I love the Word of God. I delight in studying what it says. Hardly a day passes that I don't thank God for the privilege He has given me to teach His Word. And yet, if I teach the Bible without teaching Christ, I will have not really taught at all. It is possible for an avid student of the Bible like myself to study all about God and His word without really loving Him.
Christians demonstrate a consistent tendency to put almost any good thing ahead of loving God. Some of us make Bible study more important than loving God. Some of us pursue doctrinal purity more than we pursue the man Christ Jesus. Others of us put various forms of ministry like evangelism or caring for the poor ahead of Jesus.
All of these things should be done. I don't believe that we can love the Bible or ministries too much. Rather, we can love God too little in comparison with these things.
Lewi Pethrus, one of the foremost leaders of the Pentecostal Revival on the European continent in the first half of the 20th century, made this statement at the 1964 Pentecostal World Conference in Helsinki, Finland, when he was 80 years old: "Some preach the Bible instead of preaching Christ."
Charles Templeton, a good friend of Billy Graham (the two of them founded "Youth for Christ International"), complained that some fundamentalist almost make the Bible a "paper idol."
What did these men mean? I think I would express it this way: "The Bible is our source but Christ is our Subject."
John 14:6 NKJV
6 Jesus said to him, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.
John 5:39-40 NKJV
39 You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me.
40 But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life.
Jesus is speaking to people - Pharisees - who studied the Scriptures day and night, yet didn't enjoy an affectionate relationship with the person those very Scriptures were about. As I study the Word of God, I must be careful that does not happen to me. Christ must always be our subject. He is the central figure of the entire Word of God.
Acts 8:5 NKJV
5 Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria and preached Christ to them.
Pentecostal preaching and teaching proclaims Jesus Christ, exalts Jesus Christ, glorifies Jesus Christ, as He is portrayed on the pages of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation.
The Bible may be said to be the second greatest objective gift God lavished upon mankind. What was the greatest? "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Sonů" (John 3:16).
I quoted Lewi Pethrus a few minutes ago. A Swede telephoned Lewi Pethrus in Stockholm. He said, "I want to be saved, but I cannot believe in eternal punishment." How would you have responded to this man? Pethrus answered, "The Bible doesn't say we are saved by believing in eternal punishment but by believing in Jesus Christ." He invited the man to his office where he led him to the Lord. And before long that convert believed in eternal punishment too. Some would have argued with that potential convert about Hell. But that preacher pointed him to Jesus Christ.
I would like to use all of the powers at my command, only wishing I had a thousand more, to exalt and magnify and worship and glorify the Lord Jesus Christ. If I had all the power of fine expression that has been commanded by all of the poets of all the ages, I would like to write a poem setting forth in marked beauty, in measured cadence, the perfections and glories of our Lord Jesus Christ.
J. A. Synan, a former general superintendant of the Pentecostal Holiness Churches, said the following statements, as recorded in Pentecostal Evangel - Feb. 13,1955, p14. I quote them because they reflect my own personal feelings in words I may never had been able to reflect.
"If I had all of the power of all the musicians who have composed all of the greatest musical structures that have thrilled the hearts of multitudes, I would not rest until I had conveyed to everyone the wonder of the melody of love which Christ has put within me.
"If I had all the power of all the artists who can make the canvas live with a stroke of the brush, until the flowers are so real that the bees examine them, and the fruit is so rich that the birds pounce upon it, if I had those powers I would like to paint Jesus as I see Him and as I love Him.
"If I had the skill of the sculptor who can evolve from the rough stone the likeness of human beings, until children weep as they look upon the likeness of Jesus Christ - yes, if I had all that power, I would like to carve out of every rough stone a likeness of Him that would make the world look upon Him with greater wonder and admiration.
"If I had all of the powers of all of the orators who have moved multitudes and turned the tide of empires and changed the course of events -- if I had that power, I would like to preach all up and down this world of the perfections of Christ, His infinite love, His gracious condescension, His matchless perfection, until I could melt the hearts of millions into obedience at the feet of the Lord Jesus Christ.
"I don't have all of those powers, but I do have a soul that is all on fire with love for Jesus Christ. I feel it to the depths of my soul. Hail to the King of kings! Glory and majesty and honor and worship and adoration to the blessed and only Potentate King of kings and Lord of lords, who lives in splendid array at the right hand of the Majesty on high in the light where no shadow is ever cast, and sin never insinuates itself, and doubt never comes, and sorrow and pain are not known.
