What is our expectation when God’s word is preached? Are we looking for “warm and fuzzy”, messages of encouragement, teaching, or are we expecting God to speak to us personally? This devotional may challenge our thinking about preaching.
Lord, smite this sin!
(Thomas Watson, “The Godly Man’s Picture Drawn with a Scripture Pencil)
“Your Word is completely pure, and your servant loves it.” Psalm 119:140
Do we love the holiness of the Word? The Word is preached–to beat down sin, and advance holiness. Do we love it for its spirituality and purity? Many love the Preached Word only for its eloquence and notion. They come to a sermon as to a performance (Ezekiel 33:31,32) or as to a garden to pick flowers–but not to have their lusts subdued or their hearts purified. These are like a foolish woman who paints her face–but neglects her health!
Do we love the convictions of the Word? Do we love the Word when it comes home to our conscience and shoots its arrows of reproof at our sins? It is the minister’s duty sometimes to reprove. He who can speak smooth words in the pulpit–but does not know how to reprove, is like a sword with a fine handle, but without an edge! “Rebuke them sharply!” (Titus 2:15). Dip the nail in oil—reprove in love–but strike the nail home!
Now Christian, when the Word touches on your sin and says, “You are the man!”—do you love the reproof? Can you bless God that “the sword of the Spirit” has divided between you and your lusts? This is indeed a sign of grace, and shows that you are a lover of the Word.
A corrupt heart loves the comforts of the Word–but not the reproofs: “You hate the one who reproves–and despise him who tells the truth!” (Amos 5:10). “Their eyes flash with fire!” Like venomous creatures that at the least touch, spit poison! “When they heard these things, they were enraged in their hearts and gnashed their teeth at him!” (Acts 7:54). When Stephen touched their sins–they were furious and could not endure it.
How shall we know that we love the reproofs of the Word?
When we desire to sit under a heart-searching ministry. Who cares for medicines that will not work? A godly man does not choose to sit under a ministry that will not work upon his conscience.
When we pray that the Word may meet with our sins. If there is any traitorous lust in our heart–we would have it found out, and executed! We do not want sin covered—but cured!
When we can open our heart to the sword of the Word and say, “Lord, smite this sin!”
When we are thankful for a reproof. “Let a righteous man strike me–it is a kindness; let him rebuke me–it is oil on my head. My head will not refuse it.” (Psalm 141:5). David was glad for a reproof.
Suppose a man were in the mouth of a lion, and another should shoot the lion and save the man–would he not be thankful? Just so, when we are in the mouth of sin, as of a lion, and the minister by a reproof shoots this sin to death–shall we not be thankful?
A gracious soul rejoices, when the sharp lance of the Word has pierced his abscess of sin! He wears a reproof like a jewel on his ear: “Like an earring of gold or an ornament of fine gold is a wise man’s rebuke to a listening ear.” (Proverbs 25:12).
To conclude, it is convicting preaching which must do the soul good. As a nipping frost prepares for the sweet flowers of spring–so a nipping reproof prepares the soul for comfort!
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Tom Stearns, WASI Chaplain, 907 715-4001