What would you convey?
The most important preaching lesson I learned in seminary was to preach every sermon with the fervency and effort as if it were your last. The truth is, we are all dying, we all have a limited number of words left to share with the world. Very truly, the last thing you said may be the capstone of your life. This post could be my last.
Apostles Paul and Peter met their ends in Rome in the mid AD60s, Paul beheaded and Peter crucified as insurrectionists. These two men saw their ends coming, they wrote,
Peter: I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to stir you up by way of reminder, since I know that the putting off of my body will be soon, as our Lord Jesus Christ made clear to me (2 Peter 1:13-14).and
Paul: I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus...For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come (2 Timothy 4:1,6).These two men saw their end coming, and their final letters (2 Timothy, 2 Peter, and Hebrews), their capstone projects, have pointed believers and unbelievers towards the Living Christ for two-thousand years. They have strengthened the church and called lost sheep home. There is no reason at all that these men should be ashamed.
But, if we look back at their earlier letters, we see similarly that these letters are as edifying and useful and enduring. Everything they wrote was pointed at exalting Christ and pointing sinners away from unholiness and towards salvation, and in strengthening the church in the knowledge and hope that God is sovereign and gracious.
So I'm writing this short note to encourage you to make sure everything you say and/or write and/or preach is worthy of your last, that you would not be ashamed of it, that it would not be worthy of being thrown away. Any such message must necessarily include the message of the mystery of the cross. Tell people of the God who is righteous and merciful, who prepared history for one event, to satisfy his justice on a cross, and who demonstrates his love through offering his own Son in place of wretched and otherwise irredeemable sinners. Call your hearers to faith in Jesus Christ, to turn from their sin to the Living God, and to hope in him, and him alone.
And, let me take one quick moment to say that this does not need to only be in the context of revivalistic evangelistic gospel preaching, this ought be in the context of expository preaching, of revealing Christ in the Revelation of God, like he did, starting at the beginning, and showing himself to his followers (Luke 24:27). Jesus ought to be the foundation and the message of anything you say and do, else your idle words perish on Judgment Day.
And in all of this, remember that you are not working for men, but are serving the Lord Christ, so do everything in his name, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
And beloved, you probably have more than a week left to live, but you definitely have a limited number of weeks left. Make your sermons count, make your correspondence count, and make your life count, working in the full power of the Spirit of Christ who lives in you. Only one life, 'twill soon be past, only what's done for Christ will last.