I want you to turn with me please to 1 Corinthians chapter 2. We began our series of meetings, effectively, this morning with the subject 'What Is Revival?' - and we'll not repeat any of that. Tonight I want to start the series by looking at the need - the whole series I've entitled 'The Revival We Need' - and the first thing we're considering tonight is, we need 'A Revival in Christ-Centred Gospel Preaching'. So our text tonight is 1 Corinthians chapter 2, and we're just reading the first five verses - verses 1 to 5.
Paul is writing to a group of Christians in Corinth, and he says: "And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know any thing among you, save", or 'except', "Jesus Christ, and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God".
I think it is generally true to say that preaching is in disrepute. People don't like preaching today - if they ever liked it, that's debatable, but certainly they detest it today. The sad fact is that there is an aversion to preaching, it would seem, in ranks of the church of Jesus Christ. Now there are many reasons for that, and we're not going to go into them - one reason that is not the least, I am certain, is the matter of boring sermons. It's not all the people's fault, often the fault is the pulpit. There's an old saying that goes: when you're drilling for oil and you hit it, stop boring once you hit it. Sometimes preachers, and I'm as guilty as any I'm sure, can go on and on when they have nothing to say. We all would like to hear somebody who has something to say, but many a man has nothing to say and he doesn't know when to stop saying it! I hope I'll not be like that for you.
But we see that, certainly in New Testament times, and indeed in revival - and if you don't know what revival is, revival is simply, we thought about it this morning, when God comes in a very special sense, manifests His presence and His power among His own people, the Christian church; and that has an overflow that benefits unbelievers - not just unsaved people in our friends and families, but it touches whole communities and has been known in the past to, indeed, touch whole nations. Now when that happens, I'll tell you, there's no boring preaching! No boring preaching! That was what was going on in the New Testament era. Paul could say that he didn't come to these people with wise philosophies and intellectual highbrow teachings, not the wisdom of men, but the testimony of God. He preached among them Jesus Christ and Him crucified. He was weak among them in fear and much trembling, and his speech and his preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in the demonstration of the Spirit of God and of power. Indeed some of his enemies castigated him for being weak in body and speech, contemptible - he wasn't one of the world's great orators, although I'm sure he was a mighty preacher.
He didn't come to these people who needed Christ with great eloquence, he came with the power of God upon him - and that's what we need today! The demonstration of God's Spirit and power. We need preachers, not boring ones - God deliver us from boring preachers - but we need Spirit-anointed preachers like Paul and, indeed, like our Lord Jesus Christ Himself. Do you know that the Lord Jesus was a preacher? In Mark chapter 1 verse 14 we read that 'after that John the Baptist was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom'. Our Saviour and Lord was a preacher, and He preached repentance from sin, He preached faith toward God - and yet many people, even in the church today, think that their methods are better than those that Jesus used.
Last year I received a leaflet in the post announcing a visit to Ireland of a guy called 'Steve', and it just said: 'I'm a full-time gospel-illusionist. I use tricks and illusions to present the gospel message. Just to let you know that I have an hour-long show which I am taking to Ireland from the 2nd to the 20th of March. The show is evangelism based and is ideal for a church family service, mission week, youth event, social event, or Alpha supper'. Attached to this leaflet were reviews from various churches in England and Scotland, and here was one, I quote: 'It was great to see people leaving church with a big smile on their faces, clearly having enjoyed their time, while also having heard a clear gospel message'. This is what's happening today: preachers are being replaced by illusionists, contortionists, ventriloquists. Praise God that here you've got a preacher in the pulpit, a man who will fearlessly and faithfully preach God's word!
To illustrate this again, in our local press at home - East Belfast, I'll not name the church - but they were having a week of 'mission' I suppose they would have called it, and from Thursday through to the following Thursday they were having various events. 'Friday night: East Belfast's Got Talent, for all the family, and' - wait for it - 'a wine and cheese evening at nine o'clock'. A wine and cheese evening in a church! The following Monday, 'an international food tasting evening', and to crown it all - as if that wasn't bad enough - the last night of this 'mission': 'Mid-September Murder, a murder mystery night' - in the church of Jesus Christ! Now man or woman, you mightn't be saved here tonight, but you have enough in your head and enough conscience still left in your heart to know that that's not the business that the church of Jesus Christ ought to be in! It's preaching the gospel, preaching it in power!
