Tuesday, October 13, 2009


I came across these sermon notes as I was cleaning up my study. They are the notes for the sermon that I preached on the morning of the big storm. This message brought the house down, as the storm began in earnest during the morning service. I thought I'd post it on my blog--seeing as it is kind of historical...


The 15 year old teenager headed off to church, as he normally did on Sunday mornings. But there was a blizzard that day and the heavy snow kept him from going to his usual place of worship. Instead he found himself in a Primitive Methodist Church.

As a young man, from a long lineage of Pastors, he knew all about Christianity, but he didn’t know Christ. Later he would write of those days, "It was my sad lot to feel the greatness of my sin without a discovery of the greatness of God’s mercy."

The Primitive Methodist Church almost didn’t open that morning, but the caretaker, thinking that a few people might show up, opened the doors and lit the stove. By 11:00 some 12-15 people had come inside, but not the Pastor. He had apparently been unable to get there because of the snow.

Finally one of the laymen of the congregation reluctantly took the pulpit. As he looked down, he could see the small congregation, hundreds of empty seats, and the young 15 year old boy seated under the gallery. The text for his sermon was "Look unto me, and be ye saved" (Isa. 45:22), and after about ten minutes of repeating himself, the man was about to step down from the pulpit. But before he did, he addressed the teenager. "Young man," he said, "you look very miserable, and you will always be miserable if you don’t obey my text. But if you do obey now, this moment, you will be saved." He paused again, then shouted at the young man with more animation, "Young man, look to Jesus! Look! Look! Look!"

The substitute preacher and his boring sermon was what the Holy Spirit used to bring Charles Spurgeon to Christ. Later Spurgeon wrote of that experience, "There and then the cloud was gone, the darkness was rolled away." God used an ordinary man to proclaim His extraordinary message. Charles Spurgeon was saved, he went on to be arguably the most successful Pastor the church has ever seen. His preaching was used by God to bring thousands upon thousands to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.

Some of the believers in Corinth were enamored with gifted speakers and clever systems of human wisdom. They elevated speakers and depreciated the gospel message. And the Apostle Paul was responding to their error.

We live in a day when people are prone to the same error, but the opportunities to be deceived by charismatic speakers are even more pervasive. The biggest church in America is a church that preaches a false gospel that avoids the cross. Major movements in evangelicalism focus not on Christ and what he has done but human engineered mechanisms that are designed to produce results no matter what. It has gotten so bad in the modern church--I saw a video of a church that puts on a show every week to get people in the door. The two examples that I saw were incredible. In the one case they had set up a motocross jump track on the stage. Two motorcycle riders simultaneously rode their bikes up the ramps over the head of the Pastor in opposite directions. The entire display was done as an illustration, according to the Pastor, to display the power of the Gospel.

To be sure the modern church has lost its way when it comes to such displays. They are contrary to God’s design. God doesn’t need our help when it comes to saving souls. He has designed the process to work in a particular way--ordinary men preaching an extraordinary message regarding an extraordinary Savior!


A. We are prone to elevate men
1. The church in Corinth had a problem. There were divisions in the church (1:10). These divisions were caused in part by some in the church who were aligning themselves with one particular leader vs. another. Another complicating factor was the tendancy of some in the church to be enamored with charismatic leaders and clever philosophical arguments. Paul was confronting this issue.
2. We are prone to elevate men and look to them rather than to Christ. A good example of what I’m talking about is seen in the book of Acts (Acts 14:8:15). The Apostle Paul healed a man who had been lame from birth. When the multitudes saw what Paul had done they called Paul and Barnabas gods and then brought oxen and garlands wanting to make sacrifices to them. Paul, in response, tore his robes and cried out, "Men, why are you doing these things? We are also men of the same nature as you, and preach the gospel to you in order that you should turn from these vain things to a living God." "WE ARE MEN OF THE SAME NATURE AS YOU."

