“But during the night and angel of the Lord opened the gates of the prison, and taking them out he said, ‘Go, stand and speak to the people in the temple the whole message of this Life.” Acts 5:20 (NASB)
The Amplified Version of the Bible describes this angelic charge, to the imprisoned preachers “declare to the people the whole doctrine concerning this Life (the eternal life which Christ revealed). v. 20 (AMP)
The New King James Version records they were to speak, “all the words of this life.” v. 20 (NKJV) The English Standard Version seems to combine all of the above, by stating, “speak to the people all the words of this Life.” v. 20 (ESV)
The Point: The first century preachers were imprisoned, by their enemies, for preaching about Jesus. They were set free by angels, to keep doing the very thing that put them in jail.
One of the more intriguing questions, asked on the cusp of the Jesus Revolution of the late Sixties and early Seventies of the last century was, “If you were arrested for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?”
Today, many preachers can sleep easily, when they put their head on the pillow on Saturday night, knowing that nothing they say in their pulpits on Sunday, could possibly offend anyone who is an enemy of Jesus. They simply never mention his name. They talk a great deal about the good life, the better life, the best life, and even the next life, but it fails to point to Jesus, as “THE WAY, THE TRUTH AND THE LIFE.” (John 14:6)
This is a far cry from the preaching of The New Testament Church. It may pass the smell test for the Emerging Church, The Contemporary Church, The Submerging Church, or The Church of What’s Happenin’ Now, but it leaves a stench in the nostrils of God. If you go to church and your preacher can’t find Jesus, find a church that has a preacher who can.
The Life Satan fears the most is The Life of Jesus. When Jesus came into the world, Satan sought to destroy The life. First he sought to murder The Life as a child. Then he sought to marginalize The Life through sin, by tempting Jesus, in the wilderness. His final move was to destroy The Life, on the cross, by means of crucifixion. Hell rejoiced when Jesus said, “It is finished.” Satan thought The Life was. He was wrong. He always is.
The Resurrection was the turning point of final death to eternal life. Satan never saw it coming. Jesus broke Satan’s power over death, hell and the grave. He took on the worst Satan could throw at him, and turned his worst into God’s best. Jesus only does this…EVERY TIME. Your best is simply not good enough to please God. Your worst is not enough to shock God. Give both to Jesus, and watch what He can do.
When Max Lucado addressed a gathering of 60,000 preachers, at The Promise Keepers Clergy Conference in February 1996, he began with a simple request. He asked everyone to shout out the name of their church affiliation or denomination. The cacophonous sound created in Atlanta’s Georgia Dome, by calling on clergy to identify themselves, was a harsh, discordant mixture of sounds, indeed. Two words come to mind, as I try to label it, pride and prejudice.
The good pastor from San Antonio then asked the same people to shout out The Name that was above every other name. He called for The Name at which every knee will bow, and every tongue will confess. By the time he got through qualifying and identifying The Name, even the boys on the back row understood, he was calling for them to shout out The Name of Jesus. When they did, it was one of the most soul-stirring moments of my life. Words like awesome and powerful pale in comparison to it.
Max Lucado was no fire-breathing, sweat-slinging, prophetic serminator provoking preachers to pile on the sins of the contemporary culture. He quietly requested the preachers, in the same room to come together, and agree on the one name, and The Life that can transform any life. Mention His name, in the culture, and the culture is transformed, one life at a time. The result was a cacophony was transformed into a symphony, in an instant. This is the definition of Awakening. Jesus is enthroned. The Spirit saturates. God dominates.
There is still a tepid, timid tolerance, in this nation for a song or a phrase, as long as it stays within the bounds of, “God Bless America!” The bone in the throat, the rock in the shoe, and the fly in the ointment of this culture is caused by the name of Jesus. Try replacing the previously mentioned three-word, politically correct mantra, with the much more accurate two word message, “JESUS SAVES!” You will split the house. Again. This only happens…EVERY TIME!
Why? People who are comfortable with a baby in a manger, and even have a place in their lives for an empty cross, or man on a crucifix, don’t know what to do with The Risen Christ. God in Heaven and His angelic messengers do. They say, “PREACH JESUS!”
Some will say, “PREACH THE WORD!” The angels reminded the early preachers, “PREACH JESUS!” Big difference.
Note to self: Intense word studies, and exhaustive exegesis, can give birth to brilliant illustrations, enlightened explanation, practical application, and creative alliteration, but they can also overshadow The Life of Jesus. STOP IT! PREACH JESUS!
Prayerless preachers are able to fill the air, with powerful, practical and polite words about Jesus. Only personal, persistent, private prayer can fill these same preachers with The Person, The Presence and The Power of Jesus.
Talking about Jesus and talking to Jesus are not the same thing. Preaching about Jesus, must be preceded by praying to Jesus, before it is fueled with the power of Jesus. Preaching, without praying leads to no conviction in the life of the preacher or any change of direction the lives of the people in the pew.
The Life of Jesus was a life of prayer. He loved spending time with His Father. Praying conformed His will to His Father’s will, and this availability to God, was His key to His ability to release The Love and The Life of God to those who heard Him. The words of Jesus say it best.
“I came that they might have life.” Jesus – John 10:10
Prayer transforms preaching from a cacophony of creativity to a symphony about Jesus. Preach Jesus. He is still The Way, The Truth and The Life. TALK LESS! PRAY MORE!
copyright, Dr. Gary and Dana L. Miller
All Rights Reserved
For over 40 years, Gary and Dana Miller have invested their lives in the pastoral ministry of churches in Texas, Oklahoma, Arizona, and Georgia. Gary and Dana believe the hope of the world is the local church, and the strength of the church is sustained by praying people.
They have taught extensively on the role of prayer in spiritual awakening, counseled people to build strong marriages by equipping husbands and wives to pray together and have ministered internationally in Hong Kong, Japan, Tanzania, Kenya, Zambia and Switzerland through their TALK LESS! PRAY MORE! Prayer Conferences.
Gary and Dana live in Fort Worth, Texas and have been married for 40 years. They are parents of two grown daughters, Ashley and Allyson.