Yet Christ-centred Gospel preaching is very scarce today, even in churches that preach the word, the gospel is not being preached. As I go around on my travels - I'm sure other preachers are the same - people will say: 'I haven't heard the gospel like that in years', haven't heard the gospel preached! Now listen: if you're a preacher of the word you'll be a preacher of the gospel. Paul said in 2 Timothy chapter 1 that he was appointed a preacher, but he said he was appointed a preacher of the gospel - and it was for that he suffered.
The devil has got men talking about everything but Christ, and Him crucified. You see in our preaching, if we don't get to the cross we have wasted our time - I firmly believe that. At the beginning of chapter 1 of this the same book in verse 23 we see Paul said: 'We preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock' - they couldn't understand this message that was humiliating, that a man would die as a slave. As far as they were concerned anybody dying on a tree was cursed of God, and they stumbled at this great preaching of the cross. It was moronic to them - that's what the word means - they were morons for preaching it. To the Greeks it was foolishness, it was a message that was ridiculous as far as they were concerned. They wanted strength in their gods and in their ways to heaven, not weakness and death! Paul says: 'We preach Christ', His person, Jesus Christ - that is my message tonight to you my friends: Jesus Christ alone! 'And Him crucified', that's His work, what He has done for you: He has died on the cross, bled for your sins.
I'll tell you, that's what we need to be doing as the church. My friend, if you're here and you're not saved, that's what you need to hear. You don't need to see a magician, you don't need to watch a film - you might want to do those things, but what you need, my friend, is to see Christ and Him crucified for you!
This is what happened during revivals. So much of the church can get taken up with other things. In 1859 in our own province one preacher in the open air who was used of God started to hammer another denomination - it happened to be the Presbyterians. One man shouted out to him as he preached: 'Leave the Presbyterians alone and preach Christ!'. That's what our job is: to preach Him. I could go on and give you other examples, I'll not take time - but in one of Count Zinzendorf's letters he described the kind of preaching that was typical among the Moravians in their revival in 1727, and I quote him again: 'Our method in proclaiming salvation is this: to point out to every heart the loving Lamb who died for us. Never, either in discourse or in argument, to digress even for a quarter of an hour from the loving Lamb!'.
That's what they did in this book - at the very beginning of the church they preached Christ. My friend, that's what you need to hear. An Ethiopian eunuch was coming from a festival of sacrifices, and God's Holy Spirit sent Philip the evangelist to speak to him. He heard him reading from Isaiah 53 about the cross: 'He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed'. Philip asked him: 'Do you understand what you're reading?'. He says: 'How can I understand, except someone explains it to me?'. Then Philip, the Bible says, opened his mouth at the same Scripture, Isaiah 53, and preached unto him Jesus!
My friend, you need Jesus Christ - that's what I'm called to preach, that's what the church is meant to do: present the unsearchable riches of Christ, God's unspeakable, God's indescribable gift. Oh, some of you could preach Him better than me, perhaps, tonight, you've heard about Him that much. Well, I'm just going to do it again, and pray that God will use this message, the remainder of the time we have, to present you with Christ and what He has done for you - the unsearchable, indescribable riches of Christ.
God calls us to preach His indescribable birth, not just at Christmas but all the time. We believe not in a virgin birth, as such, but a virgin conception. You see, after the child Jesus was born Mary had other children - so she didn't remain a virgin for the rest of her days, and His birth was normal. It was His conception that was supernatural. The Angel pronounced to Mary that a child would be born, and she objected, she couldn't understand, it was indescribable, unspeakable: 'How can this be, seeing I know not a man?'. Even the Angel had trouble describing it, he said: 'That holy thing that shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God' - 'holy thing', you see the world had never seen anything like this.