B. Paul was an ordinary man
1. We tend to put even the Apostles on a higher plane.
2. To be sure they are the "foundation" of God’s holy temple--the church. We look at the example of the Apostle Paul--what a great man of God he was. No one since has been used by God for the salvation of so many souls. He is the churches greatest missionary. No one has more books in the Bible attributed to them than Paul. Christ Himself revealed to Paul the tremendous theology that we read of in the book of Romans and his other books. He had an experience in which he was caught up into the third heaven and "heard inexpressible words, which a man is not permitted to speak" (2 Cor. 12:4).
3. And yet the Apostle Paul clearly understood his position before God. He was an ordinary man who was saved by the grace of God, called by the grace of God, sustained by the grace of God, and made faithful in ministry by the grace of God. He conducted himself and his ministry with genuine and complete humility. He called himself "the least of the Apostles" (1 Cor. 15:9) and the "foremost of sinners" (1 Tim. 1:15). He made it clear that all that he did was by the grace of God. "By the grace of God I am what I am" he said (1 Cor. 15:10).

C. His preaching was not characterized by great speaking ability or any degree of human ingenuity
1. 1 Cor. 2:1, "And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come in superiority of speech or of wisdom." Those espousing human wisdom came that way, Paul did not. The Corinthians were saying of Paul, "His letters are weighty and strong, but his personal presence is unimpressive, and his speech contemptible" (1 Cor. 10:10). A false teacher may have a great degree of charisma and ability to entertain an audience, but that doesn’t attract a crowd, but that doesn’t legitimize his message. I once had a Pastor who had a stuttering problem. The founder of a nationwide evangelism training program has a speech impediment, but that doesn’t prevent him from proclaiming the message of the gospel, in fact in his impediment the Gospel message is all the more powerful.
2. Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) was a brilliant theologian whose sermons had an overwhelming impact on those who heard him. One in particular, his famous "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God," moved hundreds to repentance and salvation. That single message helped to spark the revival known as "The Great Awakening" (1734-1744). From a human standpoint, it seems incredible that such far-reaching results could come from one message. Edwards did not have a commanding voice or impressive pulpit manner. He used very few gestures, and he read from a manuscript. Yet God's Spirit moved upon his hearers with conviction and power. Few know the spiritual preparation involved in that sermon. John Chapman gives us the story: "For 3 days Edwards had not eaten a mouthful of food; for 3 nights he had not closed his eyes in sleep. Over and over again he was heard to pray, "O Lord, give me New England! Give me New England!' When he arose from his knees and made his way into the pulpit that Sunday, he looked as if he had been gazing straight into the face of God. Even before he began to speak, tremendous conviction fell upon his audience."
3. The Apostle Paul was much different in his preaching in another respect. The false teachers spoke with a great degree of self-assurance. The Apostle Paul said, "I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling" (1 Cor. 2:3). What a startling verse when you consider who the Apostle Paul was. Why was he like that? Because he knew his limitations. He was an ordinary man called upon to preach an extraordinary message. He knew that that he himself could do nothing apart from the grace of God. He saw himself simply as a vessel through which God could make known His extraordinary message. 2 Cor. 4:7, "But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing greatness of he power may be of God and not from ourselves."
4. Charles Spurgeon once remarked: "My deacons know well enough how, when I first preached in Exeter Hall, there was scarcely ever an occasion, in which they left me alone for ten minutes before the service, but they would find me in a most fearful state of sickness, produced by that tremendous thought of my solemn responsibility."


A. Nothing except Jesus Christ and Him crucified
1. It was said that in Corinth there was a philosopher on every street corner. And they competed with each other for an audience. The successful ones used their superior speech and philosophical arguments to gain a hearing.
2. False teachers likewise were proclaiming a different Christ and a different gospel by a different spirit (2 Corinthians 11:4).
3. Likewise we live in a time when a myriad of different philosophies and ideas compete for your attention. Some who espouse their philosophies do so with great charisma. Some use very clever arguments. And even in the church, we are given in our day, to countless man-centered approaches to salvation and the essentials of the Christian life.
4. How did the Apostle Paul respond to all of that? Notice what he said, "For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified" (1 Corinthians 2:2). The Apostle Paul did not attempt to compete with the false teachers or dispensers of humanisitic philosophy, he simply proclaimed the message that God gave to him to proclaim.