"Thank God for Jesus. I love Him with all my soul, and I want to magnify Him with all my ransomed powers. When I get to glory, I want to gather with the others of God's saints around the throne on high and sing the song of redemption and give Him glory for ever and ever for the love wherewith He loved us, for the blood wherewith He bought us, for the peace wherewith He blessed us, for the hope wherewith He lifted us, for the joy wherewith He filled us, for the glory where with He will crown us bye and bye. Bless His holy name forever."
That lengthy excerpt furnishes an apt example of how Pentecostal preaching exalts Jesus. And my personal opinion is that Pentecostal preaching exalts Jesus as no other kind of preaching can. And the teacher who is filled with the Holy Spirit is filled with Him of whom it is written, "He shall glorify Me" - John 16:14. Yes, the Holy Spirit glorifies Jesus. And Pentecostal teaching reflects that glory to the world.
While we are studying the ministry of the Holy Spirit, I am compelled to teach Christ - for He is the Baptizer in the Holy Spirit. It is He that poured out the Spirit after returning to Heaven. Indeed, the Bible proclaims Christ. There would not be much left of the Bible if Christ were not in it. Take Christ out of the Scriptures and there would exist better books than the Bible. But you can't take Christ out of the Bible. He permeates its pages from cover to cover. Our Savior saturates the Scriptures.
Jesus Himself emphasized His prominence in the Old Testament. When He talked with the travelers on the Emmaus Road, Luke records, "And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, He expounded unto them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself" (Luke 24:27).
In addition, the person and work of Christ makes contact with virtually every occupation by way of typology.
To the architect Christ says, "I am the Chief Cornerstone." - 1 Peter 2:6-7
To the baker He can say, "I am the Living Bread." - John 6:51
To the banker He is the "Hidden Treasure." - 2 Corinthians 4:7
To the farmer He is "the Lord of the harvest." - Matthew 9:38
To the jeweler He is "the Pearl of great price." - Matthew 13:46
To the oculist He says, "I am the Light of the world." - John 8:12
To the preacher "He is the Word" - the Living Word of God. - John 1:1, 14
To servants He is "the Good Master." - Colossians 4:1
To travelers He is "the New and Living Way. - Hebrews 10:20
To the toiler He is "the Giver of Rest." - Matthew 11:28-29
To the educator He is "the Teacher," the "Great Teacher." - Matthew 23:10
And as the greatest of all teachers, Jesus Christ pervades the departments of education.
In zoology He is "the Lion of the Tribe of Judah." - Revelation 5:5 and "the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world." - John 1:29
In astronomy, Jesus is the "Bright and Morning Star." - Revelation 22:16
In the realm of medicine, Jesus is the "Great Physician." - and "the blind receive their sight," - Matthew 15:31 and the "lepers are cleansed," - Mark 1:40 - and on resurrection morning the corpses will climb out of their coffins at His call.
Christ is active in mathematics: By subtraction He takes away the sinner's stony heart and "give him a heart of flesh." - Ezekiel 11:19.
In the matter of multiplication, "Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord." - 2 Peter 1:2
By way of addition, Jesus promised, "Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you." - Matthew 6:33
In division, He will "divide the sheep from the goats on judgment day." - Matthew 25:32
In government Jesus is Heaven's crown prince, "the King of kings, and Lord of lords." - Revelation 19:16
In history Jesus Christ is "the same yesterday and today and forever." - Hebrews 13:8
Moreover, civilization is racing toward the climactic consummation when history will become His Story - Christ's story, because God has determined "to gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in Heaven, and which are on earth, even in Him." - Ephesians 1:10
Indeed, God has "highly exalted Him, and given Him a name which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in Heaven, and things in the earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." - Philippians 2:9-11
Yes, we are called to teach and preach Jesus. Jesus said, "If I be lifted up, I will draw all men to me." - John 12:32. He must be our subject.
The Real Jesus
Before Jesus could be lifted up and draw all to Himself, He had to come and be born on the earth. Three days ago, we celebrated the birth of Jesus. "God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son." (John 3:16)
Galatians 4:4 (NKJV) speaks of the coming of Christ to the world.
4 But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law,
Jesus Christ is the central personality of all time and eternity. But He refuses to fit into any man-made box. Most of us have pressed His ministry into the grid of our own comfort zone. And we evangelicals have dared to say what He can and cannot do in our midst.
When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the entire city was stirred and asked the question of the ages, "Who is this?" (Matthew 21:10) There is little disagreement among Evangelicals about the virgin birth, his divine nature, his humanity, his death, his bodily resurrection and His soon return. There also is little disagreement that in order to be saved, a person must personally receive Christ as Savior and Lord.
And yet, as I look at the New Testament, I see Jesus was far more than we (I) have understood and embraced. My conclusion is that Jesus would not fit in the average church today. He would most likely be outside our comfort zone. I believe that Jesus' ministry would embarrass the average 11:00 Sunday worship crowd. We have stripped Jesus of His right to do supernatural works in our day, and people are trying vainly to live a Christ-filled life without supernatural power.