His birth is indescribable - and not only His conception, but His actual incarnation. You know what that means: you see Jesus didn't begin His existence in the manger of Bethlehem. This is the eternal Son of God, this is the One who made the heavens and the earth at the right hand of the Father, the One who was with God and was God. It was He who took upon Himself human flesh. That's why Paul said: 'Without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God manifest in the flesh'.
Now my friend, I want you to understand tonight: this is what God did for you. There are a lot of people running around the world tonight saying: 'God never did anything for me. What has God ever done for me?'. I'll tell you: He performed a miracle to conceive His own Son in the womb of a virgin teenager, to be born in flesh - not like our sinful flesh, but in the likeness of sinful flesh - it was real flesh, and yet He wasn't sinful. Why? That He might come to be your Saviour, He is God's gift to you - that's what God has done for humanity, that's what He's done for you my friend!
We are to preach His indescribable birth, but we are to preach His indescribable life - and it would take a lifetime to do it. There has never been a life like the Lord Jesus Christ's. Not only was His birth miraculous and prophesied hundreds of years before He came into the world, authenticating the Holy Scriptures, but His life was unique. Think about His words. The religious Pharisees of the day sent soldiers to go and arrest Him - they didn't like what He was doing, and religious bodies still don't like what He's doing today - but the soldiers came back and they couldn't do it! These weren't pansies now, these were big rough rugged men, and they said: 'We can't do it! For never a man spake like this man!'. His words were indescribable.
His works were indescribable, the mighty miracles He performed. Indeed, you remember He stilled the storm and the disciples were overwhelmed, and they marvelled and said: 'What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?'. What works! Making blind eyes to see, deaf ears to hear, the dumb tongue to speak, the lame legs to walk, the dead to raise! I challenge you: was there ever a life like this life? Never!
His words, His works indescribable - His worthiness indescribable. They bring Him to be tried, and even Pilate - who was no friend of Christ - said: 'I find no fault at all in this man'. Spotless, blameless, no one could point the finger! His worthiness - and let me tell you, if there had been one iota that they could have laid at His door, they would have done it...but they couldn't. What worthiness!
What works, what words, and what wonder in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. Didn't they prophesy hundreds before His birth: Isaiah said, 'He shall be called Wonderful, Wonderful Counsellor'. Nicodemus, a religious man, came to Him at night and said: 'We know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him'. Mighty works! Have you considered His life? Don't you bury your head in the sand like most people do! You need to face Christ, my friend. You need to face what we preach: His indescribable birth, His indescribable life - but we preach, above all I think, His indescribable death!
Who could ever describe the great miscarriage of justice, the trumped up charges that were brought to the Lord Jesus? An illegal trial held in the dead of night. I'll tell you: for 2000 years there hasn't been one public enquiry into this miscarriage of justice - the Son of God, nobody bats an eyelid - an indescribable miscarriage, the crime of history! But who could describe what went on at Calvary? Oh, I know there was a lot of spitting and blaspheming and buffeting went on even before He got to the cross, and what about the nails in His hands and His feet, and the spear in His side? What about what He endured when every bone was out of joint as the cross dropped into its socket, and He was held sky-high? Ah, but that's nothing my friend - and I say that very reverently. We heard this morning round the table how His face was unrecognizable as a human being - but my friend, that was nothing to the indescribable nature of what it was for the Son of God to become the substitute for sinners. 'What do you mean?' He was a sacrifice, He wasn't a martyr! He was God's Lamb, His sacrificial Lamb, dying for your sins, dying in your place - and I know, as I'm preaching to you tonight, that it means nothing to some of you, and that grieves me - but it grieves the heart of God even more.
The indescribable death of His Son, a darkness came over the land for three hours - and whatever it means for every soul to bear an eternal hell, that was compressed into three hours of time and laid on God's Son. Indescribable!
'None of the ransomed ever knew
How deep were the waters crossed;
Nor how dark was the night that the Lord passed through
Ere He found His sheep that was lost'.
