Tuesday, September 22, 2009

A Clarion Call For Preachers

Get you up to a high mountain,
O Zion, herald of good news;
lift up your voice with strength,
O Jerusalem, herald of good news;
lift it up, fear not;
say to the cities of Judah,
"Behold your God!"
Isaiah 40:9
The following excerpt is the entire concluding chapter from a small book called The Supremacy Of God In Preaching by John Piper. Though it is one of Piper's smallest books, it might pack one of the biggest punches. I can't count how many times I've read this chapter. It never grows old. It challenges me to the core every time. I don't think there is anything else I've read outside of the Bible that more concisely, comprehensively, and biblically gives me a sense of the burden of Christian preaching.
People are starving for the grandeur of God. And the vast majority do not know it. Those who do say, "O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water" (Ps. 63:1). But most do not discern that they were made to thrill at the panorama of God's power and glory. They seek to fill the void in other ways. And even those who go to church--how many of them can say when they leave, "I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory" (Ps. 63:2)?

The glory of God is of infinite worth. It is the heart of what the apostles preached: "the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ" (2 Cor. 4:6). It is the goal of every Christian act: "Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God" ( 1 Cor. 10:31). It is the focus of all Christian hope: "We rejoice in the hope of the glory of God" (Rom. 5:2). It will someday replace the sun and moon as the light of life: "The city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light" (Rev. 21:23). And even now, before that great day, "the heavens declare the glory of God" (Ps. 19:1). When people discover the worth of God's glory--when God says, "Let there be light," and opens the eyes of the blind--they are like people who find a treasure hidden in a field and, full of joy, sell all they have to buy that field (Matt 13:44). They are like Moses, who cried to the Lord, "Please show me your glory" (Exod. 33:18).

This is the heart pang of every human being. Only a few know it. Only a few diagnose the longing beneath every human desire--the longing to see God. If only people could articulate the silent cry of their hearts! Would they not say, "One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after:...to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD" (Ps. 27:4)? But instead, people "by their unrighteousness suppress the truth" and do "not see fit to acknowledge God," and even many who name the God of Israel have "changed their glory for that which does not profit" (Rom. 1:18, 28; Jer. 2:11).

Christian preachers, more than all others, should know this truth--that people are starving for God. If anyone in all the world should be able to say, "I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory," it is the herald of God. And as we look out over the wasteland of our secular culture, must we preachers not ask, Who but us will say to this people, "Behold your God!"? Who will tell the people that God is great and greatly to be praised? Who will paint for them the landscape of God's grandeur? Who will remind them with tales of wonder that God has triumphed over every foe? Who will cry out above every crisis, "Your God reigns!"? Who will labor to find words that can carry the "gospel of the glory of the blessed God"?

If God is not supreme in our preaching, where in this world will the people hear about the supremacy of God? If we do not spread a banquet of God's beauty on Sunday morning, will not our people seek in vain to satisfy their inconsolable longing with the cotton candy pleasures of pastimes and religious hype? If the fountain of living water does not flow from the mountain of God's sovereign grace on Sunday morning, will not the people hew for themselves cisterns on Monday, broken cisterns that can hold no water (Jer 2:13)?

We are called to be "stewards of the mysteries of God" (1 Cor. 4:1). And the great mystery is "Christ in you, the hope of glory" (Col. 1:27). And that glory is the glory of God. And "it is required of stewards that they be found faithful"--faithful in magnifying the supreme glory of the one eternal God. Not magnifying like a microscope that makes small things look bigger, but like a telescope that makes unimaginably great galaxies of glory visible to the human eye.

If we love our people, if we love the "other sheep" that are not yet gathered into the fold, if we love the fulfillment of God's global purpose, we will labor to "spread a table in the wilderness" (Ps. 78:19). People everywhere are starving for the enjoyment of God. For as Jonathan Edwards said:

"The enjoyment of God is the only happiness with which our souls can be satisfied. To go to heaven, fully to enjoy God, is infinitely better than the most pleasant accommodations here. Fathers and mothers, husbands, wives, or children, or the company of earthly friends, are but shadows; but God is the substance. These are but scattered beams, but God is the sun. These are but streams. But God is the ocean."

--John Piper, The Supremacy of God in Preaching, p.107-109
There's no more glorious task in the universe. And there's no more difficult task in the universe ... than to make God supreme through the preaching of His Word.

Oh great and glorious God, be more supreme in my preaching! But more importantly, be more supreme in and through every aspect of my life, mind, and heart because unless You are supreme there, You will never be supreme in my preaching. In Jesus' name, Amen.

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