April 20, 2015

Not in Word Only

I recently received my DVD copy of the excellent new documentary, Logic on Fire – a look at the life of Martyn Lloyd-Jones (or ‘the Doctor,’ as he was often called) – who is widely regarded as the greatest preacher of the 20th century. Already I’ve watched the main feature twice over, as well as many of the outtakes that the producers generously chose to include in the package as well! And I’d encourage you to have a look for yourself. You can purchase the film at logiconfire.org (or borrow my copy if you’re local to Cincinnati!).

Also, if you’ve never heard ‘the Doctor’ preach … well then you simply must carve out some time to do so – today! Many of his sermons are available at mljtrust.org (I recommend and “But God …” and “Not in Word Only” for starters?). And don’t tune him out too quickly. As a couple of men say in the documentary, his sermons take a while to taxi down the runway … but when the plane takes off, the preacher will carry you with him to great heights!

So there you have a couple of ways in which you can begin to dip into what was a remarkable ministry, spanning the middle decades of the 20th century. But, in the space that I have left, let me give you just one very valuable insight that I have learned from Dr. Lloyd-Jones – the need for the power of the Holy Spirit in the preaching of the gospel. Here is one of the great takeaways that I have gleaned from my own listening to Lloyd-Jones’ preaching, from watching Logic on Fire, and from reading and listening to the Doctor’s biographer, Iain Murray. The greatness of Dr. Lloyd-Jones’ ministry lay, not merely in his ability to expound the text of scripture (though he was expert at doing so). Nor was his great fruitfulness bound up simply in his oratorical skills (though he had them in abundance). More than these things, those who listened to him would say that, like his Master, the Doctor spoke “as one having authority, and not as the scribes” (Mark 1:22). There was, in other words, an anointing on His preaching; a sense that he really was bringing, not just a nice little study of one or other passage from the Bible, but (from that passage) a message and a burden from the Almighty Himself! Listen to a few sermons, and I trust you will sense it … even across the decades, and through your earbuds.

But where did such unction – such power – come from? Well, I’ve heard Lloyd-Jones himself preaching about it from 1 Thessalonians 1:5 – “for our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction.” Did you hear those words of the apostle Paul? Read them again, and be bowled over! Paul says to the Thessalonians that it wasn’t simply accurate gospel words that won the day in Thessalonica. Now words are vital, Lloyd-Jones says (and so does Paul in Romans 10). We must preach the right words; the gospel words; the words of scripture! But, when Paul preached in Thessalonica, there was more being poured forth than simply accurate words! “Our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction.” Not just words, but – in and through and behind those words – the power of the Holy Spirit, taking up the words, and pouring them out of the mouth and body and personality and personal holiness of the preacher; and pouring them into the minds and hearts of the congregation in such a way that people do leave the service saying: ‘That was a nice sermon’ (much less do they leave and forget the sermon altogether!). No! Under this sort of preaching – preaching (and a holy preacher) mightily empowered by the Spirit – there can be no mere appreciation of a well-constructed speech, and a few good nuggets that I can write down and mull over at a convenient time. Under this sort of preaching – preaching with unction – people are overpowered with conviction, and joy, and love for Christ, and desires for holiness and service to His name! And sometimes, as those interviewed for the film attest, such preaching simply leaves people dumbstruck … and a great hush falls over the congregation as they disburse in absolute awe of the God just proclaimed to them.

These are the sorts of things that Lloyd-Jones’ hearers testify to as they look back on those days of the Holy Spirit’s blessing. And this same power in preaching has been present in other men, and at other times, as well. And we must pray for it again! So would you? Would you pray for your pastor, that – in his personal holiness, and in his study, and on his knees in private prayer, and in the pulpit on the Lord’s Day – the Holy Spirit would anoint him with the sort of power and authority and conviction that characterized the ministry of Paul in Thessalonica, and Lloyd-Jones in London? Would you plead with the Lord for days of power once again?

Words cannot really describe what it is like to sit under such preaching – and to know that you have been touched by heaven. But those of you who have experienced it, even if only on occasion, will know what I mean. Pray that the Lord will do it again, and in your local church. Pray for those of us who stand behind the pulpit week by week, that we would be able to say with the apostle, and with the doctor, that “our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction.”

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