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How the Spirit Leads Us to Listen to Effective Preaching

The reason why the Spirit of God leads us to a deeper experience of prayer, to a fresher understanding and appreciation of his written Word and to exposure to effective preaching is that he wants to develop the real Christ in us. This is spiritual development at its best. It is not we developing ourselves. This is the work of the Holy Spirit. We are here only describing how he does this from what we have learned from God's Word and what we have experienced so that we can flow, as it were, with his force, just as a sailboat sails with the force of the wind if the driver of the sailboat knows how to position the sails.

The Spirit of God leads us to an attentive and obedient listening to vigorous, urgent, life-changing preaching. This is effective preaching. It is not a preaching which tells us what to do, as most preaching in churches does today. It is a preaching which by itself changes the lives of the listeners.

The Pattern of Our Usual Preaching Today

If you listen to the ordinary, usual preaching today in churches, Catholic or non-Catholic, Protestant or non-Protestant, Evangelical, Fundamentalist or name what have you, you would notice the following pattern. The preacher would start from a story, anecdote, or a passage from the bible or an introductory statement about his preaching. Then he would expound a principle or two. Finally he would give an application which he expects his hearers would put to good use in their lives.

Depending on the talent of the preacher he can make his sermon as entertaining as possible, spraying it over with insights and even jokes. The people stare at the preacher if he is really entertaining, then leave the church afterwards refreshed and blest, as they say. They are then encouraged to return the next week and give again their tithes or love offerings.

If the preacher is not that entertaining, then the listeners may be led to an early nap.

But this pattern is still there: introduction, expounding of a truth or principle, application, exhortation to do the application.

In this kind of preaching if the listeners do not change, do not improve, do not grow in their spiritual life, it is their fault. This is because they are already shown by the preacher how they are to profit from God's Word or truth but they fail to apply what the preacher told them.

The Kind of Preaching the Spirit Gives

This is not the kind of preaching that the Spirit of God gives his people. The preaching that the Spirit of God gives is an effective preaching. By the very preaching itself people are changed. They do not have to go out of the church to apply what the preacher said. Right there in their seats or as they stand if they are not seated, they are changed. This is called vigorous, urgent, life-changing preaching.

And this is the kind of preaching that we lack in our churches. This is the kind of preaching that the Spirit gives us. And this is the kind of preaching that the Spirit of God leads us to listen to. How does he do this?

The Spirit's Way in Giving Us His Preacher

The simple answer is that he, the Spirit of God, provides the preacher who will preach the way to do so. He first leads him to a deeper experience of prayer. We already discussed how he does that. Then the Spirit leads him to the written Word of God. We also discussed that already. Then the next is he emboldens this preacher to preach the fruit of his prayer and of his study of the Word.

To be able to have a deeper experience of prayer the preacher is led to be convinced by the Spirit of his inability to preach well. If he refuses this conviction by the Spirit he cannot give to us the kind of preaching that the Spirit wants us to listen to.

And this is the sad experience we have in the churches. Most of our preachers, if not all of them, are convinced of the opposite: that they can preach well. Their years of training in the seminary either as future pastors or future priests have sunk into their consciousness giving them the confidence that they can preach. If they persist in this conviction, that because of their training and experience, they are able to preach well, the Spirit of God cannot use them to give to the people his kind of preaching, the vigorous, urgent, life-changing preaching.

The reason why they cannot preach effective preaching is because they do not have a deeper experience of prayer. And they cannot have a deeper experience of prayer if they think they are able to preach well. They can only have a deeper experience of prayer if like Isaiah they cry, "Woe is me for I am undone, because I am a man of unclean lips."

Then to be really led to the written Word of God, a person needs to be ignorant or confused in his understanding of this Word. Unfortunately most or almost all of our preachers, whether priests, bishops or pastors, think that they are not ignorant and they are not confused in their understanding of the Word of God. They think they really know it well. Their years of training in the seminary, pouring over the Bible, studying its texts and the different interpretations of Biblical scholars and their own reflections have led them to believe that they are able to understand God's written Word.

When these preachers are convinced that they can understand God's written Word, either because they studied it or because God enlightened them on it, the Spirit cannot use them to do effective preaching. They will only at best be able to preach principles and application with appropriate illustrations and insights that tickle the ears and minds of their hearers but such preaching cannot transform the lives of those hearers.

So, if we ask again how the Spirit lead us to listen to vigorous, urgent, life-changing preaching, the answer is that he does this by providing us with a preacher who is thoroughly convinced of his inability and unworthiness to preach God's Word and also thoroughly convinced of his ignorance and confusion about this written Word. And from time to time he does provide us with these preachers, like Peter the disciple of Jesus, Paul the Pharisee, Peter Chrysologus of Ravenna, Martin Luther, George Whitefield, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, Charles Finney, etc. The names are too many to list.

Effective preaching is one that changes the lives of the listeners by their mere listening. Because the Spirit himself comes with power to change them.

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