B. An extraordinary person
1. Paul’s message was all about Christ and it was only about Christ. He did not preach anything that did not have Christ at the center of it.
2. Consider Christ:
He is the creator of all things--"All things came into being by Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being" (John 1:3).
He is "the Word" that became flesh--"And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the father, full of grace and truth." (John 1:14).
He is the Lamb of God who came to take away the sin of the world (John 1:29).
He is the one who was crucified, who died, and who rose from the dead (1 Cor. 15:1-3).
He is the one who ascended to the right hand of the Father.
He is the head of the church (Eph. 1:22).
He is the one who is coming again and to whom every knee shall bow of those who are in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth (Phil. 2:10).
He is the one who alone who has the authority to save. I am the way, and the truth, and the life" (John 14:6). Indeed salvation is by Christ, through Christ, and for Christ.
3. Dr. Russell Conwell, the Pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Philadelphia and founder of Temple University was renowed for the Christlikeness of his character and breadth of his phlanthropies. Inscribed upon the back of his pulpit were these words, "We would see Jesus." They were put there by his request. It was his desire to present Christ to his congregation.
4. A. W. Tozer, "I have suffered through many a dull and tedious sermon, but no sermon is poor or long when the preacher is showing me the beauty of Jesus."

C. An extraordinary work
1. We have already spoken of the extrorindary work that Christ has done. And how the message of the gospel is the preeminent message that God has given to the church to proclaim. It is the glorious gospel and the power of God unto salvation to all who believe.
2. David Brainerd’s ministry was characterized by the simple message of the gospel. He said, "I never got away from Jesus and Him crucified in my preaching. I found that once these people were gripped by the great evangelical meaning of Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf, I did not have to give them instructions about changing their behavior.
3. Vincent Ferrier, an eloquent preacher of the 15th century was called to preach before a high dignitary of state. He took care to prepare his sermon according to the rules of oratory, but it was a notable failure. Next day he preached in his usual style, without pretentiousness, and electrified his hearers. The dignitary, who had heard him on both occasions, asked him how he could account for so great a difference in his sermons. He answered, "Yesterday Vincent Ferrier preached; today Jesus Christ."

1. Why has God designed it this way--that He uses ordinary men to proclaim this extraordinary message?
2. Two reasons:
a. 2 Corinthians 4:7, "But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing greatness of the power may be of God and not from ourselves." According to God’s design when ordinary men are used by Him to proclaim this extraordinary message that results in the salvation of souls, all of the honor and glory goes to God. The entire process is by God’s grace and is attributed to Him.
b. 1 Corinthians 2:5, "That your faith should not rest on this wisdom of men, but on the power of God." If your faith is in anything else besides Christ and His saving work on the cross, it is in the wrong thing. If it is dependent upon the eloquence of a gifted speaker--that is the wrong thing. It it is captivated by a entertaining and enlivened music ministry--that is the wrong thing. If it is on a particular Pastor or youth leader--that is the wrong thing. If it is built upon a activity oriented youth ministry--that is the wrong thing. That’s not to say that there isn’t a place for Pastors, youth leaders, music, and activities--but all of these things are merely tools--and if they become the focus, and a person’s faith rests upon them, what happens when they cease to exist? What happens when the Pastor leaves, or the music stops, or the activities cease?
3. I conclude with an illustration that Charles Spurgeon used in the introduction to his book, "All of Grace." A certain man placed a fountain by the wayside, and he hung up a cup near to it by a little chain. He was told some time after that a great art-critic had found much fault with its design. "But," said he, "do many thirsty persons drink at it?" Then they told him that thousands of poor people, men, women, and children, slaked their thirst at this fountain; and he smiled and said, that he was little troubled by the critic’s observation, only he hoped that on some sultry summer’s day the critic himself might fill the cup, and be refreshed, and praise the name of the Lord. Here is my fountain, and here is my cup; find fault if you please; but do drink of the water of life. I only care for this. I had rather bless the soul of the poorest, crossing-sweeper, or rag-gatherer, than please a prince of the blood, and fail to convert him to God."

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