My friend, that's what He went through - it's indescribable, it's unspeakable, it's unsearchable - because He loves you. The wrath He endured there, the almighty and eternal wrath of God, He laid on Him - God the Father on God the Son - the iniquity of us all. You're finding it hard getting through this half-hour, aren't you? It's a struggle - people can watch a contortionist for an hour and go out with a smile on their faces, but I'm presenting to you Jesus Christ and Him crucified, and it's hard to handle, isn't it? The love Christ displayed in His unspeakable death is beyond measure. Paul said it's four dimensional - Oh, that we could comprehend, with all the saints, the breadth, the length, the depth, the height, to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge! You might think you know something of love, my friend, the love of a father, or a mother, or a boyfriend or girlfriend, a husband or wife, or a child - it's nothing, nothing compared to the love of God for you!
There's no picture, no portrait, there's no film, no sermon could ever portray the reality of Calvary - especially Christ's love in going there for you. The love of God, as the hymn says, is greater far than tongue or pen can ever tell; it goes beyond the highest star, and reaches to the lowest hell. It's an all-encompassing universal love, and it ought to make you sit up, it ought to make you wide-eyed, it ought to make your jaw drop to the floor - and say like the centurion, who saw it and stood beside the cross: 'Truly this man was the Son of God'!
Do you see Jesus Christ? Jesus Christ and Him crucified? There is something else: we preach His indescribable resurrection. Do you know He was the first ever to resurrect like this? 'Oh', you say, 'You don't know your Bible, sure didn't He raise others from the dead? There was the widow of Nain's son, Jairus' daughter, Lazarus - and what about those in the Old Testament raised from the dead?'. Aye, but one day their family gathered again for a second funeral service and put them in the ground - not Jesus Christ! He was the first ever to rise again in the power of an endless life! What an indescribable resurrection: the reason why He lives forever is because He defeated death, He defeated sin, He defeated the grave and the devil himself; and now He has risen, He assures us who believe in Him of eternal life! 'I am the resurrection, and the life' - some of you have heard that recently - 'I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live'. Oh, my friend, what a resurrection!
We preach Christ's indescribable birth, we preach His indescribable life, we preach His indescribable death, we preach His indescribable resurrection - and we preach His indescribable grace! 'For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for our sakes he became poor, that we through his poverty might be rich'. You see we preach not works - we're not telling you to join the church, and get baptised, and catechised, and take your communion, and take your name over us - no! We're telling you that it's a free gift of God, and there is nothing expected of you only that you come to your senses - which is repentance - you realise what your sin is doing to you, and that it will damn you, and you turn to Christ and by simple faith alone, nothing more, receive the gift! Oh, it's wonderful grace, it's amazing grace! Is that not what John Newton said: 'Amazing grace! How sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me!'.
There's a lot of folk going to church this very evening, and they haven't grasped this grace - maybe that's you, my dear friend. Maybe you're religious, maybe you're moral, maybe you're ethical, an upstanding fine member of the community - but my friend, you've got to grip grace, and grasp what it means. Old John Newton did, when he was seven years of age his mother died - a godly mother who had taught him the scriptures - and he was sent off packing to other members of the family who weren't Christians, and it wasn't long before he forgot everything that his mother had taught him. Eventually he became an apprentice seaman and he decided to join the British Army. He didn't like the discipline of the army, so he decided he would flee to Africa. On his way to Africa he met some Portuguese slave traders. He decided: 'I'm going to' - this is what he said now - 'I'm going to sin my fill!'. Some of you are doing that, aren't you? Sin your fill - and he did. Oh, the story is long, he got so debauched and distant from God that he ended up lying in the dirt, which was his food. He was a gaunt rake of a man, and he was very angry against God and everything that happened in his life. On one occasion he was picked up by a passing ship, and because he was a skilled navigator he got a job on that ship - but he was so reprobate that he broke into the ship's rum when the captain was off-board, and he got the whole crew drunk. When the captain came on board again, he knocked him flying overboard - and he would have died only one of the men threw a hook over the side of the boat, and grabbed him behind his thigh, and to the day he died he had a wound in his thigh that he could plunge his fist into. This was a rough man.
