Saturday, May 21, 2011

Preaching in Season

Today the world didn't end. I didn't expect it to, but everyone with a television or radio had at least pondered whether May 21st 2011 could be the end of the world. For this reason, I took this open opportunity to proclaim the excellencies of Christ in Marietta Square, a small but popular park about two miles from where I work. This weekend is my "duty" weekend where I work a 12 hour shift as support.

My first sermon at 3pm closely followed my gospel-tract about May 21st, 2011, which can be read here, I spent a great deal of time on what the gospel is that will be preached to the nations that will precede the end. Normally when I preach in Marietta Square, I'll lose on average 25% of my crowd immediately, and another 25% before I conclude; they wander off in various degrees of disgust. Today surprised me to no end, my crowd increased; people crossed the street, took iPods out of their ears, sat down, and listened as I exposited the Bible on eschatological signs.

Immediately afterwards I had a very intellectual debate with Church of Christ students, they were not interested in the rapture, they were upset that I had not preached that baptism was necessary for salvation. As we continued the conversation these students showed to be much more heretical than just thinking baptism is the first step of obedience in salvation; one denied the eternality of Hell, another affirmed universal salvation, and one was adamant that God does not hate sinners (Psalm 5:4-5), and walked off when I told him God hated him most of all since he had made himself a false prophet proclaiming a lie about God (Proverbs 6:19). He came back later and I was able to tell him that not everyone who believes the Bible that God hates sinners is a member of the Hypercalvinistic Westboro baptist Church.

I then went home, just in time for my phone to ring with a completely unexpected phone call, so I had to head back for work. I did not even think about preaching again, but as I drove past the Square, I was amazed at how many people were there, and determined in my heart to preach on my way home. I completed my work, and headed for the Square at 8pm; two hours after the rapture was supposed to happen. I prayed for three things: a crowd, a parking space, and no band on stage. All three were answered.

I parked and headed for the Square, just as a group of kids started playing on the stage. I felt this might be providential and I took a moment to prepare a sermon based on Matthew 24:14, that this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. Having prepared my sermon, even more kids were playing on the stage, far too many to ask to move. At this point I considered not to preach, but thought I'd give the kids a few more minutes to disperse. So I opened up my Kindle to a book I've been reading called the Memoirs of the Life, Time, and Writings of the Reverend and Learned Thomas Boston.

Providentially I opened to, and was greatly encouraged by, "My soul cried out for accomplishing of that [Matt 4:19, fishers of men] to me, and I was very desirous to know how I might follow Christ, so as to become a fisher of men." I prayed for God to make the kids leave the stage, and went back to reading, and within five minutes the stage was mine.

I addressed a crowd of thirty or so people, explaining that I wanted "to talk to you about something that happened today, or more accurately did not happen today." A brief summation of Camping's failed prophecy followed, and I was shocked that no-one left, and I even gained about ten listeners almost immediately, with others trickling in as I preached a bit longer than 10 minutes.

I dove into the gospel at Matthew 24:14, explaining that the end cannot come until someone from every nation, tribe, and tongue worships Christ as Saviour. I took them to the Garden of Eden where man was expelled from Paradise and the Tree of Life, I took them to Heaven where they must be sinless to stand in the Holy Place, and then I took them to the cross where the Lord of Glory died, and finally I took them to the gates of Heaven where Christ opened them for all nations (Psalm 24), and I concluded with Revelation 21:25-27, imploring my hearers to be reconciled to God. During this preaching I did not lose a single listener (at least that I perceived), indeed some in the distance even moved closer, and when I concluded I received applause, which is not odd, but where it was coming from was, for a balcony behind me had people clapping.

Normally I preach out of season, I address people in their normal lives, bothering them, and have to make a transition from the natural to the spiritual realm. But days like today are a real blessing, for everyone is already thinking about the spiritual, especially when you can tell them that had the world ended two hours ago, they would have died without hope and without God, but that they may still seek the Lord while he may be found.

Beloved, now is where I try to take a jab at you. Have you been preaching in season? How about out of season? Have you been preaching at all? Harold Camping has set up an opportunity for you like a tennisball on a tee, and I parrot Paul when he said, "Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel." (1 Corinthians 9:16) Beloved, I see the apostasy happening every-which-where, in churches that don't believe the Bible, in churches that do believe the Bible but don't do anything about it, and in those who believe the Bible but are not making disciples.

The gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. Proclaim it in season and out of season.

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