This year at the Superbowl I actually forgot to pray for sermon illustrations, but fortunately the Holy Spirit knows how to pray for me even when I am slack or forgetful or neglectful in my own prayers (Romans 8:26-27), and this past week abounded in sermon illustrations. Without a doubt my most powerful event of the weekend, which drove me into deep prayer, compassion, and contemplation, relates to Mark 6:34:
When he (Jesus) went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he began to teach them many things.On Saturday night, in downtown Dallas, we were preaching at the DART train station. As I started preaching, several people got up and left, but some became attentive, either turning directly towards me or at least inclining their ears, and I preached a short 4-5 minute sermon going over the need for a Saviour and the advent of a Saviour, and concluded by imploring my audience to repent towards Heaven and place their faith in the Risen Christ for salvation. Many heard the gospel in this short period of time.
Two of my audience were especially close to me, young girls aged 15 or 16, dressed completely inappropriately both for the cold weather and to be seen by anyone but their future husbands. Not wanting to approach them, in somewhat less than my preaching voice I asked, "What do you think ladies? Do you believe it?" Their response rocked my world. They said,
"Oh yes, we're Southern Baptists."I thank God for the compassion that he showed me in that instant, these girls went from being targets of evangelism to members of what should be my Over-Shepherd's flock. What part do we have in judging those outside of the church? Our job is to judge those inside of the church, and these poor little lost lambs were clearly consumed in the pride of life; they wanted Steeler and Packer fans to ogle them for their loveliness, and no doubt their mission had been accomplished.
Now, as these little girls were no longer just strangers, but potential sisters, I moved a bit closer to them so we could have a conversation in a normal voice. They were from a town about 40 miles away, and I think my preaching had convicted them, as one of the girls kept tugging at her way-too-short skirt. I left them with some wisdom from 1 Peter 3:3-6, and gave them a copy of Ray Comfort's, "God Has a Wonderful Plan for Your Life", and made sure that they were on their way home.
I left this conversation totally crushed, thinking both for the sanctification of these two girls within my denomination, and for my own students who surely are constantly tempted with their own beauty to fall for flaunting themselves. I don't want to merely point this at my sisters, for later that night we talked to several young men equally as lost and sinful who claimed the name of Christ.
Outside of an Usher (rapper) concert we had a long conversation with a boy who thought he was a Christian, though he denied the Trinity, the inerrancy of scripture, and believed that he had the right to be drunk and at a party where sexual immorality ruled the day. Admittedly I had far less compassion on this young man, though his sin was probably more grievous, it seemed more from his own choosing than merely in the young ladies who seemed unlearned. Hosea said it best that, "My people perish for lack of knowledge...my contention is with you, O priest."
The following morning I spent over an hour in prayer, both personally and corporately, and I became utterly consumed in anger for the youth pastor of the two girls, I've wondered over the past few days if this was justified, and based on my experience of topical preaching, I believe it was, because so many pastors are only preaching on what they want to preach, and not the whole counsel of scripture. I have preached verse by verse through 1-2 Thessalonians, 1-2 Peter, and Zechariah, as well as Revelation 1-3, and quite a few Psalms, and my students know the importance of both inward and outward holiness, because each of these books talks about this topic, among many other topics. I pray that none of my students would ever cause an evangelist to pray imprecatory prayers against myself, instead that my students would light up a world of darkness, having no reason to be reviled for their own sins, but persecuted for the righteousness which they carry.
All of this to say, the church has been corrupted beyond recognition, the pastoral care has diminished to topical and feel good messages, it has resulted in our lambs wandering amongst wolves in mini-skirts and naivety; like sheep without a shepherd. Beloved, I implore you to know your Bibles and preach the whole counsel of scripture, don't skip the hard parts, don't bounce through random books, but preach what God wants his flock to know, verse by verse through the Bible.
Christ did not say, "My sheep hear fluffy and feel-good sermons, full of interesting anecdotes, and they follow me." No, he said, "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me." Preach the whole Bible, the voice of Christ, the Word of God, the full counsel of scripture. Call lost sheep home, Christ said that if you love him, you ought to feed his lambs, make sure you are focusing on the sheep and feeding them the Bread of Life, not just entertaining goats.
There are an innumerable mass out there who are like sheep without a shepherd, taught stupidity and paganism by hirelings, of whom Christ says, "Woe to that worthless shepherd." Beloved, I pray that this is neither you nor I, that we would be leading our flocks into the truth, pointing them to Christ, declaring the full counsel of scripture, encouraging them to grow in holiness, teaching them to hate sin and the things of this world. I pray that none of my students would ever be these lost little lambs wandering among the wolves, enticing them to lust, encouraging them to sin, but that my lambs would forever be beacons of holiness pointing to the cross where the King of Glory died to save his church and sanctify his bride.
Oh beloved, please be doing likewise.