1. Preaching the Character of God.
“And when he was gone forth into the way there came
one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good
Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?
And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good?
There is none good but one, that is God.” (Mark chapter
10 verses 17 and 18)
What would your reflex be to such a circumstance? Here is an
outstanding fellow begging to know how he can get to heaven! This
is the evangelist’s dream! Wouldn’t you open your Bible and ask him
essential questions? “Do you believe that you are a sinner? Do you
believe that Christ died for sinners? Will you accept Jesus as your
personal Saviour? Pray this prayer after me …” He would answer in
the affirmative to each question with very little instruction. Just show him the usual verses. This rich man was ripe for our evangelism. Our
enquiry rooms would have elicited his “decision” in a few moments,
and given him assurance of eternal life besides. He would be added to
the statistic sheet and his conversion reported across the world.
Aren’t you a little disappointed to see Jesus handling this tender soul
so roughly? How could our Lord use such obviously poor tactics with
a sinner? He began with a rebuke, went on to talk about the Ten
Commandments (of all things!), demanded immense sacrifice as a
condition of having eternal life, and allowed the “fish” to get away!
Didn’t He know how to lead a soul to Himself? If you are surprised,
surely you are the one who doesn’t understand evangelism. Look
Jesus addressed his first response, not to the ruler’s
question, but to the incidental greeting given to Him. The young man
called Jesus “Good Master.” But our Lord refused to accept the
compliment. The inquirer was only aware that Jesus was a great
teacher. He was ignorant that he was speaking to the Christ, the Son
of the Living God. The Saviour took this opportunity to say in effect,
“The goodness of any creature (and such only you take me to be) is
not worthy to be named or taken notice of. It is God alone who is
originally and essentially good.”
Jesus was rebuking the man for having a readiness to flatter men but
little reverence towards God. At the outset of the discussion He
wished to honour God and stir a respect for His holy character. So He
seized upon the seeker’s salutation as an occasion for intruction. Jesus
began His message of evangelism by solemnly fixing attention on
God’s infinite holiness or goodness.
Our Lord was motivated in His conversation by love
and compassion for the covetous youth. Verse 21 states explicitly that
Jesus had a conscious love for the man as He talked with him.
However, concern for the nobleman’s soul was not the supreme
motive that moved Christ to witness to this sinner. Running even
deeper within His breast was a love of God. Though induced by a
desire to save men, Christ was primarily motivated by a longing to
glorify His Father. You cannot carefully read the Gospels and fail to
see that our Lord’s chief aim in every act was to do the will of His
Father and to make His glory known to men.
Such motivation and determination will display itself
in the evangelist’s message. The questioner in this passage had
centred attention upon his own need (of finding a way to inherit
eternal life). Jesus, however, turned the primary focus of the
interview upon God and His glory.
Much of modern preaching is anaemic, with the life-blood of God’s
nature absent from the message. Evangelists centre their message
upon man. Man has sinned and missed a great blessing. If man wants
to retreive his great loss he must act thus and so. But the gospel of
Christ is very different. It begins with God and His glory. It tells men
that they have offended a Holy God, who will by no means pass by
sin. It reminds sinners that the only hope of salvation is to be found in
the grace and power of this same God. Christ’s gospel sends men to
beg pardon of the Holy One.
This does not mean that preaching about the character of God is
isolated from seeking the salvation of a sinner. Preaching on the
attributes is essential to the conversion of a man. Without a
knowledge of God, a sinner does not know whom he has offended,
who threatens him with destruction, or who is able to save him. Apart
from some clear apprehensions of God, there can be no personal
approach to God, and “personal Saviour” becomes a hollow phrase.
Jesus lifted the egocentric eyes of the wealthy ruler to One whose
holiness caused Isaiah to cry, “Woe is me, for I am undone.” Is that a
secondary part of the gospel? If you think so, you don’t understand
the first things of the faith. The rich youth had come running because
he understood that he might not inherit eternal life. But he didn’t
understand why. Whom had he offended? There was no remorse for
having offended a Holy God. He was prepared to talk of religion; but
he was ignorant of God. He was anxious to ask for the joys of
salvation; but he could not confess as David, “Against thee, thee only,
have I sinned; and done this evil in thy sight.” He was not acquainted
with the Lord.
Although the inquirer was a Jew, and probably devout, Jesus did not
assume that he knew who God was. He needed catechizing on the
attributes of God. Evangelists today are making the dreadful misculculation
that sinners know who God is. The sad truth is that our
age knows less then the Jews of our Lord’s day. Nevertheless,
evangelicals plunge right in with “five things God wants you to
know.” They all centre upon the man’s eternal fortunes and utterly
ignore the question, “Who is God?”
Men today will readily use the name of God as would the rich man.
But it is disastrous to assume that men are speaking of the same
person as we are. When we say “God” we mean “Creator.” When our
contemporaries say “God” they are often speaking of the one who has
little to do with the world we see. When we say “God” we mean “One
who is Sovereign in creation, providence, and in the redemption of
His creature, man.” When sinners say “God” they usually refer to one
who has committed himself to honouring the sovereign will of man at
any cost to himself. Above all, when we say “God” we speak of One
who has unflinching holiness, “Who will by no means clear the
guilty.” Sinners frequently think of God as flexible so that He will by
no means punish wonderful man.
“How shall they believe on him of whom they have not heard?” is a
pertinent question for today’s evangelist. Sinners must know him
upon whom they are to call to be saved. Eliminating the doctrine of
God from evangelism is no innocent shift in emphasis but is cutting
the heart out of our message.
From “Today’s Gospel – Authentic or Syntehtic?”
by Pastor Walter Chantry.
"Afresh, precious, precious Jesus, I resign this body to You, for doing or suffering, for living or dying. Will You accept it? Will You use me for Your glory more than heretofore, that You may have some little return for all the benefits You have done to me? Oh, do grant this request; my heart longs for it, my spirit pleads for it; and "if You will, You can." You know the hot temptation of which I am the subject. Bring Your glory out of it, and keep me from the evil, and it shall be well." - Ruth Bryan