Eventually he got to Africa, and you know on another boat trip, off the shores of Scotland, a storm hit. Now I don't know whether you know anything about boats, I know very little about them - I try planes as much as I can! But I have watched a couple of programmes about the fishermen going out from Kilkeel and all the rest, and I'll tell you: they know what a storm is, and John Newton would have known what a storm was - but this storm was the storm of storms. He got on his knees and he cried to God as a helpless wretch in all his sin, and he got a grip of God's grace, and he was saved. He became eventually the chaplain to the English Parliament, he became instrumental in the abolition of slave trade - this vile blasphemer who one day wrote out his life story, if you like, in hymnology and said:
'Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me!'
Listen: God has saved the chief of sinners - and it wasn't John Newton, it was the Apostle Paul - and He can save you! For that precious blood that Jesus shed can cleanse from all sin, all manner of sin and blasphemy may be forgiven of men! Indescribable grace, but there's something I have to finish on: we don't just preach Christ's indescribable birth, His indescribable life, His indescribable death, His indescribable resurrection, His indescribable grace - but we preach His indescribable return. You see, the story is not over - no matter what anybody says - His return is going to be indescribable. First of all for the Christian, for the redeemed: it will be indescribable glory. The suffering of this world is not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. Paul said on one occasion that he was caught up into paradise, into heaven, and he heard unspeakable words, indescribable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.
Do you know that's what heaven is like, my friend? Are you going? Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither has it entered into the heart of man what God has prepared for them that love Him. Are you prepared for heaven? He has prepared that place for you: it's indescribable heaven - but it would be remiss of me not to preach the indescribable nature of Christ's return for the lost, those who don't know Him as Saviour. It will be torment, the Bible is very clear and explicit: 'The smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night' - indescribable! That's what you're heading to without Christ.
Now listen, I don't like the idea of hell, because I don't like thinking of my loved ones going there - I don't like thinking of millions going there. I don't like it, but the Lord Jesus taught it - but let me say this: do you not think, let's turn the tables here for a moment, do you not think that a man or woman who rejects such an indescribable Saviour, do you think they deserve heaven? The blessed Son of God who loved you and gave Himself for you...
Let us pray. You have been witness to, this evening, Christ Himself - now I can't do any more than I have done, I've just presented you with Him, and He's indescribable, He's unsearchable, and I'll tell you better than that: He's here. He is here at this very moment, and He's speaking to your heart, my friend. You have a responsibility if you hear His voice, not to harden your heart. You're looking at the nail-prints now, you should be. You're looking at the bloody sweat that ran down His face, you should be. But are you looking into His heart, and seeing your filthy sin, Him being cursed for it, you should be - for that's the indescribable love of the Lord Jesus for you. What are you going to do about it? Are you going to be indescribably ignorant and say, 'I've no room for you, loving Saviour. I'm going to sin my fill, I'm going to live my life, I'm going to do my thing my way'?
Now I know some of you are uncomfortable, that's the way you should be, that's the way we've got to get - for Christ made everybody uncomfortable, He divided the whole empire, He's still dividing society today - but it's personal now with you, isn't it? What are you going to do with the Lord Jesus? Now you say: 'David, what do I need to do?'. Well this is grace, that's what we've been talking about, you just need to accept Him. You just need to say: 'Lord, I realise my need of You. I am a sinner and I'm lost, my life is empty and I know I'm heading nowhere, and I want You to save me'. None but Christ can satisfy, my friend, and you're trying to find it in all the wrong places. He alone can satisfy that longing and deep aching void in your breast - only Christ alone. Will you take Him tonight? You will know indescribable peace and joy that passes all understanding, as your present personal possession. Just say, where you are, from your heart: 'Lord, save me!' - that's it! - 'Lord, save me!', and believe that He'll hear your voice, He said He would. Believe it, and you'll receive Him as Lord and Saviour.
God is speaking to you tonight, I know He is, you know He is - but He might never speak again. May you hear His voice and not harden your heart.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at The Lifeboat Mission in Moy, Northern Ireland, by David Legge. It was transcribed from the second recording in his 'The Revival We Need' series, entitled "A Revival In Christ-Centred Gospel Preaching" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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