Jesus came with the herald of angels. Angels visited His aunt, His mother and His father. But start talking about angelic visitations today and their ministry, and you would raise the eyebrows of many in our churches.
Imagine, if you can, Jesus as a guest speaker in our average church. There is a good chance He would be running slightly late. This is because He would have stopped along the way to help someone stranded on the road. When He did arrive, He would receive several stares. He's not wearing a suit and tie - but the work clothes of a carpenter.
We hurry him to the pastor's office - where He is handed our bulletin with the order of service. He smiles, and says softly, "we'll see." The choir begins the call to worship - and we walk in with Him.
Suddenly, several individuals begin to scream and cry out, "Jesus, why have you come to torment us?" They fall at His feet, writhing and crying out. Everyone stares at the scene, trying to guess what Jesus will do. How will He deal with such things in the church?
Jesus looks around the crowd, searching out every needy soul. He speaks the words once spoken by him in a Nazareth synagogue.
"The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed; To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD" (Luke 4:18-19).
Turning to those writhing at his feet, He says, "Come out of them." And they now lie quietly in the aisle. The sick begin to streaming towards Him for His touch. He lays hands upon them - they begin to leap and shout, praising God.
Jesus quiets the crowd and begins to teach, and, unlike so many others, He teaches as One with authority. Sinners come under serious conviction - they fall prostrate at the altar, and are gloriously saved.
Word spreads to the children's church that Jesus is in the building. They leave their crafts to find Him - streaming noisily down the aisles of the sanctuary, as their embarrassed parents reach out trying to restrain them. Jesus calmly says, "Don't keep the children from me - let them all come."
Suddenly, a woman with the marks of the world on her countenance begins weeping loudly. Her face is tear-streaked with makeup that never could quite hide the ravages of immorality. She falls at His feet, covering them with her tears as she receives His pardon.
On the other side of the building, music from voices begins to sound, and a dad begins to dance with his son in the aisles. We hear the dad say, "This my son was dead and is alive again. He was lost and is found."
By this time, the church leaders are gathered in the back - watching. One says, "I cannot believe our pastor brought this radical into our church." Another replies, "We better get this back in hand quickly." To which yet another say, "Some of our best people have left upset today."
I ask, "Does the real Jesus dare show up in our churches?" Far too many churches have learned to operate without Jesus. The presence of Jesus should be evident in our services through the ministry of the Holy Spirit. I guarantee you, churches will be different when He shows up in full power.
Today, the church is a colony of heaven. We are outposts of another kingdom beyond this world. These outposts should be expressions of the presence and power of Jesus. The supernatural should be normal in the life of the church.
It was no accident or happenstance when Jesus came the first time. God's timing is always perfect. He is never too early or too late. God is not a God of approximation - but a God of exactness.
Romans 5:6 NIV
6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.
We need to trust His perfect timing in our lives. We can be "anxious for nothing" because God will provide just what we need just when we need it.
I've heard it said that we are the "microwave generation." When we want something, we usually want it now. We have lost the ability to be patient in many things.
David had it correct in Psalms 31:14-15 NKJV
14 But as for me, I trust in You, O LORD; I say, "You are my God."
15 My times are in Your hand;...
God's timing is perfect - even when it is different than mine.
God knew exactly what he was doing in sending Christ to the earth when He did. We can take comfort in knowing that the same power of timing that affected the events of Christ's birth also operates in the circumstances of our individual lives. Just as God brought Jesus to earth in the fullness of time, he brings about important events in our lives in the fullness of time from those circumstances.
We see only the faintest portion of all that God is doing. Yet God takes a vast number of factors into account in providing for our needs, fitting his blessings into the broader context of his plan for our life. It is also worth noting, that Christ will come to this world again when the time is ready.
This past week, while listening to the radio, I heard a song being sung. I don't know the name of it, and only one phrase captured my attention. The phrase: "A baby changes everything!"
When a baby is born or adopted into one's family - that baby changes everything. Schedules and routines prior to their arrival are altered or changed. A new baby changes everything.
When Jesus entered this world as a baby boy, the world has never been the same. They may not have fully realized the importance of His coming, but their lives and those that followed them were impacted by this one birth of a little child in Bethlehem.
This little Baby grew to a man and gave his life as a ransom for the sins of all mankind. The blood that He shed on the cross can break the power of sin in your life. And it can happen right now.
Speaking of the perfect timing of God, He made this statement through the apostle Paul: Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation. (2 Corinthians 6:2 NKJV)