About Jesus    Steve Sweetman

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Inspired Ignorance


I'm now 60 years old.  I've been around church all my life and have observed that Christians distinguish between preaching and teaching.  Preaching is inspirational while teaching is instructional.  We seem to prefer being inspired instead of being educated.  Generally speaking, Sunday sermons are more inspirational than instructive.  Biblical instruction is routinely left to a less attended mid-week meeting, and even then, it's not necessarily in-depth instruction.  That's left to a Bible college classroom.    


Evangelical preachers have used inspirational sermons to motivate people in many directions over the years.  One direction has traditionally been to an altar.  In more recent times there might be another reason for motivational messages.  The "dumbing down" mentality that pervades western culture has crept into the church.  Listening to an inspiring message takes less mental energy than thinking through a well balanced,  hermeneutical based, exegesis of Biblical issues.  The result is what I call "inspired ignorance". 


I don't think the New Testament actually differentiates between preaching and teaching.  I suggest that the apostle Paul, Peter, and others, taught the Word of God and left the inspiring up to the Holy Spirit.  I suggest that they understood preaching to be teaching.  The Bible itself is clearly instructive by nature.  It's all about Judeo- Christian history and doctrine. 


The apostle Peter spoke the first recorded Christian sermon.  It's found in Acts 2.  After an opening sentence, he quotes from Joel 2:28 - 32 which takes 5 verses in our English Bible.  The following 3 verses explains this quote from Joel.  The next 4 verses consists of a quote from Psalm 16:8-11, followed by 8 verses of explanation.  He then quotes Psalm 110:1, followed by 6 verses of instruction, which includes a warning to his audience that might be considered motivational.  Acts 2:40 states that Peter spoke many other words, which I assume followed the same pattern.  The result of Peter's teaching, not preaching as we understand preaching, was that "those who excepted his message were baptized". (Acts 2:41)  Simply put, those to whom Peter spoke thought through what he taught and were cut to the heart by the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2:37)   This resulted in their acceptance of the gospel and subsequent salvation.  Peter taught.  The Holy Spirit inspired.


Stephen spoke the second recorded Christian message.   His message takes up 45 verses in Acts 7.  It's pure history, pure teaching, something many find tedious and boring.  If Stephen could have had access to a power-point presentation, I'm sure he would have used it.  Was his audience inspired?  Yes, but not in the way that would appeal to most preachers.  Stephen's message didn't result in the baptism of new believers.  It resulted in his death.  Teaching Biblical truth can be dangerous at times.  That's becoming more evident these days.                       


I'm far from convinced that the first apostles were interested in helping people to feel inspired.  I believe they were more interested in people having a clear understanding of God's Word.  With this clear understanding and the inspiring conviction of the Holy Spirit, people could seriously and rationally count the cost of discipleship.  You can't count the cost unless you know something about what you're getting yourself into.  If you study the apostle Paul, you'll notice that he didn't just appeal to people's hearts, but to their intellects.  Choosing to hand your life over to Jesus isn't about feeling inspired.  It's about understanding the truth and committing yourself to it.  Then, with the help of the Holy Spirit, you live what you understand.      


The Greek word "euaggetizo" is translated as "preach" in our English Bible.  It simply means "to announce".  That's it.  It has nothing to do with inspiration, motivation, or surprisingly enough, entertainment.  Mark 16:20 tells us that the apostles preached, or announced, the gospel, while Jesus confirmed their announcement with miraculous and inspirational signs.  Acts 2 is a prime example of this. 


In my estimation, today's style of preaching has less to do with in-depth Bible teaching and more to do with inspiration, motivation, and even entertainment.  The lives of men and women are only changed by being instructed in God's Word in the presence of  the Holy Spirit.  That's preaching.  


This is a serious issue for us today.  Hosea 4:6 states that God's people are "destroyed because of lack of knowledge".  The text doesn't say God's people are destroyed because of lack of inspiration.  Inspiration is easily found these days.  A good worship team can inspire the uninspired.  What is hard to find these days is a well balanced, in-depth, systematic, hermeneutical based, exegesis of the Bible that the Holy Spirit can carry to the hearts and lives of people.    


Hosea warned those in the northern kingdom of Israel that their lack of Godly knowledge would destroy them.  Israel failed to hear his warning. 

In 722 B.C., the Assyrian army swept across Israel and totally wiped her out. 


The western church today and the nations in which she lives, needs to take Hosea's warning seriously.  Many church groups are on the "eve of destruction".  Others have already fallen, due to a systematic and well thought out attempt to both rethink and then reject  Biblical truth.  I believe our persistence on being inspired and not educated has led to our present "inspired ignorance".  Don't let this Biblical illiteracy destroy you.


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