, like Paul to the knavish
Felix, “discourse on righteousness, self-control and the judgement to
come” (Acts 24:25). God extends His loving arms as a Father, but he cannot
defile Himself in the hog pen. We must encourage the repentant sinner
to forsake his sins and accept the love, respect and benevolence of God
Almighty. It is our privilege to rejoice and make merry with every one
who is welcomed into our Father’s house (Luke 15:11-32).
(1) Adult question 14.
(2) John Thomas, Elpis Israel, page